Accidentally Cool Games hosts a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game
by Joe Bowen, Staff Writer
As wind and rain swirl around him atop a high cliff, the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich examines the town below — and the party of rugged adventurers who have come there to destroy him.
Strahd and the adventurers’ fates will be determined over a period of weeks at Accidentally Cool Games, where a handful of people can be found on Wednesday nights playing Dungeons & Dragons, a decades-old roleplaying game that uses dice instead of a controller, sheets of paper instead of a deck of cards, and takes place almost exclusively inside its players’ imaginations.
“(The game) gives me a break from my work and chores and everyday life. It gives me one night a week when I can basically sit and have fun,” said Aaron Porter, who roleplays as Arilius Kurzita, a level five tiefling warlock.
Players concoct a character beforehand and embark on epic adventures while a referee-slash-storyteller called a “dungeon master” describes the characters’ universe and it’s inhabitants and uses dice rolls to determine the success of certain actions: picking a lock, casting a spell, swinging a sword, charming a barkeep and so on.
The “Curse of Strahd” campaign is one of several prefab adventures that players can undertake, but a skilled dungeon master can create an entire universe of their own for their players to explore, making sometimes-agonizing choices that can have far-reaching consequences for the party.
“It’s like a good book,” said Muryia Van Wert, whose character is a gnome druid named Flori who can heal the other adventurers’ wounds. “You get into the storyline and it takes you someplace else.”
12-year old Gage Van Wert — Muryia’s son — roleplays as Rogar, a dragonborn sorcerer. Gage said he liked creating characters for the game. Rogar, his character, can shoot firebolts and the occasional fireball, which is more destructive.
Muriya said she had watched some “D&D” games in high school, but had never played the game until a family friend recently piqued her son’s interest in it.
More than one player said they’ve played other fantasy-based games like Magic: The Gathering or Vampire: The Masquerade. Roleplaying in a separate group is not uncommon, either.
“The big gateway drug for everybody is “Lord of the Rings,”” said Anthony Lafontain, a longtime fantasy novel fan who roleplays as a dragonborn fighter named Noxeries Balshar. Lafontain’s character is skilled at hand-to-hand combat and acts as a “meat shield” for the other characters, absorbing attacks and damage from enemies who might otherwise harm the more fragile spellcasters.
The adventurers at Accidentally Cool Games were battling a group of scarecrows and a hag in their quest to find a “sword of sunlight,” which is a magical artifact that could help them defeat Strahd.
Their hunt for the vampire count could take weeks or even months in the real world. All of the players’ characters were level five when they were interviewed for this article in mid-October, and conventional wisdom about the campaign suggests that they should be at least a few levels higher before they attempt a showdown with Strahd in his castle.
The freeform nature of the game means the players could complete the campaign in any number of ways, traversing ancient battlefields, magical temples, and aging, medieval-style villages as they unlock secrets about the vampire and his realm.
Every night, a horde of bats sweeps across the landscape, and Strahd has a network of human and inhuman spies who can harass the adventurers. The vampire himself could also appear at any moment to thwart their plans before vanishing into the dark.
The adventurers could even fail outright in their quest to destroy Strahd — who waits, with immortal patience, to add them to his list of victims.