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. []

Creating Music (Notation) Together

My wife, Angela, stud­ied music for the first cou­ple of years at col­lege. She plays the flute and still per­forms a few times a year (most­ly at our church). How­ev­er, in all the years we’ve been togeth­er, we’ve nev­er actu­al­ly played any music togeth­er. In fact, we haven’t real­ly cre­at­ed many projects togeth­er (aside from two kids and numer­ous DIY house projects, of course).

Well, a cou­ple of weeks ago Angela was asked to play a short piece of her choos­ing at a Wednes­day night church event. She decid­ed it would be fun to have out daugh­ter and anoth­er young per­son from church, both of whom also play flute, to play a wood­wind trio. Angela picked one of her favorite hymns and asked me to tran­scribe it using Mus­eScore. Oth­er than help­ing the kids search that site for some piano sheet music, I did­n’t have much expe­ri­ence with it or the desk­top appli­ca­tion.

After a few min­utes, I had the piano tre­ble clef tran­scribed in a file. I dupli­cate that part into two copies. Then came the fun part. Using the arrow keys to start re-arrang­ing the piece. When I told it what instru­ment would be used for each part (in this case, a flute trio), it hand­i­ly would col­or code notes that were get­ting out­side the range of that instru­ment. Now, I don’t actu­al­ly play the flute and aside from that note range and the knowl­edge that a flute can’t real­ly play one than more note at a time, I con­sid­ered this a first pass. Angela then went through the piece and indi­cat­ed what notes need adjust­ing (a lot of them). She also bor­rowed from the bass clef and added in some flour­ish­es of her own lik­ing. The play­back isn’t per­fect (you’d nev­er think you were list­ing to any­thing oth­er than syn­the­sized instru­ments) but it’s very help­ful in arrang­ing. What’s more, Angela and I got to work on some­thing cre­ative togeth­er!

The three of them played the piece last night at the can­dle­light ser­vice. I though it sound­ed great but as I end­ed up as the litur­gist, I did­n’t get to record them per­form­ing. But, you can at least see and hear the piece here:

Today We All Are Called to Be Dis­ci­ples Flute Trio by amdy­er

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!