A group of IU students gathers around a table in the library of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center to set aside their responsibilities for three hours every Saturday night and escape into the imaginary world of Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons and Dragons is an interactive role-playing game created in the 1970s that involves players creating characters and embarking upon fantasy-themed adventures together.
Players can choose from pre-made characters or create original ones. The appointed Dungeon Master acts as the game’s main storyteller and can also use either pre-made or original storylines. The Dungeon Master creates quests for the other players, sending them to deserts and villages and giving them goals and rewards to work toward. Together, the players seek out treasure, battle monsters, cast spells and rescue each other from danger.
Many of the players, like freshman Meagan Aldridge, said they enjoy playing because the game allows them to think about more exciting things than the piles of homework assignments due in the morning – things like destroying goblins who harass towns.
“For me, it’s kind of like a de-stress thing,” Aldridge said. “I get to step away from my real world problems and play in this fantastical setting where there’s magic.”
Aldridge also said the group storytelling and social, interactive nature of the game is what makes it fun.
“My favorite part is what happens between the rolls,” she said. “It’s just a lot of laughter.”
The club began in fall 2017 when the LGBTQ+ Culture Center’s former social work intern wanted to provide a creative space for members of the LGBTQ community.
Junior Michelle Gambone joined the group in 2018. She said she wanted to become more involved in the LGBTQ community at IU and thought the best way was to find a club she enjoyed.
She said the stereotype that Dungeons and Dragons is a game for losers is far from true. It is actually a social game that requires a lot of team building.
“When I first joined, I realized how big and how diverse the community was and how accepting they were,” she said. “You get to meet so many people, and even if you don’t know each other very well, you get to know each other fast.”
Seb Neely recently graduated, but he still attends the weekly game nights to catch up with his friends. He said he finds comfort in being surrounded by people with similar life experiences where he can be himself.
“I’m a very big introvert,” he said. “I don’t get out a whole lot. But this is something that I really look forward to every week, and it gets me out of my house and gets me to interact with other people.”
Sophomore Denzel Clark acts as the group’s Dungeon Master each week. Though there are books and guides outlining the rules of the game, Clark usually gets to decide what he will and will not allow.
“I go by what I call the ‘rule of cool,’” he said. “If it sounds cool and it is within the realm of possibility, I’ll allow it because it makes the game more fun.”
Outside of basic rules that must be followed, Gambone and the others said as long as the players are engaging with one another on their adventures and having fun, rules can be bent a bit in the fantasy world.
“The world is what you make of it, essentially,” Gambone said. “And the world that you make with your friends can be pretty amazing.”