Dungeons and Dragons club at Treasure Mountain helps students connect, learn skills | ParkRecord.com

Dungeons and Dragons club at Treasure Mountain helps students connect, learn skills

Zane Jensen, founder of the club, talks through a disagreement with Rodolfo Cornejo during the game while, from left, Erin Rodriguez, Kyle Walker and Griffin Brown look on.
Carolyn Webber Alder/Park Record

Every Tuesday and Thursday, ogres, alchemists and warriors materialize within Treasure Mountain Junior High’s library. The characters, which encounter epic adventures, exist in the minds of the eighth- and ninth-graders who are members of one of the newest clubs at the school.

In the Dungeons & Dragons Club, students play the tabletop role-playing game. The club is one of about 15 after-school groups that are part of Treasure Mountain’s’s Mustang After-School Academy, which is funded by the Park City Education Foundation.

Since getting off the ground last school year, the Dungeons & Dragons Club has become one of the school’s biggest, attracting almost 20 students for the bi-weekly gatherings. The students divide into sub-groups to play their ongoing games, called campaigns.

Niko Jensen, a guidance counselor for the school and adviser for the Dungeons & Dragons Club, said the Mustang After-School Academy helps the students become involved in an activity and form relationships with like-minded teens. The ideas for the clubs come from the students themselves.

“We don’t care if it’s juggling marshmallows,” Jensen said. “Whatever it is that they are interested in, we try to create a venue where they can learn how to bring their ideas into reality.”

Jensen’s son, Zane, started the Dungeons & Dragons Club because he wanted to have a time to play the game with friends.

Niko Jensen said the clubs provide students with positive activities, which makes them less likely to get into unhealthy and reckless behaviors. He especially likes the Dungeons & Dragons Club because of the skills the students are able to subtly develop while playing.

It is a creative outlet for students, since they basically create the game themselves, Jensen said. One person, the dungeon master, constructs the storyline and the rules of the game, and the other players develop complex characters to perform tasks in the world the students have dreamed up.

“They create basically a fantasy novel, but they adventure within,” Jensen said.

The students are creative while they act out different characters in the game. And, the students practice math while playing, because they constantly roll dice and perform quick probability equations. Students roll the dice to determine the outcome of an action.

The game is also constantly changing based on the players’ whims. Rodolfo Cornejo, a student in the club, explained one of the conflicts he was stuck in.

“I took damage from a door so she tried to heal me. He poisoned the berries. I lit him on fire. It’s a long story,” he said.

Jensen loves to see the dynamic relationships forming between the students. They must resolve conflicts between themselves and learn to respect each other’s decisions. He has already seen positive effects on some members. There were a couple of students who were struggling before joining the club, but now they appear to be more interested in school and have friends because of the club.

One of the sub-groups has started meeting on Saturdays to continue playing outside of school. Zack Aldous, a member of that group, said he always looks forward to getting together with his peers to play.

“It’s a really fun thing when you basically get to do whatever you want and play with friends,” Aldous said.

Finn Davidson, the dungeon master of another campaign, agreed.

“You get to create your own world, which I think is a lot of fun. As a player, you get to hang out with lots of friends and be able to escape from reality without having to play video games,” he said.

He has been playing Dungeons & Dragons for the past few years, but the majority of the students in the club are learning the game for the first time. It’s fun for Davidson to teach his peers about a game he is passionate about.

Knowing he has a regular space to create and adventure in a fantasy world with his friends will always beat sitting at home playing games on a screen.