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Title: After school, Edinburg faculty members become wizards, warriors

Source: The Monitor, December 2nd, 2009

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After school, Edinburg faculty members become wizards, warriors

December 02, 2009 3:35 PM

Ana Villaurrutia

The Monitor

Ben Hold steps into the dingy Star and Shadow Inn where a rambunctious crowd is spending the evening drinking ale and planning quests. He’s new in town and just bumped into a man twice his size.

“Roll a perception,” says an ominous voice.

This signals Doug Jenkins, a 48-year-old bus driver for Edinburg School District, to roll his d20, or a 20-sided die, to see his fate.

Luckily, he rolls a good number and his half-elf half-human character continues through his adventure. The ominous voice is that of the game master, also known as biology teacher Stacy Weaver.

Weaver and Jenkins are joined by two other educators and a lab technician every Friday on a never-ending quest for adventure and riches in the sprawling world of Dungeons and Dragons.

Introduced in 1974, D and D is a role-playing game that involves various characters populated by gnomes, dwarves and elves, and the games storylines are similar to those found in fantasy novels like the Lord of the Rings series. Many are of the unfortunate and shady variety. Players choose from a list of races and classes.

Over the years the game has developed a cult-like following and has inspired other RPG games such as “Live Action Role-Playing” and “World of Warcraft.”

The group meets at The University of Texas-Pan American history professor Michael Weaver’s house, Stacy Weaver’s husband. He has also been collecting figurines since the mid ‘70s, and now holds an impressive collection displayed in two glass cases, wardrobes and on shelves inside his Edinburg home. These figurines of various characters and set pieces are used by the D and D group.

“We’re lucky,” said Stacy, explaining that some role-players use simple mats and Sharpies.

UTPA philosophy professor Jeffrey Zents did not get into the game until 2005, though he had been reading fantasy and sci-fi books since his youth. He said that discovering D and D has brought him back to a childhood filled with supernatural characters and magic.

“Who hasn’t wanted, at some point, to really believe that there was magic, and you could do it?” Zents asked. “Even if they’re realists and know that it’s never going to happen.”

As the game master, Stacy leads the group through the twists that any particular game may bring, and she fills in for all the extra characters that interact with the main characters.

“She’s like the director, the extras and the script writer,” Jenkins said.

Using their own imaginations and experience in the sci-fi and fantasy realm, the players exchange dialogue and craft a plot for their characters.

Though their last session didn’t involve great battles or a search for riches and monsters, they’re leading up to that. Ben Hold’s character, for instance, had just made a deal with a pack of adventurers to get their complex map to Cordrana, a fictitious island full of monsters and gold, in exchange for the local village leader’s gold pouch. A turn of events that is sure to spawn endless consequences.

However calm the group appeared, the game took a treacherous turn when the GM asked the players to each roll a d20. Michael Weaver rolled a one, also known as an “automatic fail.”

“That’s a good way to drop a weapon during a battle,” Zents said.

But time was on Weaver’s side as the hour had come for everyone to leave meaning his ill fate would be postponed.

Though D and D players have taken a ribbing from non-players, who laughed at their obsession for two generations, the diehards do not blink. The group plays the game with a sober and serious attitude but they enjoy each other’s banter.

“We can have a lot of fun and nobody has to drink, do drugs or anything like that, all that potential baggage to deal with,” Zents said. “Everyone is having fun and cutting up…and we’re stone-cold sober.”

“Except for a sugar buzz,” said Stacy.

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