Dungeons & Dragons and Dinner with Friends
WORDS: Tara Crutchfield PHOTOGRAPH: Amy Sexson
One night a week, every week for years, a local group of friends has been coming together around a table for dinner, drinks, and a continuing campaign of the role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons.
The gathering is always hosted at the same friend’s house, but they each get to show off their culinary chops by taking turns preparing the meal. This group was gracious enough to invite Haven into their home to experience a “homebrew” D&D game.
The Dungeon Master for this game, Mike, who plays in another game as Tagerioius Oranson, Tigerous for short (he’s a human wizard on the younger side who is completely obsessed with magic and experimenting with different spells), explained how D&D works, what the goal is.
“There is no goal to D&D in the traditional sense. It’s more about just having an adventure and telling a story,” he began.
During a campaign, which is a continuous game that may last a few nights, weeks, or in their case years, there are many small adventures along the way, tasks to complete, character development, all the while gaining experience, treasure, and equipment. This is all with an end goal of defeating an eventual big threat or evil bad guy.
The current campaign that this group is playing, has been ongoing for about a year and a half. Though most have them have been playing for much longer.
The Dungeon Master, or DM, described his role in the game. “The DM pretty much is playing the world. Each of the players plays one character, while the DM plays everything else they interact with,” he explained. These other characters may be shopkeepers, townspeople, or anyone else the group interacts with.
“In a way, he (the DM) is kind of like the story teller,” said another player Neil, or as he’s known in the game, Depths of the Golden Cliffs, Cliff for short. Cliff is a Tabaxi which is bipedal anthropomorphic cheetah who is a Paladin (someone who is prolific in magic and combat). He wields two swords and prefers to be near the front of the battle.
The other players in this homebrew game are Cori, an Elf Rogue Bard named Riniamamodel or Rini, Daniel who plays as Riverwind or River, a Goliath, and Steven aka Bartholomule “Ember” Waterhouse who is a Pyromancer.
To someone who isn’t familiar with D&D, one may think they’d need a plethora of supplies to play. Not the case. The group said that you can play minimally with dice, paper, pens, and your imagination.
Each player in this group had dice of varying numbers of sides, colors, and design, some even with flecks of glitter. The dice come in four, six, eight, ten, twelve, and twenty sides. The higher the roll, the better the outcome. Rolling a twenty is called a ‘critical roll’ which also happens to be the name of a popular D&D web series, though it is spelled Critical Role.
Players use a Player’s Handbook to let them know what number and what type of die can do specific damage. This takes a little math. Neil used the example of a 4D4 in which you roll a four-sided die four times and add that up to figure the damage.
Some players share dice, others have their own sets. There are even superstitions with them. Steven has an unlucky die and won’t keep it with the rest of his dice because he doesn’t want to “infect” them.
Neil says the most fun part of the game to him is character creation. Using the Player’s Handbook as a guide the main things to consider when imagining your D&D persona are: what race you want to be (Orc, Human, Elf, Dwarf, etc.), your class (Wizard, Fighter, Barbarian, Rogue), and then you can use the Player’s Handbook to roll for your other stats like strength, intelligence, and dexterity.
As Dungeons & Dragons is an iconic role playing game, it makes sense that it tends to attract creative, innovative hobbyists. But how do you role play? Is it costumes and accents or pure imagination? A little of both actually.
Though they weren’t donning period garb, they do sometimes prepare a game-themed meal, play music reminiscent of their world, or perfect their accent for the full effect.
It’s all about “the theatre of the mind” according to Mike. “Usually when it comes to role playing scenarios, it’s all just sort of talking it out and imagining it.”
The community, though a niche one, is growing says DM, Mike. “We’re kind of in the middle of a big tabletop renaissance right now. A lot of the stuff that was big in the 80s and then kind of disappeared for a while is coming back in a big way.”
Don’t worry if you’re a D&D newbie. There are plenty of resources out there for those just picking up the game. Not only are there online resources like Roll20, Wizards of the Coast, and Fantasy Grounds but Mike advises to check out local hobby and game shops which often have D&D books, supplies, and a knowledge of the game, or frequent groups that meet and play there.
Each player had their own reasons for why they take the time to meet up every week to play, but there was a consensus on what this hobby has brought to their lives.
“It’s a great way to hang out with friends and have fun,” said Mike. “For a lot of people, it’s more a catalyst to get together and hang for a few hours. Make dinner, have drinks, and then you’re having fun rolling dice and telling a great story with all your friends.”
He said that together they have these amazing memories, not only of a good meal with friends around a table, but of the time they got ambushed and teleported into the air to then summon a house that drops on everything or the time they worked their way through a castle to defeat the enemy.
Steven shared this sentiment. “I definitely look forward to this night because it’s a time for all of us to get together, talk about what happened to us during that week, and just have time to unwind, have some fun, and not have to be burdened or stressed about what’s going on around us.”
There was a warmth in the room as this group of comrades sat around the table with dinner and drinks, working together to navigate this exciting fantasy world that they themselves authored. There was laughter, plenty of good-natured teasing, inside jokes, and genuine friendship.
Carl's Game Station
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPH
You’ve probably driven by Carl’s Game Station in downtown Winter Haven at the Old Towne Square and wondered, what kind of a store is that? And, who’s Carl?
Carl’s Game Station (CGS) is a gaming store that’s also a family-friendly gaming tournament location and place to gather for role playing card games and board games. Who’s Carl? “I’m Carl. I was called that while I was going to Polk State. People thought I looked like Carl from the Jimmy Neutron show. Back then, my hair was a lot curlier and I was wearing glasses. They started calling me Carl and it stuck. It’s a legend now and I just went with it.” Carl’s real name is Bryan Adamson, however he continues to go by Carl.
After graduating Polk State College, Carl bounced around at different jobs saying, ”I’ve always been a fan of trading card games, video games and role-playing games.” However, he didn’t intentionally seek out to open the store, but when an opportunity came up, Carl decided to give it a shot. Business began about eight years ago in a renovated house on Dundee Rd. in Winter Haven. Several location changes later, CGS is currently in a more spacious building in downtown Winter Haven and business is growing.
Card games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon are a worldwide phenomenon, with players both young and old. Inside Carl’s office, he sits at a desk with stacks of Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon cards everywhere. In fact, they are stacked everywhere in the office. “There’s actually something to it, some cards are worth a lot of money,” he explained. CGS sells gaming cards, card sleeves, deck boxes, dice, books, pretty much everything you need to play the games, all of their supplies and the games themselves. “We just got into comic books, we’re continuing to grow our library, that’s something new, we’ve only been doing that for a month and that’s going pretty well.”
Anyone can sign up for the weekly tournaments for Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon. You can find an updated schedule on FB or just give them a call and they’d be happy to assist you. Don’t know how to play but you’d love to learn? They offer free training classes for some of the games, with smaller “learning decks” of cards to teach people how to play. Carl talked about league play for some of the more experienced players saying, “We also offer leagues for a few games, people can come and play for free and earn points to earn free promo stuff.” Tournaments and league play are usually held later in the day, and lasts for 2 hours. They are free to play with Carl saying, “It’s a great way to meet people, have fun and win some free stuff.”
“We do a few other card games, some of them are pretty new like Transformers, but there are not tournaments yet. It is pretty popular, a lot of people like the show and the toys,” Carl said you can buy the Transformers cards at his store. Another new game people are getting in to is called Warhammer. It’s a figurine game, where people can buy more figures and grow armies to fight each other. “They’ve made a card game out of it, and it’s pretty popular. We will probably do tournaments soon.”
CGS also does bunch of role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and they’re always open for people to come in and play if they don’t have anywhere else to play. Games and tournaments are usually only held once a day, so there’s plenty of time for groups to come in and use the tables.
I asked Carl what’s the big game right now? What’s everyone playing? “Big game in Winter Haven is Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! among the kids and the older crowd is into Magic: The Gathering.” You can purchase all the supplies and cards needed at CGS along with the free training classes, you’re going to be ruling the world before you know it!
Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know how to play any of the games yet. Carl assured me that If you come in, they’re all very friendly. “We try to keep it as family-friendly as possible, most of the games are kid-friendly.”
Carl’s Game Station
311 3rd Street NW
Winter Haven, FL 33881
Tuesday - Sunday from noon - 10pm
The Arcade 80's!
WORDS: Tara Crutchfield PHOTOGRAPH: Amy Sexson
Nestled in the corner of a plaza on Cypress Gardens Blvd. sits The Arcade 80’s – a cool retro game shop in Winter Haven. Even the name brings up memories of shoving coins into the slot of an arcade machine, playing your very hardest to earn bragging rights amongst your pals. No, it’s not an arcade in the traditional sense though … at least not yet.
The cozy shop has a variety of new and used games and consoles for any player – Gameboy, Funko, Atari, Dreamcast, GameCube, N64, Ps2, NES, PS1, Sega, Pop! figures, comics, Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and more.
Coming up on its three-year anniversary in February, The Arcade 80’s owner, Jason Beaver, had a simpler time in mind when opening the shop.
Talking about the iconic era of oversized scrunchies and perms, Flashdance, Atari, leg warmers and torn sweatshirts, Whitesnake, and MTV in its prime, in the 80’s, Jason said, “We had arcades, video game stores, we had things we could do, and it was actually good fun versus what it is now which is nothing for kids to do. We’re trying to bring that to modern times and actually use that and do some good and something for kids to remember.”
Through his games, consoles, toys, and the occasional Smash Brothers or D&D tournament in the backroom, The Arcade 80’s is bringing that simpler time back and making a point of connection between generations along the way.
In the future, Jason hopes to expand to a larger space. “We’re trying to get something where we can have a big tournament room and we want to also have an 80’s themed arcade room,” he said. He’s even been purchasing arcade machines to bring his plan to fruition. I’m talking X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Commando, Galaga – all the oldies and the goodies.
See you at the arcade, Winter Haven!
The Arcade 80’s
5658 Cypress Gardens Blvd
Winter Haven, FL 33884