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Monday, June 14, 2010

Print Article: A fantasy weekend

The adventurers walk silently in single file, peering through the dungeon’s
darkness. They hear something panting in the far distance.

Suddenly, the monk falls down a pit, stopping inches above a gigantic beast.
His comrades, a rag-tag band of elves, a vampire and a barbarian, scramble to
pull him out the pit.

“Good news,” says Tymonis. “I’ve found the hellhound.”

He groans as he rolls a one on the 20-sided die.

The dungeon master shouts “epic fail” as he decides the monk’s fate.

A group of Kitchener-Waterloo residents congregate at Sameer Arshad’s
apartment to play Dungeons & Dragons every other Saturday. But what makes
this ‘nerdy’ pastime different from all the other role-playing games is that some
players are from across the country.

They join the weekend game via video-conferencing. “We currently have three
computers with webcams,” says Arshad, the game’s dungeon master, as he
positions the webcams on the game board. “Two for Montreal, one for Barrie.
We even had a player from Dubai.”

Arshad sets up a game board while recounting the players’ last encounter,
placing small figurines on various parts of the ‘dungeon’. He uses coffee-cups
to represent large dragons, a beer mug for a helicopter and a toilet paper roll
for a large tree. Occasionally, a player rips a piece of ‘bark’ to hold crumbling
pieces of pie.

For many of the players, Dungeons & Dragons is more than just a weekend

Deborah Haggman, a hospital administrator, feels the game brings her closer
to her family. “I was interested in the game since I was a young adult,” says the
56-year-old. “But I never knew anyone who wanted to play. I was invited to join
my son’s group recently and it’s been a great experience.”

She adds that she never feels awkward about playing with a younger group.

“It doesn’t seem to be about age or who you are,” she says. “They are all very
accepting and it seems easy to play.”

Haggman’s son, Carl, agrees. “Its interesting to see my mom get happy and
excited about something,” says the 30-year-old.

He then proceeds to let Magnus - his in-game character - run up a wall and
slash a dragon’s head off in one neat slice of his mind-blade. “This was
personal,” says the psychic-warrior as he stashes the dragon’s head in his
backpack. “That dragon had messed with my head far too many times.”

Meanwhile, Tymonis hangs precariously on a rope over the hellhound. Myr,
the dark elf, attempts to levitate her friend out of the beast’s clutches using
telekinesis. She whispers an incantation as she waves her hands over the pit.
Her spell hits its target and the monk flies out of the pit and into the group,
toppling everyone. “Thanks for saving my bacon,” gasps Tymonis.

Adam Glauser, who plays the hapless monk, prefers playing Dungeons &
Dragons in real life than in its digital format. “The video game or online version
can be really frustrating,” says the 29-year-old software developer. “The video
games are only as good as its program – so it’s not as creative as the tabletop

The merry band of adventurers then torch the dragon’s den with a volley of
fireballs – excluding a red dragon. They annihilate that beast with a rapid
succession of ice arrows. “You can only kill a fire dragon with ice damage,”
explains Glauser.

The game ends in a virtual blaze of glory.