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Dungeons & Dragons: Storytelling with Dice

Jun 22, 2020

Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, was born in the 1970s when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson combined their love for tabletop war games with fantasy storytelling.  It has been almost 50 years since the first game was played, and the core rulebooks have undergone several changes since then.  The current edition (5th edition) was released in 2014 to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of the game.

Throughout its evolution, D&D has remained a game about storytelling.  Players come together to tell a story, each representing a character in their shared universe.  These characters have their own histories, with stories from their childhoods, families, friends and sometimes even enemies.  These characters also have statistics, skills and equipment that the players use when determining the results of actions in the game.  While playing D&D, the Dungeon Master, or DM, will set a stage for the story and the players must work together to solve problems and overcome challenges.

Since D&D is a fantasy role-playing game, the world and the characters often resemble something out of Tolkien, Narnia or classic fairytales.  Characters could be human, elf, dwarf, halfing, or one of the dozen other playable races.  Each character has a class – some are fighters, clerics, wizards, or rangers – that indicates what training they have had and what skills they have learned.  Each character is unique and presents an opportunity for players to experience a different life.

In the last decade, D&D has become popularized by television and internet streaming shows.  TV shows like Stranger Things, Community, and Big Bang Theory have all featured episodes in which the characters play D&D.  There is a growing community of online players who stream D&D sessions on platforms like Twitch.  The most famous being Critical Role – a group of voice actors led by Matthew Mercer -  who turned a home game into a streaming phenomenon that has spawned several livestream shows, a comic book, licensed D&D adventures, and Critical Role-themed swag as well as created a community of “critters” from around the world.  Critical Role has a series called Handbooker Helper which explains the mechanics of D&D in small digestible bites.  You can access these videos here.

Why play D&D?

D&D offers some excellent opportunities for growth in a collaborative environment.

  • Players learn to work together to solve problems
  • Players practice math skills whenever they roll the dice
  • Players practice empathy when role-playing their character’s life
  • Players learn to manage failure and success with the roll of the dice

D&D in the Library

This summer, children and teens in Ottawa will be able to play D&D led by library staff through Zoom.  All D&D programs require registration.

The OPL will be hosting the following D&D programs:

Caught in a Tome (Puzzle Edition): A single session of D&D for children ages 8-12.  In Caught in a Tome, players find a strange book that takes them on a magical adventure.  The Puzzle Edition of the adventure will focus primarily on solving puzzles with a single combat encounter to teach you how combat works in D&D. 

Caught in a Tome (Combat Edition): A single session of D&D for children ages 8-12.  In Caught in a Tome, players find a strange book that takes them on a magical adventure.  The Combat Edition of the adventure will focus primarily on fighting monsters with a single puzzle to test your skills.

OPL Teen D&D: A complete D&D mini-adventure played over two sessions for teens 13-18. Players will play through a complete adventure with pre-generated characters over the course of two sessions. Come solve some mysteries and fight some monsters with your teammates!

Blog post contributed by Jessica D.