“You contemptuous, hapless and pactising fools. What do you take us for? My sister said there was nothing at the bottom of that lake, ”growled the Feywild keeper and Fey chief.
The Siren – played by Eric Smith, this campaign’s dungeon master – says the group will live the rest of their lives here, and one of the player’s pet lynx will be put to death. The group of seven middle and high school students began frantically tossing out ideas.
“They can take me instead.”
“Why does nothing ever work for us?” “
“We have an act – that should be enough! “
“Can we use one of the magic apples?” “
JT – a 15-year-old freshman at Elmira High School who plays Ander Trygg, a human mercenary – argued that the lynx should not be put to death because it is harmless and part of the group.
Maya – a 14-year-old freshman at EHS, who plays Theadora Virdis, a wizarding demon who worships cats – begged the mermaid to spare the lynx.
Once it seemed like all hope was lost and they would be stuck in the feywild – a magical forest hidden on another plane of reality – for the rest of their lives, Maya’s character began to pray to her god. in the hope that it would help him get them out of this situation. Smith tells the party of seven adventurers on each initiative roll the order in which players and monsters take turns in battle, a sign any Dungeons & Dragons veteran knows all too well.
This adventure is just one example of the endless possibilities that can unfold in Dungeons & Dragons, a tabletop role-playing game. Initially, this group started out as a simple one-on-one session with Maya playing and Smith leading a campaign on her character, Theadora Virdis, going to a school of magic. But now D&D is a way for this group of seven kids to get out, bond, and escape the real world.
Back in the game, one of their non-playable revelers drowned a monstrous Cyclops in the cave. Maya’s character told the mermaid to send Fey to retrieve the body. Xexes, a Minotaur played by Smith, brought Cyclops down to the murky depths of a damp lagoon but never reappeared.
The siren deliberated for a while before sending her second in command to investigate. The plan backfired completely when the Fey’s returned, stating that they had found no evidence of the Cyclops or the Minotaur; the siren chief wanted to organize the players’ party in the Feywild as a penance for their crimes against the Fey. The Mermaid didn’t like the group of seven adventurers failing in their quest, and particularly hated that they had discovered the location of the Feywild.
Previously, the seven young adventurers would finish their affairs with a group of Fey, led by a siren, to prevent them from harassing certain farmers. Players discussed how best to seal the deal with the Fey Creatures, who initially agreed to stop harassing farmers if the group killed a Cyclops that caused them problems. This group has had many adventures together now, and the DM makes sure that each is unique.
Smith, the only adult in this group, has been playing D&D since the early 1980s. Being a dungeon master comes with challenges like knowing dark information and dealing with multiple players with their own motivations. But Smith says it’s all part of the fun. Today he runs campaigns in two brick and mortar stores. This group is leading the campaign at Lock & Key Adventurers Guild, which shares space with A Link to the Past, a local cafe.
Smith says he enjoys “being the world” because, as DM, he’s the creator of every story that unfolds, down to the minutiae, like the name of a beggar in a big city. He says D&D can meet the kind of game any gamer wants.
“It’s inclusive for everyone. Some people do it as a tactical board game because it’s important to them, ”says Smith. “Some people just do it on acting. Some people don’t know what to do with their character, but they want to watch and they want to be involved. “
Smith lets this group have as much power over the story as they want, but not without consequences. For example, at the start of their campaign, Maya’s character was looking for the former owner of her companion Lynx, an evil wizard hiding in a school of magic.
The party captured him, but not without the wizard unexpectedly changing his body along with a 12-year-old student from the school of magic. When Maya introduced the deceptive wizard to her elder cat god without questioning him, she was shocked to only find a child who was subsequently killed by a horde of cats. The morale of the squad took a big hit that day.
“I finally got the bad guy, and I was going to take him to my elder god and say, ‘Here. I did it. I won. I did it. I finished it. I’m so awesome. ‘”Says Maya. “And then it was a 12 year old boy.” She says she felt stupid and stressed out, but admitted her mistake and was ready for the future consequences of the campaign.
While D&D seems like just a few slips of paper and little character figures, it’s so much more for this group of players. It’s not just about the game itself – for them, the game is also about the connections formed when creating these stories.
Maya started in the school theater group. When she found out about D&D through her parents, she immediately fell in love with it. She loves getting involved with her characters and says that she uses her character, Theadora, as a reflection of herself.
Eventually, more players heard about Eric and Maya’s little campaign and wanted to participate – Ben got JT to come over and play, and the rest heard about it when they came to the store. The squad has grown to seven and they’ve been venturing together for two months. The chaos remains, but JT and Ben agree that it adds to the experience.
The group says they got together by chance and now all have something in common to share. Mason and Maya knew each other before, but JT spends time with them every day at school now.
JT wants to get more involved in the game, but he has to adjust to his basketball schedule. He says he loves playing a role in a fantasy setting like D&D and creating a story around his character.
“I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so being able to control your own fantasy story is a lot of fun,” JT says. He met Mason and Maya during the campaign and said he was grateful to have made new friendships because of it. He enjoys being the group’s negotiator and making sure everyone has a say when six other players try to get their thoughts on what to do next.
Ben wants to take the game back to his family to play with them. He loves the randomness of the game and the way the dice control the outcome of any action, even with his character’s identity. Initially, Ben played a stoic Dragon Born warrior, but due to a few dice rolls and role-playing choices, he grew into a narcoleptic and gay Dragon wrestler.
One of his favorite moments of the campaign was when he played sword with Xexes, the Minotaur. “We were forced to struggle and I came out with a black eye,” Ben says. He wants to start running his own campaign because it sounds like fun, and he plans to keep his family in chaos.
Mason likes to create art for their characters and the group; they enjoy the creative aspects of the game and let their imaginations run wild with their characters and actions. Mason says it allows them to practice drawing, one of their favorite hobbies.
All of these motives behind playing D&D made for some incredible moments of camaraderie, and it shows in and outside of the game.
Back in the game, when the mermaids attacked their pet lynx, the group of players wasted no time in taking up arms together against the magical creatures. As the characters fought together, each was slowly reduced by the flock of attacks from the Satyrs, Sirens, and Fey.
Just when all hope seemed lost, Xexes came to charge a pool of water with the Cyclops they thought they had killed. Cheers and screams echoed throughout the store as their friend Minotaur saved them from beyond the grave.
“I love you so much, Xexes!”
“Has your god revived you?” “
“I love you, Xexes.”
Once the dust settled, Smith closed the campaign session. All the players said their farewells, eagerly awaiting the next session to see what happens next. “Each session is always something different,” says JT.