Runnels Vision – By Jacob Runnells


In defense of Dungeons and Dragons
For those of us who are paid to be storytellers, like myself and others at the Journal-Tribune, do we practice storytelling recreationally?
Some people write fiction to get the creative juices out, and others prefer to tell stories to their children. I can respect those positions, but I would also recommend to those people that they should try Dungeons and Dragons, or DND.
For the uninitiated, DND is a game involving a storyteller, called the dungeon master, who tells an interactive story to two to five other people. Those other people make characters, and play along with the dungeon master’s story and navigate their way through his or her puzzles, traps or enemies. The story usually takes place around medieval settings and involves magic and fantasy creatures.
A coworker of mine has often expressed great disinterest in playing DND with his son, despite my suggestions to help him with what I know. As a storyteller, why would he be so reticent to this?
I think maybe “DND” is a dirty phrase, and “roleplaying” is equally as dirty. It probably sounds like something only smelly, overweight nerds play in their mother’s basement while they scarf down cheap pizza and fawn over the last “Star Trek” episode or something. While that may be true in some social circles, it’s still a gross misunderstanding of the game
DND is a way to interact with friends and family and tell a compelling story they’re sure to remember for ages. It’s an experience more than anything, especially since others can interact with whatever fantasy scenario you want. The best part is that the structure is very flexible. The setting doesn’t have to be medieval all the time; you can change that to anything you want.
My girlfriend and I are currently involved in her brother’s campaign. He, the dungeon master, created a futuristic world where the players can visit any other world of any other time period through portals.
Her other brother plays a beast master who’s able to summon any animal familiar; his friend, a druid who can transmute objects into other things, but usually turns things into snakes to be funny; and other friend, a plague doctor who turns viscera into medicines and poisons. And us? We’re two normal, elderly farmers who happen to turn into flesh-eating demons when upset.
That might all sound a bit strange, but that’s the craziness of DND. You can center it around any topics, landscapes or time periods you find comfortable. After all, you are the storyteller, and if you find the right friends or family members interested in it, they’ll participate in building upon the world you created.
In the particular campaign we’re in, I get to channel my journalist side and grill the dungeon master’s characters with questions to see if we know if that town is dangerous.
That’s why I think DND can be a fun thing to introduce to friends and/or family. It’s a group activity that gets everyone’s minds working. You can make it violent or peaceful, medieval or futuristic or fighting-based or story-driven. It’s all up to you.
It’s a game that gets the noggin joggin’ with creativity, interesting question-asking and neato problem solving. And if the session ends that night, the story can always go on as long as you want.
-Jacob Runnels is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune.

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