CRITS logo imposed over image of students chatting in classroom

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 Setting
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

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 Lead Storytellers of this experience 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.

Meet the Lead Storytellers

Julianne Noffsinger (she/her) - UHP Nursing Student

Julianne has been a part of the fantasy and science fiction fanbase for a very long time. Everything from Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson always caught her interest. Starting in High School, she began delving into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. It started with a podcast called Not Another DnD Podcast (or NADDPOD for short), and soon developed into a bit of a hyperfocus. Beginning in 2018, Julianne has consistently played, run, and consumed DnD content. She has enjoyed media such as NADDPOD, Unprepared Casters, and Critical Role. Over these years, she has also accumulated hundreds of hours of experience in both playing and running games. 

Julianne believes that roleplaying and spending time with friends using a medium like DnD can be healing for the soul. She has also had her fair share of negative experiences with the male-dominated Dnd community; as a result, she makes sure to facilitate a welcoming and warm environment whenever she plays. She encourages players to be their authentic selves at her table, and she is excited to tell more collaborative stories in the years ahead!

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

  • Many, many puns
  • Diverse and unique NPCs to interact with
  • Roleplaying opportunities with emotional impact
  • Character voices!

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 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 Lead Storyteller: 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
  • Emotionally-driven storytelling 
  • Funny noises!