Storytelling, problem solving, and dragons:

How two staff created a custom RPG Adventure program that sparked the imagination of Club members

Program Development Specialist

When it comes to interests, Dani and Mat Ridenour are as diverse as they come: they delight in music, art, learning about outer space, and playing games of all shapes and sizes. Both grew up playing games within the realm of fantasy, in particular, which ultimately led to their appreciation for Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG’s (or, “role playing games”).

Mat has worked for various Boys and Girls Clubs for almost 8 years, and currently works at the Wattles Club in SE Portland, while Dani has been working at the Meyer Club in Sellwood for about a year and a half. When I heard that they were leading a program called “RPG Adventure” at each of their Clubs, I sat down with them to learn more…

Why do you work for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Portland Metro Area?

Dani: I like working for the BGCP because I get to work with kids, teach them things, help them to be AWESOME, and encourage them to become great people.

Mat: For me, it’s very similar. I work here because it’s a job that actually matters. It’s not making sandwiches or bagging groceries…it’s making an actual impact. In a sense, you’re changing the future. It’s by far the greatest, and most fun job I’ve ever had.

Dani: Yeah. I second that.

How did your “RPG Adventure” program get started? Where did the idea come from?

Mat: When we went back home for Christmas this year, we played a game called “Hero Quest,” which is like “Dungeons & Dragons”—but simpler. When we returned to Portland, we decided it would be perfect for kids at our Clubs.

Dani: We adapted it for the Clubs. It was pretty simple, because there were only 4 character types to choose from, which made it easier for kids who had never played a fantasy-style game before. They chose their characters, then they could drop in, and go on a mission!

Mat: Then after that, we started playing D&D with them, because it’s more expansive. There are so many characters you can be!


How does the program work?

Mat: They begin with character development, we teach them the rules, and then we get into the actual game play. The staff acts as the Dungeon Master. They are like the story teller, and also, the one who plays all the monsters and random encounter characters.

Dani:  The DM comes up with the missions, the challenges, and decides what the players need to do to succeed. The kids are the adventurers.

Mat: Exactly. The kids solve the mysteries and overcome challenges as their characters.

What Makes This Program Successful?

Mat: One of the things that I think kids like about the program, is that it bridges the gap between board games, playing with toys, and storytelling.

Dani: Another reason it’s successful is the fact that the game is so adaptable. You can do a Star Wars version, a western version, a superhero quest…you can make it about whatever the kids are into. I think the most exciting part, for me, is watching the kids get so connected to their character, decide all the details, and decide how that character will move through this imaginary world.

Mat: RPG’s are great for kids because they build connectivity, strategic planning, and math skills. They’re doing math without even realizing it!

Dani: Exactly! They’re also practicing team work, critical thinking skills, and patience. Its making them think about their steps before they take them. Plus, it’s really fun! You make this whole adventure, they cheer when monsters die, and they work together to defeat the bad guy. Kids that have never shown interest in programs will make sure they’re there on “D&D” day. I’ve had kids pull their friends in, and they learn more by teaching their friends.

Mat: Yeah. Everyone’s favorite day of the club week is “D&D” day.

What’s next for “RPG Adventure?”

Mat: We’re doing the same storyline at Meyer and at Wattles. We’re going to reveal to them that it’s the same story happening in two parallel universes, and in the grand finale, the worlds will collide and the Meyer and Wattles kids will team up against the villains together.