Dungeons and Dragons Club Rolls a Natural 20

In October 2021, Twitch, a popular live streaming platform, suffered a major data breach in which creators’ earnings were leaked to the general public. Surprisingly, popular eSports channels weren’t amassing the most money; instead, a channel by the name of Critical Role dominated the top spot, earning over 14 million dollars in the span of two years. 

Over the years, Critical Role has gained a following from playing Dungeons and Dragons— commonly abbreviated as D&D— a popular tabletop roleplaying game in which players craft distinct characters, then, alongside others, embark on an adventure that is directly shaped by the actions of the players themselves. This year, Francis Lewis High School has launched its own D&D club, with the first meeting resulting in a packed room.

“All us board members thought we were going to get four people,” junior and secretary Alyssa Collela said. “The first club meeting rolls around, we ran out of seats for people, so we had to switch our room to a much bigger room that had a lot more seats.”

Many of the clubs’ members, including Collela, have little experience with the game, but the club presents them with an opportunity to venture into something new. 

“I’ve never really been able to play before, because I’ve never really had anyone to play with,” Collela added. 

Likewise, sophomore Victoria Thompson has never played the game before, but the game is welcoming to her, as it “[builds] off of stories”.

“I think the main struggle is the character sheet [the character’s profile, or compilation of abilities],” Thompson said. “That process is confusing, but it was easy to fill out my character’s backstory and everything else involving her personality.”

Club President and junior Mateo Oldenburg shares Thompson’s sentiments as D&D has helped him explore his passion for storytelling. 

“Ever since I was little I’ve always loved writing books and making stories, and this is an entire game,” Oldenburg said. 

So far, the club members’ lack of experience hasn’t directly inhibited their fun.

“Most of [the players] are coming up to me with their questions, which makes me really happy,” Oldenburg said. “All the technicalities haven’t been steering people away.”

For most players, a common sources of confusion involves the character sheet.  At first, Thompson misunderstood the profile’s wording.

“I thought [moral] alignment was the same thing as [sexual] orientation,” recalled Thompson, “but then the club president was looking over my shoulder and laughing, and I was like, I guess that’s not how you do it.”

Oldenburg recalls this experience from his perspective.

“I noticed that, but I didn’t want so say anything,” Oldenburg added. “It’s not important, so I decided not to do anything about it.”

Overall, the club has been instrumental in helping new players familiarize themselves with the game. Collela attributes this to the club’s “kind players,” whose goal is to “[teach] people who want to play how to actually play”.

“Some of my group’s players are experienced, so we set up a chat,” Thompson said. “They talk about the rules of the world, and what is or isn’t allowed.”

According to Collela, the club’s newfound popularity boils down to two distinct factors: students are enthralled at the chance of being part of something new, as well as a general influence from popular media.

“There’s never really been a D&D club here, but I feel like the whole reason people joined was because they had an interest in DND and it was something new, they wanted to partake in something new,” Collela added. “Another reason could be that they saw [the TV show] Stranger Things and wanted to be in their Stranger Things era.”

Traditionally, hobbies such as Dungeons and Dragons have often been the subject of teasing; however, in recent years, partly due to an increase in positive media portrayal, parts of “geek culture” have penetrated into the mainstream.

“Surprisingly enough, all the mechanics of the game haven’t steered people away,” Oldenburg said. “In fact, some people are even saying that our club is still growing.”