Andy Stehr's Dungeons and Dragons game had everything. Well, everything but Red Vines, Cheetos and Mountain Dew.
On Wednesday nights, anywhere from five to nine local gamers settle around a specially crafted Dungeons and Dragons table, built by participant Justin Henry, to drink beer or cocktails, eat meat lovers pizza and play the role-playing game, invented by Gary Gygax and Minnesota native Dave Arneson 40 years ago.
The weekly game in Stehr's basement is one of several regular games in Rochester. Theo Derby, who like Stehr, has played D&D since the 1980s, said each group has a different philosophy.
"There is an interesting social aspect to Dungeons and Dragons where you have people who are really into it, and they get caught up in the numbers and being the very best in this fantasy world," Derby said. "Then you have a group like ours, where we are very laid-back. We have guys from all walks of life, and we just come here to have fun. We don't take this too seriously. If you're not laughing and living it up, you're missing the point of it."
Craig Cotton, owner of Book Review in Rochester, opens his store each week for another weekly Wednesday night Dungeons and Dragons game. While the game attracts around eight people each week, Cotton said the popularity of the role-playing game has fallen since its prime.
"It was crazy when it peaked back in the 1990s when version 3.5 came out," he said. "Now, it's really slowed down."
A fourth version of Dungeons and Dragons hit stores in 2008, but failed to match the popularity of the initial editions. Stehr started playing Dungeons and Dragons with his uncle and cousin when it was simply a board game back in 1982. He had played every other version as well. While he owns the fourth version, his friends play 3.5 in his basement. The group said it does not like how the newest version borrowed a lot from the online game World of Warcraft and charged several character classes.
"It tried to balance things a little bit better, but we like it unbalanced," Stehr said.
Despite his gripes with the fourth edition, Stehr said he plans to play the 5th this year. The update, called D&D Next, is set to be released this summer. Stehr hopes to try it out for the first time at the annual Gen Con gaming convention, which takes place Aug. 14-17 in Indianapolis. He expects the new edition to increase the game's popularity.
"It's something that waxes and wanes," he said. "The last time I was at Gen Con, I really felt like it was really all about video game stuff and there wasn't that much excitement about Dungeons and Dragons and stuff like that. But this time, if they are going to announce the fifth edition, there is going to be a huge push for Dungeons and Dragons, so it's really hard to say.
"There are always going to be people who prefer one thing to another, video games versus role-playing and also edition versus edition. There are always going to be people who loved the freedom of the role-playing setting. It's always something that is going to be there."
While gaming systems, such as Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox One costs hundreds of dollars, starting a Dungeons and Dragons game only requires the purchase of a Dungeon Master's Guide, a Player's Handbook and a Monster Manual. Most of the books cost about $25 or can be checked out for free at a library. Some games include miniatures and dice, which Derby said are affordable. Henry said you don't even need the Red Vines and pizza.
"All you need is a Perkins," Henry said. "They will just keep bringing the coffee."
Cotton says the game has lasted four decades in large part because of families playing together.
"It's just something people have grown up with," he said. "Like anything, the next generation of players will be the ones who played the game with their parents. A lot of the people that are doing it are carrying on the tradition."