So You Want to Play Dungeons and Dragons in the Library? The Teen is here to help you with that
A year or two ago, The Teen got invited to participate in a Dungeons and Dragons (DND) group, which she has been doing ever since. It’s a privately run group, but I often think about DND in the library. Recently, another youth services staff was talking about starting a DND program so I thought now was as good a time as any to start diving into the idea of DND at the library. So today’s post is co-written by The Teen and myself. As I mentioned, she has been part of a DND group for around two years now. I have played exactly one DND game in my lifetime, which I did as part of my research for this very post. The bonus is that The Teen has grown up in libraries and has defacto helped plan and participated in a wide variety of programs at this point, so she is coming to us with a wide variety of view points that are actually pretty helpful and informative. This is a very basic introduction with some resources for those who, like me, don’t know a lot about Dungeons and Dragons but want to explore hosting DND events at the library.
To begin, The Teen describes for us the very basics of DND: Dungeons and dragons is a role play game where you build a character, join a party, and go on a quest. To build a character first you need to get a character sheet, these can be found online. Then you will need to fill in the information about your race, class, and alignment, which are all things you pick for yourself. Your race can be anything from a human to a Dragonborn. Each race comes with its own traits. Your class is what you do. You can be a bard, barbarian, monk, or Druid. It all depends on what you want to do. Then comes your alignment. There are 9 alignments in total. They range from lawful good to chaotic evil. Your alignment determines your morals as a character. Once you have the basic idea of your character, you can roll a 20 sided dice for your skills. After you have everything done in your character sheet then you can begin playing as your character. The point is to be your character and do what they would do. The possibilities are endless while you go on your quests.
The first thing that each player needs is a character. To do this, The Teen recommends having a separate character building program. There are character sheets available online that you can use to help you build up your character. There are also books to help you do this as well. The Teen’s character is a bard and she is lawful neutral. It is against her character’s nature, for example, to kill someone. You want a variety of characters with a variety of alignments in a campaign if at all possible.
Once you have some good characters in place, you then need a campaign and a dungeon master, or DM, to lead the campaign. There are free campaign resources online. If you have watched Strangers Things on Netflix then you have seen several Dungeons and Dragons game in action and the character of Will is the DM.
Here’s how a basic campaign works. The DM sets the players on a quest. Let’s say you’re going to explore a village that is being plagued by a dragon and you have to find and slay the dragon. Characters go through the village and come upon various locations, events, obstacles, etc. and the DM asks the players what they want to do. So you come across a farmer and you can decide to do things like ask the farmer questions or attack or whatever. Then the farmer responds. Scenario 1: You ask the farmer a question and it turns out the farmer really is just a farmer and they give you information, it’s all good. Scenario 2: You ask the farmer a question but it turns out they’re really a rival dragon slayer and they attack you. In that case, you chose poorly. The game continues in this manner and slowly, over time, you are creating a story with your fellow players.
There are a variety of dice required for DND. These come in to play as you navigate the journey. For example, if your character attacks another character, you roll the dice to determine how much damage you did. If your number is higher than their number, which is established in character building, then you did damage. If not, then you didn’t do damage. For me, this was hands down the most confusing part of the game. Also, no one told me their would be math. There is math, which is fine, I just wasn’t aware and found that interesting. This is where having someone who knows what they’re doing is helpful.
The quest I participated in took 4 hours, which was 2 hours too long for my attention span. We eventually found the dragon, slayed it and saved the village. There was much rejoicing. Yes, I did the quest described above. Just last Thursday The Teen went and did a quest with her DND group and she spent 9 hours total at a friends house. Her character is a bard and at one point she asked to save a friend by singing a song. The DM allowed it, as long as she actually wrote and sang the song, which she did. So a DND game can be as immersive and creative as the individual players choose to make it. It’s a very adaptable and customizable game, which is part of its appeal and strength.
To play, you need:
- Characters (which grow over time)
- A DM (some experience running a game is preferred and helpful)
- A campaign (there are pre-written campaigns or you can write your own)
- Dice (I would provide these for a library program, though some participants will have their own
- Space, time and snacks (a quick look around the Internet seems to suggest that the shortest time for a DND game is around 1 and a 1/2 hours)
- Cosplay is optional
I guarantee you that there are people in your community, and I dare say some of your library teens, that could help you get this started. I definitely recommend playing a game yourself if you never have to understand all that is involved. I had never played before and I found playing a game incredibly invaluable in understanding what is involved and what would be needed to host a library event. It’s actually fun and to be honest, seeing The Teen have the enriching relationships from her own DND group makes me want to have a group of my own.
There are some libraries out there holding DND events and you should check out these posts:
At the bare minimum, all you have to do is open your library and provide a space so that teens in your community have a place to play. You could also host DND 101 events where you explain the basics and help teens develop characters. Since the game itself is so adaptable, the ways that you can incorporate this into your library are as well.
There are a lot of DND books out there to help. Here is a comprehensive list found on Wikipedia. It was recommended to us that you start with these three.
May your campaign be successful! Now go out there and do this thing.
Have more to add to this post or want to link us to your library event? Leave a comment.
Filed under: Teen Programming
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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