RSOs during COVID-19: UMass Tabletop

UMass Tabletop has adapted well to the new normal

By Adam Lew, Collegian Correspondent

University of Massachusetts Tabletop is a club that provides space for people to play tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), the most famous of which is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and to meet others who share similar interests. The club also provides the books and manuals needed to learn the rules, ins and outs and lore behind D&D.

Under normal circumstances, they would meet every other week in the Campus Center. When COVID-19 hit, many RSOs were scrambling to figure out a way to adapt to the new normal, and many still are. However, UMass Tabletop did not find themselves in this position and a big reason is the flexibility of tabletop RPGs.

The most important aspect of tabletop RPGs is the control the players have over the way the story goes and the actions taken. It provides a contrast to other video games where the players’ actions and story are prewritten and there’s little variation.

“At the heart of it is a group storytelling experience” said Benjamin Parrish, a junior microbiology major and librarian for UMass Tabletop.

The person who runs and moderates the game is called the Dungeon Master (DM). They are the ones who have the story in mind and set up the scenarios for the players to make their choices. The other players write their own characters with traits, strengths and weaknesses and make decisions based on what their character would do.

Because the game is so adaptable, players do not have to be in the same room in order to play.  Even before COVID-19, many people preferred playing online. There is software and websites like roll20 that let players set up and run a game with ease. As UMass Tabletop did most of its communicating through their discord server, they have not missed a beat.

“Outside of the in-person meetings, not much has really changed, we still just talk fairly regularly in chats together” said Norapat Rerngkasetkig, a junior computer science major who got into D&D his senior year of high school.

Donald Hurld, the president of the club and a sophomore computer science major, says the club has grown during the COVID-era.

“A lot of regulars are still there, nobody’s really left. If anything, we’ve grown as people become more aware of us,” said Hurld.

However, players still miss the dynamics of the in-person games. Hurld is a DM who has had to adapt to the absence of the in-person games.

“In person, you can gauge what someone is interested in a lot better and see their reactions to certain events,” he said.

With the seemingly complicated rules and long game manuals, it may be intimidating for many to try D&D, but club members say prospective members shouldn’t be.

“People in general are very forgiving of new players, they understand everybody has to start somewhere” said Hurld.

“Willingness to learn and willingness to try it out is all you need to start,” said Parrish.

Adam Lew can be reached at [email protected]