Saturday, December 22, 2012

Enter the Dungeon (at your peril)

So, I'm teaching some new people how to play AD&D. They've never played a pen and paper RPG before, so their experience with D&D-style things is rooted in video games, theater, and novels. As I do this, I thought it would be interesting to keep a sort of ethnography of the D&D player, examine how they grapple with various D&D concepts, that sort of thing. I've never taught an adult to play before, my last experience with TEACHING the game was probably when I was 18 or so.

This is a writeup of our first night.

Everyone trickled in and we watched a little Heavy Metal (part of the educational process for our prog-rock band, Ballchild) and ordered some Thai food. It was probably a mistake to let the night drag on for so long before we started actually talking about D&D but I drew it out as long as I possibly could for fear that they wouldn't like it, that they would think it was silly or stupid, all those fears. Yes, they're rooted deep inside me; somehow I still think of it as a shameful thing to do, or at least semi-shameful. STRANGE.

They rolled up their characters using the immensely painful 3d6-in-order method of which I am a particular fan. I explained they could reroll if they liked, since this was the hardest of all the dice methods. They were instantly derisive of doing so, which warmed my heart.

As I explained the classes they grappled with the archetypes each one represented. The most confusing was probably the clerical class because the 10th Age ONLY has specialty priests and I really didn't want to get into detail about 45 different variations of the priest.

We have one player playing across genders (girl playing a boy), which was a change from the usual boy playing a girl trope. There were a lot of dick jokes, particularly about how we would decide the size and girth of each character's dick at creation. I resisted the urge to mention FATAL since it would've just frightened them if I explained it.

They were immediately drunk with the options of play. "Can we do this?" was a common question, even before classes where decided. They swung from plotting to kill every gnome in creation to toppling the emperor in the first twenty or so minutes. This is the stage that most people are at the first time they're introduced to D&D, I think... but for kids it may last several years rather than 20 or 30 minutes.

They were also pretty enamoured (I think) of the notion that your character would outlive you if you retired, and they would become a permanent fixture in the setting. "We're making history!" Amanda exclaimed at one point. Bear in mind that they have YET to play!

Proficiencies were difficult but we got through it with careful culling of the extra prof lists (I only have Combat and Tactics and the Tome of Magic with me so there was no need to pour through things like Spells and Magic or the Complete Fighter). It was equipment that sank the night, for it took hours to distribute gold pieces, determine what was necessary to carry, and discuss whether or not they wanted to buy a donkey or hire porters and carriers to lug their stuff around.

What we came out with was this:

Ricki playing Antonio, a half-Dorlish half-Varan Grovetender of Eleia; lusty and pansexual.

Amanda playing Aubergine, a halfling thief who is all about breaking down the authority and maybe picking a few pockets.

Dave playing Talíferon, an elven wizard who may be CG or may be CE—but appears to be insane, as he discussed the pros and cons of cannibalism in character.

We stopped after equipment, so there are still spells to be had, thief skills to be distributed, and all that jazz. I have to explain how combat works, probably by running a few sample fights. I have impressed on them that one-on-one slugfests are a sure way to die, particularly if you're outnumbered. We'll see how it all shakes out. They WERE pretty sad that they spent so long on character creation since they know the death rate (the funnel) between levels 1-2 is pretty high.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, that pain I know full well. I've been trying to press my group to play AD&D for a few years now, trying to DM everything from Birthright to the 10th Age.

    Somehow it has been of zero help that most of the group has played Baldur's Gate; most of the rules don't even work the same way. Character generation is always the slowest thing due to a multitude of factors. It's impossible to run things through with everyone at the same time, since everyone progresses at a different rate. There's always a shortage of rulebooks ( has been a lifesaver) and some people have an incredible aversion to rules-heavy games and especially looking up things from tables.

    Four hours later we have characters and we can start playing. Everyone is already a bit tired and stressed out from the character creation. It never helps that I'm an inexperienced DM with a poor grasp of the rules. Yet I try.