#385: The Dice, Part 2

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This blog post is a continuation of the previous one, so if you’d like to understand where I’m coming from a bit better, you might want to read that one first.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

I’d like to continue talking about the Dungeons & Dragons after-school club, as I think it’s important enough right now to warrant a few extra blog posts. And also, this is something I’ve really always dreamed of. Being a teacher is nice, but being a D&D coach for middle schoolers is perfect. We get to do so much and have so much fun.

The fact that they asked to use the dice over the weekend shows me that I’m doing a good job of teaching them how to play the game. Even though they may not know the rules too well, even though our sessions are short and end up a little crazy from time to time, and even though the party members argue with each other throughout the entire session pretty much exclusively, there’s a lot to love about this group and their imaginations. I feel like their interest in the game is highly dependent on how it’s taught to them; if Ashlynn and I were ineffective teachers, it would be obvious and the students wouldn’t be having as good of a time playing with us. However, things are going well, and I can’t complain. The only thing that’s difficult is making sure the students hold onto their dice, that they aren’t getting at each other’s throats while playing, and that they’re enjoying themselves overall. I also don’t like keeping track of their characters and making new character sheets every time we have to do something new, like level up or so on. It’ll be difficult to keep track of everything all at once while finding the time to do it.

#384: The Dice, Part 1

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After a crazy adventure into the world of Dungeons & Dragons this past Wednesday, a group of the students I play with asked me if they could borrow the dice we use so that they could play D&D over the weekend with each other. While I have no idea how that’s going to happen without a DM who’s familiar with the rules (these kids didn’t know about spell slots until our last meeting), I still believe in their creativity and imagination. These are kids who absolutely love imagining worlds in their heads, and they love playing games, and they love winning. Even though D&D isn’t the type of game that you can actually win, people will still try to win by rolling really high on the dice for each roll.

Since the Dungeons & Dragons club has begun, it’s consistently been one of the highlights of my work week. I’m able to channel my creative juices into some meaningful work, and I get the chance to interact with some of the students I teach in a less formal setting, where they are free to cast ridiculous spells and do ridiculous things.

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog before, I’m not the kind of person who’s strict about the rules of D&D. It’s made me forget, sometimes, the appropriate thing to do when playing, but I fudge them a bit and it ends up working out fine. The real problem is when kids ask me a question about something I wish I knew but I don’t actually know too well. In those cases, I just have to give up and admit defeat. As a teacher, it’s always better to be honest than to pretend you know something, as kids see through dishonesty very easily. It’s just in their nature.

#358: The Week Ahead, Part 2

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I wasn’t able to fit all of my thoughts into the 300 word count, so I figured I would turn this ill-timed blog into a two-parter. It just makes more sense that way, and I’m pretty happy I get to occupy more time with more blogs regardless. Because I’m writing this on a Sunday, and because the week ahead is going to be very busy, it’s helpful to have a backlog of blogs scheduled so that I don’t have to worry about writing one or two or three a day when I get home just to catch up to myself. That can be extremely frustrating if left uncontrolled.

So Monday is stressful, regardless of how you look at it. And then there’s Wednesday, when I’ll be starting D&D for the first time with my middle schoolers. Those of you who know already are aware that I’m leading a D&D after-school club one day a week for an hour, and it’s always on Wednesdays. My kids are super excited, which makes me optimistic about everything and gives me hope that this will go well, but a part of me is always unsure about the uncertainty of the game, and whether I’m prepared enough to take this responsibility on. It’s a lot to deal with at once. I’m stressed about the unpredictability of it, but not so much that the students will be bored or have an unfun experience. I will deliver that for them, regardless.

Thursday I have a job interview planned, but that might not go through. I’m not sure yet. More on that later, perhaps.

Friday I have D&D again, for the first time, with a different group of people this time. I don’t know if I’m prepared enough for them and all their new rules and lingo.

#329: The Club

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One of my coworkers and I are great fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and if you’ve read this blog before, you probably already knew that. I’ve played the game for a long time, still don’t totally get it, but I try my best with what I have and I improvise a lot of the time to make sure things make sense. It’s not easy to just pick up the game and become familiar with it without having a really talented DM in your group who’s willing to show you the ropes. I’m joining another group soon that’s going to have a very experienced DM, and I’m super looking forward to having a better grasp on the rules.

But besides the point, we are starting a Dungeons & Dragons club after school for the next eight or seven weeks on Wednesdays. It’s something we’ve both been looking forward to, as a result of other mutual interest in the game, but also because we know it has a lot of educational benefit to students. Imagination, creativity, role-playing, mathematical thinking, creative problem-solving and ingenious maneuvers. This game is full of ways to keep players on their toes and force them to think differently before moving into a task. There’s really nothing like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The educational benefit is clearly there, and I know that the students get excited thinking and talking about it. After our first meeting, I gained some people’s favor by discussing it with them afterwards. I think being relaxed and open about it is the way to go, and you can’t stress them out too much with the details. It makes sense to get them excited and everything but as a teacher you have to keep a calm demeanor no matter what. I’m looking forward to this week and whatever next week entails.

#313: The Newest Group

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Starting a new Dungeons & Dragons group is always a daunting task. There’s the issue of finding an appropriately knowledgeable and qualified DM, and of course finding players that are willing to play according to the group’s expected play style. By that I mean, not letting players act like jerks or chaotic evil dirtbags. That can definitely happen from time to time, if you let players play exactly how they want to. It’s important to set standards and limitations to what players can and can’t do, as a Dungeon Master, to ensure the game progresses smoothly and without complication. I’ve had some groups end because players got frustrated with each other and weren’t able to reconcile their differences. It can be frustrating to watch unfold, as people argue with each other over what’s the appropriate way to handle a situation.

But that’s not what D&D is all about. It’s about making memories and telling stories with your friends, it’s about making new friends in the process, it’s about developing your own, originally-created character in a social role-playing world of your imagination. It’s about all of those things and a lot more that can’t fully be described in a short blog post. I owe so much of my development to this game, and to think it will only continue further with a group at work is awesome news. I’m so stoked to hear what the kids decide to do, and where they take the story we’ve been working on together.

What I’m looking forward to most about joining a group is being able to sit back and relax as a player, while also meeting new friends in the area. Since starting my job in Norwalk, I’ve still been hanging out mostly with people I know from the New Haven area. It’s not the same.

#125: The Second Return

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After a long absence without playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, it’s finally made its return and I couldn’t be happier.

Now, you might be thinking, hasn’t Anthony written about D&D before and doesn’t he currently DM a group? The answer to that is, of course, yes, but it’s more complicated than that. I am currently DMing a group of friends through my own self-made campaign, but I am also a player in another campaign with a different group of friends, and the latter campaign is what I’ll be discussing briefly in this blog post.

So, in case you don’t know, Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are both owned and operated by the same company: Wizards of the Coast. As a result, the developers of D&D published a guidebook recently that allows players to explore and create a campaign using one of MTG’s most fabulous and interesting locations: Ravnica. Because all of our friends used to play MTG to some degree, it fits that we would decide to return to D&D using an MTG setting.

The DM is one of our friends who hasn’t DM’d much in the past, but his lack of experience allows us to fill in the gaps and explore options through the story. The story still has a definitive beginning, middle, and end to it, but we are allowed to make our own story out of what’s available.

I play a centaur cleric named Cassio Stormbringer, and my friends play a multitude of other races, such as minotaur, half-elf, and human. The variety of races allows for some interesting interactions in our party.

Overall, I’m super happy that D&D has made a second return in my life. It’s one of the most consistently great things going on.

#99: The Return of D&D

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D&D made its miraculous, fantastic return over this past weekend, and I’ve been eager to write about it since it happened. What’s more monumental and exciting than an evening full of role-playing, creative writing, and friendship born through an online medium? The friends I’ve met through D&D are known primarily through D&D, and they exist just in that realm, but when we return to it, I feel like I’m returning to talk with long-term friends again. I have friendships with these people that transcends and supersedes what normal friends are like. We are

On this past Friday, I played D&D at a sleepover with friends who care about it quite a lot. They took it a bit more seriously, choosing to have a more stern and deliberate campaign than the improv-based, comedy-focused campaign I participated in on Sunday. It was interesting to see this dichotomy develop between the two separate campaigns; on the one hand, I loved having the chance to stretch my stuff in a serious story-line with actual implications to it, but on the other hand, it felt great to be loose a bit and explore the fantastical world that takes up my mind. Being a Dungeon Master is tough, but rewarding work! I love the opportunity to develop a campaign with my friends regardless, whether as a player or as a character taking part in the story. There’s so much value in having friends that are willing to role play and have fantastical experiences with. It helps me test my writing abilities while also hearing in a live setting how those abilities are manifesting.

It also provides me with an outlet for my creative writing. I don’t think that creative writing is just something that involves line breaks and stanzas in poetry; there are so many layers to being a creative writer, and preparing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign has to fit into one of them. It just so happens to also be a friendly activity, too.

My nose is feeling a bit stuffy, so I’m going to stop writing here for now. Perhaps I will return to write more of this later.

#14: The Fantastical

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In the debate between fantasy and science fiction, I’ve always leaned more towards fantasy. Magical spells, elves and half-orcs, epic quests, and limited technology are some of the hallmarks of a fantasy story, and to me, when these elements are combined in the right order and with the right attention to detail, they result in some amazing stories. Lord of the Rings, for example, remains one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time (and for good reason). World of Warcraft is still the most popular video game in its genre, 14 years after its initial release date.

Knowing all this, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading that I love Dungeons & Dragons. (In the future, this might seem outdated to people, but D&D has undergone a bit of a resurgence recently due to podcast storytelling. I just enjoy it, okay?) There’s something about gathering a group of like-minded people and entering a make-believe world together that feels fantastic. The camaraderie that develops, the layers of personality you unveil, the world in everyone’s creative imaginations. Working together with people to create something special, a space where all feel welcome in. No wonder D&D has found a resurgence in today’s climate; escaping from reality for a time to play with friends can be soothing, especially when the supplemented reality, the world of Faerun, requires intense concentration to follow completely.

I’ve had a few failed D&D groups, as well as a few successful ones. Some groups are destined to fail, and it sucks to see it happen. The group I’m a part of currently, in which I’m the DM during an interim campaign, is definitely on the successful side of things. It’s five people, and we gather over Roll20 to video chat and catch up on each other’s lives. It’s become an awesome way to connect with friends from across the country, whom I haven’t seen in person in years, and meet new people. You learn so much about people through how they play D&D.

An added layer of anxiety and stress comes from being the DM rather than just playing, as the game depends on your impromptu imagination, but it’s oddly exhilarating, too. Some types of stress aren’t as debilitating as they seem initially, once you’re in the thick of it. True anxiety is felt when the mind disassociates from the body, when you start thinking about how you’re thinking, but to me, with how busy things get during D&D, that feeling is impossible. You are swapping out characters, moving set pieces around in your head.