Roleplaying During A Pandemic

By Andrea Kamander

Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. Each player usually runs one character within an adventuring party. The game is run by a Dungeon Master, or DM, who controls the environment and any non-player characters. Playing D&D consists of three aspects: exploration, social interaction, and combat. Personally, I like the combat and intraparty interaction most.

I’ve been playing D&D since I turned 10, which was in 2017. My dad introduced it to my brother and I in the summer, and it just clicked. I’ve played a variety of different types of characters in over half a dozen games. While I like trying different types of characters, I tend to prefer playing stealthy characters.

A Brief History

Moula Arbacent, human female far traveled monk
D&D was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was published by TSR, and was based on existing wargames. However, D&D varied from wargaming in that each player had a character that they played, instead of a military formation. It also involved less tactics, and more roleplaying.

Since its creation, there have been many versions of D&D; from Basic D&D, which was followed be Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal, commonly referred to as BECMI, and Advanced D&D, or AD&D, which was followed by Second Edition in 1989, 3third edition in 2000, 3.5 in 2003, fourth edition in 2008, and finally the current fifth edition (5E) in 2014.

In the 80’s, D&D was the target of a mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic. Broadly speaking, the Satanic Panic was the concern that some type of reference to “evil” forces, associated with hell, were influencing the youth. For instance, Harry Potter was also singled out, because it surrounds magic and witchcraft. As you can imagine, D&D, which involves both magic, all kinds of monsters, undead, and a variety of deities and religious pantheons, was also focused on during the Panic.

Nevertheless, in 1997, Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, and D&D with it. Although it declined for decades, D&D’s popularity soared with 5E, due to a multitude of factors. What was once seen as an anti-social and counter-culture activity, began to be accepted as a cool and even social activity, partially due to many of its players being adults who played in their youth and many youths having been taught by their parents.

Traditional D&D Gaming

Typically, a D&D game consisted of a group of teenagers gathered around a table with their character sheets, rolling dice while eating pizza and drinking soda. While the soda and pizza are optional, everyone was usually sitting together around a table.

COVID-19 changed that.

Virtual Roleplaying

Moula Arbacent fan art
The lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic caused many D&D games to be put on hold, as many people became reluctant to gather in person. However, this also led to an increase in the amount of games played remotely. If anything, this ability to play remotely may have popularized the game further.

Various ‘virtual tabletop’, or VTT, sites that used to have virtual gaming, such as Roll20, have spiked in popularity. All that is required is an internet connection. These VTT systems include the ability to video conference, share maps and other information, roll dice, and move character ‘tokens’ around on a map grid, all virtually.

Although VTT forums like Roll20 exist, plenty of people, myself included, prefer to just play over a video meeting using Theater of the Mind. TotM is a narrative play style, where instead of using a grid to display movement, everything is in your imagination using the DM’s descriptions.

Personally, even though I play TotM style, I still use many online tools to help facilitate playing remotely, such as Dungeon Master’s Vault for my characters and an online dice roller, though none of this is required.

At the moment, I’m playing in one virtual game and running another. Even though I prefer playing in-person, playing virtually is a viable option, and COVID-19 isn’t stopping our fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment