Dungeons and Flagons
By Tony McKay and Derek Ray
Games of imagination and storytelling are alive and well in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At a local tavern, filled to capacity with players and onlookers alike, explorers delve into mini-sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. Some came with their usual adventuring companions; others came looking for a group. Regardless of experience in the game, the treasure most sought was the new beer and the beautiful art that will forever serve as its coat of arms.
We are of course talking about Brewery Vivant’s nerd event of the year: Dungeons & Dark Arts Role-Playing Event and Label Contest that was held on January 24th, 2016. The event was supported by local comic book shop Vault of Midnight, whose faithful minions were on hand supplying adventurers with dice and starter packs for the first timers. We Hate Bards, a group dedicated to pen and paper RPGs, also aided D&D newcomers with character development and by leading the story as Dungeon Masters for several tables. Other quests were lead by veteran players from the Grand Rapids community. The truly magical part of the event, apart from the beverages, was seeing the passion old players had in teaching and sharing their beloved game with the newly initiated.
In addition to our collective exploits of the night, Derek submits this entry into the adventuring journal:
“I invited one of my friends with zero experience to join in on this event. He came over an hour beforehand to explore the players guide, and I assisted in crafting his first 5th edition character sheet. *tear. His character was the bane of any DM: a wild magic sorcerer. Who am I to judge a first character? This was a learning experience.”
Once we arrived at the bar, we all sat at the last table available, which fortunately was one where they were accepting new characters into their adventure. Matt, armed with a golden set of dice, sat down and began a campaign against the evil swarm of bugbears plaguing the village. We provided assistance as best we could, passing our knowledge onto the uninitiated. As we were not playing, we graciously gave up our seats to two other brand new players so they could learn and experience the greatness of this game.
Since we decided to forgo in the participation of rolling up a character and playing, it also gave us the ability to walk freely from booth to booth to hear some of the artistry being painted through the dialogue at each.
“Roll for initiative,” said one DM as a hill giant surprised the group as they traveled down a steep mountain pass. As the battle ensued, a new player who as a halfling rogue asks, “Can I sneak attack the giant?” “Yes, if you have advantage,” says the DM. And with that the rogue, using his imagination, spends the next two rounds climbing up cliff face so he can drop down upon the giants head. Meanwhile, the group’s mage casts an ill-aimed fireball engulfing both the giant and the group’s paladin in an inferno of six-sided damage. Barely holding on to life, the giant picks up a rock to throw at the group before attempting to retreat and that is when Milos Pesterpants, the halfling rogue jumps from the cliff side and yells, “For Beer and Glory!” He landed his blade in the giant’s eye and rode his huge corpse to ground, standing victorious on top of his foe. “For Beer and Glory” says the rest of the group and with beers in hand, they group decides to go back to the tavern after looting the giants liar. Having beers in hand really added to the atmosphere of the role playing session. And speaking of beers…
Vivant’s new magical creation, Ale From Beyond the Veil, was freely flowing from the taps. This winter warmer (10%abv) is packed with dark and dried fruit flavors and was a rich golden amber in color. The winner of the new label competition was Alyssa Menold. The logo she created portrays a sorcerer summoning a beer from the great beyond; a spell we wish we had prepared everyday! The magic and mystery of the design perfectly complements the complexity of this richly flavored ale.
Giving out more ideas to other groups, and listening into the action at hand, we found a group playing another type of role-playing game: Star Wars. Really anything can be played while role playing in a d20 system as long as you have imagination and a set of dice to help dictate your actions. One group we came across being led by We Hate Bards was unique to say the least.
From what was described to us, the group was partaking on making the best beer while searching for ingredients in their setting. “What are you?” “A dwarf fighter” was the reply. “Roll,” said the DM. “A 6,” was the reply. The DM thinks for a sec and says that the character was in good shape still because it was a dwarf and they knew how to hold their alcohol. “Next!” And not so good for the stamina of the elf, who also rolled low. Watching the players roll to see how drunk their characters get while drinking before starting their next leg of their campaign was a rowdy and boisterous event.
We eventually returned to our table as the evening was winding down to check on our fledgling adventurers. Laughter and joy emanated from the table, and the two we gave our seats to thanked us profusely for allowing them to join in the campaign at hand. This event was about more than just beer: it was about forging new friendships and camaraderie within the local role-playing community. We sincerely hope that this becomes a more frequent event, as everyone we talked to had a blast. It’s not very often that you can walk around a whole bar and hear the sounds of dice rolling and imaginary swords clashing at Every. Single. Table. 10/10 would attend again.