Hello & welcome! This is technically the 2nd part of my series about Tabletop Role-Playing Games, but let’s just pretend it’s the 1st, since Part 1 is like...SUPER boring. This will be better, promise. So, whether you love TRPGs or not, I hope you enjoy...or, like...I dunno. At least leave a comment.
To sum up for anyone who IS interested, though: I was not into D&D (or similar games) for like...ever. Then, through faith, serendipity, and other coincidences our pattern-seeking brains ascribe to mysterious forces, I realised it’s right up my alley. By the end of this series, I’m gonna make an RPG (with your help). Here’s more unnecessary Origin Story stuff. I hope that if you don’t care about my journey, I can at least turn you toward some really cool shit along the way.
...by the time 2017 started, I was open to the idea of playing D&D...if the starting point didn’t seem to be an insurmountable peak of Mount Nerd. Luckily, the whole universe seemed intent on enticing my curiosity. So the award for First D&D-Related Addiction of 2017 goes to... TAY’s very own:
See, Datacide shared a super addictive web-comic called Order of the Stick. It’s about a basic, 5 member adventuring party that live in a world governed by D&D rules. In the beginning, it’s mostly hanging a lampshade on the sillier aspects of the rules, but I still found it engrossing despite all the “main” jokes going way over my head. Very quickly, however, plot kicks in and hoo boy...what a tale it weaves. It’s awesome, D&D related, and if you aren’t familiar, read it.
So around a year ago exactly (yeah, “around exactly”, it’s like “exclusively almost”) I came across an article titled (at the time) “How Every DM Messes Up”. I clicked on it out of curiosity, and my journey finally began. Like every other link in this post, it’s so much better than what you’re currently reading, and details all the work a Game Master/Dungeon Master does. It was written by Spencer Crittenden. AKA, The Sixler. This was my tipping point, and I didn’t even know what a “DM” was at the time.
I ended up searching for this show he talked about running...and I stumbled on something so amazing, it was as if I became vegan, Jehovah’s Witness, AND discovered CrossFit at the same time. I couldn’t stop evangelizing and proselytizing...I was OBSESSED. There is no hyperbole in my words when I say: I would never have played a tabletop game if it wasn’t for this show.
HarmonQuest is so good. 3 permanent players and the DM are joined by a guest each episode and together they play a campaign of D&D. Then most of what they say and do gets animated. It’s like a wonderful blend of Whose Line and role playing games. Originally, they had the first episode of Season 1 available on YouTube as a preview, but that’s no longer the case. I won’t say whether or not I illegally downloaded the video from YouTube and proceeded to obsess over it for way too long, but I WILL say that I’m not afraid of ruffling ol’ Johnny Law’s feathers a bit and breaking some rules...ladies.
For the life of me, however, I couldn’t get that first season...and I needed more, I was jonesing for D&D like Charles Barkley was for basketball (after the Monstars stole his talent). So I did what everyone does when they need non-algorithmic answers- I went straight to Jeeves. After some fruitless attempts, I eventually realised it was like...14 years too late to AskJeeves. So I turned to Reddit.
In the subreddit there was this girl, five-foot-nothin’, blocked my shot. I tried to ask about D&D, but she just kept shouting, “Be gone, wannabe! Be gone!”
No for real though, first thing I noticed was plenty of people complaining. (On the internet? No way!) The show wasn’t how “real” games went, it was too “improv-y”, it would only give the wrong impression to noobs. There also outrage over Erin, the only female player in the permanent cast. (On the intern- shit, I already did this joke...) It was a real letdown. I was so hooked that I started wanting to play, yet here were the gatekeepers, explaining why it was wrong and not how “real” games are played.
There was another comment I found repeated over and over- though it wasn’t exclusively negative or positive. On every post, at least one person would say, “Oh, so this is like a full show for the D&D segments on the Harmontown Podcast.” (Usually followed by either, “I love that!” or “That sucks!”) Besides the name of the white guy with dreads who sold weed to high schoolers, I had no idea what “H-Town” was. But seeing all the claims that it was the “progenitor” of HarmonQuest, I had to learn about it...which eventually ended with this YouTube playlist:
(Personally, I recommend starting either at 1.02 or 2.01, depending on personal patience level, but when it finally picks up...man...I was in TEARS from laughing so hard at times. Hall of the Frost Giants, in particular, is the greatest fustercluck I have ever listened to.)
Alright, that’s about enough HarmonStroking.
So there I was, now officially getting “into” D&D, when a dope ass episode of the Cracked Podcast dropped- and it was all about D&D. The main topic is about how D&D is played by prisoners (which is such a fascinating listen in it’s own right) flanked by an interview with- who else?- The Sixler, and an interview with the creators of the Wet Hot American Summer TRPG. It’s a great listen- funny, informative, eye-opening.
Alright...so at this point I’m getting into D&D a bit. I have a bunch of things to listen to & watch (I was also trying to find another podcast like those Harmontown sessions, but all the ones people called the “best” were like...4 hours long), and I was kicking myself for not staying in contact with people who played, because I desperately wanted to try. Now is a good time to wrap up, and I think the way I’ll do that is by getting into the origin for this entire series: Making a TRPG.
So... I’m a father. My daughter is in first grade and has an incredible imagination. We frequently make up and tell each other scary stories, invent scenes to see who can “out-act” whom, come up with crazy plot twists to throw at our actions figures, etc. It’s fun, really. What’s not so fun? Watching kids play with each other freeform. Cuz Hide & Seek, video/board games, and other things we see kids playing with usually have some type of structure. But throw some action figures into the mix (maybe a dollhouse or two, and a dream car) without any structure, and it will always devolve into a battle of egos.
Kid1: “Pretend I walked in, but you didn’t see me and it scared you.”
Kid2: “Ok... ‘La lala, walking through my house. All alo- AHHH! You scared me!’”
Kid1: “’Yeah, I was just sneaking through.’ Now pretend I had a knife and you didn’t see it...”
Kid1: “Then I attacked you. ‘Hyaah!’”
Kid2: “But pretend I blocked it and punched you.”
Kid1: “But you missed, and I stabbed you.”
Kid2: “No you didn’t.”
Kid1: “Yes I did.”
Kid2: “No you didn’t.”
Kid1: “Yes I did.”
Kid2: “No you didn’t.”
...You get the point. So one day the kids are all playing together and I see that the “Director Tug-o’-War” is coming any minute. I remembered something I read a long time ago about using a separate, physical timer for a child in time-out° and I got an idea. I opened an app on my phone and presented the kids with a neutral, unbiased 3rd party- a d10. “If you want someone to do something and they don’t want to, roll this.” And it WORKED! The kids had fun playing, with no fights at all, and a I had a dawning realisation...
But I have to save it for next time, as I’ve already shared quite a bit. How about you? Do you play? Do you want to? What related podcasts/shows/comics/etc would YOU share? Leave a comment!