Community encourages imagination


If interested in exploring a new world, contact teen volunteer Lynn Miller at Lynn.Miller@spl.org. (Cartoon by Peter Brown)

If interested in exploring a new world, contact teen volunteer Lynn Miller at [email protected] (Cartoon by Peter Brown)


The room is filled with players of all ages fighting orcs, hunting food, tracking thieves and living out whole lives in the span of a few hours. Here players in the foreground debate the next move after wandering into a dragons lair. (Zev Golden-Zag…

The room is filled with players of all ages fighting orcs, hunting food, tracking thieves and living out whole lives in the span of a few hours. Here players in the foreground debate the next move after wandering into a dragons lair. (Zev Golden-Zagorski)

Ballard Public Library hosts D&D club for middle and high schoolers

Brett Richter, Staff Reporter
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 27, 2019

My dad has cried twice in his life. Once when I was born and once when his Dungeons and Dragons character died. Needless to say, Dungeons and Dragons, better known by the acronym D&D, means more to people than just any old tabletop role-playing game (RPG).

D&D is different from other classic war games. It allows for more creativity in gameplay, instead of choosing a character, the player creates their own. The players don’t focus on troops and larger war strategies, they focus on their own character and how it interacts with others.

The Basics

The party members work together to solve the puzzle and beat monsters as they move through the fantasy world created by the Dungeon Master (DM), who takes the mantle of master storyteller and referee. The adventures can take multiple days, these long term conferences are dubbed campaigns. For the more casual player, players host one-off/ one-shots that are meant to be started and finished in one sitting.

The character grows as you play. They gain Experience Points (EXP) and level up; when they level up, they grow more powerful. They can learn new spells, get better weapons, or gain more health points (HP).

The player can do just about anything the DM allows. Heck, you could get married and have seven kids in your campaign, all while fighting firebreathing dragons and hunting down criminals. Unless there’s a handy healer capable of revival around, losing all of your HP results in death.

Sam Buck, a senior and DM at the Ballard Public Library D&D Club session, explains why she is drawn to D&D. “You can make them be whoever you want them to be. You can mold a whole new person from some books, paper and dice.”

D&D in pop culture

If character creation doesn’t sound appealing, storytelling and world creation is a major part of the game. Another DM, Adele, shares her favorite part of D&D, “I think it’s a wonderful way to explore different depths of interactive storytelling — it gives me freedom if I create my own world.”

The game has also made countless pop culture appearances, like the 2007 show “The Big Bang Theory” and the 2016 show “Stranger Things.” During the 80s, it became increasingly popular to blame deaths, disappearances and generally strange behaviors on D&D; schools and parental units dubbed the game as “devil worship.”

Of course, these allegations turned out to be untrue, but D&D still got a smear on its permanent record. Ghosts of the D&D scare still remain, as seen in the portrayal of a game similar to D&D inciting cult-like activity in the 2017 show “Riverdale.”

Nowadays, it’s hard to come across someone who hasn’t at least heard of it. While researching, it became exceedingly clear just how popular the game was. Even with an estimated 20 million D&Ders worldwide, I still didn’t know there were so many players in the Ballard area.

A warm welcome

I was expecting the classic group-of-guys-sittingin-a-dark-basement vibe from the Ballard Public Library D&D session, instead I was greeted by a much more diverse group of people, in a much brighter room. Everyone was warm and welcoming and seemed excited to participate.

Players range from ages 11 to 19, and all experience levels are welcome. The volunteers teach new players the rules of the game, basics of role play, and character creation. The club meets once a month, though many of the dates have yet to be determined. The next meeting will be Dec. 28, and volunteers are greatly needed.

The club started out pretty small, both the players and volunteers have noticed attendance growth. One volunteer, William, commented, “I feel like more people have started showing up. The amount does vary, but we started getting a lot more people who regularly show.”

The golden number of people per group is around five. Anything below that, the DM has to work extra hard to keep the story going, and anything above is just mayhem. As the club grows, the DMs have to adapt, “a lot of it is making sure that the volunteers also know how to help with campaigns,” says William.

With such a large and diverse group, some interesting things can take place. One of these is something called being a “murderhobo.”

A “murderhobo” is someone who goes around killing everyone and everything in their path. In a game as open and creative as D&D, killing your teammates is pretty annoying for all parties.

“Murderhoboing” strays about as far away from the core aspects of D&D as possible. Dungeons and Dragons is about cooperation and bonding, the beautiful thing about the D&D club is going there knowing almost no one and leave feeling like you just made new friends. Taking down an army of orcs or solving a medieval murder-mystery helps adventurers form close bonds.

Jay, a new D&D player, summed it up, “it’s just getting to collaborate and strategize with other people, not just alone. You’re on a team with your peers, like your colleges. It’s a sense of bonding.”