Students live action role-play (LARP) to build community and expand thinking skills
D&D Club at Inver Hills Community College meets once a week, typically Tuesdays at 2 p.m., in Fine Arts 130 (painting and drawing studio) to play Dungeons & Dragons, a nearly 60-year-old game with 50+ million players to date and more than 4 billion (11.8 billion overall) video views on TikTok in the 20–24 age demographic.
D&D requires imagination, creativity, empathy, teamwork, strong friendships, analytical thinking, and lots and lots of problem-solving. Dungeons & Dragons is almost certainly the most famous fantasy live action role-playing (LARP) game of all time.
“Dungeons & Dragons (commonly abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. D&D was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast (now a subsidiary of Hasbro) since 1997.
“D&D was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. The game’s publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry, and also deeply influenced video games, especially the role-playing video game genre.
“D&D departs from traditional wargaming by allowing each player to create their own character to play instead of a military formation. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master (DM) serves as the game’s referee and storyteller, while maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur, and playing the role of the inhabitants of the game world.
“The characters form a party and they interact with the setting’s inhabitants and each other. Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles, explore, and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process, the characters earn experience points (XP) to rise in levels, and become increasingly powerful over a series of separate gaming sessions.”
— SOURCE: Dungeons & Dragons on Wikipedia
D&D Club at Inver Hills
Purpose: To build community and foster creative, collaborative, and critical thinking through the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
Faculty advisor perspective: Rob Kolomyski
Rob Kolomyski chairs the Art, Music, and Theatre department at Inver Hills. Rob is an accomplished painter and his work has been exhibited across the U.S. and overseas. He teaches an array of painting and drawing courses at the college. Rob is also the D&D Club’s faculty advisor.
“I started playing the original edition Dungeon & Dragons game back in the 1980s,” he said. “In fact, the students in our D&D Club are using the same miniatures we used back then. I hand-painted the figures—and I’m happy to see them back in play. We also picked up our old D&D game over Zoom at the start of the pandemic.”
Rob pointed out that playing D&D is a wonderful community builder with numerous benefits.
“The game combines imaginative play, collaborative problem-solving, and a safe space to role-play your favorite character,” he said. “It is so great to see students laughing and enjoying the same game that I have loved for more than 30 years.”
Rob added that all Inver Hills students have an open invitation to join D&D Club. Dungeons & Dragons playing experience is not required.
Learn more about joining D&D Club by contacting:
Dungeon Master (DM) perspective: Elizabeth Coleman
Elizabeth Coleman, 23, is earning her Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills and will graduate this fall. Elizabeth has already earned her Workplace Writing certificate at Inver. She is open to wide range of educational and career options after she graduates with the college’s number one transfer degree.
“I may take a gap year to decide my next steps,” she said. “Currently, I am deliberating between the University of Minnesota, Northern Michigan University, or a university in Germany. I am considering pursuing business, ecology, philosophy, indigenous studies, literature, or art.”
Originally from Muncie, Indiana, Elizabeth graduated from Burris Laboratory School, Class of 2018. She loves writing and is looking forward to a career as an author publishing novels in the YA, fantasy, and/or thriller mystery genres. She resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“It’s your world, your characters, and the mindset of optimization in our society does not need to influence your gameplay. Find friends you enjoy, get creative, get messy, and go crazy!”
College Student and Dungeon Master
Inver Hills Community College
Elizabeth serves quite often as the Dungeon Master, or DM, for the college’s D&D Club, which plays 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike games played at the outset of D&D in the 1970s, players today routinely use smartphones, laptops, and desktops. They roll digital dice and display their character sheets onscreen.
In her role as DM, Elizabeth is responsible for organizing the game and managing gameplay. She handles the details, twists, nuances, interactions, and challenges of a particular adventure. She answers player questions, clarifies cryptic situations, and makes all the calls, taking on the easiest and toughest with perpetual flexibility.
One of her top assignments is preserving a balanced, organic continuity of events. Except for the actions of each player character, Elizabeth takes charge of all facets of a game while reporting to the players what’s happening to and around their characters. Performing the latter duty is the heart of her job as DM.
Turns out, Elizabeth is a natural Dungeon Master. She has a knack for describing the individual and group experience with ingenuity, drama, humor, mystery, and exuberance.
Elizabeth Coleman DM gallery
Elizabeth Coleman • Q & A
When and why did you start playing Dungeons & Dragons?
I started playing D&D winter of 2020–2021. I’ve always wanted to learn, so when a friend reached out to start a campaign with myself and three other party members, it seemed like a great opportunity. It wasn’t until this summer that I tried my hand at DMing, running a one-shot for my main party, and now consistently for the club here at Inver Hills.
What do you enjoy most about playing Dungeons & Dragons?
It’s difficult to choose! Overall, I enjoy acting and role-playing the most, especially with other players. There’s an element of vulnerability that goes into creating/discovering a character, and it reveals a lot about yourself as well.
What race and class character do you play (when you’re not the dungeon master) and what do you like best about your character?
My original character was an Eladrin Elf Ranger/Rogue named Tirith. Unfortunately, she left the party this summer after she died and they resurrected her. Now I’ve introduced a Halfling Monk named Poppy. My DM and I home-brewed a Way (the belief/practices of a monk) for my character to follow!
What do like best about playing as the Dungeon Master?
My favorite part of being the DM is the interplay with the players. As the DM, you can create whatever you want, but really the story lives in the players’ minds. They bring it to life by interacting with the world you describe. Every player is unique, so their flare—expected or unexpected—is the meat and potatoes of running a session. (You can present a puzzle with no solution in mind and see what the players come up with.)
What is the most difficult aspect of your role as the DM?
Arguably, the most difficult role—I find—is thinking on your feet. There is a lot of spontaneity involved. Learning to roll with the players and dynamics can be a challenge if you’re not present or are trying to hold to your story too rigidly. The DM should be able to read the room, respond accordingly, and do their best. You can prepare all you want, but the real test is during the session.
What are the most important traits of a solid D&D player?
What a great question with so many possible answers. I would say the most important trait of a solid D&D player is to be able to go with the flow. While players and DMs have some control over the story and action, there’s a lot left up to chance because of the dice. By being open and flexible, players welcome unexpected surprises that can enhance the experience. If one is too rigid, it can fester resentment and frustration. The point of D&D is to be creative and have fun!
What has playing D&D taught you about yourself?
Oh, this is a great question and something I was just thinking about last week! Through my characters, I’ve learned a lot about myself: how I handle rejection, balance high-emotion situations, and navigate the subconscious projecting that naturally occurs. I’ve been able to take the red flags and/or noticeable stressors and perform inner work in a safe environment. In some ways, its become a form of creative therapy!
Interestingly enough, I realized that my new character, Poppy, seems to be a manifestation of a younger, more healed version, of my first character. Where Tirith couldn’t make mistakes or trust, Poppy dives into whatever situation is in front of them and has fun doing it.
What advice would you give someone thinking about playing D&D for the first time?
Do it! If you’re looking to play D&D the most important part is to have fun! There are a lot of opinions out there about how “best” to play, but ultimately it’s between you and your party. It’s your world, your characters, and the mindset of optimization in our society does not need to influence your gameplay. Find friends you enjoy, get creative, get messy, and go crazy!
D&D Club at Inver Hills gallery
View more photos by visiting the Inver Hills Flickr album:
Learn more about D&D Club and the A.F.A. in Art at Inver Hills by contacting:
Art, Music, and Theatre Department Chair
Painting and Drawing Faculty
D&D Club Faculty Advisor
YouTube video for D&D beginners
YouTube video for DMs