Stromness Academy Library

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Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons D & D Players Setting up a Group
Curriculum for Excellence Links & Useful Documents Donations


Dungeons & Dragons: A Brief History and Overview of the game at Stromness Academy

c3wb0siwmaael4w Dungeons & Dragons (Published by Wizards of the Coast) is a long established tabletop role playing game, first published in 1974.  It has now gone through several editions and can now be played online using virtual tabletops online like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds.  There are many groups streaming on Twitch as well as videos, podcasts, etc. available via YouTube.

D&D at Stromness Academy was introduced in the early 2000s when a couple of pupils, who had played it outside of school, asked if they could run a game in the library. From there on in the D&D activity, after school on a Tuesday really took off, with around seven regular players. The Librarian, Frances Sinclair, became hooked (she had played briefly as a student at uni) and wrote her own adventure set in and around the region of Tarlant, with the main adventure taking place in a rather large castle, full of oozes, vampires, skeletons, and other such creatures to battle, along with the arch enemy Galesh, who had taken over the castle from Lord Egreb.  These halcyon days of D&D gave us some long sessions, well, for as long as we were allowed to stay after school (2-3hrs) in those days.  We had one player who carelessly used a ‘bead of force’ on three separate occasions – killing his character on each occasion, but it did save the rest of the party.

These early games were played briefly using 3rd edition, then on to 3.5e.  In 2008 we switched to 4th edition over which, there was many a debate about it’s complexity and we certainly found that game play was much slowed down.

Tuesday (after school) group

CVQJ_YWUYAA8C-TThe Librarian created a new adventure for 4th Edition, Adventures in Rovanna.  This was played with friends outside of school as well as in school.  It was effectively a ‘road trip’ through the Wilderland from the town of Silverwell to Hunstford in Rovanna. It started badly with a ship wreck on the wild coast, coming ashore in a haunted ruined village (Up the Wild Coast written by F. Sinclair).  PCs (Player characters) were given several reasons, depending on who they spoke to or what they heard in the port town of Silverwell, to head northwards – a missing elf on the i’Tol; a missing Halfling; a couple of letters to be delivered; the possibility of removing bandits from the Wilderland and a general awareness of something not being right in the region of Rovanna around the principal (small) town of Huntsford.  Further development of the adventure arc includes sidequests in Huntsford and surrounding area.  Some, but not all the events the PCs came upon were linked to ‘something’ bigger – like any good D&D adventure.

A couple more pupils took on the role of DM (Dungeon Master) which proved helpful as there were enough participants for three groups.  By now we were playing both on Tuesday after school and during the Friday activities period. As of 2017, a further [very] short session was introduced and played on a Thursday lunchtime and it became known as ‘Luncheon & Dragons’.

Players have come and gone.  The group has shrunk and grown over the years, but there are still a core group who play regularly. Our journey into 5th edition D&D started with the Librarian’s own copy of the Starter Set, which has gone back to a broadly similar (in some respects) mechanics of 3.5 and earlier.  Certainly, encounters (battles with enemies, etc) are now much quicker and smoother to run.  Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Curse of Strahd, published adventures from Wizards of the Coast have also been played. It is difficult, though as we only have 45-50 minutes for a session (school timetable changes lost us 15 minutes off Friday activities and 20 minutes off Tuesday’s session).  There are now groups playing during Friday activities, three of which are DM’d by pupils running their own or published adventures. One pupil has run a 3.5e D & D game and another was working with d20 Modern.


Update, Sept ’18: 39 pupils take part in Friday activities, 31 of whom play D&D, with 8 playing Magic the Gathering. Five pupils and Mrs Sinclair now run RPG games, which include D&D, Pathfinder and Starfinder.



Over the years we also have briefly dabbled in other RPG systems such as Vampire the Requiem; Call of Cthulhu; Warhammer RPG; Necronomicon; Dark Heresy. There are many other systems out there once you are hooked including Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Open Legend, to name but a very few – too many for us in our short sessions to try, although if pupils want to introduce a new system, they are welcome to do so.

D & D: Players

You will need: yourself, your imagination, pencil and paper or notebook (for keeping your own track of adventures).

The school library provides polyhedral dice sets for your use and can provide pre-made characters or the Librarian will help you create your own character.  NB. This can take some time and you would need to come in at lunchtimes to do this so that during activities time we can get on with playing.  Pre-generated characters can also be provided which are usually from the D&D website. Check out the Links & Useful Documents below for guides and blank character sheets.

101_0771Two sets of 5e Core Rulebooks are available in the library but are only available for short term loan as they are needed in school on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  These include: Player’s Handbook; Monster Manual; and Dungeon Master’s Guide, published by Wizards of the Coast in 2014.

Generous donations in 2018 now mean that there are more core D&D 5e rule books and adventure modules available, which can now be borrowed to take home. See Donations.

There is also one set of 4th edition manuals available for use and for short loan as well as a 3.5e Players Handbook and Monster Manual.

If you are keen, it is highly recommended you purchase your own copy of the Player’s Handbook* and a set of D20 dice.  Basic rules can be downloaded from the D&D website.

*NB. We are now mainly using 5th edition.  Consult with Mrs Sinclair before purchasing your own manuals.

You can play a variety of different race and class combinations (from Player’s Handbook):

  • Classes – fighter; wizard; cleric; rogue; ranger; barbarian; bard; druid; monk
  • Races – human; elf; dwarf; halfling; gnome; half-orc; tiefling; dragonborn


The key to D &D is role playing, where you play an imaginary character, based on a character sheet you have been given or have created yourself.  You can build a character background with as much or as little detail as you want (eg. from age; height; appearance, accent, to where they come from; their deity (God); life as a youngster; what brought you to adventuring, etc.).  A guide to creating a character can be found in the Player’s Handbook or have a look at the Librarian’s guide to Creating a Dungeons (draft).how-to-play

In the game you can fully immerse yourself by playing in character, including accents if you wish or just describe your character’s actions in 3rd person with minimal role play.

The main mechanics of the game are based around rolling dice, the d20 (twenty sided) to determine the outcomes of combat, social and other encounters.  The smaller dice are usually used to determine combat damage.the-dice

To help you with 5th edition a Quick Reference Guide, summarised from the Players Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide published by Wizards of the Coast, has been produced.

Links to other useful documents and further information are listed at the bottom of this page.

Setting up a D & D Group in School

1. Equipment:

  • EssentialSeveral d20 sets of polyhedral dice (d20; d12; d10; d8; d6; d4); Pre-made adventures (if you don’t feel able to create your own) and character sheets*; Players Handbook; Monster Manual; Pencils and erasers.


  • DesirableDungeon Master’s Guide; Miniatures** to repr101_0772esent characters and monsters, although coloured counters can be used – the Librarian painted old half pence pieces.  Warhammer models are also useful for this; grid*** ; DM screen (if you choose to keep your dice rolls secret).  Chess pieces have also proved useful.


 Character Sheets

Pupils can create their own characters, but it is often easier to use pre-generated characters (eg. the ones in the starter set) as it takes time to create one from scratch. In the library keen players come in at lunchtime and use the Creating a Dungeons & Dragons Character guide and Player’s Handbook.

The character sheets can appear quite complex to begin with. A useful tip would be to ensure that the main sections of the sheet are highlighted. To this end, one could colour each of the most used sections: Initiative; Saving Throws; Skills, and Attacks. This means that if a player is struggling to find what they need (which even happens with experienced players), then the DM can say “Attacks in purple box”, for instance.

As a learning experience, during the initial introduction to the game, one could ask the pupils to colour in each section themselves – using the colours you set out so all are the same. This allows them to develop familiarity from the outset. This might also be useful for those who have processing issues with number and text, and one should also ensure that pupils (dyslexia) who have been identified as needing coloured paper rather than white, should be given a character sheet on the relevant colour.


Use miniatures and a square grid or hex grid to help visualise the scene and show the positions of PCs and enemies.  D&D doesn’t necessarily need these as players can just use their imagination to describe where they are – ‘theatre of the mind’.


1″ square / 1 hex = 5′ in the game world (2cm square graph paper works too).  Wipe clean grids are handy, but a bit of A3 with a grid on it would be good enough.  Some pre-made adventures come with printed map layouts or you can purchase pre-printed card tiles.  Game world measurements use imperial measurements (USA product) so it is worth explaining this to your players.


Tiles – can be used in different combinations


Pre-made map


Plastic over a grid for dry-wipe markers


Encounter location drawn on 2cm graph paper by FS

Encounter location drawn on 2cm graph paper by FS

Blank grids: A4grid (2.5cm) squares – print out on A4, use as is; A3grid – print out on A4, increase size to A3 using photocopier.

2. Groups: Best played in groups of 5-6.  One Dungeon Master to lead the game and 5 players with their ‘player characters’ (PCs).  Less than 4 PCs can make the game tougher as most published adventures are often geared towards this number.  An experienced DM, though, would reduce the numbers of enemies to ensure there are not too many PC deaths. 😉

3. Dungeon Master: The DM will run the game. S/he will provide the detail of the setting, play the creatures and NPCs (non-player characters), describe events, actions, places, landscapes, etc. A DM can:

  • New to the game – buy the 5th edition starter set which gives a basic set of rules, 5 pre-made PCs and an adventure scenario – The Lost Mines of Phandelver.  Read the Starter Set Rule Book (32 pages) first.  It is also a good idea to read the adventure in whole prior to running the game.
  • Experienced DMs – create own adventures.
  • Don’t have time to create own adventures – buy in pre-made adventures.  Dungeon Master’s Guild is a super place to head for adventures you can download some for free, ‘pay what you want’ (please pay something as it takes time for creators to produce their work – $1 /£0.80 is not a lot to ask) or set price.  Resources here are produced by Wizards of the Coast (the publisher of D & D) and many fan produced works.
  • You can also purchase the campaigns published by Wizards of the Coast: eg. Hoard of the Dragon Queen; Out of the Abyss; Curse of Strahd, to name but a few.

4. Timing the Sessions: Ideally one would want to play D&D in sessions of 2-3 hours (more is brilliant).  In a school with a set timetable we have to fit a session into a 50 minute lesson (we are lucky to have timetabled activities on a Friday) or thereabouts.  It can be difficult to maintain continuity with short sessions, but carefully managed one can do it.  Pupils are often interested in the combat side of the game – the dice rolling, the miniatures on a battle grid – rather than pure roleplaying – so make that a bit more of a priority.  Don’t spend an entire session having them travel between towns with little happening.

Tips for keeping on task in short sessions:

  • Players – keep in the game. No off topic chatting. No mobile phones (texting, etc) unless using a D&D app for the game or for photographing miniature positions at the end of the game.
  • In non-combat encounters, let players discuss their plans between them. Ensure all get a chance to have their say if necessary, but don’t let such discussion drag out.
  • Turn order in combat = initiative – players must be prepared for their turn. If they aren’t ready or don’t make a decision on what they want to do, they lose their turn or drop down to the bottom of the initiative. For time saving, on can just go round the table in order.
  • DM keep notes and encourage players to keep notes.

5. Types of Action: The D&D world is whatever you and your players want to make it.

Social Interaction: Non-combat: interaction with NPCs (non-player characters) – usually roleplay with a little dice rolling to determine outcomes.

Exploration: Travelling; resting & downtime; investigating / searching for clues; shopping; negotiating traps and obstacles.

Combat: the battles!

6. Table Rules: Have a set of table rules and stick to them.



How does D&D fit in with the Curriculum?

(Outcomes documents currently being updated)

D & D can be linked to several key Curriculum for Excellence outcomes within Health & Wellbeing, Literacy, and Numeracy.  The skills used within the context of the game (role playing; creativity; listening; talking; maths) are transferable to the real world.

Health & Wellbeing – Social interaction; inclusion; learning to build and maintain positive friendships; taking responsibility; decision making; being part of a group – teamwork; resilience – dealing with ‘setbacks’ within the game; learning to express feelings & emotions through roleplaying characters; decision making; leadership

Literacy – listening & talking; communicating; explaining; summarising information; making relevant contribution; selecting and using relevant information; reading; note taking; organising; linking information; creating texts (designing own adventures to run as a DM); persuading.

Literacy done, Sep ’18. Click on image to go to document.

Numeracy – addition & subtraction; negative numbers; rounding up or down; fractions; measurement; money (copper, silver, gold coins) and budget management; timekeeping.

Links & Documents 


Dungeons & Dragons website:

Lost Mine of Phandelver Pt 1 (uploaded to You Tube by Dungeons & Dragons)(Useful to get an idea of how a game is run. They haven’t used grids or miniatures.)

D&D in the Classroom

Detentions & Dragons – Introducing Dungeons & Dragons in the classroom (Podcast).

Useful Documents

Prepared by F. Sinclair, Librarian, referenced from the D&D Core Rule Books: Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, Published by Wizards of the Coast, 2014

Guidelines & Expectations – Including character creation guidelines, and house rules for games run by Mrs Sinclair

Character Sheet – Print back-to-back

Spell Sheet

How to Play / Dice – Overview

Using a Grid – Showing how movement, line of sight, cover and spells work on grid

Table Rules

Creating a D&D Character (This is how the Librarian, Mrs Sinclair, creates her characters.  Each person may develop their own system.)

Spell cards – Blank spell cards for you to note your spells on.

Orkney Library Winter D&D – Mrs Sinclair runs a monthly game at Orkney Library during the winter months, (usually) November through to March or April (barring illness). These guidelines specifically relate to these sessions and are adapted from the full Guidelines & Expectations shown above.


The following people have donated items to the RPG  activities group:

Mrs Sinclair (over the last 15+ years) (MtG cards; miniatures; mini painting materials; D&D resources and dice; prep time – done at home)

Michael Mordor, professional miniature painter (Miniatures, and mini painting trophy) (2017/18)

‘Professor Olaf’ (Detentions & Dragons Podcast) (D&D Miniatures) (2018)

D. Bull (ex-pupil) (several sets of dice)

Also, LotR Warhammer miniatures from an ex- teacher in the school (2018)

From benevolent folks in the D&D / RPG community on Twitter:

Sly Flourish D&D Publisher (Financial donation – resources chosen by pupils)

May 2018

Phillip Everson (Core rule books – PHB, MM, DMG; Xanathar’s Guide to EverythingTales from the Yawning Portal) (2018)

Melanie Dymond Harper (Character sheet masters) (2018)

Thomas Tauber (Dice) (2018)

Philip Vlummens (PHB; DM’s Screen; Army Painter brush set) (2018)

Daniel N (DMG) (2018)

Carl Clare (PHB) (2018)

Michael Mordor (Miniatures – a LOT!) (2018)

February 2019

Thank you to everyone who has donated items. Special thanks have to go to Michael Mordor who set up the request for donations as well as supporting us by donating miniatures for the pupils to paint. The generosity and support of the D&D / RPG community on Twitter knows no bounds.

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