Rolling initiative: D&D Club prepares to launch its first campaigns


Wren Bulawin

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) player Logan Cromwell (10) poses as a fantastical character as he listens to the foreground of the game’s story. D&D Club consists of improvisation, storytelling, and worldbuilding at its heart, which stimulates members’ imagination.

Wren Bulawin, Open Canvas Manager

“It started with a hot war, until King Malachi was killed by two of the greatest warriors the kingdom had ever seen. Then, in the shadows, arrived a necromancer, who brought back King Malachi and his army of darkness.” 

From behind a makeshift manila-folder screen, senior and Dungeon Master Paul Amorino smiles as he, the mysterious wizard, describes the lore of Grendelberg to the two players in front of him. In this moment, the members of the table are no longer students but rather adventurers: a warforged, a sentient machine of wood and metal, and a bard, trained in the art of channeling magic from song. The curious bard pries, and the party soon learns that their companion had apprenticed one of the kingdom’s greatest sorcerers, who now spends his days at the tavern — their possible lead to discovering the evil necromancer’s whereabouts. 

This on-the-spot improvisation, storytelling, and worldbuilding is the heart of the newly-established Dungeons and Dragons Club. With the tabletop game’s recent resurgence following the release of Stranger Things season 4, D&D enthusiasts gathered at Mr. Michael Rodriguez’s room (B127) after school on Friday afternoon to finish character creation and kick off their first games.

Trying to find the balance of writing just enough to be well-prepared, [while] being able to improvise well enough to be ready for anything, I would say is probably my favorite part [about DMing]. I’m hoping to improve on a lot of the actual improvisational side of the hobby.

— Justice Parra (12), D&D head Dungeon Master

Members were assigned to different tables, each with their own Dungeon Master and campaign. While some tables kicked off their storylines, most spent the majority of the session catching new players up to speed with their character sheets; however, even without active roleplaying, players were able to express their creativity through character design, development, and even planning how to convey their roles. 

“I’m playing a biblically accurate angel, and he only speaks in hymns,” said junior Sophie Aragon. “I’m trying to learn ASL, so I feel like it’d be really cool if I enwrapped that with my character because he’s mute. [It is] like a learning experience.” 

Other tables began planning out their campaign’s lore as Dungeon Masters and players alike collaborated to weave a story with both their characters’ personal tales and the perils of their fantasy world.

“Each of [our characters’] backstories are going to have a connection with a final boss that we’re going to be facing at the end of the campaign,” said sophomore and vice president Drew Stadler. “My character is a human sorcerer. He does not know exactly who he is… and right before the campaign starts, he hears that somebody has a memory spell. So basically, what he wants to do is go and find this person, and figure out if he can find out more about his past.”

The D&D Club invites both new and experienced adventurers alike with its welcoming, inclusive atmosphere. Those who know nothing about the game are provided with resources and player handbooks, while returning players are given a safe space to “nerd out” and freely express their creativity without judgment. 

“I want to create an atmosphere that anybody from pretty much any group can participate,” said sophomore and club president Logan Cromwell. “I want it to be a club that anyone can be a part of.” 

Currently, the club plans to ease in those unfamiliar with the table-top roleplaying experience through a series of short sessions; their current goal is to provide experience for both players and Dungeon Masters as they learn the game’s rules and mechanics before moving into their main, multi-session campaign. 

“For the next few weeks, we’re gonna start doing one-shots, basically a campaign in one day. Then, after everyone starts getting the hang of the game, we’re gonna start moving into longer campaigns,” Stadler said. 

In a game where the plot can completely change with the roll of a die and the whims of a party, even the club’s most experienced Dungeon Masters hope to take this opportunity to build their own skills and improve their storytelling before the main campaign begins. 

“Trying to find the balance of writing just enough to be well-prepared, [while] being able to improvise well enough to be ready for anything, I would say is probably my favorite part [about DMing],” said senior and head Dungeon Master Justice Parra. “I’m hoping to improve on a lot of the actual improvisational side of the hobby.”

For others, the club also serves as a space for players to recharge their creative batteries after a long week of classes. 

“The longer people don’t do a lot of stuff like this, [the more] their creativity keeps going down,” said Stadler. “So I like to keep mine up, and this is a very fun way to do it.” 

Amidst the flipping of handbooks, the rolling of plastic dice, and the excited chatter of players planning out their characters’ stories, the D&D Club looks forward to fostering a year of creativity and fun.

“Everyone’s totally nerding out, and there’s a really good selection of people at [each] table,” said Stadler. “It’ll be cool to see how everyone will be able to play into the story.”