It’s not about the stats!

With every Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (DCC RPG) session I judge, I learn something new. I learn that every player that comes and sits down at my open Road Crew table comes with their own perception of what roleplaying means.

It has been quite some time since I was in high school where my extra curricular activity was drama club. And in growing up, playing with Barbie dolls, I pretended in many make-believe settings. The books I did read, I enjoyed seeing the world develop inside my head. I did not have stats that I made sure I was correctly playing. Yes, I wanted to be the most liked and see as the one who could do it all and come out of the game as the winner. But it was in playing and being imaginative with what I wanted to do and not set on stats. What happened to the creative imagination of those that are now in their twenties and thirties?

I’m in my fifties now. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. I was in college in the ’80s. I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the 2010s. I knew of D&D in the ’80s. It was taboo. It was considered satan worship. Did I know what it was? Of course, I didn’t. I couldn’t get near a game and honestly, I was scared of it. I grew up in a conservative Christian home. Now, before you go all political on me, conservative, in how I’m using it means: holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to religion. I grew up in a Mennonite home. Not the conservative dress sect. But I do remember when my parents said that playing cards were not to be in the house or played with. I think, though, that by the time I left elementary school and started middle school, playing cards were allowed. My parents played “Rook” a lot with a group of friends that they invited over. It got to be a game group for them that they even rotated through each couple hosting the game night.

We played a lot of board games. There were several years in the ’70s that getting a new board game or two was what we could expect as our Christmas gifts. One year, I think, between my twin sister and I, we got five board games. Family holiday gatherings were spent around the table with cousins playing board games for hours on end. Traditions and memories were made.

I went on a tangent there that I didn’t necessarily mean to go on. The purpose of this blog post is to write about role-playing and what it is or at least what I believe it is. Role-playing is to play a role. What is a role? A role is an actor’s part in a play, movie, etc.

When you take on a role in a role playing game, you are the character you come to the table with or the character you take on at the table. The rules for the game should be left to the game master, dungeon master, judge, referee. In a way, I wish the stats were only seen by the judge for each character. The players are given a description of their character with a description of each stat. Example: (and I’m pulling this off the top of my head as I type)

“You are a warrior. You have great strength. Due to your armor, you are not as agile as the thief who stands beside you. You wield a great ax along with your pack of provisions. You may not be the smartest of the group of adventurers you are with, but you are not the dumbest either. You have a great will, a positive fortitude, but not so good reflexes.” 

In this way, you, as the GM, regain the control of the rules. Okay, I will be honest, I do not like meta-gaming! And I do not like min/maxing! Period! I will call players out during a game. For example, I don’t want you saying to me that your PC has a Strength of 16 and could do it. NO! I want you, as your player to say “I walk up and I take my fist and punch it through the door.”

This was the case at last Saturday’s Road Crew when I had a new player at the table who, get this is a D&D 5e player. And maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the newer or maybe I should say younger RPG players. OMG, but those of you who are GMs, please STOP teaching your players that numbers matter!

So, for the length of this blog and purpose of this blog, I have just hit on the reason for this blog. My ultimate message here is that “It’s not about the stats!” It’s not about the numbers! Yes, add the modifiers of the numbers you happen to have for your PC, but just because your PC may have a high number in Strength or Personality/Charisma does not mean that what you want to happen will happen. I don’t darn well give a flip about what number you have in a stat. Just tell me what you want to do and I will give you something to roll.

GMs, please do not teach your players that they are playing stats. Please, let’s just role play by pretending you are your character. What would your character do? Build your PC to be a hero. Stats only matter in regards to what your dice will roll.

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The Writing Block

For the month of November, there is a writing activity called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. In 2011, I participated and wrote over 50,000 words in 25 days. It was a lot of fun. I wrote with abandon and was surprised at what came out of my head as a story. A mystery story which entitled “The Pretzel Twist”. Glady Rudd, living on her family’s farm was a baker of pretzels. Her next door neighbors have thirteen-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. The twins enjoy Glady’s pretzels and also playing on and around the farm. They discover some interesting antiques covered up in the Rudd barn. And the root cellar is more than what they ever expected.

So now we are in 2018. Where did that story go? I wish I knew. It never got edited. Today I am working on another type of story. In the last couple of years, I have started gaming in role-playing. Specifically Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC RPG). I started out playing some Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5 but found it too full of rules. DCC RPG is full of rules or numbers. Basically through a dice in the dice chain, add a +1, +2 or +3 and you have what you need.

Ok, so here is where I am at. I’ve bitten off the challenge of writing an adventure. Crazy. I am probably yet to new to RPG gaming that I will write something totally stupid and more than that, something that is totally unplayable. What if I get references to creatures wrong? What if I can’t even produce one good creature. Or even yet, what if I can’t produce a good story, one that people will like playing?

Yet, just like with writing a book, the writer needs to know the audience. Or at least write to an audience. Do I know my audience well enough to write them something playable? If I take the advice that comes from my heart, I just write and see what comes from it. I was surprised and pleased with the story I wrote seven years ago. Can’t believe it was seven years ago.

I can say that, yes, there are words written for the adventure. But I also have discovered that in order to write, I need to read. So, I’m trying to read and retain. Wow, as one gets old, retaining material that is read is harder.

May you have wonderful gaming over the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving and may you have all that you wish for as the year 2018 comes to a close.

Joan

Playing Solo AD&D adventures and stuff.

I just love the old school adventures! When I was introduced to D&D, I began to research the beginnings of Dungeon and Dragons. I went looking for the first books and adventures. I came across solo adventures and was intrigued. I love the Internet and the ability to find almost anything related to Dungeon and Dragons. I find that now that I am in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics, the early 1974 and 1984 Dungeons and Dragons fuel my love for these older types of adventuring.

Image result for lion castle dnd

Image result for lathan's gold

Image result for Blizzard's Pass

I found “Blizzard’s Pass”, “Lathan’s Gold” and “Lion’s Castle”. I’m not in love with the modules that require invisible ink pens in order to use them. “Lathan’s Gold” and “Lion’s Castle” do not require the invisible ink and therefore I find them fun and they are very good.

I say “very good” because I find them not only fun to learn the rules, but also they provide keys to learning how to DM adventures. As the player of a solo adventure, you also get to be the DM. In “Lion’s Castle” it wasn’t until my fourth character, a second level elf, that I made it past the first encounter. I imagine, had my dice rolled better, I would not have been killed immediately.

The conversions from the AD&D Armor Class to the present d20 system is interesting. I’m still deciding if I want to memorize the conversion chart which really would not be all that difficult to do. Yet, as I think about this, why would E. Gary Gygax create a system with a mechanic like it? Why not just take the number right off the d20 and make it the AC? Too easy? And I am not going to go into the why. I am just going to thank E. Gary Gygax for his unique style and the desire to make math fun. I know some will not agree on this praise of math.

I want to praise the modern d20 system as it does lend to more role-playing and fewer numbers crunching. What overwhelms me is all the d20 system games that have come with the open d20 gaming license.

A year ago, I was just starting as a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG judge. “Judge” is what DCC RPG calls the DM or GM in the game. I know other games call the GM a “referee”. In that year the amount of games I have judged has gone well off the charitable figure. Since last year’s GenCon 50, I have run a DCC RPG Road Crew game at a local FLGS every Thursday evening and a bi-weekly DCC RPG Road Crew game at another FLGS on Saturdays.

Our recent games have been going through “The Carnival of the Damned” by David Baity. img_20180418_1135085162150957882237585.jpgInitially written for a convention tournament, this module can be adapted as a funnel. I am not sold that it could be a one-shot. Each “attraction” in the carnival is a must to play. Be ready for PC deaths as there will be many! I have pre-gens off of Purple Sorcerer ready as the “attractions” come to an end. The PCs that survive are then able to meet up with more villagers in town also looking for their children.

I am not a good records keeper and I think that someday I will do better. Well, someday hasn’t come. I need a record keeper. I have a player or two who do take notes on the games. I am appreciative of that.

What is coming up next? Well, it is Thursday…so it is DCC RPG Road Crew night with the “Thursday Knights”. Saturday is Free RPG Day and our regular DCC RPG Road Crew game night with the “SeDoTu Crusaders”. You may see the schedule of all the northern Indiana games on Sanctum Secorum’s Event Calendar.

August 2-5, 2018 is GenCon 51 in Indianapolis, IN. I will be there and have four events on the Goodman Games DCC RPG schedule. This year is the highest number of DCC RPG games ever. Make sure you pick up the Gongfarmer’s Almanac as I have a Level 1 adventure in it called “The Heist for the Royal Jewels”. Slapstick humor and death from falling pianos. The sewer monster is also terrifying. But you will need to decide for yourself what creatures lurk below and on top.

Two FLGSs keep me hopping

[SPOILERS BELOW]

There is nothing more fun than having fun with friends! And of course, when you are running Dungeon Crawl Classics at TWO FLGSs, friends begin to come in abundance.

My tables are filling up, therefore, I’m finding myself in a quandary.

  1. What to run each time (there usually are one to two new players)
  2. Whether to limit the number at the table (sorry, I can’t turn people away)
  3. How to start and run a campaign with 8+ people at the table. (this is at one of the stores presently)

Just as much as I enjoy this quandary, I’m also not enjoying it. You see, I’ve not been running DCC RPG for even a year yet. It has been just over a year ago that I started playing DCC RPG. And in having so much fun with it, I thrust myself into judging.

With judging Goodman Games World Tours Road Crew 2017 games, I found myself at GenCon 50 in Indianapolis having won one of three spots in a Road Crew judges contest. What a thrill that was! You know, it’s the kind of thrill that you have to keep pinching yourself to see if it is real. And now, I’m going to Gary Con in March. I’m going as a gamer. I want to learn as a player what a good judge needs to know in order to provide adventures that keep players coming back for more.

Well, this blog started out to share my last two Road Crew 2017 games. Not to talk about cons.

On December 14, at Better World Books in Goshen, IN there were three returning players at the table and we visited “Not in Kansas Anymore” by Dieter Zimmerman with Mark Sprengeler. On December 16, at Secret Door Games in Elkhart, IN there were seven returning players for “Sailors on the Starless Sea” by Harley Stroh. Two of which had been new to the game the week before. One didn’t make it out of the store without purchasing a DCC RPG core book. Both returned with their own set of strangely shaped dice. dnddice

With three players, at Better World Books, having a total of 12 PCs they take a time-traveling trip from the Shudder Mountains back to the 1970’s. “Not in Kansas Anymore” isn’t dull. The PCs find themselves no longer meager peasants with occupations of cheesemaker, baker, and candlestick makers. Semi-truck driver, lawyers, waitress, etc. are trying to escape the threatening lava of a volcano. Along the way, they have gotten some jewels and coins mound of treasure and defeated a poor young sky lizard. Really, what did it ever do to them? Its mother had died a cruel death prior to the PCs ever finding it. With yet more to come, Greg, Cam, and Anita have some exciting adventuring to do and figuring out what purpose the enchanted coins have in escaping the volcano.

Sailors” has gotten itself into its third session with seven players having a total of 20 PCs among them. I am hoping that it will conclude when the group can reconvene after the holidays. Or maybe an all day/night pre-new year’s eve event. The group has made its way across the starless sea with Jacob’s chaotic beadle Image result for Beadleand his holy symbol jumping into the sea to appease the beast. And the PCs are now disembarking the ship for the island with the ziggurat. My players are Marlene, Kelly, Jocelyn, Matt, David, Isaiah, Jacob and Ben. Not with me, at this time, are the names of their PCs. But I can truly tell you that these characters have come up with amazing character names for their PCs.

For those of you that DM, GM or Judge RPGs, please leave a comment below. The subject: The *stress* of preparation for an RPG game and the relief the running of the game to find that it ran better than you’d ever planned for.

My comment is this: I have anticipation anxiety in preparation for a game. Then during the game, I relax and find the players give me the joy and the fun of getting to the end. Sometimes we get to the end quickly and at other times (I know that I’m doing a lot for them to get the clues – not always the best judge’s feature) it goes slow.

I’m constantly looking for ideas, suggestions, and feedback. Positively put, criticism is accepted.

May your holidays be filled with crits.