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.
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!
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. [↩]
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Also in the surprise-to-me-release category, Valve released a rather strange update to their 2007 hit Portal today. Though not much in terms of gameplay was added, the ever-present radios placed throughout the game now seem to have some sort of significance. Carrying the radios to various points within the level unlock a new game achievement. What’s more, the radios begin to broadcast various signals such as Morse code, data transmissions, etc. Some very crafty gamers have found that this is actually a rabbit hole leading to a out-of-game alternate reality campaign. Portal remains one of the most amazing games ever and if this is the how Valve chooses to start a marketing campaign for a sequel, then this bodes well for the future of the game. Here are a couple of screenshots I took while exploring some of the new game features:
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.
I played D&D at Mike’s place on Sunday evening. We play-tested a new LFR adventure before its release later this year.
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?
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:
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.
“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…
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.