BAR HARBOR — Kids aren’t able to gather in person for school, clubs or sports at the moment, but last Tuesday afternoon a group of Conners Emerson students were able to travel to a distant land on a mystical ship, ride a gryphon and do battle with suits of animated armor.
The collaborative storytelling game Dungeons & Dragons works well over the Google video meeting function set up by their advisor, Mary McKay, the school’s gifted and talented specialist.
That’s because the only equipment needed for the role-playing game is a set of dice of different kinds (6-sided, 20-sided, etc.) for each player, and some information available in handbooks or online about the kinds of characters and monsters.
The game, or campaign, unfolds at the direction of a dungeon master (DM), who leads the characters through the adventure and decides how to translate what their dice rolls will mean in the world of the story.
Sam Curry, the DM, is leading a campaign he found online called “Frozen Sick,” in which the characters are on a quest to find a cure for a strange disease that has been turning everyone to ice.
How the story goes depends on the players’ collective, creative problem solving.
“Suddenly, a door opens up, and three suits of animated armor push through,” Curry tells the group. The players each roll dice “for initiative” to see who will take the lead in the battle.
Sydney Schneider, whose character in this campaign is a bard/wizard named Nithtish, has the first brush with the creatures.
Curry rolls to see how strong their attack against Nithtish will be.
“Does 11 pass your armor class?” he asks Schneider.
“Nope, not at all,” she says. She has a number representing how strong her armor is and what it can withstand, and it’s greater than 11.
“They fail,” Curry declares.
“I just look at them and brush dust off my shoulders,” Schneider grins.
Curry reads the narrative bits with such conviction that you’d think he dreamed it all up himself.
When the group comes across a gryphon with an arrow in its shoulder, Curry notes that its name is Louise. “That’s the name of my grandmother’s goose,” he adds, “and she’s extremely bad-tempered.”
Schneider’s character is strong in animal handling, so she’s the one to approach it and see if it will let her pull the arrow out. She rolls to see what will happen and reports the number to Curry.
“It flaps up into the air and pulls around, then it comes back down and bows in front of you,” he says. “You realize the gesture means that it’s allowing you to ride it.”
Each of the players makes an “animal handling check,” rolling a die and adding their character’s animal handling ability, to see if they’ll be able to ride.
Schneider, Rosemary Hearn and Caspar Pampacer roll high enough to ride. Rio Mwaura doesn’t make it, but his character is a warlock with the ability to teleport, so he gets to the destination ahead of them.
“Gryphons ride fast. You only wait 30 minutes before the gryphon catches up to you,” Curry tells Mwaura.
“I’m eating bacon and I look up and say, you took a long time,” Mwaura says.
“The gryphon probably gets angry” at that, Schneider suggests.
“The gryphon doesn’t get angry,” says Curry, and what the DM says goes. “It just jumps on the pan and tears all the remaining bacon out and eats it.”
The group began meeting after school this year after Curry and Mwaura attended an intro to how to play and how to DM organized by a community group called Game On.
“I thought it would be interesting, so we went to this community D&D thing to learn, and it just became my passion,” Curry said.
McKay, their advisor, was already working with these students in an afternoon reading group in the school’s distance learning schedule.
“They asked if we could continue doing D&D after school,” she said. “I love the enthusiasm at school, and I love the enthusiasm online.”
“I like playing as the different characters, and making character sheets is fun too,” Hearn said. Character sheets include everything from what kind of creature the character is (dwarf, elf, human), job (fighter, ranger, warlock, bard), personality types (good or evil, rule-following or chaotic), as well as those numerical descriptors that will impact what the character is able to do during the campaign.
“I like imagining the whole thing as we go along,” Schneider said. “It’s really fun, because I’m a part of the story too.”