This blog post was written in March by Caleb Freiman, a member of the Tivnu 8 cohort from New Haven, CT. He is a chess and strategy game enthusiast, a music lover and guitar learner, and enjoys a deep philosophical conversation. Caleb interned at Street Roots, a local alternative newspaper and houselessness advocacy organization, and participated in Tivnu construction.
Dungeons and Dragons, or more commonly known as “D&D,” is a fantasy role-playing game that first came out when my dad was still in middle school, 1974. There is a group of players, each of whom controls their own unique character, and a Dungeon Master who facilitates the game, narrating the story, controlling the world, the non-player characters, and the monsters. My dad was introduced to D&D by his uncle in high school, and ever since I was born, I can remember either watching or playing the game with my dad. It recently gained some popularity, but most people either haven’t heard of it or know it as “that thing nerdy people do.” Which, to be fair, it is. But it’s also more than that – it’s a way for friends to connect and enter a space completely different from our own reality. To share laughs, and to cringe. To be excited, and to be worried. It is to explore and to create.
When I first came to Tivnu I had no expectation of ever having a D&D session. After all, like I said previously, most people have barely even heard of it, much less played it. However, on our October trip to the Oregon Coast, David Feder [husband of Program Director Adinah Miller] offered to run a D&D one-shot, or a game that only lasts one session. David used to be part of a campaign (a game that lasts multiple sessions) that my dad played back in New Haven, CT, so I was excited when the opportunity arose. A few of us joined in and we had a great time together. Then Abby, one of the RAs, offered to run a one-shot for those of us who stayed during Thanksgiving break.
Finally, I decided that it was time to run a D&D one-shot of my own. So, in between Thanksgiving and winter break, I did my own with six other Tivnuniks. A couple people had played before, but mostly they had either never been played before, or only once previously in one of the one-shots. It was a Halloween-themed adventure and was an instant hit. That’s when I knew I had to run a campaign.
I used winter break to plan and gather materials for what I eventually figured out to be the perfect setting for people who decided to delay going to college for a year: a magic university, in a fantasy world. After a little bit of asking, I figured out that six people were initially interested in joining the full campaign. So, one sunny Sunday afternoon in January we began. We decided that we would meet weekly on Sundays to have our session, the players created characters, I assisted, and we all looked forward to the following week. Or, we would have, but one of the players got Covid. “Okay, we’ll postpone it for next week.” And so we waited, but they were still sick. “Okay, next week.” Finally, we could begin.
The first session was loads of fun. We joked around, players pranked each other in game, made a stressed lunch lady cry accidently, and much more. It was exactly what I was looking for. We met the next week and had a phenomenal time again. The news was spreading and somebody came up to me and asked if they could join next time, so another Tivnunik joined the mix. In truth, I could not have asked for more from this campaign. It brought me closer to so many of my fellow Tivnuniks, seeing new sides of them during every session.
D&D is a game, but it’s also an experience. It’s an opportunity for me to do my really bad accents and to enjoy a couple hours every Sunday with my friends in a completely separate reality. Like a lot of things at Tivnu, I never expected this would happen, but I’m really glad it did.