Whether it’s a hardcore role-playing game or something as simple as Uno, a local group wants to put down the controllers and promote social, in-person gaming.
The average Monday for members of the Plant City Gamers Guild starts like that of most people: working a full day, bored and wishing it were Friday already. But once they’ve clocked out, they’ll find themselves teaming up for adventures in the fantasy world.
They call it “Taking Back Monday” in an effort to make everyone’s least favorite day of the week more fun with popular tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short. The game is the guild’s bread and butter and founder Jason Sherotski hopes to show Plant Citians how much fun they can have when they step away from the video game consoles.
“You’re not limited to what somebody programmed into it,” he said. “You’re capable of improvising.”
Dungeons and Dragons has been around since 1974 and is famous for offering a unique tabletop experience in a fantasy setting. Players work together, rather than against each other as in traditional games, to achieve a common goal. Maybe that goal is lifting the curse from a village whose residents can only speak in iambic pentameter, maybe it’s plundering a magic cave for its treasure or maybe it’s saving the world from a major threat. Players create their own characters from the ground up (character creation itself often requires a full session, or “session zero”) and navigate the world as defined by the game leader, or “Dungeon Master.”
The game has a large underground following but Sherotski, who moved to Plant City last year, was surprised to learn how many people in Plant City were fans. He created the group’s Facebook page on an impulse one afternoon and got more responses than expected, so he was able to get a regular group together by August to begin a campaign for the group to play every other Monday for roughly four hours at a time.
“I wasn’t optimistic about it to begin with, I guess, just because in your everyday life you don’t run into that many people who still play tabletop games,” Sherotski said. “But when I started asking around about it, I was surprised at not only how many people were like ‘Yeah, I’ve played,’ but how many were ecstatic that someone was getting a gaming community together like this.”
The campaign is coming to an end soon and a new one will begin later this month.
For members like Larry Hughes and Ashley White, the guild offered a chance to finally try something they’d known about for a while but never got around to playing. Having structured meeting times helped them work D&D sessions into their everyday schedules as full-time workers and parents, so the two have been with the group nearly from the start.
“I was so against it at first,” White said. “Then I started watching (Hughes) play, I started watching videos and I wanted to try it. Once I made my character I was hooked. It’s nothing like what you’d expect. It uses a lot of imagination but it’s very rule-based… it’s a lot of thinking. It’s not something I ever expected.”
The guild also hosts Saturday meet-ups that aren’t limited to D&D. Any tabletop game anyone wants to play is in play, so the members are as likely to spend a day playing Sorry!, Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity, Uno and more.
“If it goes on the table, we’ll enjoy it,” Hughes said.
The group previously met up in downtown Plant City at Aromatic Harmony, but has since migrated to Sherotski’s house after turning an upstairs bedroom into a fantasy-themed game room.
Meeting information is always available on the Plant City Gamers Guild Facebook page, and Sherotski also makes videos for D&D and other games that involve role-playing or deck-building and shares them to the page for anyone to watch. Anyone looking for an escape from the doldrums of the work week can visit the Facebook to get in touch with Sherotski about joining up.
“It’s a break away from your normal, crazy life,” Hughes said.