Local libraries teach children valuable skills using Dungeons and Dragons


Youth playing Dungeons and Dragons at Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries (FVRL) across Clark County, including in Ridgefield, are doing more than weaving fantastic tales and slaying monsters.

Instead, the teens and tweens coming in to play the table-top role-playing game are learning valuable problem-solving skills, as well as boosting their literacy and math knowledge, Ridgefield Community Library branch manager Sean McGill said.

During the games, McGill has also woven real-world subjects into the story lines to expand the youths’ interests in other reading materials, as well.

“I know these games improve literacy and math. They also enhance interpersonal skills and creativity. And there’s spillover from what’s taking place in a game that develops into a real-world interest,” McGill said. “I was leading a game where no one had ever heard of King Arthur, so I created an adventure in a fictional Camelot and was delighted when the players started reading about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. I borrow elements from all sorts of places and know this leads to outside reading.”

Librarian John Utsler began hosting Dungeons and Dragons games at Ridgefield Community Library in 2022. The backbone of playing Dungeons and Dragons is interpersonal skills and mathematics, he said. The challenges during the game are fictional, but the skills learned during play translate to the real world. The game reinforces English, social, storytelling and mathematical skills, Utsler said.

“That’s one of the reasons I like running the game here. It teaches a lot of important skills,” Utsler said.

Playing Dungeons in Dragons involves a party of players, where each creates a complex character with goals and abilities who go on an adventure or complete a mission. Their adventure is led by a “dungeon master,” who manages the game and creates challenges for the party to overcome.

Important decisions within the game are made by using dice rolls, Utsler said. Players must add or subtract modifiers from the rolled amount, depending on their character’s skills and abilities, to complete certain actions.

The game is complex, with a 320-page player handbook. Players are not required to memorize the rules before learning to play, however, Utsler said. When a new player joins the game, Utsler lets them join right away and teaches them the rules during play.

“This is a great place to learn. We’re more than happy having people come in who don’t know how to do the game. Yes, there’s a lot of information in total, but you don’t have to know it all at once,” Utsler said. “We kind of just throw them into the water, but we are their water wings.”

Ridgefield Community Library also provides the necessary materials for players to participate, Utsler said.

“They get a character sheet from me. If they need to borrow dice they can do that. If they need to borrow a figure, they can do that,” Utsler said.

McGill’s favorite aspect of tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons is player creativity.  Their innovative, and sometimes silly, problem-solving has created memorable moments.

“The best part as a dungeon master is being surprised at the creative ways that players solve situations,” McGill said. “For instance, I had a group that was fighting the big boss monster that they had been anticipating for 20 levels. I was prepared for a long combat, and instead they went ethereal, went inside the monster, and killed it from the inside.”

A limited number of libraries in northern Clark County offer in-person Dungeons and Dragons games at this time. Ridgefield Community Library and Three Creeks Community Library currently host games for teens and tweens.

Ridgefield Community Library, 210 N. Main Ave., Ridgefield, and Three Creeks Community Library, 800 NE Tenney Road, Vancouver, host Dungeons and Dragons from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

People interested in volunteering to host Dungeons and Dragons or similar tabletop roleplaying games for FVRL can sign up at fvrl.org/volunteer.

Virtual games, held online, are also available. To view all available games, visit fvrl.librarymar ket.com/index.php/events/month.