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The world of Dungeons and Dragons through the eyes of a squish

Pictured here are multiple sets of dice and dice bags. One of which feature the D&D logo (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

The game of Dungeons and Dragons immerses you into a world of magic, role playing, epic battles and much more. Surrounded by lore and superstition, the game is set in a medieval or futuristic fantasy world, where a group of people, known as a party, traverse through an intense story line with many plot twists and zealous conversation. And this marvelous adventure can all take place in your friend’s mom’s basement in Grand Rapids.

These enthusiastic players sit in the DM’s mom’s basement, playing an intense game. Left to right: Joshua Abbott, Sara Silkensen, Darla Shangle (DM’s mom), Boone Shangle (DM), Alexander Woodard and Jackson Rohn.
Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live

I grew up hearing about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) from my dad or seeing it portrayed in TV and movies as something super geeky. It seemed only the most dedicated geeks played D&D. they’d gather around in the basement, take out their books, figurines, dice, notebooks/character sheets and whiteboard/blackboard. Today’s sessions are pretty much the same, however there are now apps and websites you can use to help build your character or keep track of them. You can even play the game online.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The dice are used for many things, including encounters (battles) such as one the characters in the background are about to be immersed in (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

Back when my dad was younger those who played D&D were considered nerds often made fun of and bullied because of it. Nowadays the geek culture seems to have taken over and expanded. It encompasses so many more people and has become a more accepted thing. Those in the D&D community are usually very understanding and excited to incorporate more into their circle. There is a wide diversity of people in this community with a wide variety of career choices, backgrounds, personalities and etc.


Some of those in the community have very advanced characters with amazing skills and experience, my character however is a squish. This was the nickname I received during the first session of my first campaign and seems to be one that I will keep no matter how powerful I become, because since I decided to become a wizard my armor class is very low.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live Character sheets help players keep track of character statistics including dexterity, strength, intelligence and more (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

My character was a level 1, with limited spells, low armor and health and barely any gold. Not to mention my inexperience. During the first battle, I decided to have my character, Iliyana Targel, a high elf wizard, rush straight into combat. Apparently, I can’t be like Legolas and Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings,” in this game wizards generally stay at the back of the foray and shoot spells from a distance. I definitely learned my lesson. This first battle I was attacked by an orc and almost died, if it wasn’t for the dwarf cleric in our little group I most certainly would’ve. He had to use a healing spell to revive me. This happened again when during the next battle I was shot out of a tree with a javelin from a goblin.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The party investigates a new found room (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

If you are unfamiliar with the game you may be asking yourself how I know what happened to my character. This isn’t a movie or a video game where you can actually see the actions of the characters. In this game there is a lot of roleplaying, it is pretty much the main part of the game. According to Wikipedia roleplaying is “the changing of one’s behaviour to assume a role, either unconsciously to fill a social role, or consciously to act out an adopted role.” 

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The DM creates sets the scene using a marker to show the players what the terrain includes (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

Dungeons and Dragons was the first large-scale fantasy role-playing game and is all centered around storytelling. It is pretty much like a choose-your-own-adventure book. The Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) creates the world, tailoring it to your specific group. The DM pretty much has to create everything and think of everything before the campaign even begins. Before each session starts the DM describes where the group is and what is happening and then we get to choose what happens next. You choose where you want to go, who you want to talk to, what you want to say, what you want to buy and so much more.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The DM watches the players maneuver through the world he has crafted over his wall of stats (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).
Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live This twelve sided die comes from Lillian’s own dice set (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

Of course it is not all that easy. Your fate is largely dependent upon the luck of the dice. You can choose what you wish to do, what actions to take in a battle, but if you hit, how much damage is done and etc. is all dependent on how you role. There is a lot of superstition surrounding the game, dice are treated with a reverence. The dice sets include six uniquely shaped die, each with different purposes. Each die is named after how many sides they have, like a d4 is a four sided die, a d20 is twenty sided and so on. If with a d20 you roll what we call a “natural” or “nat one” you are doomed, whatever you had decided to do, you have failed miserably. With a “nat twenty” however, that is a different story entirely. With that roll you are sure to have the best result of anything you do.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live Dice come in a wide array of colors and patterns (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

The game can also be fairly expensive, some players spend hundreds of dollars on books, figurines, dice and more. However, if you wish not to spend much but still wish to play, don’t fear. If you can find a group of friends or join a group in your town, there is a huge possibility that a few of those there will have most of the equipment. My advice, just buy a set of dice.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live Player, Sara Silkensen, decided to create a dice tower and have a giant knock it down (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

The game can make you feel like a total boss one moment when you use your wand of fireballs and destroy more than half of your enemies, or it can make you feel completely desperate the next when your party is almost dead and your fate rests in the hands of a bumbling barbarian that is all muscle and no brains. Needless to say the game will bring hours of entertainment and can bring you closer to your friends.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live There is a wide assortment of monsters, using figurines adds to the fun of the game (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

The game is on a rise in popularity since it started back in 1974. According to Syfy wire, “Dungeons and Dragons had its biggest sales year in 2017.” Not only are players playing the game in their mom’s basements, but they are also streaming the game online, going to conventions, joining different groups and making podcasts. Even popular TV shows such as “Stranger Things” and “Riverdale,” are including this classic game into their stories.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The “Player’s Handbook” is the ultimate tool for every player (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).

Whether you have friends that play the game or are interested in joining a group near you there are many avenues to pursue to get started. There is even a club at Grand Rapids Community College, they do not meet during the summer semester, but when they do, information can be found on Raider Connect page. If you are just starting out in this game there are many groups and websites that can help. Follow this link for one of these.

Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live The Manticore has the body of a lion, wings of a dragon and a vaguely humanoid head. It is a formidable opponent (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).
Lillian Linscott | The Collegiate Live This figurine depicts a dragon, these creatures are very difficult to fight (Lillian Linscott/The Collegiate).
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