Original Published on Jul 27, 2022 at 09:01

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With the ongoing success of their Dungeons and Dragons program, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is looking into potentially expanding it with workshops to have youth run their own games. 

Jamie Lewis, Youth Inclusion Project Coordinator for FCSS explained their DND program and the potential plans they have for the future. 

“We were successful with the first campaign that we just finished. We had started a new campaign, but it is currently going on hiatus. The FCSS outreach services hope to bring back Dungeons and Dragons and other art-based programming — hopefully in the new year, it will be returning. Solomon Krygier-Paine (the Game Master who runs the game) and I hope to have it happen again in the future and actually start running workshops for the youth to teach them how to run the game themselves.” 

Lewis then talked about how with a successful workshop they can further expand their program. 

“Then they can have a volunteer opportunity where they can start running the games, and then in turn, that gives the opportunity for more youth to participate. That’s always a barrier — if people are excited about Dungeons and Dragons — is finding someone who can run the game because it is a big responsibility and there are a lot of moving pieces. By giving them the opportunity to learn how to actually run the game, they can do it themselves in their personal lives and as a volunteer. That is something I would really like to see to come about in the future. Otherwise, we see the massive benefits to all the youth who participate, and I really hope it comes back in a renewed form in the near future.” 

After this, Lewis explained if they would be running this program in person along with its current form of being exclusively online. 

“Yeah, I think that’s something we’d definitely like to do in the future, for sure. For instance, if we do a workshop in the future, and youth from Taber attends the workshop, gets really excited about it, and runs their own DND game, then we would work together with them — and we could absolutely run an in-person program. Maybe we do what are called one shots — it is like a contained story that you can play in one or two days rather than over the course of several months, and in that case, absolutely, we could run some out of the FCSS office, or we have other partners in town like the public library that we could potentially work with to have some of that in-person experience as well. There’s pros and cons in either direction and it’s always fun to have that in-person connection and socializing opportunity for sure.” 

With the first campaign already at the end, Lewis expanded on what future adventures they will be running. 

“What we’ve done so far is, we give them as much control as we can, and that’s an important part of Kaleidoscope in general — advocate for what they’re most excited and passionate about. I would say, hopefully when we are able to get the DND program running again — if it is Solomon who gets the games running again or if we are able to find another local facilitator — we’ll see how it goes. No matter what the goal is — to offer the kids options — so with Solomon, for instance, when we just finished our most recent campaign and we’re talking about what we would like to do next, we actually had a whole little period of time set up to talk with them and say, ‘OK, so Solomon has done homebrew (homemade content instead of official material released by Wizards of the Coast who owns Dungeons and Dragons.) These are different modules that he’s experienced in, these are ones he hasn’t done but look really fun, and talk  with the youth — do they want to get an entirely new team of characters or do you want to keep your same characters?”

 Lewis then talked about what decisions the youth have to make if they decide to keep their same character. 

“If you’re keeping your same one, is there something you want to work on with those characters? Like is there a major character development you want to work towards, or do you just want to kind of roll with it? We would absolutely hand the power over to them to kind of discuss what would be most exciting to them and what kind of things they want to play, and make sure that whoever running those games at that time have the capacity to tell the story that they’re asking for.” 

Lewis also discussed the logistics of running this program regarding the books that are needed with everybody being in separate locations due to this being an online program. 

“The way that we run our current game, the youth haven’t actually needed to access the books at all because we try to have it as fresh and unexpected as we can. Solomon has access to his entire compendium because he does this for a living — he has more than I can truly fathom in resources for Dungeons and Dragons. He has a ton to work from — he’s able to have all of his behind-the-scenes information then he reveals it to us the players as it’s relevant. When a new character comes up, rather than going to the book and getting more information or potentially spoiler points, he will show us a picture, give us a basic introduction, and then we learn information about the character or the place as we interact with it.” 

Lewis then went on to talk about how this has been a very successful method of running the program. 

“In that way, it has been working very well for us and that might be a stylistic thing for the way that he runs games, but in my personal experience as well, most of the DND that I have played has functioned similarly. It’s a fun way to play things — the interaction with the world in the same way that your char- acter is rather than having too much background knowledge. That’s how we have done things so far and moving forward if we’re running multiple games — if Solomon isn’t the Game Master backing all of them that would be part of our considerations for the accessibility of our games.” 

Lewis discussed how the youth learn as they play resulting in them not needing the books simultaneously. 

“In terms of just access to knowledge, like how do I just play the game? If you’re talking about just the Players Handbook or the guide to monsters, that kind of thing is also something that we teach as we go along. The youth learn as they play. ‘OK I have this ability to do the skill check,’ or ‘I can disengage rather than then keep fighting.’ You know what I mean? Some of those more technical things are taught as you go and because there are so many of us, and we’re all collaborating the way that we are, there is no pressure to have that information memorized. Which is really nice, the youth are really kind to each other and if someone says, ‘OK this is what I want to happen but I don’t actually know how to do that,’ they all work together to support them and find the easiest way to make that happen.” 

After this, Lewis spoke on the benefits that Dungeons and Dragons has and how this program is able to use that to help the youth develop real-life skills. 

“This program is an example of the benefit that playing this game has. Until you have played it, it can be kind of hard to kind of understand the impact it actually can have. There’s the confidence building, there’s the teamwork, there’s the communication skills, and even emotional regulation if something  doesn’t work out the way you want it to — you learn how to adapt to that and stay comfortable, and excited in that moment. With all of that in mind, this is a great game and if this sounds exciting to you, or exciting to your youth, or anybody like that, we really recommend looking into other places that might offer as well.” 

Finally, Lewis encouraged others to look for similar programs to the FCSS DND program, if you were interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons. 

“A lot of the time, different public libraries will run the programming or if you just ask, they might have somebody who would be interested. It’s also something where there’s a ton of resources to learn about so if you’re excited about it, or the young person in your life is excited about it, it’s a really fun hobby to pick up. I’m just trying to say there are a lot of benefits and if it sounds exciting there are a lot of ways to engage with the game and pick up a new skill and make new friends with it. Have a look around see what is offered in your community reach out to like-minded folks and get started if it’s something you’re excited about.” 

If you are interested in signing up for the DND program or other things similar to it feel free to contact Kaitlynn Weaver, the Outreach Services Supervisor for FCSS by email at kaitlynn.weaver@fcss.ca or by phone at 403-795-4627. 

This item reprinted with permission from The Times, Taber, Alberta