Freshman year is a time for firsts, from the first time taking a college course, being independent, balancing work and school, and for some, it is rolling dice and casting spells.
Charles Logan, a freshman history major, started a group of “Dungeons and Dragons” players to get ahead on his plans to build something fun in college.
“I figured I could wait until the Club Expo, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to have stuff set up when I got here,” Logan said. “So I started reaching out through a class of 2022 Facebook group, App State subreddit and stuff like that, trying to find people.”
“Dungeons and Dragons” is a fantasy board game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, which is elaborated and driven by the players’ own interests and creativity. It functions with a Dungeon Master, a manager or author of sorts for the world the players step into and the players who act as characters and drive the story.
Logan’s said his intention was to create a session for a few friends, but the group quickly expanded far beyond levels he could manage. Grace Rhyne, one of Logan’s friends and an English major, volunteered to help.
“It was nice because I didn’t know many people going to App before, so it was a way to make friends. So it’s like: ‘OK, at least I’ll know some people when I get there,’” Rhyne said. “We’ve become more of a friend group than anything.”
The game allows for extensive time with friends; some games last years into adults’ lives, however typical games run slightly shorter.
“Shorter ones can last two hours, but I’ve done a twelve-hour session over the summer and that was brutal,” Logan said.
The group of friends, which started as a few, has expanded to over 30 players and has gained an eclectic crew because of its growth.
“I think it’s interesting because we’re all so different. I wouldn’t have met anyone in this group if not for this. We are all different majors and from different places,” Rhyne said.
James Johnston, a freshman business major, said he thinks people who decline opportunities to play the game should reconsider. The game was portrayed as niche and dorky, Johnston said.
“There are cartoons that show the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ stereotype of the dorky-looking people with glasses, wearing wizard hats and stuff like that,” Johnston said. “People are not willing to give it a whirl.”
The game plays hours on end with fantasies cultivated from every individual, only limited by their own imagination. The game is a time to catch up and forget the stresses of school and work, Rhyne said.
“It is literally just a bunch of friends hanging out,” Rhyne said.
The group of friends said they felt the game has been represented in a positive light recently and has built popularity off of the growing trend. Rhyne said he thinks while some shows like the “Big Bang Theory” might continue the stigma by using nerds being nerds as the punchline of most of their jokes, other representations like the characters in “Stranger Things” showcase the game as inclusive because their personalities are not the main source of humor.
“The people are friends in ‘Stranger Things.’ They don’t just meet up once a week and never talk to each other outside of it,” Rhyne said. “They are so passionate about it, which is what everyone who plays ends up being.”
“Dungeons and Dragons” has founded concepts and ideas in popular media that people entertain themselves with, from other board games to video games and film. The concepts developed in the campaigns carry over to real-life situations, Brendan Murray, a freshman undecided major, said.
“People have gone into the gaming industry or the movie industry basing things off of what they have done in ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’” Murray said.
The final stretch of any college year can be stressful and can take a strain on clubs that tend to rely on scheduled meetings. This group of freshmen said they feel they are so tight knit already that they view themselves more as a friend group than anything. They plan to accommodate each other and help the best they can in school, along with casting the best spells in ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’
“I know there is quite a few of us taking Spanish this semester and I’ve never taken Spanish before. So there are a bunch of us doing like Spanish study groups, when stuff gets harder,” Rhyne said.
The group functions not only as a social gathering of friends, but also as a stress reliever.
“It’s nice to stop being a college student and instead be this character in this fantastical world. You don’t have to worry about tuition or drama or homework. Instead worrying about if my dragon is going to burn you alive,” Logan said.
Imagination is the core of “Dungeons and Dragons,” and because of this fact, there are endless possibilities for the characters to go about problems. The players can be rational and outsmart a predicament or take a more lighthearted approach, Logan said.
“I’m running a campaign for this group and they have done some silly stuff. One time they were besieging this castle where a dark warlord was trying to summon this monster to help him,” Logan said. “The group was like one hit away from dying as he finished a ritual and this giant monster comes crawling out of this pit and they just run.”
The group of friends said there are tactile benefits to their fantastical games in the workforce, in education and in social development.
“It does take some intelligence. If you’re in a dungeon dealing with a puzzle, then everyone has to work together and try to figure it out,” Logan said. “It’s always fun to see players think their hardest, even when there is nothing there at all.”
The idea that started small has continued to grow and the future of the group is to build on what they have already, Logan said.
“We’re going to continue playing of course and if more people have an interest, then we have campaigns that will bring people in,” Logan said.
Story by: Alex Hubbell, A&E Reporter
Graphic by: Nora Smith, Editor-In-Chief