BYU students embark on an adventure with Dungeons and Dragons

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Elizabeth Hocker with dungeon master on her right and Dax Jacobsen to her left, look in the Dungeon and Dragons manual to figure out part of the game on Oct. 23 in the basement of Dragon’s Keep in Provo. (Preston Crawley)

Playing imagination games as a child helps develop creative skills and is a way to have fun. BYU students continue to engage their imaginations by playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Dungeons and Dragons, also known as D&D, is a role-playing game that can take place in any location as the only required materials are imagination and dice.

Some students at BYU say they love D&D because it is a hobby they and their friends enjoy. Elizabeth Hocker, a BYU pre-industrial design student, grew up loving the fantasy genre and got into D&D in high school.

“I think it’s a fun opportunity to step outside of yourself and solve problems, make jokes, have fun, be the hero and be the one who slays the dragon, even if it is pretend,” Hocker said. “I get to immerse myself in fantasy.”

Hocker grew up watching her older brother go to the local comic shop and play D&D. When she was 14 years old, she begged him to take her. She played almost every week, sometimes twice a week, at the comic shop all throughout high school.

Elizabeth Hocker sits in the basement of Dragon’s Keep in Provo on Oct. 23. (Preston Crawley)

“Playing D&D through high school has taught me how to interact with people in positive ways and how to achieve my goals and learn problem-solving,” Hocker said. “It gives people the opportunity to expand their horizons and think about situations they don’t normally encounter.”

Hocker has played with all her siblings. She even created her own campaign world to play D&D in, complete with a map, magic, elves and orcs.

When she came to college, Hocker looked for groups to join and recently started attending a D&D game at Dragon’s Keep, a comic book store in Provo that provides a place for people to make new friends and play D&D.

Mechanical engineering student Jordan Penfold and his friends meet at Dragon’s Keep in Provo each Wednesday evening to play.

To start playing D&D, Penfold suggests working with someone who already knows how to play.

The dungeon master, Matthew Moody, acts out the story that unfolded on Oct. 23 in the basement of Dragon’s Keep in Provo. (Preston Crawley)

Penfold said a player must first create a character, then join a group of other characters led by a dungeon master. The dungeon master creates a world where each character can act as they wish.

D&D is played with a group of at least three or four people. Each person acts as their character and rolls dice to determine how strong their skills are. The dungeon master guides the characters through a storyline — also known as a “campaign” in D&D terms — with different sets of adventures, challenges and events.

“It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure story,” Penfold said. “You’ll be told an environment and then have to decide what to do.”

Each campaign is different, and the dungeon master is in charge of creating a setting and a challenge. These campaigns can last for months, and groups meet weekly for at least three hours.

Biology student Robin Crepeau started playing D&D when she was 17. She did not play her first year at BYU but listened to podcasts about D&D and decided to start her own group on campus. She is the dungeon master on Mondays and plays in a group on Saturday. 

“It’s a fun way to hang out with my friends. That’s why I do it,” Crepeau said.

Dice and figurines sit on the table during a D&D game. The dice dictate how events in the game unfold. Figures are fun to help visualize but not necessary to play D&D. (Preston Crawley)

D&D can be played with little props and figurines, and on occasion, groups dress up. Crepeau said she had everyone come in costume for a one-time Halloween campaign.

Crepeau introduced a lot of her friends from her study abroad to D&D, and now they form her Monday group.

Claire Murray, Crepeau’s friend and a special education student, started playing in August and said she really enjoys D&D.

“I think the hook is just the funny situations we get ourselves into and the entertainment factor,” Murray said. “It’s never boring.”

The game is focused on the dungeon master’s story and what each character decides to do. Murray explained that to make certain decisions, players can ask questions to figure out if their decisions are good.

Players say their proposed action and then roll the dice. The higher the dice, the better the action’s outcome. Rolling a lower number makes the action unfold differently from what the dice roller wanted to happen.

“I think people like to pretend because we won’t ever get to do some of the things that happen in the campaigns,” Murray said. “We experience life in a way we won’t normally be able to — but without risk, because you are just pretending.”

Andrew Welker, a senior studying international relations, has been playing D&D for a little over a year. He said it’s fun to use his imagination with friends.

He said there are a few things BYU students should know about their peers who play D&D.

“It’s not weird to play, and it’s a lot more simple than people think or than people try to make it,” Welker said.

Penfold said he has learned many things playing D&D, too. The biggest thing for him is interacting with others.

“It’s great for teamwork and cooperation and for thinking outside the box and problem-solving. It’s great for building your imagination,” Penfold said.

These BYU students all expressed their gratitude for the chance to play D&D and have fun with their friends. Penfold likes to use D&D as an escape and enjoys being a hero in some other world.

“Everyone should at least try it once if they like fantasy, sci-fi or using their imagination, and if you like it, there are always people looking for groups to play in,” Penfold said.

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