Connor Ashton, as Dungeon Master, leads a Dungeons & Dragons session with Kash Larson looking on Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Connor Ashton, as Dungeon Master, leads a Dungeons & Dragons session with Kash Larson looking on Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Swords and sorcery in Snohomish, from the minds of children

A group gathers every weekend to play Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy role-playing game.

SNOHOMISH — They were ambushed by six swashbucklers and an ogre.

But even though the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons were outnumbered, outmatched and facing certain death, they didn’t lose hope. They were determined to find the five crystals and stop an evil sorcerer from taking over the realm.

A sahuagin, a fish-like creature played by 11-year-old Ka’imi Ching, saved the day when he stabbed the ogre in the face. With their attackers defeated, the kids’ characters set sail on the open sea, eager to continue their quest.

This was just one battle in the Snohomish Kids Dungeons & Dragons Group’s new campaign. The Facebook group plays the popular tabletop game weekends at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. The group is free and open to children in grades 3-8.

No matter how many rules the fantasy game has — and there are lots of them — the group’s most important rule is to have fun.

So what if you’re new to the game and just impaled your companion by accident? Just roll with it.

“Oops,” said Belle Mork, 12, with a grin after her sorcerer elf’s attack on a monster backfired.

Think of Dungeons and Dragons as a group storytelling game with game pieces and dice.

One player, called a dungeon master, creates a fantasy story of sorcery and adventure, then the rest of the players take charge of characters and cooperatively tell the tale.

The group’s dungeon master, Connor Ashton, 12, spends most of his free time planning adventures, creating monsters and designing quests for the weekend play sessions. He gets most of his ideas from movies and TV shows, such as “Infinity War” and “Game of Thrones.”

“I pride myself on being a geek,” Connor said. “I realized if I play D&D, I can be an even bigger geek.”

Connor and his mom, Maggie Ashton, launched the group on Facebook about a year ago to connect with kids who play D&D. They later partnered with Dylan Jupp, owner of Geek Fortress, a magic cards and tabletop game store that hosts D&D sessions.

Connor Ashton leads a game of Dungeons & Dragons as its Dungeon Master on Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Connor Ashton leads a game of Dungeons & Dragons as its Dungeon Master on Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Snohomish Kids D&D group welcomes new members who have never played the game — as long as they’re willing to learn and not just goof off.

“Even though not everybody comes every week, the group is bigger than it has ever been,” Maggie Ashton said.

Dungeons & Dragons, first published in 1974, has spiked in popularity after being featured on TV shows such as “Stranger Things” and “The Big Bang Theory.” According to Wizards of the Coast, a company in Renton that publishes the game, 2016 and 2017 were D&D’s most profitable years.

Connor, whose dad, David, taught him to play, has more than 500 hours invested into the game. He said he likes that he gets to use his imagination.

“It doesn’t include electronics, which is a really good thing,” Connor said. “Even though I love playing video games and watching TV, (D&D) is good for your mind. You get to socialize with other people. You get to imagine things.”

Dungeons & Dragons game pieces help illustrate a largely imaginary activity Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dungeons & Dragons game pieces help illustrate a largely imaginary activity Jan. 26 at Geek Fortress in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish Kids group member Edwin Tasto, 11, is a diehard D&D player. Edwin’s character is a 120-year-old elf.

“A lot of people would call me dangerously obsessed,” Edwin said. “Do you know what I tell those people? ‘You’re right!’”

Edwin started playing D&D a few months ago at a friend’s house. He joined Connor’s group at Geek Fortress so he could play the game more regularly. He credits Connor for being an especially ruthless — but fair — dungeon master.

“This dungeon master is willing to kill us all,” Edwin said. “Honestly, I like it. I play in two different campaigns, and the other won’t let us die because there is no actual threat.”

Connor said part of the fun with D&D is improvisation. A good dungeon master will throw obstacles in the players’ way, such as a formidable monster, without warning. The players must then think fast on how their characters would try to defeat the monster.

If a player’s character dies, and they do, he or she is allowed to create a new one. Connor then finds a way to incorporate them back into the story.

Dungeons and Dragons game pieces at Geek Fortress in Saturday afternoon in Snohomish on January 26, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dungeons and Dragons game pieces at Geek Fortress in Saturday afternoon in Snohomish on January 26, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

While these role-playing adventures can last up to three hours, the kids say they seem to fly by when they’re all crowding around a battle map, cheering and chattering.

Geek Fortress owner Jupp said he’s happy to see children getting into D&D, especially because their generation was raised with the internet and social media.

“Connor has done a good job of keeping the core group of kids together,” Jupp said, adding that this is the first group of middle school students he’s seen playing. “It’s fun to watch them play.”

Maggie Ashton noted that D&D is an outlet for kids who may be struggling to fit in.

“They don’t have to make small talk. They’re entirely focused on the game, which is awesome,” she said.

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

If you go

The Snohomish Kids Dungeons & Dragons Group, open to kids in grades 3-8, meets Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Geek Fortress, 1207 13th St., Suite B, Snohomish. Play times vary and are posted on the group’s Facebook page.

Want to join? Email maggierashton@gmail.com or search for Snohomish Kids Dungeons & Dragons Group on Facebook.

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