For a few hours on Saturday, Anniston’s Kevin Bacchus was no longer Kevin Bacchus.
He was thinking and acting as Kambro, a human fighter-class character in the Anniston-Calhoun County library’s monthly Dungeons & Dragons Day, in which parties of participants meet up for a session of the tabletop role-playing game.
“For me, the fun thing is that everyone else is immersed in a different realm,” Bacchus said. “I’m able to interact with everyone else in a different way, then hit pause for 30 days and come back together.”
About 15 people arrived Saturday to eat pizza and take part in one of two tables playing the game. Dungeons & Dragons games are usually broken up into a “party” of participants that act as a group that has adventures in a fantasy scenario set up by a dungeon master, or DM, who unfurls a narrative and sets rules that the party follows.
Bacchus and Tommy Evans, playing as human ranger Klein Wingshadow, were in a group guided by dungeon master Cory Ames.
At another table, Josh Pearson guided a group of newcomers through the process of creating characters and learning basic rules.
“We have a wide range of people that come here to play,” said Abigail Hubbard, organizer of the event for the library and campaign participant. “Our youngest player is I think 9.”
On the other end of that spectrum, Bacchus said he learned to play at a similar event hosted by a library in Huntsville in 1982.
“People in their 20s and 30s back then were teaching seven-year-old me how to play,” Bacchus said. “Now I’m here helping others learn.”
In an age of widespread visually stimulating video games and entertainment, Bacchus said, nothing can replace the imagination and human interaction that bring players of all ages together.
“The biggest thing for me is the difference where you’re only interacting verbally in video games, you’re physically together, laughing, joking and seeing everyone’s responses,” Bacchus said.
“You’re able to work together as a group to kind of think about what you want to do,” Evans said. “If someone is trying to make one decision that might not be best, the rest of us can talk them out of it.”
It’s actually the escape from electronics that appealed to Ames, who started playing last year.
“A big thing for me is having that human-to-human contact, and trying to get rid of electronics for a few hours,” Ames said.
Another factor for Ames is the freedom to create a tailored experience.
“There’s really no limits. In video games, you have to play within the confines of the video games,” he said. “Here, I can do whatever I want, they can do whatever they want.”
Campaigns are under the control of the dungeon master. Rules are outlined, but how the game will play out is up to the creativity of the players, and their ability to be convincing.
“In video games, the computer is doing all the tracking for you,” Bacchus said. “Here, you’re doing everything, and you’re trying to be sly and funny. You’ve got to know how to push the DM’s buttons in order to get his approval.”
“Pretty much, if you can convince me of something, I’ll allow it,” Ames added.
After set-ups are finished and characters are established, the game begins. Pearson begins his game by setting the scene for his party. It’s a late-winter storm, and the group has just graduated from a “witch hunter academy” with a mandate to “keep the world safe from all threats.” The players’ first chance to put that training into action comes when Pearson describes a blacksmith, who is stuck in a tree with two ferocious wolves snarling at the bottom.
Through ingenuity and the proper dice rolls, the party saved the day.
The monthly meetups began a little over two years ago, according to Hubbard, who had never played before being put in charge after the original instigator left the library.
Hubbard said one of the library’s roles is to spark community involvement.
“The library is a community space,” Hubbard said. “A lot of people think we’re just books, but we’re not just books.”
Ames said he is grateful for the space to play.
“It’s much better than the smelly back room of a comic book store.”