Critical Reflection and Introspection Through Storytelling

Critical Reflection and Introspection Through Storytelling (CRITS) is a pre-approved honors experience that engages a group of students as collaborative storytellers in a fantasy setting. This will be done in the form of tabletop role playing, using the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition System.

No prior experience with this game is required to participate; however, if you would like to know more about the system: What is Dungeons and Dragons?

Campaign 1 (Fall 2022)
Our adventure begins at Zardigash University, one of the greatest wonders of the known world. This esteemed place of learning was constructed more than 500 years ago, on the very site of the founders' victory over an ancient dragon.

In those intervening years, students from all lands have since ventured here to complete their studies. The magical campus literally levitates above the city below, and the knowledge safeguarded within is considerable. Such resources might empower ambitious individuals to solve many of this world's complex problems... or, to remake the world entirely. 

Players will assume the role of first-year students admitted to this competitive institution. As they begin adjusting to life on campus, a looming threat gathers in the shadows. Will they be able to navigate their academic and personal responsibilities, all while untangling a sinister mystery? 

Although individuals familiar with fantasy will recognize tropes of the genre, each student will also select a goal for personal growth—both for themselves and for the character they will be creating and portraying. 

Examples of Gameplay Goals

These goals include confronting and working through potential struggles, such as:

  • self-worth
  • identity formulation
  • cultural assimilation
  • mental health
  • family dynamics
  • social/political power
  • ownership of academic pathway

We will engage in goal setting as a group during our first meeting. In addition to these personal goals, the group will use communication, action, and teamwork to face larger issues and themes.

Getting Started with Role-Playing Games

The coordinators of this experience - Kyle Key and Marcell Crawford - will set you up with everything you need to play! All you need to bring are your ideas around a character you would like to explore. We recommend that you brainstorm character traits and identities both similar and different to your own (keep in mind that you will need to articulate these ideas in your initial application). 

While it is true that tabletop role-playing games often use dice rolls and fantasy combat to determine inflection points in a story, it should be noted that those participating in this experience will be asked – and challenged – to immerse themselves in their character, as that internal story is just as powerful and important as the external one. Growth occurs when we encounter new experiences and engage across difference, and both will be common themes in this adventure.

The fantasy genre has often delved into prescient issues in society, and these ethical, moral, and social questions are essential for undergraduates to explore during their time at UC. The larger group framework of the experience will often challenge students to make an impact on events and individuals within the fictional world; beyond that, they must also contend with both the intentional and unintentional consequences of that impact. 

This experience is an accessible option for students who might not otherwise feel ready to step fully out of their comfort zones by taking on a leadership position or going on a study tour, among other examples. Within this game, there are plentiful opportunities for participants – through the added, protective lens of their characters – to build confidence and public speaking skills, as well as to engage across difference and better understand intercultural development. As this occurs within the game world, it will also take place within the group of students themselves. In this way, the experience will also yield a smaller-scale version of the interdisciplinary teamwork and learning that is present in all honors seminars. The ability for CRITS to meet students where they are and explore a goal that they select will make for an impactful, adaptable experience for each new group.

About the Game Masters

Kyle Key (he/him)- Assistant Director & Honors Advisor

Kyle has been an avid reader and fan of fantasy and science fiction for as long as he can remember. Although he had brief forays into Dungeons & Dragons during his childhood, and again in early adulthood, his love for the game did not fully take hold until the pandemic, when he was introduced to Critical Role. Shortly thereafter, he began to run games virtually for groups of friends. He now has hundreds of hours of experience as a Game Master and knows that he has found a life-long creative outlet within this lovely game. 

Kyle believes in the power of storytelling and recognizes how emotional and deeply cathartic it can be. He also recognizes that popular fantasy has limited important voices by being historically Euro-centric and male-dominated, and the genre still has a long way to go to include all people in meaningful ways. He hopes to be part of that ongoing change, as he highlights diverse voices at the table and firmly reinforces the role of the Game Master: to show that the players are the heroes of the story.

As a player in one of his sessions, you can expect:

  • Player character agency
  • An array of NPCs with diverse identities
  • Emotional scenes 
  • Funny noises!

Marcell Crawford (he/him)- Assistant Director & Honors Advisor

Marcell, like many, was first introduced to D&D through the Netflix show Stranger Things and the McElroy Brother’s podcast The Adventure Zone. Shortly thereafter, he engaged in his first campaign in 2016 with a group of his fellow graduate students. Since that initial foray, Marcell became hooked and has been continuously involved in at least one campaign. His experience as a party member with various groups has made him adept in understanding other’s motivations as they work towards the achievement of mutual goals.

Marcell is most passionate about the community development that occurs when a group of people engage in a role-playing game like D&D as well as exploring the lasting implications of player decisions. Be it with acquaintances or close friends, he believes that a campaign will help players develop an appreciation for the ways their group members identify novel solution to challenges; empathetically respond to the needs of others; and avoid functional fixedness in even the most puzzling of scenarios. Marcell aims to elevate the voices and perspectives of all players and promote the idea that you are only as strong as your team.

As a player in one of his sessions, you can expect:

  • To grow as a party and as an individual
  • Political intrigue and game theory
  • Puzzles with multiple solutions
  • Long term payoffs to player actions