Students escape to fantasy worlds with Dungeons and Dragons

A high elf rogue, a human warlock, a tabaxi bard and a goblin walk into a tavern.

The high elf, with a long waterfall of ebony hair, orders ale for herself and the goblin, who isn’t tall enough to be seen over the counter.

After a while, the goblin consumes too much ale, throwing his gold around like it’s nothing.

“This little one is not very good with his liquor,” the lion-like tabaxi laughs.

The goblin, who is as unthreatening as could be, turns to the tabaxi. “That’s what you think.” In his stupor, the goblin somehow winds up with three minotaur bodyguards and a newly purchased shop.

As the night ends, the party follows the goblin and his line of minotaurs, leaving the tavern. Before long, the minotaurs turn on the party. “You aren’t going anywhere tonight.”

“Roll initiative,” Kade Whetsel, a dungeon master, demands.

Everyone draws their weapons, and the battle begins.

The Augustana Dungeons and Dragons Club’s (ADnDC) goal “is to allow students to come together to play an entertaining role playing game (RPG) that promotes critical thinking and teamwork with others,” according to the club constitution.

A few times every week, different groups of students and friends meet to role play in a fantasy world, toss some dice and exchange laughs. When the club started, there was only one party of players. It now has far too many active members to continue as one party. Every week, there are plenty of meetings for members to attend, but prospective players must touch base with the ADnDC officers to join to make the transition smoother.

Vice President of ADnDC Jake Grimm is the best person to contact for information about joining the campaign, according to Viking Central.

For many players, the most appealing part of playing Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is escaping the real world — even if just for a short time.

“DnD is something that allows me to get away from reality for a while,” senior Katelyn Clement said. “I am always stressing about homework, school, work and social life.  But when I get to go to DnD, I can get away from it all for a few hours.”

Standing at six-foot-two, freshman Connor Hansen’s character, a humanoid, lion-like tabaxi bard, is a proficient flute, lyre, lute, horn and pan flute player. Whenever his bard plays the pan flute, Hansen lifts an old harmonica to his lips and blows a tune.

“My favorite part is being able to inhabit and interact with these fantastical worlds that are created,” Hansen said. “That kind of immersion has always been the most enjoyable part for me.”

The atmosphere of DnD helps to build strong friendships.

Surrounded by her DnD party, Clement said she feels that they never judge her for being outgoing and herself. They are some of the fastest friends she has ever made.

“You may be playing a character, but you are also yourself around these people.” Clement said. “They see all sides of you that not many who may be closest to you get to see.”

The character creation and problem-solving aspects of the game allow players to experience a new creative vein.

“It helps me use my imagination,” Clement said. “I feel like as an adult, I’ve lost some of that from when I was a kid, but since I [joined] the club, I feel as if my creativity is coming back.”

Being chaotic neutral, or independent, in nature, Clement’s high elf rogue thinks mostly of herself, often not caring about others. The high elf does have a soft spot for the non-playable goblin character, however.

“Parts of her personality are what I wish were my own traits, and this way, I can be that,” Clement said. “I am way nicer than she is. When I play her, I feel like a better and more badass version of myself.”

DnD is often stereotyped as a game for nerds, but at ADnDC, there is a wide variety of member backgrounds from journalism majors to football players, according to Clement. Hansen joined the club because many of his football teammates play, including Grimm, who is a dungeon master.

“My teammates run the club. They just told me they run it, and told me to drop by their sessions one time, and the rest is history,” Hansen said.

When a prospective player steps up to the DnD table, they get to create a whole new character with its own detailed history and personality.

Just as with the players, all characters are welcome whether they be dwarf, elf, dragonborn or any other race.

As the players sit around the table, each with about seven dice in front of them, characters debate their next attack.

Hansen’s tabaxi bard casts a spell, faerie fire, injuring the minotaurs.

“With my bonus action, I will inspire Val [the high elf] with a lovely rendition on the pan flute,” Hansen says before pulling out his harmonica to hum a tune.

Hansen rolls his 20-sided die. Five.

“It’s bad,” Whetsel says. “The way it’s inspired [the high elf] is in the sense that [she] wants to kill this minotaur quickly so [she] can then stop him from playing this s—.”

Drawing her shortsword, Clement’s high elf attacks. Clement rolls a 10-sided die to deal damage to the minotaur that holds the goblin captive.

“What the — I paid you,” the goblin yells from behind the minotaur, fueled by drunk anger.

The minotaur collapses on top of the goblin’s small frame. A small green arm waving frantically from underneath the unconscious beast tells the party that the goblin is still OK.

As a diverse team, the players fight to save their goblin friend. One final blow incapacitates the remaining minotaur.

They are no longer in combat.

“You see in front of you the door,” Whetsel says to the players.

The party stands, evidence of a rough battle covering the characters in the form of cuts and bruises. Together, the players step past the bodies of the minotaurs through the door and on to the next adventure.

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