Dice in the Dungeon
Story by Austin MacKenzie // Photos by Jon Bergman
"The iron dog leaps at your throat," says Travis Gann, the Dungeon Master for the night, as he rolls a 20-sided die. "It ends up missing your throat but gnawing on your shoulder for five damage."
Bellingham resident Bruce Bogle, the player behind the attacked character, shrugs the damage off with a smile.
"I'm gonna stab this guy in front of me because he's a jerk," Bogle says, rolling the die, which lands on a 20. "Ooh, a crit."
In the early '80s and '90s, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), was often seen by the media and American society as a dangerous and subversive game. The game was first made out to be a satanic practice that was bringing American youth to devil worship, says Karl Smith, an officer of Bellingham Society of Roleplayers.
In the '90s, this image slowly changed, but a new stigma was taking its place. D&D was instead the game of social rejects, a subculture of people who squatted in their mothers' basement feasting on Cheetos and Mountain Dew, Smith says.
However, this stigma is starting to fade away because of the influence of online games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) that intend to simulate the feel of games like D&D, Smith says.
As of January, WoW has more than 11 million users worldwide and focuses primarily on combat, Smith says. This affected the design for 4th edition, the newest D&D set of rules released in May 2008.
For some longtime D&D players in Bellingham, the change in their subculture is not necessarily a bad thing.
"In playing Dungeons and Dragons, I like a lot of the technical combat scenarios more," says Bogle, who has played D&D for more than 20 years. "There tends to be more of that in 4th edition."
Bogle and Gann play with the Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA), a national organization with a chapter in Bellingham. RPGA allows players to bring their characters anywhere and uses 4th edition exclusively.
The Bellingham chapter of RPGA tends to have about eight to 15 players a night, while the Bellingham Society of Roleplayers range from about five to 10- numbers which showcase local D&D enthusiasm despite 4th edition. While it is possible the subculture itself will change, the core of the game remains the same. D&D is still a way for people to come together, delve into dungeons and slay dragons.
"He promised us death and destruction and, well, he failed to deliver," Bogle says, as the party finishes cutting their way through the iron dogs and guards, confronting the priestess of Shar.
"I didn't promise you death and destruction," Gann says, moments before the party falls upon the priestess. The party slays the priestess and takes her treasure, ending another local D&D match.