By Muhammad Faaiz Aman & Maira Asaad
On weekends, a handful of undergraduates (and graduates) in LUMS gather together to become warlocks, wizards, paladins, druids, monks — amidst a range of twelve other ‘classes’1. Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a role-playing game that was most recently popularized by Netflix’s Stranger Things2, has found its way to LUMS. Momin Shahab ‘20 and Raja Nadir Habib ‘19 are two of the “Dungeon Masters” (DM), who operate D&D circles on campus. The sessions take place among five to six players and usually last between two to three hours. Behind the closed doors of Discussion Rooms, players enter into curated, fantastical realms.
The Post was privy to one such session. Shahab ‘19, an experienced DM, offered to host a beginner’s session for reporters of The Post to have an immersive experience of the game.
Before our session, Shahab discussed his prior experience as DM. He explained that his entrypoint into the world of D&D was Adventure Zone, a biweekly adventure podcast based loosely on the role-playing game. Shahab also revealed his collection of D&D dice, which he carries around in a small, black velvet pouch, alongwith the notebook in which he writes all his storylines for regular circles.
Shahab ‘19 explained that within a D&D circle, the role that requires the most “creative muscle” is usually that of the DM, who has to construct storylines, rely on improvisation skills, and fill the role and voices of characters that the players interact with in the game. While there is a standard player’s handbook for anyone looking to get involved in the game, he prefers teaching first-time players the rules himself, through the actual experience of the game.
He also discussed some expectations for a session with beginners, and referred to what are popularly known as “murderhobos” in the D&D world – first time players who usually test the limits of the game by indulging in violence rather than strategic game-making.
For our session, he began with the first quest (“Goblin’s Arrows”) from Lost Mine of Phandelver, a classic beginner’s adventure campaign.
Imagination is the backbone of the game, dictating every step and decision, and makes D&D the immersive, interactive experience that it is.
“The four of you are mercenaries, hired to transport supplies to the town of Phandalin. You are making your way through a thick forest, when you see something blocking the road ahead. What do you do?” Shahab ‘19 said to the assembled players.
The game from then on is dictated by the roll of a twenty-sided dice, called a D-20. In battles, especially, the player with the highest number on the dice can choose which monster to attack first.
“The game becomes very personal really quickly. It’s the banter that keeps one hooked. You have the opportunity to be a completely different person in the game, without the fear of being judged. The game is dictated by the roll of a dice and then one works to convince other players of certain decisions.”
While D&D has only been in effect at LUMS for a year and a half, it has become the binding force for a small group of people at LUMS. Habib ‘19 tells The Post why he has continued playing the game even after graduating. It’s a way “to be able to take time out time to engage in some healthy banter with friends. Enjoying an imaginary game is great rehab on its own.”
The circles are formed among friends, so usually no screening processes are involved. The accessibility of the game is what both Shahab ‘20 and Habib ‘19 emphasize on.
“You could incorporate Greek mythology into any futuristic situation and the game would pan out because the only integral skill to play the game is your imagination,” says Shahab.
Shahab also pointed out that D&D doesn’t have to be played by its Eurocentric conventions. He illustrates this by revealing that a player in one of his regular circles goes by the name of ‘Yaadgaar’.
Shahab added, “The game is reflective of whatever culture you want it to be. You get to build the world and make up the names.”
Habib attributed the freedom of expression and roleplay as “the two main factors that push the relevancy, which keeps the player hooked to the game”.
They were both open to the idea of teaching the game to interested individuals, so that they could start their circle with their preferences and enjoy the interactive and engaging nature of the game.
When asked about how he perceives the viability of popularizing the game on campus, Shahab admitted: “I do want to leave D&D on campus once I graduate.”
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