Lydia Jayaputra — Staff Writer
On Oct. 16, five Dordt University students and one professor gathered around a table, ready to travel to Gracklstugh, “The City of Blades,” through the stories of their own created characters. Their game master and vice president of the guild’s tabletop roleplay chapter, Zach Brenner, narrated their journey and rolled his favorite metal dice to determine his players’ fates. At the end of the session, the characters finally reached their destination. Brenner described the city.
“If you want a good weapon, this is where you go,” Brenner said. “[The city] gives a sulfurous scent and a dim red glow. You get the sense of hardness in both the people and the stone around you… you stand at the gates, prepared to enter.”
The Gaming Guild added the tabletop roleplay room to facilitate groups like Brenner’s. Brad Hickey, Director of Gaming and Student Support Specialist, saw a need for expansion within tabletop roleplay.
“At every major event, we tend to have ten to twelve people interested in tabletop roleplaying,” Hickey said.
But it was hard for students to focus on their tabletop game in the main gaming area, where other conversations and loud console games drowned them out. The Gaming Guild met the need by turning an old storage room into a new tabletop roleplay room.
Hickey and Brenner see the expansion of tabletop roleplay as a furthering of God’s kingdom.
“[I’ve learned] the power of storytelling and the power of shared narratives to bring people together, and God can use that in a very powerful way,” Hickey said. “For so many, the church has been like, ‘No, you don’t do this. It’s wrong,’ but we’re trying to show that it can be a meaningful part of the kingdom and do some amazing things for people.”
Brenner views tabletop roleplay as a way to tell stories and form strong connections with people.
“I have seen community built around [tabletop roleplay] that are just ripe with good conversation, about theology and philosophy,” Brenner said.
Because of the tabletop roleplay room, the Gaming Guild can now host two “campaigns,” or groups which play through a multi-session storyline together. Brenner leads one, Hickey the other.
Located in the basement of Kuyper Apartments, the tabletop roleplay room features a fake fireplace, two cushioned chairs, and a medieval-looking crest hung on the wall. Fake pillars, draped with flowers and fabric, occupy the corners of the room.
A foot-tall hourglass, adorned with metal dragons, rests next to a filled bookcase. Plants hang on shelves and strung lights adorn the ceiling. While the tables and chairs themselves are classroom leftovers, the effort to make the space feel unique is obvious.
Kayla Vande Zande, Social Media Manager and Accountant for the Gaming Guild, worked with other students, departments, and professors to decorate the room. Most of the current furniture is borrowed from the theatre department. The Guild purchased and set up the decorations itself. Vande Zande and Abigail Fortune, another leader in the Gaming Guild, spent hours placing vases, flowers, pillars, and lights around the room.
“The goal is to make it even more into an atmosphere than it is now,” Vande Zande said.
The desire to quickly decorate the tabletop roleplay room came partially from interviews with the Gospel Coalition. The Coalition focused on gaming, Christianity, and the differences between males and females gaming.
“[They] asked what a lot of Christian moms would ask,” Brenner said, “About video game addiction and grades, and what it means to be a Christian in gaming.”
Vande Zande noticed more gendered questions in her interview.
“[They] were coming in to talk about the guys’, you know, stereotype about sitting in their parent’s basement kind of thing,” Vande Zande said.
Many saw Christian higher education enrollment decrease after the pandemic, with many more male students leaving than female, according to the Annual Financial Aid Survey of CCCU. Because of the gender gap, Christian colleges and writers alike are keeping an eye out for programs which heavily include men.
The Guild’s leadership is at least 50 percent male, Hickey estimates, and it has high engagement with male students on campus. He believes this is what attracted the Gospel Coalition to interview members.
“[The interviewer] got to see the Gaming Guild, and got to see all the guys getting involved together in something they wanted to be involved in. It was a cool way for us to make an impact,” Vande Zande said.
Photo credit: Lydia Jayaputra