It was the middle of the Witching Hour when our party arrived in the village where gossipers from the neighbouring town assured us we could find work. Half of us eagerly explored the tavern in search of a job board while the others looked to buy new gear. 

Scenes like that have often greeted me over the past two years. But they aren’t real events that I experienced; rather, they’re fantasy scenarios brought to me by the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons.

To give more context to the uninitiated: Dungeons & Dragons is a pen-and-paper game made in 1974 by friends Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was inspired by wargaming, a practice that dates back to nineteenth century-era tactical drills that trained soldiers to be strategists. 

Gygax joined the International Federation of Wargamers and wrote for wargame fan publications. Arneson played wargames with a group of friends. Gygax and Arneson were introduced to the genre by the wargame Gettysburg, which inspired them to design their own games. Eventually, Dungeons & Dragons was born.

Since then, the game has been rereleased in five editions and has been represented in various other forms of media, like the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Its most current iteration, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, has also recently gained popularity from the voice acting streaming group Critical Role.

I first discovered tabletop games in the seventh grade when a friend introduced me to my school’s gaming club. In addition to playing the board game Pandemic no, the irony is not lost on me we largely played Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. That’s when I got hooked.

Since my tabletop roleplaying awakening, I’ve created original games with friends. When I transferred out of my old high school, I found new people to play with. The community-building influence of roleplaying games can be summarized by a comment from my friend: “It’s about collaborative storytelling with your friends that’s what makes it so addictive.” I agreed — because of these games, my friend count was only growing.

But I realized that enthusiasm for the games I took part in was slowly fading out with the onset of COVID-19. People were becoming uncertain about the future. And then there was silence.

There were a few months without gaming as we, like many, tried to sort out the state of the world. But we adapted. Our formerly in-person games were converted to Zoom and we instantly hit our stride again. With online school, we had the time to organize even more games. With that realization, we were off. 

I got the opportunity to host games too. We tried Delta Green, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Wild Talents, some of which I would have never been exposed to if not for the pandemic.

So came an almost divine revelation: these roleplaying games were keeping me sane. Don’t worry — it’s not like I resembled Tom Hanks in that movie where he believes he’s in a fantasy world after playing a rip-off Dungeons & Dragons. Rather, it was the connections I formed and maintained that helped me keep it together during the madness. 

Troubleshooting online games also helped me navigate the new technological nature of our world. I figured out how to participate in Zoom classes easily. I quickly became acquainted with virtual spaces and adapted to using Acorn, Quercus, Blackboard Collaborate, and everything in between.

Most importantly, the games in which I participated created a sense of security and reassurance. My friends and I were allowed to keep some aspects of ‘before.’ 

But then something beautiful happened: cases got lower. Restrictions were lifted. We could risk gathering around the old game table again — and it was a blast. 

Or that was how it was supposed to turn out. But then a new flavour of COVID-19 emerged: Omicron.  

So, back on the ride we go. Except this time, we know how to handle it. I know that, whether we return in person or stay online a little longer, I can still game with my friends. All of us have roleplayed many times before, so we know how to improvise no matter what the world throws at us.