D&D in the Age of the Lockdown

I’ve post­ed here before about play­ing Dun­geons & Drag­ons with my kids. We played a few nights togeth­er last Sum­mer, but most of our fam­i­ly game nights in the months since were spent play­ing board games or pok­er. But, as the coro­n­avirus forced us all to stay put far more often than we’d all pre­fer, we need­ed to think of more things to do. For­tu­nate­ly, my friend, Ted, has a son who has got­ten very inter­est­ed in all things D&D as of late. Ted and I had dis­cussed the idea of play­ing table­top games with the kids and I’d always thought it would be inter­est­ing to try a dig­i­tal table­top site.

So, about three weeks ago, we all got togeth­er via speak­er phone1 and on Roll20.net. I end­ed up pur­chas­ing a dig­i­tal pack­age of the same adven­ture my kids had start­ed (they for­tu­nate­ly had­n’t made it too far and you’d be sur­prised at the re-playa­bil­i­ty of an adven­ture with total­ly dif­fer­ent deci­sions). The kids all rolled up char­ac­ters based on what they want­ed to play: a tei­fling fight­er for my daugh­ter, a drag­onborne ranger for my son, and a halfling wiz­ard for Ted’s son. Ted just picked the clas­sic dwar­ven cler­ic out of the pre-gen­er­at­ed char­ac­ters. Don’t wor­ry if half of those words don’t make any sense; just know that this is a fan­ta­sy adven­ture where they’re all play­ing fan­tas­ti­cal races of crea­tures who fight the evil hordes to save a vil­lage and sur­round­ing area.

Roll20 Screenshot of Dads and Kids Game Night
The play­ers fight some orcs in the Roll20 dig­i­tal tabletop

My kids are inter­est­ed in play­ing and seem to be enjoy­ing. Ted’s son is real­ly lov­ing D&D and is even run­ning his own game for some if his friends, which is awe­some! But it’s def­i­nite­ly a great way to be able to do some­thing with anoth­er fam­i­ly while still being togeth­er with the kids. All three of the kids have some inter­est­ing nam­ing schemes for their char­ac­ters, to be sure. We’re gen­er­al­ly keep­ing the ses­sions to about 2–1/2 hours each week. This ends being about two encoun­ters (read: fights with mon­sters) and the gen­er­al deci­sion mak­ing and role play­ing that comes along with the game.

As for being a dun­geon mas­ter, I can’t claim it was ever some­thing I was espe­cial­ly great at, but I’m hav­ing a real­ly good time doing it. I’ve learned a lot about 5th edi­tion D&D as well as the Roll20 plat­form (both are pret­ty great, if you ask me). I like to think I’m get­ting bet­ter as we go, too.

I hope it’s some­thing we can keep going, at least for a few weeks longer. Of course, at this point, it’s not at all clear how much longer coro­n­avirus response shel­ter-in-place orders will be in effect here (or any­where, real­ly). Of course, we could always just play in-per­son with our friends down the street should those ever let up. Imag­ine that, play­ing a pen-and-paper RPG togeth­er at the same table!

  1. My kids and I play togeth­er on PCs in our din­ing room while Ted & son play togeth­er in his home office. Though Roll20 has an audio chat fea­ture, it has ter­ri­ble feed­back in gen­er­al when every­one isn’t on head­phones. So, since we’re just con­nect­ing two house­holds, the speak­er­phone seems to work well enough for us. []

Family Game Night

We try to have a week­ly fam­i­ly game night. Usu­al­ly, this is a board game or sim­i­lar. The kids know that I have a bunch of old D&D books and are gen­er­al­ly famil­iar with the game. A cou­ple of weeks ago, a new D&D Essen­tials box set was released. This incor­po­rates a new mech­a­nism so that it’s eas­i­er for just 2 or 3 peo­ple to play (the game is typ­i­cal­ly best for 4–6 peo­ple and I don’t have that many kids). So I just off-hand­ed­ly checked that our Tar­get had the box set and asked if the kids want­ed to go with me to get it. I was sur­prised that my daugh­ter and my son were excit­ed to go out after 8pm to pick it up.

Yep, they’re def­i­nite­ly my kids.

They asked to play when we got home, so we stayed up until about 11pm rolling up some char­ac­ters and start­ing out on a first adven­ture (the one includ­ed in this boxed set). They did­n’t get a chance to fight any mon­sters but still seemed to have a good time. They’ve already asked to play again this weekend!

Dark Sun Worldwide Game Day Recap

While I might not be the strongest believ­er in fate, I hap­pi­ly rec­og­nize and accept serendip­i­ty when it occurs. I had signed up for the lastest Dun­geons & Drag­ons World­wide Game Day — to get play­ers famil­iar with the new Dark Sun Cam­paign Set­ting sup­ple­ment — with my local gam­ing group. As it turns out, I went to the wrong of the two venue address­es list­ed on the page. As luck would have it, there was anoth­er group there play­ing the same adven­ture (it is world­wide, after all) who had a seat for one more per­son. Not want­i­ng to let me sched­uled after­noon of gam­ing go by (thanks, Angela!), I jumped in.

It can be a mixed bag when going to a game table blind, but gen­er­al­ly it is a good expe­ri­ence. This was a great expe­ri­ence. The indi­vid­ual run­ning the table had loads of give­aways and free drinks arranged for play­ers. The group I was gam­ing were friend­ly and eager to play off one anoth­er dur­ing the four fiveAs it turns out, Dark Sun can have some addi­tion­al ran­dom encoun­ters due to the nature of the set­ting. We end­ed up run­ning an hour lat­er than sched­uled but it was no less fun and my ter­rif­ic wife enter­tained the kids with­out once call­ing me to ask where in the hell was I at. I’m not sure I’d have had that kind of patience in her shoes, and she’s awe­some for being so cool about it. And if you think I’m just try­ing to score some points; I can assure you she nev­er reads this site. hours of gam­ing. I missed the chance to play with some old gam­ing pals of mine but mak­ing new friends is always fun for me and these are guys I hope to roll some dice again with soon.

WWGD Dark Sun
Play­ing the Dark Sun set­ting adven­ture at WWGD 2010

The ambush­es just kept com­ing in this adven­ture. Dark Sun is a place where elves and tem­plars are trou­ble, and we kept run­ning into them.

As for the adven­ture itself, it was a good one. Sure it was the typ­i­cal “You’re in a bar togeth­er in the vil­lage and are approached by some­one offer­ing gold to find some­thing … ” but it did cap­ture some of the ele­ments that make Dark Sun a unique set­ting and offered some nice oppor­tu­ni­ties for role play­ing. As a mat­ter of fact, I a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to ham it up when my char­ac­ter lept into the dark pit ahead of the group and them climbed back up to report what he’d seen. I’d have glad­ly done so with­out the promise of real-world reward, but I got vot­ed best role-play­er of the ses­sion and won a set of con­di­tion cards for it.

D&D Condition Card Set
D&D Con­di­tion Card Set

Thanks to the group for vot­ing me to get these cards; which I will be using in every game from now on in 4th Ed.

So, enjoyed play­ing Dark Sun enough that I’m going to (lit­er­al­ly, as soon as click the Pub­lish but­ton) go pick up a copy of the Dark Sun Cam­paign Set­ting book. It’s like Dune meets Mad Max, but with d20s and I can’t wait to play some more.

Update: No, I was­n’t using “lit­er­al­ly” in a fig­u­ra­tive sense.

Dark Sun Campaign Setting
Dark Sun Cam­paign Set­ting — I was­n’t kid­ding about get­ting it today. Can’t wait to read through this.

Whiskerino — Day 90

This is my pho­to trib­ute to a pic­ture by Trey tak­en on Day 20 of Whiskerino.

Whiskerino - Day 90
Whiskeri­no — Day 90 (Clame­bute) - That’s Icewind Dale direct­ly North of my right shoul­der for you Driz­zt fans out there

And if that map looks famil­iar to you (or, per­haps, not all if you’re not a D&D fan), that’s because:

My Wall Map of Faerûn
My Wall Map of Faerûn

Wednesday Night D&D Group

Some­time in the Fall 0f 2008, I joined a group of folks I met through a Meet­up at Mike’s place in Spring Hill to play 4th Edi­tion D&D. This is a back-post of some pho­tos I took from a cou­ple of games in Feb­ru­ary 2009.

The orig­i­nal pho­tos (and com­ments) are on Flickr.

Battle at the Lighthouse

I played D&D at Mike’s place on Sun­day evening. We play-test­ed a new LFR adven­ture before its release lat­er this year.

Battle at the Lighthouse
The mini almost between the two columns is my char­ac­ter: a tei­fling Warlord

The areas above rep­re­sent the bot­tom and top floor of a light­house the par­ty was storm­ing to take back from an evil skull lord. What’s a Sun­day after­noon with­out pre­tend­ing to defeat pre­tend evil?

Five Fun Things For Friday — Father’s Day Edition

Ah, you did­n’t think I had been doing noth­ing all this time, right? Of course not. Here’s a few things that have been occu­py­ing my free time:

  1. Chas­ing the Baby — She final­ly fig­ured out crawl­ing a cou­ple of weeks ago. Peo­ple had told me that one day she’d just get it and then she’d be crawl­ing every­where and get­ting into every­thing. Some­how I had assumed that this would be a phase spread out of a week or two, at least. No, it lit­er­al­ly hap­pened that fast. One evening Angela sat her down, and she just sud­den­ly crawled over to my gui­tar and start­ed try­ing to pull it over onto her. She’s been into every­thing can reach since that moment.
  2. “The Wire — Sea­son Three” — This show is just as good as every­one says it is. It’s a won­der­ful bal­ance of per­son­al sto­ries and com­men­tary on mod­ern life. Heavy, of course, but not with­out a sense of humor. How­ev­er, you can­not watch this around your 10 month old daugh­ter. As a mat­ter of fact, the swear­ing and vio­lence is even a bit too high for Angela. Therefore…
  3. Wii Fit - Though we have a cou­ple of oth­er Wii games that we play a lot, as well (Mario Kart Wii and Dr. Mario), Wii Fit is real­ly a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. Though it uses a lot of game-like con­ven­tions, it actu­al­ly is tak­ing a gam­ing con­sole and chang­ing how you can use it. When (and it’s not as often as I need, any­more) I go run­ning, I can put that on my train­ing cal­en­dar. Regard­less of what exer­cise I do or do not do, the game mon­i­tors and tracks my weight loss progress. The exer­cis­es it offers are real and the feed­back is tru­ly help­ful to improve bal­ance, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and strength. Now, if we only had a big­ger liv­ing room to do those push-up/­side planks in!
  4. “Star Trek — Enter­prise” — Despite the net­work’s many hor­ri­ble choic­es for pro­gram­ming (Wrestling? Seri­ous­ly? WTF, Sci­Fi!? At least your stu­pid B movies and real­i­ty shows have some­thing to do with your chan­nel’s orig­i­nal line-up.), they do man­age to get some great syn­di­cat­ed series. Enter­prise was my favorite ST since Next Gen­er­a­tion, by far. I watched the first cou­ple of sea­sons but unfor­tu­nate­ly fell out of it (it was pre-TiVo for us). Now I can catch up. Too bad these weren’t in HD, though.
  5. Dun­geons & Drag­ons — 4th Edi­tion — Yeah, I know. The fan­ta­sy kick con­tin­ues. It’s kind of hard to explain. A part of me feels like I nev­er real­ly got to play D&D with a seri­ous group as a kid. When I tried, the rules were cum­ber­some and we nev­er got through any­thing. Now, I’ve found some folks who live around here, are my age and have sim­i­lar inter­ests, and who kind­ly let me come join a game. It’s been an absolute blast. I’ll expand on some of this in the near future, but if you’ve ever thought about play­ing a table-top RPG (and prob­a­bly even if you haven’t), the new edi­tion of D&D is real­ly a fan­tas­tic game.

2008 Worldwide D&D Game Day

Sat­ur­day, June 7th at The Game Keep in Her­mitage, TN. About 30 play­ers, both new and expe­ri­enced, came out to learn the new 4th Ed. rules and play a short game in Wiz­ard of the Coast’s World­wide Game Day.

2008 Worldwide D&D Game Day
This was the table card at each of the game tables that day.

This is back-post of my pho­tos from that event. I was at Table 1, if that’s not evi­dent by the pic­tures of game­play below. As I recall, every attendee got a free mini and a d20 to take home. The adven­ture was titled “Into the Shad­owhaunt” (I had to look that up; I remem­ber next to noth­ing about it). I do recall that every­one at the event was real­ly nice and the whole day was a lot of fun.

The orig­i­nal pho­to album and com­ments is on Flickr.