Confessions of a Gamer

Anyone who has ever played Dungeons & Dragons has probably come to that moment, when you wanted to share this incredibly nerdy hobby with other people. When you tell someone that you spent 6 hours of your weekend with a small group of people rolling dice and pretending to be an Elven Wizard, you're going to get some funny looks.

Fortunately, gaming has given me an opportunity to meet some awesome new people who actually enjoy spending their time exploring Dungeons and slaying Dragons. One of my friends, District (our Bard), is working on creating his own role playing game to introduce his non-gamer friends to this hobby of his. I invited him to share his story on the blog.

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Introducing Your Friends to Gaming

by District

Most of my friends are judgmental buttheads--but I'll come back to that in a moment. What follows is a long, boring story about why I decided to write my own RPG.

About a year ago, in October 2012, I decided to try playing a tabletop pen-and-paper RPG. I have always played computer games (sometimes way too many computer games), but there has always been a part of me that wanted to try something real. Something that would stretch my imagination to its limit. Something that would allow me to interact with my fellow players and with the game world in a completely open and virtually limitless way. Now that I was into my 30s and married, I decided to forget any remaining hesitation I might have had and dive in.

I poked around at a few game stores until I found a shop that hosted D&D Encounters on Wednesday nights, and that also posted a cork board where players or DMs could advertise games. I was lucky enough to come across Nash's flyer advertising a new Pathfinder game that they needed players for. I was offered a spot at the table and I've been loving our campaign ever since.

I enjoyed my new hobby so much that I was bursting at the seams to tell someone about it. However, this is where my initial statement comes in. Most of my friends are judgmental buttheads. These are long-time buddies of mine, whom I know well enough to know they would fixate on the negative stigma attached to D&D and tabletop gaming, and would not be interested in hearing what a great time I was having.

Only one of these guys ("Friend 1") shares my affinity for this kind of geeky stuff. I told him about it, and he sounded mildly interested. I took him over to a D&D Encounters session with me once, which he seemed to enjoy, although not enough to return again. I swore him to absolute secrecy about my new hobby, and he agreed.

Cut to a couple of months later. I was in the middle of a conversation with another very close friend ("Friend 2") when--out of the blue--he said, "I've been thinking I want to try old-school D&D."

Thinking this was way too unlikely to be coincidence, particularly within only about 2 months of having started this stuff myself, I immediately started interrogating Friend 2 about why he had raised this topic. I was convinced Friend 1 had broken his vow of secrecy and had told people, and that, in turn, Friend 2 had just brought up D&D to mock me. But after about 15 minutes of serious interrogation, I was finally convinced that (coincidentally indeed) my friend had heard about pen-and-paper RPGs from a coworker and genuinely wanted to give them a try.

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We talked some more. I informed Friend 2 that our Pathfinder sessions are about 5-6 hours each, and that I read most of a 600-page core rulebook as well as a lot of supplemental literature to get up to speed. He was immediately turned off. He, like Friend 1, also has a family and limited free time. A long, time-consuming, deep RPG would not be a priority for him. So that was the end of that discussion for a while.

I should take this moment to thank my own beautiful wife for generously allowing me so much free time-- thanks dear!

Finally, a few months later, I decided that playing an RPG with my close friends was too great an opportunity to pass up. I just needed to overcome, or eliminate, the obstacles: time and complexity. My idea, therefore, was to design and create my own "noob-friendly," simplified and much less time-consuming RPG. This would allow me to introduce my own level of intricacy and complexity, tailored to my specific players.

Further, I would write my own stories/modules, which would allow me to control (read: shorten) the time we would spend around the table during each session. And, best of all, I could theme the game however I wanted. I knew that a) Friend 2 is into zombies, and b) other friends and wives--potential players--are generally not into the high-fantasy genre like I am. So, I settled on a zombie theme. The game is informally called "Dungeons & Zombies."

The goal was to create a game with a 10-15 page rule set and a simple, one-page character sheet. I accomplished my goal, and we played our first session of D&Z in March 2013. We have not played since, but not for the reason most would suspect. My players did have a great time; in fact, they have been asking me for another session since we last played.

The issue, instead, was my own disinterest. In creating a hyper-simplified RPG, I actually did not build in sufficient mechanics to create a really deep, detailed world, nor did I allow for the characters to develop enough to be unique and captivating.  As a result, I just didn't find myself invested or excited enough about my own game to want to continue playing.  The game was shelved.

Recently I was re-inspired (thanks to several rounds of strong drinks) and I have dived back into game creation. I am completely revamping D&Z intending to start a campaign back up in a month or two. The gameplay will be more closely related to the D20 architecture known most commonly as D&D 3.5 or as Pathfinder. My players are psyched, which makes me even more excited to get working again.

I am now amping up the complexity a bit, creating more options for character development, and plotting various brilliant (if I may say so) plot points and encounters. And, although my party is full, I am even incorporating our other mutual friends in cameo roles. These other friends will have NPCs (non-player characters) modeled after them, and have already volunteered to come for single sessions to play as their own NPCs and try to kill my party. It's great to hear that people are excited about a project I'm working on.

This is the first of what will probably be three blog offerings through Nash, and Alter Ego Maniac. An introduction. The second will be about my process developing the first iteration of my game, and an analysis of my initial successes and failures. The third will document my current work, the struggles I am facing, and how I have taken the lessons I've learned and used them to make changes and improvements. I look forward to sharing.

Thanks for reading!

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