Dungeons and Dragons captures student imaginations


Emma Engler

Pleasant Valley students mask up and go outside to play Dungeons and Dragons during quarantine.

Taze Wilson, Lead Editor

While lockdown may have made it difficult to connect with friends, some PV students used it as an opportunity to play Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy roleplaying game built around collaborative storytelling.

With over 13.7 million players worldwide, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is no longer the fringe nerd-culture game it was when first released in 1974. Since its inception, millions of people have created characters and played through stories designed by a person called the Dungeon Master. Today, the game is most commonly associated with the Netflix hit show “Stranger Things.” 

Dungeons and Dragons offers a wide variety of worlds and stories, about everything from political dramas to killing dark lords. The only limit in D&D is one’s imagination and the roll of the dice. Everything in the game is determined by simple dice rolls, making the game unpredictable and exciting. 

When the state of Iowa went into lockdown due to COVID-19, many students found themselves with a lot of freetime and an inability to connect with their friends. For a few of those students, Dungeons and Dragons provided the perfect escape. 

Although they could not meet in person, Senior Sam Kowing worked out how to play D&D with his friends online. “Although it wasn’t the same as playing in person, playing D&D online gave me a way to connect with friends in a really isolating time,” Kowing said. Sam’s party, which started adventuring back in March, is still playing together today. 

In a time of social isolation, the communal nature of Dungeons and Dragons allowed many people to stay connected while locked in their homes. Wizards of the Coast, the publishers of D&D, offered free materials throughout the pandemic so players, new and old, could stay inside and play with friends and family. Thousands of people tuned into D&D livestreams, such as those by Critical Role, for entertainment throughout the lockdown.

While Dungeons and Dragons is more popular than ever before, the game is nearly 50 years old and has had a long history of providing community to those that feel excluded. 

Academic study hall advisor Francis Dunbar has been a lifelong Dungeons and Dragons fan and has found great value in the fantasy game. “Storytelling, worldbuilding, creativity and teamwork,” said Dunbar. “It’s hard to find a way that Dungeons and Dragons isn’t a good pastime, especially for young people.” 

Even though D&D has provided joy throughout the years, the game has been criticized by Christian groups for promoting magic and demon worship. As the game reached its peak of controversy, the news program 60 Minutes released an episode focusing on D&D’s talking about deaths connected to the game and interviewing the game’s creator, Gary Gygax. Even today, there are some parents who will not let their children try Dungeons and Dragons.

Any person who has played D&D knows that these religious fears are unfounded. “Dungeons and Dragons is about as satanic as a banana,” Kowing said. “Sure, you can do satanic things with a banana, but that’s your decision.” Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game, all imagination.

As the roleplaying becomes more popular around the world, many people are afraid to try it out. But Dungeons and Dragons has provided joy and connection to many players, including dozens at Pleasant Valley.