Minot native rolls the dice on table top gaming
Table top gaming has been a part of the culture fabric ever since Gay Gygax and Dave Arenson unleashed Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) into the world. The popularity of the pastime has exploded in recent years, with millions of players role playing and inhabiting their alter egos in innumerable fantasy scenarios.
In recent years, this booming market has grown from a niche one stereotypically appealing to the “nerdy” set to one that appeals to a wide variety of individuals. One Minot native has jumped at the opportunity to provide high quality products for players and the Dungeon Masters controlling the fates of their characters with every roll of the dice.
Luke McIntosh grew up in Minot and first played table top games with friends after working late shifts doing tech support in a call center. While attending Minot State University, McIntosh studied abroad in Northern Ireland in 2003 through the International Student Exchange Program. While he was there, he found time to meet up with a former pen pal whom he soon married, moving to the Emerald Isle permanently in 2008. McIntosh worked in the corporate realm for a company called Cognizant, but didn’t have much time to dip his toes back into the world of table top gaming.
“I got back into Dungeons and Dragons in 2015. I was so focused on my career and having a young family, so it took that long to get back into it.” McIntosh said, “I had spent 20 years in corporate work, and I was at my limit. I had to do something completely different.”
That something different wound up being a fusion of his rekindled passion for table top gaming and working with his hands, as he realized there really wasn’t much of a player base for Dungeons and Dragons in his adopted home. He began exploring the creation of dice trays to fill the needs of the gaming market in Ireland, selling first on the digital storefront Etsy before growing into a significant player in the industry of table top gaming accessories.
“My father was a jack of trades and his passion was working with his hands in the shop. I’d go out there with him and help out with stuff. I always liked working with my hands, and messing around with wood.” McIntosh said, “You don’t always realize the implications of decisions when you make them. Everyone needs dice, and now I’m on a five-year journey.”
Beginning in July of 2017, his company, Dakota Irish, produces premium handcrafted dice trays, and specially designed dice, building up to include myriad of other products and accessories to make any group session more personal or complete. McIntosh does his best to produce his products by hand, or by contracting local producers, with the dice being manufactured by partners in China. After years of steady growth, McIntosh found his business uniquely prepared to survive the world of Covid-19 restrictions that shuttered many other small operations in 2020.
“A lot of businesses in Ireland went under. They weren’t designed to work online, and we already were prepared for it. For me It’s all about quality and uniqueness. We were constantly bringing in new designs and making new sets. People had a little extra money because they couldn’t go out and drink.” McIntosh quipped.
In 2020, Dungeons and Dragons parent company Wizards of the Coast estimated that around 50 million people played the game worldwide. Ireland, however, hadn’t quite caught on when McIntosh first started rolling out his products, but he knew from spending so many years in the country that Irish people were born role players even if they didn’t know it yet.
“The Irish are great storytellers. They gather in their favorite pub in the snug nattering to each other. They’re sitting around a table with their mates telling stories, and arguing about what did or didn’t happen.” McIntosh said, “I just point out that all you’re doing with D&D is adding dice. It’s interactive storytelling with the dice acting as the referee.”
McIntosh is a strong believer in the positive role that games like Dungeons and Dragons have in the lives of people all over the world, from youths in school with socialization, as well as with members of the LGBTQ community.
“Everybody knows somebody who plays. It gives people the freedom to be themselves. People don’t understand how powerful table top RPGs can be for marginalized communities and individuals.” McIntosh said.
In the years since he started, McIntosh’s operation has grown out of his garage into a dedicated workshop, offices, and warehouse, employing eight people, including his wife, who left a career in animation with Brown Bag Films to manage Dakota Irish full time. To date, Dakota Irish has shipped over 70,000 orders to over 50 countries.
“People try to pigeonhole D&D players, but today you can’t do that with this industry. We come from everywhere, but they don’t see the breadth and scope of who these people are,” said McIntosh.