Column Description: This column will attempt to demystify, and advocate for current trends in youth culture that may be incorporated into library services. Taking a no-nonsense approach by using communication with active patrons, and paying attention to figures, our goal is to provide enhanced services, better patron experience and engagement, and improved stats and circulation.

Since May 2020, our Zoom program D&D Plus has been a lifeline between Youth and Parent Services at Huntington Public Library and the teen patrons we serve.

Prior to this, D&D Lite met once a month in-house using pre-generated characters and an extremely paired down format of the popular RPG Dungeons and Dragons. Once Covid struck, however, we needed to go online. This had some fortunate and unforeseen benefits.

First, we were able to meet weekly. This meant we could really focus on character development and longer story arcs.

Second, meeting on Zoom was easier than meeting in person, and so we had more consistent attendance. In this, we were also able to host longer meetings for an hour and a half.

Third, the format of Zoom allowed us to take upwards of ten registrations - averaging seven each meeting. Having a handy mute button and the ability to take votes by raising the hand emoji integrated into gameplay.

Also, amazingly, with everyone’s dice out of view, attack and damage roles suddenly got really good! So they were able to fight stronger enemies, and perform greater feats.

D&D Plus via Zoom continues today, in an uninterrupted string of sessions since our first Zoom meeting, with monthly registrations. 

So, a few quick words on starting your own online D&D program.

Most importantly, jump right in. You don’t need to know all the rules. Familiarize yourself with the basics, yes, but don’t let all the mechanics and lore intimidate you.

Our program, D&D Plus (again, what we used to call D&D Lite) is not really D&D at all. It uses a few of the mechanics and borrows from the cache of monsters and mythology. Our program was designed to introduce new players to what RPGs and D&D have to offer - what their game systems and play could be. The potential lies in our player’s imagination and ingenuity - and that is something they seem to intuitively excel at once a few ground rules for play are presented.

Allow the stories to follow a basic format or story arc for each session: Introduction, small enemy encounter, maybe a puzzle, riddle, or another story telling device of intrigue, then a tougher or “big boss” encounter. Survey your players after each game to see what worked and what didn't, then adjust for the next meeting. You will see, as everyone becomes more comfortable with the rules that you negotiate together, that the ideas and expectations for adventures will bounce back and forth as a dialogue between and amongst your players, and yourself - the GM (or Game Master)

That’s it, there’s really no other “magic” to it. 



If you have the budget, you can offer “D&D Welcome Kits” to new registrants which include a set of dice, mechanical pencil, some graph paper, and some character sheet printouts. Everything they need to play, keep track of their characters, and maybe sketch out future campaigns.

Make sure to have a least once circulating copy of each in your teen collection: Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual. If you see that your program is taking off, and have the budget for it, try adding some campaign sourcebooks to the circulating collection as well.

It also helps gamers of different interests and levels of proficiency if you can supplement the experience with other fantasy/RPG adjacent programs. We hired outside programmers, such as the Long Island Dungeon Master who ran a few virtual D&D sessions through Roll20, this month we’re offering an in-house Make Your Own Game Master Screen, to help teens organize their own adventures, and in March, Huntington Youth Bureau’s Project Excel will host a D&D Lore program on Tuesdays.

How long might this incarnation of our D&D program last is difficult to tell. Players rotate out for a few sessions - extracurricular activities, family obligations, work - and sometimes return, while new patrons fill the empty slots and refresh the game with their own interests and fantastical fancies. In this way, it could go on “forever” - so long as those new players keep joining, and there’s an interest in Dungeons and Dragons.

James Richeson is a Youth and Parent services librarian at Huntington Public Library with over ten years of experience. An advocate for tweens, teens, new adults, and parents, he specializes in patron-centered youth services, focusing on the needs of his local community to provide innovative library programs and materials. He was recently published in VOYA magazine, where he shared his 'Teen Programs To Go' initiative; which has been adopted by both public and school libraries across the US. When he’s not running a D&D campaign, coaching Battle of the Books, or discussing the latest Great Graphic Novel, he’s snapping together vinyl GUNDAM or building robots with the patrons he serves.