An experience we will never forget

Running after school Dungeon World campaign with favorite teacher

Johanna Wen

More stories from Johanna Wen

Bread strikes back
November 15, 2023
“As it was, as it will be always” was a quote given by Kaegan Benson’s character: Nameless. In this picture you can see Mesto (left) and Nameless (top right) reaching godhood, Nosca and Vanya riding on a horse from battle and Q and Flynn watching the sunset in a different dimension.

Everyone knows the famous franchise Dungeons and Dragons, especially with its recent publicity in Stranger Things, the movie: “Honor Amongst Thieves.” But there’s a hidden wonder that sprouted from this community: Dungeon World.

Last year I discovered that my AP World History teacher, Wayne Houle and I, both shared Dungeons and Dragons as a hobby. While it was just an idea at the time, I hoped that we could play a campaign together.

This year, after the first cycle, I brought a few friends and there we were, all sitting around a plastic foldable table in the back of the classroom, doing just that. We all wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but to our surprise he had a small arrangement of alternative RPGs (role-playing games) for us to choose from.

Ultimately, we chose “Dungeon World.”

“Dungeons and Dragons” and “Dungeon World” are both tabletop role-playing games that have dice rolling mechanics that decide actions, character building sheets and systems. What sets them apart is the gameplay and rules.

While you can change Dungeons and Dragons’ rules to something more homebrew, Dungeon World offers more player control of the narrative. In Dungeon World we had much more creative freedom where each player could spout lore about a character, place or thing. In contrast, in Dungeons and Dragons only the dungeon master has control over the story, leading the narrative. We liked this because we could make up stuff along the way which was intriguing for us writers.

I would like to note that ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ is not difficult or complex to play, and it is player friendly for roleplay. It can often seem that way to new players because of all of the math, rules and options. Dungeons and Dragons is what you and your party makes it. Try it out, it’s not scary, I promise!

The party consisted of juniors Denis Klyuzheva, Zachary Mountain, Kaegan Benson, Arabella Santos and me. Mr. Houle, our dungeon master, laid out printed pages of character sheets designed and structured for the individual classes: cleric, fighter, bard, thief, paladin, druid and ranger, and we circled the table like vultures who had found their prey. I had my eyes set on a class, a cleric, my mind already coming up with a backstory for a healer Medusa-esc character.

I was giddy, watching my friends excitedly thinking about their classes and what they can and will do later.

We have had some bumps in the road though: mid-way through the campaign and school year, three students wanted to join, but we couldn’t let them because of our time restraint; then because of in-game and personal reasons, Zach was temporarily changed to the new dungeon master of the campaign from Mr. Houle. Santos, our amazing elf warrior (which we love to bits whenever she’s there,), was not always present during our sessions, leading to us making excuses for her absence. Lastly, with some scheduling problems and the end of the year approaching fast, we had to quicken the development of our story.

Even though we’ve run into problems and had to cut some corners, having this campaign was one of the most fun things I got to do in my whole high school experience so far. I’ve made so many memories of how we shared candies, jokes and rolls. I loved participating in the standing ovations we would congratulate each other with after a beautifully performed monologue or one liner. And I loved it when we walked down the empty hallways together and talked about the session and our plans for the next one.

When we all gathered together, around Mr. Houle’s table, setting our backpacks beside our red plastic chairs for the last time, it felt right, like we were all where we needed to be; Arabella Santos, Zach Mountain, Denis Klyuzheva, Kaegan Benson, myself, our prophet, Flynn, and Mr. Wayne Houle himself at the head.

Though rushed, it was so exciting to lead our allies into combat, have our characters’ bodies damaged and thrown around the battlefield, as well as hear the shouts of victory when we rolled high.

After the school year ends, with Mr. Houle sadly leaving for New York, the game Dungeon World will gladly stay with us. Mountain will dm a pirate campaign for most of the party over the summer and Klyuzheva plans to dm “the noir campaign” based around 1920s Chicago next school year.

“Dungeon World” is a magical world that I was fortunate to have ventured into. Thank you Mr. Houle for giving us something we will never forget.