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Beyond Books: Roleplaying At Your Ann Arbor District Library Is Much More Than Swords And Sorcerers

Sep 4, 2019

2019 Role Playing Game Fest Flyer
Credit Ann Arbor District Library / aadl.org

Ever think about roleplaying or getting involved in a game or event that includes that?  That is the focus of the next edition of “Beyond Books,” our conversation with the Ann Arbor District Library that presents hundreds of community events each year.

WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks with the library's Rich Retyi with Audrey Huggett, who created several different roleplaying programs for the library.


Roleplaying at the AADL

"The In-Between: Quest for the Keystone"
Credit Ann Arbor District Library / aadl.org

How It Got Started

The AADL has hosted more than 2,300 events over the last year—and Library Technician Audrey Huggett has been a big part of some of the most creative and experimental.

Audrey is a fan of role-playing games and wanted to conceive of a way to bring the RPG experience to library programming in ways that weren't intimidating to people scared away by the words Dungeons & Dragons.  Role-playing is so much more than swords and sorcerers. 

Past Roleplaying Events

Audrey created a murder mystery event around Halloween in 2018 called Murder at Raccoon Ranch, where she created the elaborate fictional town of Treton and populated it with five characters all embroiled in a murder mystery plot.  The library produced case files that included police reports, newspaper clippings, and ephemera, which patrons picked up or downloaded leading up to the event to study all the clues.  Then, five suspects—library staff in full character—sat on a stage in the lobby of the downtown library, while prospective investigators probed them with questions.  At the end, they made their guesses, and one of the characters was taken into custody after confessing.

Rich Retyi and Audrey Huggett of the Ann Arbor District Library
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

Audrey took parts of this experience to create "The In-Between: Quest for the Keystone."  This event created a world in the downtown library in which our reality and another are colliding.  It's up to patrons to explore the downtown library, speak with people who straddle both realities and learn what's happening. Then, at the end, they choose the fate of these two worlds.  Once again, library staff dressed in character and played roles, as patrons walked throughout the building, navigating different elaborate areas, led by a guidebook we printed beforehand and their own curiosity. 

What's Coming Up

"Murder at Raccoon Ranch"
Credit Ann Arbor District Library / aadl.org

Audrey is now working on a more on-the-nose role-playing experience called Role-Playing Game Fest!  September 14 at the Downtown Library from 1-5pm.  People can stop by and experience any of 10 role-playing games happening simultaneously in short-block sessions—way beyond the standard Dungeons & Dragons fare.  People can also paint miniatures while they wait. 

Then, Audrey is putting the finishing touches on her follow-up to Murder at Raccoon Ranch called Murder at Gallagher's Gallery.  A cast of library staff are reading themselves to act the part of suspects in another wildly creative event. 

Audrey can speak to how our staff come up with new and creative concepts, and how we all have support from administration to try new things, even if they aren't guaranteed to succeed.  She's pushing boundaries of play and creativity in library programming that's heavy on experiences and interactivity. 

Rasa Festival

September is also the kickoff of Rasa Festival: an India-themed multi-arts festival held annually in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.   

The AADL is hosting four of the events as part of the larger Rasa Festival, including:

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu