Dungeons and Dragons' popularity skyrockets at the Williamsburg Regional Library


Seven dungeon masters along and 45 players gathered for the Williamsburg Regional Library’s largest Dungeons and Dragons event Saturday.

This time a year ago, the library had just debuted its first Dungeons and Dragons event, and 14 excited teenagers turned out to play.

Pierce Gaithe, a dungeon master at the library's first and latest Dungeon and Dragons events, said the game has continued to grow in popularity at the library.

“Throughout the year, demand (for Dungeons and Dragons events) has just risen dramatically,” Gaithe said. “I never could have imagined this a year ago, so it’s pretty exciting and nuts.”

Created in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was the first commercial role-playing tabletop fantasy game. In the game, players act out characters they create in situations created by the dungeon master.

The dungeon master is the administrator and referee of the game. They come up with the story, or the journey players take.

Rachael Nelson, the young adult librarian at the Williamsburg Library, said she helped organize Saturday’s event because so many people have asked the library to host more Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.

“I just kept consistently seeing people who wanted to do D and D,” Nelson said.

So, while teens were out on winter break looking for things to do, Nelson decided to put on a couple Dungeons and Dragons workshops, with a large playing event at the end.

The game’s popularity was clear on Saturday, with all gaming spots filled and 11 people who wanted to play turned away at the door.

Even with the high interest in the game, Nelson added the event would not have been possible without the volunteers who came to be dungeon masters.

“We knew we had a lot of people who wanted to (play Dungeons and Dragons), but it’s a lot of preparation for a small group of people, so the only way this was going to work was if we had a lot of people who were willing to volunteer their time to be a (dungeon master),” Nelson said. “So this is happening — mostly because we had the volunteers who were willing to put in their time and do this.”

Two players at Saturday’s event were Bridget Owens, 18, and her brother Oliver Owens, 9. Bridget Owens said she got into Dungeons and Dragons through the library.

“Being able to play with other people is really nice because (Dungeons and Dragons) a social game,” Bridget Owens said, with her brother echoing an enthusiastic “yeah” next to her.

In addition to being a social game, Gaithe emphasized the educational and developmental benefits Dungeons and Dragons has for young people, such as helping develop group problem-solving skills.

However, Nelson believes the strongest benefits of the game, and one of the reasons it’s so popular, is Dungeons and Dragons’ storytelling elements.

“With D and D it’s a game about storytelling,” Nelson said. “So getting people together to tell stories is part of what makes us human beings. The fact that this is happening at the library I think is part of what we do with encouraging literacy in the community.”

Want to participate?

Nelson said the library hosts teen game nights where groups who want to play Dungeons and Dragons can, as well as other teen-oriented events such as an anime club and Super Smash Bros. tournaments.

While Nelson hopes to host something like this again in the summer, she said nonprofit groups, or groups of friends, can rent out rooms in the library once a month for up to three hours, where they can host their own Dungeon and Dragon campaigns.

To learn more about future events, visit wrl.org/events.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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