Renee Booker, a photo-lab assistant at Tweed Heads Big W, has a secret fantasy life.
Every Saturday night Ms Booker gathers with her friends to become a blue-skinned healing cleric with vampire-like teeth and ram horns.
Ms Booker is a proud member of the Gold Coast Dungeon & Dragons community, which is undergoing a resurgence.
“I started playing four years ago. I went to my friend’s house and he taught me how to make a character, it took me like three hours and off we went,” she said.
“I love the social aspect of it because unlike a lot of video games you’re right there with everyone.
“When you play D&D you make a character and you’re like this is a little piece of me, this tiny little plastic thing and I want it to live and do well.”
Video games are massively popular in today’s culture, but the in-person, role-playing adventure format of D&D has also grown in popularity.
A staple of teenage boys in the 1970s and 80s, D&D recently featured on the show Stranger Things, which could help explain its resurgence.
Brian Goldner, CEO and Chairman of Hasbro, the company that invented the game, told CNBC that people are more into ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ today than ever before.
“People are re-engaged with the brand because it’s a face-to-face game, it’s immersive and it’s a game that people really enjoy with one another,” he told Jim Cramer.
Gold Coast resident Elijah Fuller is an aspiring voice actor but to his friends he is also a talented storyteller and Dungeon Master (DM) for their weekly D&D game night.
“The DM is essentially like the referee of a game of soccer. You have all the players but it’s the referee who ultimately makes all the decisions whether things are in goal or not,” he said.
“As DM I initially set up an idea of what story I want based off a cool concept, campaign or world. Then I loosely come up with Non Player Characters (NPC) and towns and separate different cities.”
A non player character is something the DM controls who the players can interact with.
“I still play video games but to me D&D is a separate hobby. However, if I had to pick one I would choose D&D because it just gives you so much that you can’t get out of a video game.”
Damien Hutchins, manager of Southport Good Games holds free D&D sessions every Wednesday night and says that it has become more popular since starting Adventure League.
“Adventure League is one off adventures that start and finish in one night. It’s quick and easy so that you don’t have to be stuck here week in and week out as some campaigns can go for months and sometimes years,” he said.
“We have about 40 to 50 people who come on Wednesday nights since we started Adventure League.”
DM at Southport Good Games, Leith Vance found love in both the adventures and reality.
“I’ve been playing D&D for five years. I only have one friend in my life at the moment that I didn’t meet through D&D,” he said.
“I even met my partner here. He is currently backpacking across England but he usually manages psychiatric wards. He comes out of that having seen some interesting people and then some really kind of awful moments which is when he says he needs to play D&D and be in fantasy for a bit.
“But for me personally I just absolutely love sitting around at a table and creating a story,” Mr Vance said.
It’s the freedom to do whatever you want, to let go of the everyday pressures of life and behave in unusual ways that has Information and Technology graduate, Connor Emery hooked.
“Dungeons and Dragons is very liberating and gives us freedom and the ability to express ourselves in different ways,” he said.
“It lets you immerse yourself into a character that you otherwise couldn’t be in real life.”
“You get to play around with voices and accents and you can behave in a way no sane person ever would in real life.”
As a purple, six foot humanoid creature with demon blood who fights off evil, it is easy to see why Mr Emery loves his alter ego.
Karen Haslop not only loves to read but also manages a bookstore, so jumping into the fantasy world of D&D was almost a logical step for her.
“I find it’s really interesting because you get to be different people and explore different things within a safe space,” she said.
“I’m always in the fantasy world if I’m not here playing D&D I’m drowning in books and writing. It’s a whole world for me.”
The 23-year-old plays a monk called Analith and first started playing at Southport Good Games.
D&D has grown into a tabletop game that no longer hides in the shadows. It has expanded its audience and can be played by anyone with just a little imagination. It is a thriving opportunity to jump out of your comfort zone, make new friends and try something new.