Dungeons & Dragons and The Free Library

By Yona Y. RSS Mon, June 26, 2023

In recent years, Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D) has transformed from a nerdy niche into a pop culture staple, recognizable in popular shows like the Netflix original series Stranger Things, or the Amazon animated series Vox Machina (based on and starring voice actors from the actual-play D&D podcast, Critical Role). D&D even made it to the big screen in 2023 as a live-action film, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Even if you’ve seen or heard about these franchises, you might still be wondering what exactly D&D is. This blog post will talk you through some of the basics about D&D and other TTRPGs (tabletop role-playing games), plus how the Free Library of Philadelphia can help you get started playing.

 

TTRPGs are games in which players take on the role of fictional characters, like an elfin paladin or a monster-hunting con artist, and embark on imaginary adventures. Typically, these games involve rolling dice, pen-and-paper character sheets, and improvised storytelling in collaboration with other players. One player often takes on the role of the Game Master (GM) and manages the storyline, enemies, and other characters the group encounters. Game content may be pulled from a published guidebook or “home-brewed” (invented by the players).

D&D and its swords-and-sorcery fantasy setting are particularly well-known, but it’s hardly the only TTRPG out there. Games vary dramatically in both genre and setting: you might live out the drama of a telenovela, save the world as a teenage superhero, solve murders in Victorian England, and anything in between. Some games are more combat-focused, some are character- and story-focused, and many offer a blend of both. They can be long-running sagas or one-shots (singular, short adventures meant to be finished in one sitting). There’s something out there for everyone (as long as you’re willing to do some sleuthing to find it).

If playing RPGs sounds like fun, it’s because it is! But it can also be educational. As School Library Journal has pointed out, RPGs can help players develop skills in debate, financial management, teamwork, and research. The American Library Association adds that RPGs foster “social interaction, imaginative play, and reading comprehension.” For these reasons and more, the Free Library offers several free resources that will appeal to tabletop gamers. 

To get started running your own adventures, check out this list of titles about the world of RPGs and gaming (including guidebooks and more!) available in the Free Library catalog. If you need a space to play, contact your local library branch about open public spaces or meeting rooms.

 

If you’re interested in playing but don’t feel ready to run your own campaign, join the Free Library throughout Summer 2023 for one of our upcoming RPG programs. See below for a brief sample of what's happening next.

Upcoming Free Library Events:‚Äč

Wednesday, June 28 (and most Wednesdays in July) at 5:30 p.m.

Do you want to go on an adventure? Then join our Dungeons & Dragons party! Newcomers are always welcome, ages 10 and up. This program runs for about 2 hours and meets most Wednesdays.

Thursday, June 29 at 3:30 p.m.

Are you interested in learning role-playing tabletop games, such as Dungeons & Dragons or Quest? Start your training in a small group of other like-minded initiates. For patrons ages 10 years old and up. Space will be limited; please call the library to save a spot.

Wednesday, July 5, and Wednesday, August 2 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Join us for a swords and sorcery adventure at Field Teen Center! Experienced storyteller, improviser, and Game Master Josh Holober-Ward will lead two one-shot fantasy adventures: come to one or both! Each session will be a self-contained adventure. Both longtime players and new gamers are welcome. Dice, character sheets, and other supplies will be provided. 

Programs at the Field Teen Center are open to individuals ages 12 – 18.


If you’re between games and looking for a dungeon-crawling adventure story to tide you over, try one of the RPG-influenced graphic novels on this list. Happy adventuring!


Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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I am interested in hosting a DnD event at our local library. Any suggestions on how to get started and who to reach out to?
Tom Reino - Roxborough Library
Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Excellent! For folks interested in other free play D&D opportunities I maintain a list of area shops that offer D&D. https://www.gameonphilly.org/ddal.html
David Perlman - Bala Cynwyd
Wednesday, June 28, 2023