BerlingsBeard & Wildrence – The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch [Review]

The eye of the beholder

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: October 8, 2019

Team size: up to 16

Duration: 90-120 minutes

Price: from $40 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign co-produced by Wildrence and BerlingsBeard. It was aimed at teaching new players the ropes. As someone who had played D&D only twice before, and most certainly didn’t yet grasp all the mechanics, I was the target audience.

A stuffed Beholder on a table.

We played the 9th chapter in an ongoing campaign… so we slayed a dragon.

Dungeon master Ken Breese was phenomenal. He made sure everything ran smoothly and all players, at all experience levels, had a good time. He was in control of the experience, but we felt like we had agency.

I had a wonderful time.

If I were to take up D&D – and I would, if I had more time – I would want a consistent group of players/ characters who could form relationships and tell a more coherent story. $40 makes sense for an introductory lesson or 3 with a skilled dungeon master, but if I were going to play a full campaign, $400 per player feels like a lot. And that’s the thing: I would want a full campaign.

The game map, characters, dice, buildings, and a white dragon strewn about the map.

The physical space of The Wildrence is fantastic in so many contexts, but it didn’t contribute enough to the experience to merit the price.

Ken was amazing. Our session was delightful. I am so happy that we went because I feel like I left a more confident D&D player. It was absolutely worth it one time. The question is: does that price point prevent a community from forming? My gut is that, for most, it does. And what I want out of my social gaming is connection.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • The D&D curious
  • D&D players without a party

Why play?

  • Smooth onboarding to the world of D&D
  • An outstanding professional Dungeon Master
  • To have your moment of glory

Story

We played the 9th chapter in a weekly D&D campaign hosted by BerlingsBeard and taking place at Wildrence. Players could buy tickets to a single session or multiple sessions. We played only a single session, but as the 9th chapter of a 10 chapter campaign, it was pretty badass journey.

We were adventurers on a quest to slay a dragon that was terrorizing a town.

The game map covered in dice with our chraacter models in the town.

Setting

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was co-produced by Wildrence and BerlingsBeard.

Our adventuring took place at Wildrence, the home of many New York City immersive productions. They’d staged The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch around a table in the kitchen area of the multi-purpose immersive stage.

Upon arrival, we each selected a pre-made character card. When we first sat down at the table, the dungeon master introduced the world and took us through our character cards, helping us round out the details of our desires and personalities.

The leather-covered table provided ambiance. Atop the table there were dice, maps, character figures, buildings, and a $^%*@#$%&*ing dragon. Our Dungeon Master triggered light and audio cues as we played.

The game map with our characters in buildings, and a dragon approaching.

Gameplay

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch was a game of D&D. The dungeon master built a world for us to explore and play within. He was decidedly in control of the main story beats; it was up to us to decide how we reacted and what implications that had for the world and the other characters in it.

Core gameplay revolved around exploring, imagining, storytelling, and rolling dice.

Closeup of two drink tokens.

Analysis

➕ The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch made D&D accessible for new players. Starting out, D&D can feel intimidating. There’s an entire world of information to learn in order to play the game. This experience was set up to minimize confusion and get new players rolling quickly.

➕ We had an assortment of pre-made characters to choose from, presented on cards. The cards gave us enough information that we could start playing without becoming overwhelmed. We didn’t need to understand everything on the character cards right off the bat either. It would be explained as it became relevant to play. We could also embellish these characters and make them our own.

➕ Ken Breese was a skilled dungeon master. At the onset, he asked us each questions to get us thinking about the characters we’d chosen, who they were, and what motivated their decisions. He helped us get to know our characters and their roles in the world.

➕ Our dungeon master had a plan for this chapter, the 9th of a campaign, but he made it seem like our actions resulted in the effects. He emphasized fun over all else. For instance, he made sure that everyone had their epic moment, even fuzzing the rules a little to accomplish this. (David knew that he was being handed his epic moment, but this wasn’t evident to me, as someone with almost no D&D experience.)

❓ Our Dungeon Master came in with a solid plan. We had a quest to accomplish and he made sure we saw it through. I liked this. It spoke to my need to get things done. However, I can see others preferring a more freeform style of dungeon mastering with more world exploration rather than storytelling.

The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch enhanced the experience with maps and figures, which was neat. The tangibles really helped me grasp what was happening.

➖ As a stage, The Wildrence didn’t add much. The game was set in the kitchen. Although the Dungeon Master controlled the Hue lights and sound cues, and staged the game with some leather on the table, that was about as much as the space offered. This experience would have been equally as engaging around just about any other table.

❓ Drink tokens were on sale: $15 for 2 drinks. The price was expensive by most standards… but not really by NYC standards.

➖/➕ The characters were uneven. One of the 4 people in our group had attended previous chapters of The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch. She’d developed a character who was overpowered, compared to our new characters. She had magical weapons! We appreciate that players can book into a single session or many sessions, playing as often as they’d like, and using the campaign as an opportunity to truly learn D&D, as she’d done over the weeks. That said, it made for some overtly imbalanced gameplay dynamics.

➕ Our Dungeon Master kept the experience energetic and engaging.

Tips For Visiting

  • A few of our favorite restaurants in the area include Russ & Daughters CafeVanessa’s Dumpling House, and Mission Chinese Food.
  • By subway, take the F to East Broadway. Street parking can be challenging in this neighborhood.
  • Wildrence is located down a flight of stairs.
  • Wildrence is hosting a D&D-themed open house on November 12 and their next D&D campaign will be a mini 3-session holiday campaign on November 19, November 26, and December 3.

Book your session with The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch comped our tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “BerlingsBeard & Wildrence – The Dragon of Dreyfus Gulch [Review]

  1. Reading this post brings back a flood of memories from my youth of long, epic campaigns. I agree that if you are going to play D&D you should play through the whole campaign to really get the full experience. I tried to play again a couple of years ago. Our 6 hour session flew by and I sadly realized that its just more time than I can commit to these days.

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