Dungeons & Dragons

Hey there! I’ve been running a weekly Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition) campaign for the last four(!) years, and I figured I should have somewhere to point people when they ask what it’s all about. This page is mostly a summary (what is D&D, what is our story, why is this important to me), make sure to check out the gallery as well, to see all the awesome stuff we’ve made. If you’d like to see or hear more, feel free to follow me on Twitter/get in touch – this game is my passion, and I can rant about it all day.

So! Dungeons & Dragons is (for our table) a collaborative story-telling experience, with a focus on character, player choice, big set-pieces, and compelling themes. Every week myself and my five dearest friends get together around a table and play for about six hours (with breaks), which makes up one “episode”. We structure our game like a television series – these episodes take place within “seasons”, each with their own thematic/aesthetic identity. Thus far, we’ve had:

Season #1 – The Battle for Briar (10 eps)
{Traditional Fantasy}   Our heroes meet, and band together to defend a small town of retired adventurers from an invading army, who are seeking to steal the retirees’ magical heirlooms & memorabilia.                                                             
Season #2 – The Dogs of War (21 eps)
{Noir Mystery}   Our heroes hurry to the big city, trying to warn others of a looming danger, but instead find themselves swept up in solving the mystery of a series of grisly murders, perpetrated by a group of Werewolves.           
Season #3 – Stronger Than Fear (11 eps)
{Grim Fantasy}   Our heroes, now the “Hand of Valour”, venture into the Underdark to rescue their lost friend, and attempt to mend old wounds & ancient grudges.           
Season #4 – The Broken Swords (11 eps)
{High Fantasy}   The Hand of Valour venture into the Feywild, seeking to convince the Chancellor of the Elves to join their cause. Along the way, they make a series of dramatic discoveries about the world, and themselves.           
Season #5 – The Shattered Sea (11 eps)
{Swashbuckling Adventure}   The Hand of Valour, now heroes in their own right, venture out into the Shattered Sea to retrieve a dangerous relic, but find themselves embroiled in pirate politics, deals with devils, and crashed alien spaceships.
Season #6 – The Way Things Were (19 eps)
{Western}   The Hand of Valour, hot on the trail of an old enemy, set out into the Wild East; a land of steam trains, dry earth, and smoking barrels. They face many challenges in their travels, but even against Werewolves, outlaws, and government agents, their greatest hurdles are themselves.
Season #7 – The Calm Before (12 eps)
{Ancient Egypt}   The Hand of Valour head on another globe-trotting adventure, this time to the Sahkad Desert, a land of ruins, relics, Djinns and dungeons. However, this time things are different – war looms on the horizon, and the world is about to change forever.
Season #8 – The Shape of Things to Come (16 eps)
{Melancholy}   After a crushing defeat, the Hand of Valour falls apart, and our heroes go their separate ways. Can they find the strength to fight again? Can they stand together against the forces of evil? Only time will tell…
Season #9 – Endyear (17 eps so far)
{Rising Action}   Together once more, and having achieved their first victory in the great war, our heroes find themselves searching across the world for allies and ancient relics. Endyear is coming, and with it – a wedding, a coronation, and a rebellion.

Alright! For those keeping score, that’s #127 episodes – and with each running for about 6 hours (often more), that gives us… over 750 hours of total play time. Yowza.

Over the course of this (gargantuan) campaign, I have been the humble Dungeon Master – acting as chief storyteller, writer, game designer, rules adjudicator, music mixer, cat herder, map drawer… the list goes on. I originally started this game as a fun hobby, but it has grown into my primary creative outlet – every week I’m presented with fun and interesting new problems to solve, whether they be;

  • Fulfilling a compelling idea through game mechanics,
  • Finding ways to dramatise and showcase character traits,
  • Balancing the needs of the story with the needs of my players,
  • Designing interesting, unique & engaging combats/dungeons/encounters,
  • Creating props, maps, battlefields, item cards, physical puzzles, etc.,
  • Finding the right background music to accompany a particular story beat,
  • Setting up or paying off major story and character moments,
  • Or even just finding ways to keep five adults engaged & compelled for 6 hours at a time.

I can say with no hesitation that, after the last three years, I am so much more experienced and capable – as a writer, narrative designer, performer, public speaker, game designer, arts-and-craftsman, copy-editor, party host… the list goes on. Having a weekly deadline to meet, having constant feedback and support from people I love and trust, and getting to test new ideas all the time has been an invaluable opportunity as a creative. I think, as far as professional and personal development goes, Dungeons & Dragons has changed my life for the better, and for good – and for that I cannot sing its praises enough.

Our story is one about grief, living with failure, overcoming hardships, confronting the failures of past generations, and choosing virtues over vices.  It’s also about laser-guns, magic swords made of moonrocks, and cowboys. It has been a deeply personal journey for all six of us, and I’m never going to be able to fully express in writing the effect it has had on all of our lives. What I can do, however, is say this – Dungeons & Dragons is much more than just a game. If you’ve played it before, if you’ve felt the things I’m talking about yourself, then you know this – but if you haven’t, I definitely recommend you give it a go. Find some dice, get some friends together, and start telling a story – you’ll see what I mean.

Thanks for stopping by – I hope I’ve helped convey what it is I love so much about this game, or at least piqued your interest enough for you to look further. Feel free to swing by the gallery too – we’ve made some really cool stuff along the way. Again, if there’s anything at all you’d like to reach out about – feel free to get in touch.

In the meantime – safe travels, adventurer.

@callanstein callanstein@gmail.com