Teachers enjoy immersive role-playing in tightly knit D&D group

Dice, druids and darklings: with such busy adult lives, it’s refreshing to learn that staff members in school can squeeze in the time to partake in whimsical games such as Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). At Dougherty Valley, several staff members have formed a tight-knit group to play Dungeons and Dragons together in their spare time.

The group started around two years ago, inspired by everyone’s favorite nostalgic Netflix show.

“It all came together through [Roberto] Clemente,” Thomas Chamberlain said. “He just finished watching ‘Stranger Things’ and I think that brought him back to a time when he played.”

Clemente gathered a small band of staff who were interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons together. Over the last two years, the group has grown to include Colin O’Haire, Kevin Guichard, Jonathan Parks, Christopher Steele, Jacob Shecter,  Kasey Addiego, Brittany Hatter, Marc Walker, and occasionally Justin Worley, who all play with varying degrees of consistency.

Some members of the group were completely new to D&D when the game started, such as Chamberlain, while others like Hatter, who had been introduced to the game by an ex-boyfriend, were already familiar with the game. For some teachers, their D&D experience drew all the way back to their own childhoods.

“I’ve always been interested in fantasy since a young age with comic books and video games, and one of the earliest avenues for getting into D&D was choose your own adventure books, particularly Lone Wolf series when I was a young preteen,” Steele said. “That was my entry point to fantasy and D&D, because you’re role playing while you’re reading.”

The staff members convene bi-weekly during the school year, usually at Chamberlain’s house, but sometimes at the school itself. Over the summer, the group had  the opportunity to meet weekly. Many of the players mention that as adults, it’s hard to find time to play.

“We’re all adults with children and lives, and our lives don’t revolve around a game,” Steele said. “It’s just something we do to have fun as adults.”

However, the group does its best to remain consistent with its meetings.

“That’s one of the things that people have to do when they play be really consistent about it and follow through with the story because they are very complicated,” Hatter said.

Hatter, who began playing with the group only recently, joined at the start of the latest campaign, which has been ongoing since February.

“[A campaign] could be a single one-shot, or a campaign could last a year,” Chamberlain said.

While Hatter prefers the brevity and quicker pace of shorter campaigns, others enjoy the longer campaigns the group partakes in.

“I like longer fleshed out campaigns because where you can explore the characters and take the story in a variety of different directions,” Steele said. “Shorter campaigns you don’t get a chance to develop the characters or explore the story’s details.’

Chamberlain is currently the Dungeon Master (DM) for the group, but the role rotates to give anyone willing the chance. So far, Park, Clemente and Guichard have all taken turns at being DM, with Guichard planning to take on the role next round.

According to Hatter, every DM has a unique style.

“What I learned from playing is every DM is different and everybody has different things that they’re strict on. So Mr. Chamberlain is strict on roleplay and making sure nobody is metagaming, [which is] talking about the game while you’re playing it, because that doesn’t make it as fun or strategic,” Hatter said.

While many members are eager to try their hand at being Dungeon Master, preparation can be time consuming.

“Prepping for a DM is like prepping for a new class,” Steele said. Despite the hefty workload, DMs have a unique and rewarding role in the game. As the narrators, they help immerse the players in the role-playing experience.

The group also seeks novelty through their characters, which the members create at the start of a new game.

“In the past each campaign I’ve done, I’ve done a different character based on what I just feel like,” Chamberlain said. So far, no member has repeated a character, opting instead to invent new ones for each campaign.

For Hatter, her character is part of what she loves so much about D&D.

“I just was completely into [D&D] from the start because a lot of what D&D is about is becoming a character. So acting through your role, making decisions based on how you built a character, but also changing over time depending on what happens in the world … I love that part of it.”

Hatter’s character for the current campaign in the group reflects how she views herself .

“I don’t see myself as someone who is physically strong or has  lot of endurance or anything like that, so I won’t put that into my character,” Hatter revealed. Instead, she opted for  character that reflected her naiveté, designing a character who shared her curiosity about a world she was still unfamiliar with.

Steele, on the other hand, often opted for characters that didn’t necessarily resemble himself.

“I usually try to pick a different race from my own where it’s a fantasy race or a different ethnic group within the community, something that is identifiably not me,” Steele said.

Despite the members’ different opinions and preferences, the group is still able to enjoy the game together. By creating a fun environment for role-playing enthusiasts, the group has found a way to share something beloved outside of school.