D&D: A Heaven for Creative Minds


Abigail Stookey

Tré Winston (11) DMs for a group of fellow students.

Abigail Stookey, Writer

Junior DMs give a dramatic pantomime of adventuring, Krystian Dennison carries Tré Winston away on his back, while Sam Coleman chases them down with a ruler. (Abigail Stookey)

When we started the 2019-2020 school year, a group of incoming freshmen—now juniors—brought with them a continuing love of a game they had played back in the middle school learning zone.  The group wasn’t huge, but they were enthusiastic enough to inspire science teacher, Mr. Daniels, into finally starting up a high school version of the club. Which had turned out to be something plenty of people had been hoping for.

Ava McGuire (10) cheers on Lynley Long (10) as—after several failed attempts—she successfully makes a tower out of her dice set. (Abigail Stookey)

Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game, loosely based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, where a DM (Dungeon Master) creates and narrates a world and story.  The players then create characters, which they use to explore whatever fantastical world the DM has waiting for them, and the story can run wild from there, at the whims of the players—well, what the DM allows at least—and the rolls of the dice.  There’s no gameboard or cards unless you want them, and most D&D games are run with only The Player’s Handbook, a set of sheets where players record all the information on their characters, and the dice whose rolls determine the success or failure of an action.  Even a fumbled roll of the dice can lead to a grand zig or zag in the adventure, resulting in some hijinks and a bit of quick thinking.  With a good DM and a set of dedicated players, it can feel like exploring a classic fantasy novel with your friends, laughing all the while at whatever insanity happens along the way.

Nowadays D&D club is run mostly by Mr. Politte, the band teacher, who is DM for the small Tuesday group.  On Thursdays, however, the students get a chance to DM, and various members of the club take their own shot at storytelling.  It’s mostly the original juniors, but students from every class have been inspired to lead their own adventures.

Sophomore Ava McGuire’s drawing of her character for Tuesday’s campaign, a lizardfolk fighter named Shalbos. (Abigail Stookey)

One of the most devoted of these juniors is Sam Coleman, who, instead of running one of many premade campaigns, has created his own homebrew world—including maps, lore, and story—to bring his group’s players through.  He has a growing number of notebooks filled with lore, the attention to detail on a level even dedicated writers would envy, though currently, he is playtesting monsters from this homebrew world rather than running the campaign itself. Meanwhile, Tré Winston (11) runs the Curse of Strahd campaign out a premade book, and several other students, such as sophomore Ava McGuire and junior Blue Williams, have taken the chance to DM for their first time this year.

Freshman Connor Nevett’s drawing of his character, Encourager, on Mr. Daniel’s whiteboard. (Michael Daniels)

D&D gives its players the freedom of either exploring the lore-rich world of the Forgotten Realms—in which many of the official books and campaigns are set—or letting them create something entirely new with the game itself acts only as a framework and rules.  It attracts all kinds of creatives, from writers wanting to show off their ideas, to the artists who simply use the game’s style of character creation as inspiration.  It can help inspire belief in one’s own abilities, whether it be in storytelling or acting, or boost one’s social confidence as they interact with their party of fellow adventurers.

It can be hard to find a good group of fellow players, but once you have it’s something to treasure.  Whether you’re fighting goblins, solving mysteries, or befriending wooly mammoths (we’re looking at you Sam), there’s always a fresh adventure right around the corner.  This is a game that never fails to be something new each and every game, and this is why it has endured through the years, and why creatives of all types appreciate it so.