Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Awesome Day

Well, today turned out pretty awesome.

A few days ago, I discovered there was a gaming store (the roleplaying kind), less than ten miles from my front door. So we headed there today. Sadly, when we arrived, the place was all but empty (although they have enough tables and chairs for 150 people), but that was hardly surprising since it was 3pm on a Tuesday.

But I had a nice chat with the owner, got that awesome jealous look when I said my wife liked to play Magic: The Gathering, bought some new dice...and heavily lamented the fact I'd found a nice, big, clean gaming store/center so close to where I live just before I'm due to move back to England.

Talking to Sunny on the way home about DnD...and watching her eyes glaze over... I decided that, with my new dice in hand, I'd give up on explaining and actually get her to play a game.

Knowing her short attention span and frustration threshold, when we got home I wrote a really short Dungeon Delve. I wanted to give her a broad taste of what the game is like, so I started with a bit of roleplay (including a basic negotiation), a little bit of investigative work...then into the dungeon where we fought some zombies, negotiated a trap-filled hallway, before fighting a couple of cultists and leaving with a little bit of treasure.

It was extremely weird for me. Because it was just the two of us, I was having to DM and control a player character. (Which made the short roleplay negotiation very weird...but I tried to play him as a mostly silent side-kick character to Sunny's character...and I was as shocked as anyone when it worked).

It's also very strange playing DnD with a complete gaming newbie. For example, I found myself having to explain things that I'd just assumed she'd know. Until I got the blank look it never really occurred to me that someone might not know what hitpoints were or how they worked. As a long time video-gamer, I knew what hitpoints where years before I'd even heard of DnD.

I suddenly realised why explaining the game to her didn't work. Unlike me, she had no gaming background or frame of reference to put it into context. Things I took for granted were totally new to her...For example, she had no idea that it was probably a good idea to check the big attractive treasure chest for traps before flinging the lid open, or that it's probably not a good idea to walk straight across the strange, glowing runes on the floor.

I was basically having to spoon feed her...but it was downright awesome watching her get more savvy as the adventure went on.

The best thing, though, is I can pinpoint the exact second that I finally managed to get the hook in and she finally 'got' what DnD is all about. It went like this:

"You notice two strange, glowing runes on the floor...roll me an Arcana check."

She rolled, and didn't do great, but I cut her a break and said:

"You know that the runes are definitely magical, and while you're not sure exactly what they're for, you get the strange sense that stepping on them would probably be a bad idea. What would you like to do?"

She looked at her character sheet for a few moments and said:

"I don't know...I guess just walk over the runes."

I said "I wouldn't do this in a real game, but I'm telling you that bad things will happen if you just walk across them...try to think of a way to get past them without stepping on them."

She looked at her character sheet some more and said "I don't get it, what can I do?"

I knew what was happening, she was looking for a rule or specific power on her character sheet that would let her get past. She didn't realize the amount of freedom she had to solve the problem creatively. So I said:

"Ok, well, the runes aren't very long. You could try to jump them... or ask me what's in the room. Maybe there's a beam or something up in the roof that you can throw a rope over so you can swing across. What are the walls like? Can you climb one and get past that way? Basically, imagine if you were in this situation in real life...what would you try to do? Be as creative as you like. You just tell me what you want to do, and I'll tell you what you have to do to attempt it."

I saw the exact moment when everything clicked and she realized that it wasn't just about looking for the right rule or power on her character sheet. She was free to try anything she would do in real life in the same situation.

Sadly, she decided to jump and just missed the roll, and got a fireball in the face from the trap she set off...but she came out of it with a far better understanding of how the game works.

Later, after she defeated the big bad of the Dungeon (Which was awesome, I won't bore you with a gaming story, but it ended in a spectacular way) she discovered a great big treasure chest...and while she didn't ask if she could roll a thievery check to check for traps... she did tell me that she stood way back and tried to lift the lid with the very tip of her sword.

The best part was when we finished the game and the first thing she asked was when we could play another game. She may not have a true geek obsession going yet, but she definitely enjoyed it...she already has her eye on a set of marbled pink dice.

The only downside is I don't think she's differentiating between coming up with a character name and a porn star name. She decided to name her Human Avenger 'Vixen Velvetsheath'.


Sunny said...

Yeah- well, that tiny bit of info wasn't supposed to go out on the blog-o-sphere, either. LMAO!!!And besides- I have two other characters and their names are perfectly normal ones. An Elven Cleric, Sorcia Skye ...and an Eladrin Rouge, Lilli Silverfern....
So Ha!

MC Etcher said...

Very very cool! I'm jealous. Too bad we'll never get to play together.

Keep us posted, this is fun stuff!