My D&D Class at the University of California

Often I cannot believe where I am and what I do. But this is biggest case of that ever: teaching a class with Dungeon & Dragons in the title that will go on a transcript at the University of California.

I have been working at the University of California, Merced since 2012 as a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program. Because every incoming freshmen must take a writing course their first semester, we are the number one point of contact for students on campus. Due to this exhaustive experience with new students frequently we are utilized for working in general education courses. Essentially this courses are to bring students into the overall fold of the university, so they do not pigeonhole themselves while being more aware of the diversity of academic topics available to them at the institution. Prior this was a course called CORE 1, which engaged in a “shotgun” approach, giving students a spattering of everything from astronomy, environmental sciences, art theory all while being writing intensive. It was built to give students in the 60-80 sections we had every semester a similar experience. However being a “writing intensive” course it ended up falling to the writing program to tackle despite it being an general campus initiative. That changed with SPARK and where my class on D&D and RPGs comes in.

SPARK is a general education class, but instead each course focuses around a specific topic while the students’ primary end goal being to formulate a research question on that topic. This enables a diverse set of perspectives to share and exchange how they tackle a topic all while having access to an expert on the topic to guide this journey. Interestingly enough the class is distinct “non-writing intensive.” When I first heard of the prospect to instruct this class, the D&D idea popped in my head. However I wanted to be a bit more conservative with my first time and opted for a class called “Social Media & Society.” Honestly it was a great class and a lot of fun. But that helped form my approach to my current SPARK seminar: Dungeons & Dragons Skills4IRL?

I have yet to walk into the classroom for this class, but I wish to share my expectations for it, for both my students and myself.


  • Have an idea of the tumultuous history of RPGs in the United States
  • See what skills RPGs can teach players that are applicable outside RPGs
  • See what opportunities for research and learning RPGs can offer

For me:

  • See what has changed in popular opinions about RPGs
  • Watch how research questions emerge from diverse voices and perspectives

I am about to go teach it for the first time. I will return with several things: the original proposal, what the major assignments will look like, and what sort of activities we will engage in. I am hoping to chronicle the course on here for the semester.

Follow me at OnlyPlayWizards for updates and to let me know of any questions you may have.