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 LKLD 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.
Coliseum of Comics
WORDS: Tara Crutchfield
A Lakeland staple for comic book collectors and hobbyists, Coliseum of Comics has been bringing the colorful BOOM! CLANG! POW! ZAM! action of everyone’s favorite superheroes to the community for over 12 years. Though the store recently relocated from their downtown Kentucky Ave. location to Dixieland, the Coliseum still has everything you might need to get into your comic groove.
Toys, Pop vinyl figures, board games, RPG’s, and of course comics are the bread and butter of the comic shop. Along with a new shipment of comics every Wednesday, Coliseum of Comics buys them too, depending on their need for it and the shape it’s in, according to Store Manager Katrina Pietraskiewicz.
How exactly are comics appraised? Well, it depends. Much of it rests on the rarity of the book says Katrina, but condition is a factor. She used Action Comics #1 as an example. That comic is not only rare because there are only eight copies on the entire planet, but it also chronicles the first appearance of Superman, hence why they’re valued at over $3M.
Lakeland’s Coliseum of Comics is fresh out of the 3-million-dollar Action Comic #1, but they do carry some heavy hitters like New Mutants #98, the first appearance of Deadpool that will set you back around $600.
Oh the nostalgia – flipping the pages of comic book in wonderment is a hobby spanning generations, something the shop sees in their contrasting customer demographic. “We have senior citizens and middle-aged folks, and one of our favorite customers is this cool seven-year-old girl who comes in. There is something for everybody,” explained Katrina.
Books and movies are special all the same, but comics hold a special place in the hearts of their most avid readers. “I think it’s because they’re a fun amalgamation of those two things,” Katrina posited. “There is a storytelling aspect to it, but then you add an illustrative element that can make the story a little more dynamic and engaging. Also, they can be a bit childish in a very fun way that adults don’t often get to feel. There’s just something kind of fun about sitting on the floor and reading a comic. It’s a good little story about fun characters, essentially good and evil. I think it’s a kind of eternally appealing thing.”
With characters like Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons there to make any newbie feel clueless, knowing where to start can be a little intimidating. “We get new readers who come in all the time, looking for a place to start,” said Katrina. Versed in new and old comics, the Coliseum of Comics staff are here to point you in the right direction. Did you really love the newest Marvel movie? Perhaps Infinity Gauntlet or Antman is the book for you she said.
And just because action/ adventure isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean there isn’t a comic out there for you. The genres are endless –sci-fi, humor, horror, fantasy, romance, you name it.
If there’s one thing Katrina wants our comic-curious readers to take away, it’s that, “Comics are for everybody. A lot of people think it’s an exclusionary thing, that you have to have already been in it somehow to start reading comics.” That’s not the case, she urges. “We feel very strongly about the fact that comics are for everybody and we want to help everybody find a comic they would like.”
1119 Florida Ave. S.
Lakeland, FL 33803