Mercer “Dungeons and Dragons” game master is an improvisational storyteller

Nick Pope is a D&D game master who uses the game to tell stories.

Image: Chas Pridgen

Nick Pope is a D&D game master who uses the game to tell stories.

With the current re-emergence of “Dungeons and Dragons” (D&D) into pop culture, creators are finding that some of their stories are best told around a table. One of these storytellers is Nick Pope, a Dungeon Master (DM) who started playing D&D about two years ago.

Pope said that the basic premise of D&D is storytelling, and thus it could be considered an unconventional art form, a sort of improvisational “theatre with dice.”

“It’s more of a group art project,” Pope said. “The DM will create the setting and the basic plotlines, and everyone else is the character writers.”

Due to the ever-changing story and the way that the players can take the story off track, the DM has to be able to think on the fly about how everything will affect the overarching story, which is a critical skill in any type of long-form storytelling.

Pope said his favorite D&D moment was when he was supposed to help a friend who needed an extra player for a large combat scene, but the game went in an unexpected direction, and he became a member of the party. Because of this series of events, the entire narrative changed.

“My character…could shapeshift into whoever he wanted and could mimic their voice perfectly,” Pope said. “The rest of the campaign was the silent political takeover of a small country.”

Pope’s job as a DM is to make sure he keeps up with all of the moving parts of his story and justifies the actions of potentially dozens of characters, without giving away any information to his players that they haven’t discovered naturally. It’s a fine balance to maintain.

Pope is currently running a game with the Mercer Gaming Society, which meets weekly in Knight Hall. The game is comprised of students who have been playing for a while, as well as some new players, to whom he has to teach the game.

“As for advice, start with a low-level campaign to understand it better. Smaller groups would be better to learn with. It’s pretty much like any other game,” Pope said.

Pope also said that a new player should pick a simpler player class to begin with so that they can learn the rules of the game, and then they can always pick a more complex character the next time.

When Pope tells people that he plays D&D, he does not really receive negative reactions, though that is often how D&D is portrayed in media.

“The stigma isn’t really there anymore,” Pope said. “When (people) say nerd, it’s usually because they’re also a nerd.”