Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you?
Hi! I’m Dan Wood and I’m a d20 Enthusiast! In my day job I’m a Principal Librarian of Youth and Literacy services and comics librarian. I’ve been working in libraries for over 20 years, and it is where I learned that I’m passionate about using pop culture in education be that with comic books or tabletop role-playing games. I am a member at large on the Creators, Assemble Bboard. I oversee our TTRPG side of projects and am a regular Dan of All Trades.
How did you get started playing tabletop RPGs?
I first played tabletop RPGs online back in early 2000 where play by post was popular. I ended up playing D&D 3.5 Ravenloft Curse of Strahd. I was in that campaign for about maybe 2 years. It was where I learned how to roll digital dice and narrative storytelling. From there it was many years again until I played Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition back about in 2014-2015. I was a player for about 2 years and then I decided to make the leap into being a DM and I have never looked back. I really enjoy the aspects of being a DM because of the creativity of working with your players to tell a really interesting story and build a narrative beat that is just phenomenal and also encourages learning.
What was one of your favorite tabletop RPG moments?
One of my favorite RPG moments is growing as a DM because of live streaming TTRPGs on the CA Twitch channel. I have had the absolute joy and pleasure playing with multiple folks from across the world that have allowed me to tell silly stories and serious stories and everything in between.
A group of us built a really amazing story for a short mini series called Agents of Nyx. It was ancient greek myth meets Suicide Squad – the players were given missions that they had to complete in order to stop realm ending catastrophes. The amount of bonding and emotional connection and actual feeling from that mini campaign is going to live with me for the rest of my life. We truly bonded as players and friends, and this, to me, speaks to the power of tabletop role-playing games and how it can be used in education and classrooms.
Can you tell us about Creators Assemble?
Yes! Creators, Assemble’s mission statement is “We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness of social and educational benefits of comics and pop culture across mediums. Our team provides support for libraries, educators, publishers, retailers, creators and aspiring professionals, including identifying opportunities for talent to get paid to follow their dreams.”
We are teachers, librarians, artists, writers and professional geeks with a combined 100 years of experience promoting global literacy through comics. Our team is dedicated to connecting writers, artists, and other educators to career professionals in their intended space. Creators, Assemble! is the place for inspiration, community connection, reliable resources, support and professional development.”
What makes Creators Assemble particularly unique?
Creators, Assemble! is a small but effective team that works on a wide variety of projects. Some of what we do includes:
- promoting literacy through comics and pop culture on a global scale
- providing connections and opportunities to artists and writers to get paid for their work
- supporting teachers and library professionals with pop culture based curriculum and resource
- providing a tangible, supportive community to help people get what they need via the comics and pop culture space
One of the more recent projects we worked on was blind date with a banned comic book in order to support the freedom to read. Bans and challenges to comic books are not new; sequential art has been filled with creative expression, and that freedom can attract criticism. Moni Barrette (co-founder Creators, Assemble) led in an initiative where folks could sign up to be paired with a banned comic book based on their interests. They would then be mailed a banned comic book to read, and all we asked in return was two to three sentences about their experience focusing on what they thought the comic.
We’ve also utilized the CA Twitch Channel to feature indie developed TTRPGs, “Talks TTRPGS” interviews with members of the TTRPG community, one shots, and charity efforts.
CA also creates educational resources for teachers and librarians and graphic novels. We have an educators tool kit for the use of graphic novels in classrooms, and we are currently in development of an educators tool kit for TTRPGs in classrooms.
How do you think teaching with graphic novels and tabletop RPGs is related? Do you see any synergies between the two?
Comics and tabletop role-playing games are related to teaching as they appeal to students differently. Everyone has a way that they learn be it through visual, experience, auditory, or any other combination.
The wonderful thing about comic books is our brains naturally get more information from images and paired text. It is a great way to encapsulate complicated concepts be it in math, science, or literature and convert it into a simpler form to understand.
On the related side of that, tabletop role-playing games give players a chance to embody and experience through role-playing how a world might be. You can very much take a role-playing game and teach simple math, you can teach some history, you can even incorporate a little science if you’re creative.
In the educational field and at schools libraries or after school programs, it’s highlighted that play is important for kids growing up. Play encourages risk, it encourages taking chances, it is a way to work out through roleplay various life scenarios. Just through my personal experience in playing roleplaying games, I have learned a lot about myself and other people. It is healthy to play. And you can always take a comic book and turn it into a TTRPG! The synergistic connection between the two is pop culture interest. People learn better when they’re engaged and interested in the topic and a good way to do that is through comic books and tabletop role-playing games.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to introduce new players (especially kids) to tabletop RPGs or new readers to graphic novels?
My best advice for folks wanting to introduce new players, especially kids to tabletop role-playing games is to start simple. Get a d20 narrative, tell a story and just roll the dice. Use your imagination to play the game and engage at the kid’s level. I have friends that have run D&D for their now 9-year-old for at least the last 3 years, and it is a wonderful exercise in play and learning.
For graphic novels, wherever the kids are interested in! If it’s challenging, let them try it! I’m a big fan of letting kids pick what they want to read (age appropriate of course). I am happy to provide recommendations if folks would like to reach out to me!
Do you have any final words or shout outs?
Big shout outs are to Moni Barrette and Joe Barrette who co-founded Creators Assemble back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Moni and Joe saw the potential of what could be done with pop culture, education, and the many years of experience we all had. The current board that is running Creators Assemble are amazing folks, and we couldn’t do it without them.
Also, all of the folks that we’ve had the great pleasure of working with in the TTRPG space – it has been phenomenally welcoming and a life-changing experience for all of the CA team. It would take me too long to list everyone out, but you all know who you are and you’re all simply amazing and I think the world of you!
Final thought: If you’ve never played a TTRPG, do!
Thank you Dan for doing the interview and helping us to learn about Creators Assemble! I look forward to seeing the TTRPG educators toolkit and all the amazing projects and events that you have set!
Creators, Assemble! is an awesome non-profit organization working to help kids learn through comics, tabletop RPGs, and other forms of media as well as helping artists to get paid for their work. Check them out here both to support and to see the awesome tools they have available!
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