The Whitehorse Dice Knights are providing a haven for roleplaying gamers who are “LFG” – or looking for group – in the Yukon’s capital.
The Dice Knights are the brainchild of group organizers Eli Boivin, Siobhan McLeod and Travis Lohner, and they have booked time at the Whitehorse Public Library meeting room on the second Sunday each month for tabletop roleplaying game enthusiasts to gather and play with good old pen and paper.
The group started meeting this January and approximately 16 people attended their second session on February 11.
According to the organizers, they saw an opportunity to grow the traditional pen and paper roleplaying community in Whitehorse. “We felt there were a lot of people who wanted to play or DM [Dungeon Master],” Lohner said. “But they had nowhere to go or meet a group. Those LFG people needed a place to meet other gamers and find a way to get involved.”
It may seem counterintuitive that in an age of computers and the connectivity of online games, when eSports athletes are making professional livings and World of Warcraft is so ingrained in pop culture that it inspired a major motion picture, that people would still look to gather around a table with pen, paper and dice – lots of dice – to play a game mostly powered by their imaginations.
But it’s that community and old school tradition that players find appealing, McLeod explained.
“We are seeing both new and old players showing up to the sessions,” she said. “It’s great because you can make it whatever you want. And there’s that nostalgia of gathering around a table with a group of people, and snacks and munchies to play the game.
“Some of that nostalgia got started with the Dungeons and Dragons in Stranger Things.”
The appeal of the tabletop is the lack of limits.
“Video games have the visualization, but are limited by the designer,” Lohner explained. “Tabletop roleplaying has the flexibility. It has no limits, only your imagination and those of the people around the table.”
Most of the organizing group are veteran roleplayers, with years of experience. Boivin has been DMing for the longest of the three. A DM is like the referee who creates a world and guides players through it for the game.
Boivin laughed that he had rivalry with World of Warcraft, but the lure of the tabletop roleplaying is the communal, interpersonal relationship of sitting down together. “I lost some of my players to World of Warcraft at one point,” he said. “But they came back eventually. There’s this feedback loop of creativity that players and DM create that you can’t make online. Sometimes players do things that I never anticipate and it makes it fun.”
Boivin is in his early 30s and started playing when he was “16 or so”, consistently running campaigns during all of that time. Campaigns are the connected games that the players participate in, he explained. “A campaign is a self-contained story arc in a specific world,” he said. “It’s usually the same group of players, but not always the same group of characters. Sometimes, a player’s character will die in the game and they can make a new one to rejoin.
“A ‘TPK’, or total party wipeout, might end a campaign though. And then you restart somewhere else and can visit that area at a future date where the villains won.”
Lohner started his first campaign seven years ago and added that they end when the story ends. “The more you put in, the more you get out of it,” he explained. “Different DMs might do different stories, or more combat or more storytelling. My first campaign has taken seven years, with breaks in between, but kept going that whole time.”
For the purposes of the Sunday events the group has been running “one shots” that are shorter campaigns.
“One shots are usually four or five sessions,” McLeod said. “We’ve used premade characters, although people have asked to make their own, so we’ll do that next time.”
The group has focused on the traditional roleplaying system of Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, in this case, a variation of it called Pathfinder.
Dungeons and Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and first published rules in the 1970s through Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). A number of rules editions were developed over the next couple of decades, before the brand was purchase in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast, the publishers of the Magic: The Gathering trading card game.
Wizards of the Coast revamped the design and have released three different versions of the game, but their third edition was released under an Open Game License that allowed third parties to develop their own games under the ruleset. Like any group of fans, there are disagreements on decisions that may have been made.
“We don’t talk about the fourth edition,” said McLeod. “It wasn’t very good.”
But the Open Game License has created flexibility in the roleplaying games marketplace.
“Pathfinder is developed by Paizo as an evolution on Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 rules. “Different players have different preferences,” Boivin said. “Paizo looked at what veteran players wanted and developed off of that. Wizards developed Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition for commercialization and mass consumption.”
McLeod and Lohner noted that the fifth edition is a good choice for new players or those who want a lighter rule load to manage.
But D&D or Pathfinder aren’t the only roleplaying game systems available as options. “There are many different systems,” he explained. “There are unique ones like Ribbondrive where each player brings their own burnt CD to play and move through music. There are systems for fans of different genres, TV shows and super heroes. It’s a great hobby for people who want to get together, especially in winters.”
The group plans to meet every second Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Whitehorse Public Library into the summer. Anyone interested in learning more can check out the Whitehorse Dice Knights Facebook page, or email them at WhitehorseDiceKnights@gmail.com.
If the numbers of attendees continues at the current number or increases, the group may have to look at expanding. “We have a year booked of every second Sunday, but we weren’t sure where it would stand,” McLeod said. “If we keep growing, we may have to look at adding a second day.
“There wasn’t really much before, so it’s great to have this community and support system.”