default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Quest for adventure pays off for Tokay High School students

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:49 am, Thu Jan 26, 2012.

In an English classroom at Tokay High School, a young man was engrossed in a moral dilemma. Should he slap the mayor of the small town he had just wandered into, or shake the elected official by the shoulder?

Don’t worry. Lodi Mayor JoAnne Mounce is in no danger.

This is a game of “Dungeons & Dragons,” an epic role-playing game in which a roll of a 20-sided dice determines a player’s fate. Players gather to storm castles, rescue princesses and explore foreign lands.

Each Tuesday about 20 or so students show up to classroom E-6 to carry on last week’s campaign or to create new maps, new characters and start fresh.

Above anything else, D&D is a story. It lives in the imaginations of each player. They enthusiastically shoulder the responsibility of carrying on the oral history of a world they created.

But how did this story come to Tokay High?

Enter WIlliam Hambrick, 15. He comes from a legacy of role players and learned the game from his dad. Almost instantly, he was hooked.

“I enjoy creating something someone else can enjoy,” he said. “You’re writing a story all your best friends are in.”

Those friends started talking to their friends, and interest grew strong enough around campus that this year, Hambrick decided to make it an official club.

English teacher Danny Knox is the adviser, though he’s never played the game.

“Mostly I observe and laugh,” he said.

Most of the members are boys, but one or two girls do stop by.

At the first meeting, Hambrick made sure to detail exactly what D&D is not.

It’s not a cult, or a religion. It certainly isn’t devil worship. It isn’t live action role play (picture a Renaissance faire), though Hambrick does own a piece or two of armor.

To start, all a player really needs is a set of polyhedral die, a notebook to keep track of character traits and some free time. Doritos and Mountain Dew are recommended snacks.

Each player creates a character using a basic template of various races and classes outlined in the D&D handbook. For example, it is not uncommon to see a half-elf cleric, a dwarf wizard, or a wood elf ranger.

It helps to have a map over the game table to keep track of the adventure’s path.

You can purchase premade maps online, but Hambrick doesn’t recommend it.

“They aren’t as fun. They aren’t yours,” he said. He prefers to sketch out an unknown land on an oversized sheet of graph paper.

In fact, most aspects of the game can be purchased online. Rulebooks of detailed game mechanics, fancy sets of dice and even miniature figures are available. All the props are intended to help players visualize the action. The costs can add up, but none of these are essential.

The real color is added by the dungeon master, or DM for short.

As the leader of the campaign, the dungeon master must be a dedicated and experienced player with the ability to improvise and adapt the story to the whims of each player. They are responsible for building the story. A DM also brings forth all the monsters and challenges the adventuring party will face.

“It’s his world. He’s basically all the gods,” said Hambrick.

Dice come into play when a character has to make a decision with the possibility of failure. If a warrior has to bust down a wooden door, there’s a chance he might not be strong enough. The DM rolls the dice. If a two comes up, the door might stay put. Or the effort could injure the warrior. It’s all up to the imagination.

Role-playing offers a unique opportunity. After reading epic novels like the “Eragon” series about dragons by Christopher Paolini or the classic “Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R. Tolkien, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the crazy adventures they detail.

In real life, it would be dangerous and stupid to create a trap involving a doorway filled with horizontal spikes that crash into a person as they open the door. But in the game, players can construct this or any other obstacles and throw their characters against it in any way they might imagine.

It has all the fun of the gore and drama with none of the emergency room visits or arrests.

Playing D&D can also blur lines between social groups by putting characters in the same situation working toward a common goal.

“That’s the beauty of D&D. This is a senior, over here is a freshman. But when it’s D&D time, they’re all just fantasy warriors,” said Chris Golden, 15, one of four DMs in the club. He runs the campaign with change in accents, a bright tone and exuberant gestures.

But how do you know when the game is over?

Hambrick turned to the group of teenage boys engrossed in their maps and character sheets.

“Hey guys! How do you win in this game?” he called out.

The cheerful responses volleyed back.

“You don’t!”

“You die!”

“The DM wins!”

“You have fun!”

That last answer is the one Hambrick was looking for.

“If you’re not having fun, you’re losing,” he said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

More about

Reference Links

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.


Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 100


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists