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interests / / [Philadelphia Inquirer] This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets players fight monsters and social anxiety

o [Philadelphia Inquirer] This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets players fight moKyonshi

[Philadelphia Inquirer] This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets players fight monsters and social anxiety


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From: (Kyonshi)
Subject: [Philadelphia Inquirer] This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets
players fight monsters and social anxiety
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2024 13:23:58 +0200
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This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets players fight monsters and
social anxiety

Thomas and Dezarea Solar created Dungeons n Drafts as a way to help bars
avoid slow nights after the pandemic. Now, the roving D&D pop up has
expanded to six more areas.

by Beatrice Forman
Published Apr. 3, 2024, 5:49 a.m. ET

What you should know

* Founded in 2022, Dungeons n Drafts is a Philly-based organization that
host Dungeons & Dragons pop-ups at different bars across the city to
boost sales on slow nights.
* Dungeons n Drafts uses one-shot campaigns to teach participants the
basics of D&D, which soared in popularity after the pandemic.
* Now, the organization has expanded to six more areas. Its founders
have realized their favorite game has some hidden mental health benefits.

A barbarian, warlock, and a sorcerer walk into a bar.

No, this is not the setup for some lame joke, but it is more or less
what happened when Dungeons n Drafts — a roving Dungeons & Dragons
pop-up that takes over different bars — crowded the back half of Yards
Brewing Company on Spring Garden Street last week.

About three dozen novice and expert Dungeons & Dragons players gathered
around communal tables as Dungeons Masters (aka game narrators and
rulekeepers) led them through one-shot adventures across mystical
forests, cursed farms, and just about every corner of a made-up world
where someone always needs saving.

The events are a boon for bars looking for ways to stay busy on slow
nights, said Dungeons n Drafts co-founders Thomas and Dezarea Solar, who
started the organization in August 2022 to introduce people to the
tabletop roleplaying game. About 90% of Dungeons n Drafts’ almost-daily
events sell out in the Philly area, the pair said, and the group has
added chapters in New Jersey; Delaware; Pittsburgh; New York City;
Knoxville, Tenn.; and Asheville, NC.

Tickets cost between $15 and $20 per person, and can fill a bar for
three to four hours. But the real magic of Dungeons n Drafts is that it
can take the awkwardness out of meeting new people. Strangers are
encouraged to strategize and be theatrical, with some players embodying
their character by putting on voices and ad-libbing one liners.

“There’s something about DnD that doesn’t happen in other settings. The
silliness of playing, like, a dragon-born paladin and using a funny
voice relaxes the table and gives people the permission to let their
personalities out,” said Thomas Solar. “That doesn’t happen at a
singles’ night at a bar.”

Dungeons & Dragons has been around since 1974, sitting comfortably in
the pantheon of nerd culture for decades — until the pandemic, when the
game took on new life as a way to pass time and connect with your family
(or strangers via an online simulator) while shut inside.

Sales of Dungeons & Dragons jumped 33% in 2020 alone, and the game’s
publisher told the New York Times that more than 50 million people have
interacted with D&D since its inception, including movies, video games,
books, and traditional gameplay.

Similar benefits hold for Carlos Chevalier, even if he’s only played
casually at bars through Dungeons n Drafts. Chevalier attended his first
meetup just after Thanksgiving and now goes to two to three per month.
His go-to character is a warlock.

Chevalier called Dungeons n Drafts the “one hobby that can get me out of
my apartment” regularly. Playing has also tamped down his
hyper-competitive spirit and made him more empathetic, he said.

“You’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, even if it’s a
fantastical creature in a fantastical world,” said Chevalier, an
operations manager who lives in Center City.
Making fighters out of first-timers

Dungeons & Dragons has a reputation for intensity. A single campaign can
involve months of multi-hour sessions, and there’s a lot to remember:
Players toss a 20-sided die to determine the impact of their character’s
actions, which can include a complex array of interwoven spells and attacks.

It’s the Dungeon Master’s job to keep everything on track, and if you
don’t know a good one, it can be hard to keep up.

At Dungeons n Drafts, these adventures are tutorials that often end with
a bar’s last call. At the Yards’ session, paid Dungeon Masters like
Zachary “JJ” Salamon handed out multi-page character sheets to help
catch up first-timers and would pause the action to provide hints.

Salamon, a 28-year-old West Chester University student from Downingtown,
fell into Dungeon Master-ing by way of theater. At Yards, he led six
players on a mission to save a farm that was overtaken by gigantic
acid-spewing bug monsters. To help his group envision different plans of
attack, Salamon moved figurines around a game board.

His play style — which involves a lot of comedic irony and over-the-top
combat — let Matthew Misetic take on a key role as Varg the Tabaxi, an
agile humanoid cat that ended up clawing one of the monsters to death.
It was Misetic’s second time playing.

“No one here is going to bite my head off if I make a mistake,” said
Misetic, 27, who works in tech sales and lives in Fairmount. “I’m
learning to think outside the box.”

Ankita Patil agreed. Patil has been playing Dungeons & Dragons online
since 2018 as a way to keep up with her childhood friends, but she
played in person for the first time at a Dungeons n Drafts session in
November 2022. She’s now a regular.

“You can literally show up with no idea of what to do and a Dungeon
Master will help you along the way,” said Patil, 31.

Solar, who managed a taproom in Orlando, Fla., before moving to Philly
in 2020, interviewed all 80 of Dungeons n Drafts’ Philly Dungeon Masters
himself, taking care to hire people who weren’t afraid to be
over-explainers. Still, he attributes most of the group’s low-stakes
environment to the game itself.

“I play a lot of other board games, and they’re all ultra-competitive.
You’re there to beat the person across the table from you,” he said.
“With DnD, it’s okay to have a laugh and be friends.”

Those connections spill into real life, too. Solar’s wife Dezarea said
the game helped her stop worrying about how to make friends in Philly
after being a lifelong Floridian.

Because of Dungeons & Dragons, “I now have really good friends who will
show up at my doorstep if I really need them,” she said.

interests / / [Philadelphia Inquirer] This Dungeons & Dragons bar pop-up lets players fight monsters and social anxiety


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