D&D in a Castle: Edmonton woman becomes 'dungeon master' for new gaming retreats
'For anyone who grew up playing that game, it's a dream'
Tara Rout has created a career for herself as the dungeon master for a very different kind of holiday experience.
She's is the mastermind behind D&D in a Castle, an all inclusive vacation which welcomes guests to play Dungeons & Dragons over four days in fortresses and mansions across Europe.
"A lot of our guests who discovered D&D as adults are looking for something more fun to do on vacation," Rout said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "Do you sit on the beach? Do you sip wine?
"Some people go on a hiking holiday, some people might go on a canoeing holiday, this is for people who love to sit and play games and enjoy that kind of a company."
Players who have signed up for this year's summer tour packages had the choice of campaigning for glory inside two different British relics: Caverswall — a 17th-century English mansion constructed within the walls of a 13th-century medieval castle — or Langley, a restored medieval tower house.
Rout said guests have been more than willing to shell out $2,650 for the role-playing fantasy which promises luxury accommodations, gourmet meals, a Barovian-themed costume ball and at least 24 hours of gaming time.
Rout and her D&D-loving brother Cameron Rout hosted their first luxury gaming retreat in France last summer.
She thought the retreat might be a one-time adventure but the idea has taken off.
Instead of organizing 19th-century-themed costume balls, a trademark of her Edmonton-based events company, Rout will spend most of her summer in the UK orchestrating the gaming retreats.
Last year, 36 guests attended the inaugural retreat at Château de Challain-la-Potherie. This year, 118 guests will be rolling the dice at four separate retreats.
Rout's inaugural guests are keen to come back and she's now collaborating with celebrity dungeon masters who will act as referees during some of the games.
She can barely keep up with the bookings. Plans for the summer of 2020 are already in the works.
Some guests were so pleased with the experience last year, they decided to get a permanent memento of the weekend.
"People have tattoos of D&D in a Castle, like half-sleeve tattoos. For many of our guests, [last summer] was a fulfilment of lifetime dream, a childhood fantasy."
"The idea of playing Dungeons & Dragons in a castle for anyone who grew up playing that game, it's a dream."
D&D is an intricate tabletop game which transports players to a magical realm full of epic quests and dangerous adventures.
Each player assumes a character such as a cleric or warrior. Players may be tasked with defending villages from fire-breathing monsters or unearthing a buried Druid fortress guarded by an evil, mind-controlling tree.
A dungeon master steers players through the campaigns and acts as the arbiter of a very long rule book.
The game has a huge cult following and some player groups have kept a single gaming campaign going for years.
While Rout didn't grow up playing the game, she's grown to love it.
"It's a really fun thing to do," Rout said.
"It's a really social and engaging and a really great way to pass the time on your vacation and escape reality which is what I'm looking for."