A jungle ranger, an alchemist, a nomadic bard, and a cleric of the sun goddess struggle to save a fantasy desert region from a war fueled by racial discrimination. In other words, a small group of Colgate students, staff, and faculty members are gathered together in the Coop for their weekly role-playing game session. This group is just one segment of a new organization on campus called the Colgate Roleplaying Game (RPG) Society.
Formed last fall by Josh Miller ’17 and Jack McKay ’17, the club has quickly grown in popularity. Although it remains a primarily student organization, with approximately 40 active participants, the RPG club has also caught on with professors and staff members.
The whole club comes together for special events, but smaller groups form “campaigns” composed of one “game master” and three to six players. Each campaign plays out a single storyline that is created by the game master, who crafts all aspects of the game, from setting to character background.
“The idea of role-playing boils down to one thing: you can temporarily become someone you are not, in a place you are not, and experience the experiences of others,” said Miller. “This is universally intriguing, because everyone wonders what it’s like [to be] in someone else’s shoes.”
Armed with just a handful of dice, a map of the land, and a few notes, the players have to use their wit and imagination to complete quests, succeed in combat, and solve puzzles created by the game master. These campaigns can be as short as a single day or continue for years.
Timothy Collett, who works in the psychology department as a technology support analyst, described the experience as “a story that we’re all writing together.”
He added: “It’s creative not just on the part of the [game master] who creates the world and the adventure, but also on the part of the players, who are creating the actual story minute by minute while playing.
Ryan Solomon, who teaches writing and rhetoric, recently attended the club’s Pathfinder Tournament of one-on-one battles. Solomon said that the role-playing games have helped him in his career as an academic and a teacher. “It taught me creativity, it provided me with important writing and speaking skills, and even taught me how to project manage,” he explained.
For Miller, the best part is how easily friendships develop. As they work together to discover their mythical heritage or compete in an interplanetary rhetoric contest, connections are instantly formed. Even the cyborg searching for extra robotic appendages and the psychic with multiple personalities can find common ground.