You might think you know what Girl Scouts do: provide community service, go to summer camps, and offer you the chance to buy a box of cookies or two. (Or six.) But did you know they also roll dice and defeat monsters—and earn a patch for it? It’s all thanks to Dungeon Scouts.
Gary Astleford is a Girl Scout Troop Leader in southern California and a longtime player of tabletop role-playing games. “Games, especially TRPGs like D&D, have been a huge part of my life for three decades,” says Astleford, “and the impact the hobby has had on me, both personally and in my career, has been monumental.”
He credits the documentary DnDnG, which highlights girls playing Dungeons & Dragons, for the idea behind introducing the game to his troop in 2014. “The film inspired me to approach my local Girl Scout service unit about my idea, and they encouraged me to create a badge program around TRPGs. The rest is history,” Astleford says, and Dungeon Scouts was born.
Astleford has taken Dungeon Scouts from a simple Dungeons & Dragons game with his own troop to a patch program offered to Girl Scouts nationwide. Through the incredibly helpful web site that Astleford provides, troops can find a pre-made world, characters, and adventures (based on 5th edition) that honors the Girl Scouts and their ideals in the unique fantasy setting of Elustra. Troop leaders can even order their own patches to bestow upon their own Girl Scouts who complete the requirements.
Dungeons & Dragons and Girl Scouts may seem like an odd pair, but the magic of creating a character and banding together for an adventure has universal appeal. “While every scout group I’ve taught has been different, they all enjoy creating their characters, choosing their races and classes, and defining what they look like,” Astleford says. “They usually illustrate their characters, too.”
“Some players are shy about acting in character at first, but that doesn’t usually last too long, especially with their friends role-playing at the table next to them. Plus, everyone enjoys rolling the dice!”
The girls’ adventures in Elustra require a dedicated troop-leader-turned-Dungeon-Master, but Astleford’s comprehensive materials online can help even beginner DMs run a game.
“As long as a troop leader is willing to learn something new (and they usually are), it’ll come together,” he says. “I suggest that interested leaders find out if anyone they know plays D&D (or another game) and tap them as a source of information.”
The amount of thought and time that Astleford has contributed to Dungeon Scouts is apparent through the materials and assistance he provides to other troops across the country. While the girls can’t earn a badge yet for playing Dungeons & Dragons, Astleford is simply happy to be introducing the joy of games to the Girl Scouts.
“I’ve been contacted by leaders who are running their own workshops using the Dungeon Scouts materials,” says Astleford. “Even if it remains a patch program for the rest of forever, I’m still really pleased that it’s been noticed by scouts and leaders across the country and that girls are learning how much fun TRPGs can be.”
Do you have any tips for introducing Dungeons & Dragons to young players? Let us know in the comments!
All images: Amber Turner