As the fantasy role-playing trope goes, “You all meet in the local tavern.”
Adventure Away was founded by theater major and event planner Apple Reese and computer programmer-turned improv enthusiast and dungeon master Wayne Denier II. Their business model is simple: arrive at their home Friday night, enjoy a home-cooked meal and some ice-breaker games, write up your Dungeons and Dragons character, then spend all day Saturday running through an adventure hosted by Denier.
“The community really accepted us,” Denier said during a phone interview, “Frederick [Maryland] has come out to support us.” The artsy town rests about forty-five minutes west and practically equidistant between Baltimore and Washington, DC. Game nights like these have been popping up in bars all across the country for the last few years; it was only a matter of time before the right people opened their doors and offered a weekend getaway into the lands of Faerun, the subterranean catacombs of the Underdark, or the enchanting forests of the Feywild.
Resident game master Denier came to the idea after honing public speaking skills with a local improvisational comedy troupe. Denier participated in a show where his troupe would act out scenes from Dungeons and Dragons with him sitting at a desk, 20-sided die at the ready, and prepared to describe challenges and play any necessary non-player character the troupe needed to bribe, seduce or battle.
“I loved improvising at the table,” he confessed, “Role-playing isn’t much different than being in an improv group. You’re creating a group mind. There isn’t always a plan.”
Even with the ability to think fast on his feet, his wife, Apple, comes from a career of live event programming. With her all day connecting people and promoting the business through social media and public events at nearby conventions and public venues, Denier has a growing roster of would-be clients and adventurers. Renting out multiple rooms in their house at different prices (if you want your own private bathroom, for example) comes with a continuous stream of e-mails and rain dates:
“This year [our business plan] it is 100 percent B&B with rooms available,” Denier explained. “We cater with continental breakfast, take-out orders and snacks through the day and a BYO policy on alcohol.” While 5th edition D&D remains the most popular game, Denier also has some back-ups if need be, but finds players both young and old sign up ready for a fantasy adventure.
So who shows up at their house ready for a weekend of make-believe? “The ages for these folks are all over the place. People with grown kids that used to play AD&D all the way down to high-schoolers. The hobby’s just expanding like never before. The body of my experience is that with groups who have played once or twice,” Denier said with a chuckle. “Just this past weekend [we hosted] a father and son, a couple, one person who came on their own. The table was full, we had five players, and they met the first night, created their characters, and then Saturday was all play.”
Once a group of would-be adventurers have booked a weekend, they have a chance to meet each other and Denier digitally through a “Discord Chat room, so weeks in advanced people can post questions, put up funny gifs, break the ice.”
Creating a space for the gaming community allows people of all ages and experience levels to spread both their knowledge and enthusiasm: Denier went on to describe how some of his players enter with an “encyclopedic” knowledge of D&D mechanics who then assist newer players how to do whatever their character wants. Younger players, who are generally more about antics and character than mechanics, are always ready to throw a monkey wrench into Denier’s plans, or summon a monkey and teach it how to throw wrenches. This diversity in experience “creates a peer-respect around the table [and keeps] everybody learning together.”
As Adventure Away steams through its first year, and bookings back-up into their one-year anniversary this coming November, it seems the old saying still fits in Elven, Dwarven, Gnomish or Orc: If you build it, they will come.