Roll for Self-Doubt

This isn’t an easy post to write but in order to jump start my writing on this blog again, I feel it’s important.  The new year has been tough for me and this blog.  No posts and, even worse, little inspiration to write them.  I’ve been struggling with something and I finally thought it would be best to just get it out in the open in hopes that exposing the blockage will remove it.

I’ve been involved in the hobby since the early 1980’s.  I’ve talked about it in past posts and have a bit more to say in the future as well.  I started the blog because I feel I have some knowledge from my experiences and wanted to share.  I followed my instincts and thought I had a good plan.

Then, I started to get more involved in Twitter and exploring what is going on with this new “roleplaying renaissance” and wow, were my eyes opened.

A lot of what I wanted to talk about is already being done and explained.  So many talented people already doing some amazing things!   Games are being live-streamed every day on Twitch, talk shows and podcasts cover the deeper elements of storytelling and roleplaying.  What an amazing time it is to be so interested in roleplaying and gaming!  We have awesome discussions and a vibrant community while public perception shift more and more towards acceptance of the hobby.  I wanted to be playing in live-streams and having these cool discussions.

Most of the wind was taken out of my sails when I started feeling that I was just the old graybeard coming late to a party I had been looking forward to most of my life.  It knocked me down and I let it cause a bit too much self-reflection and way too much self-doubt.  So much so it’s taken me a month or more to get the words for this post.   However, when I get down there is a favorite saying of mine which I go to repeatedly.  It comes from the movie Ghosts in the Darkness, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit…  The getting up is up to you.”

Then, I realized something else.   I can’t be the only one that feels this way.  There are probably a ton of other folks out there feeling a similar feeling.  “My stuff isn’t good enough/ on par with what is happening now.”  “I’m just another regular ol’ D&D player, what do I have to offer?” “I just got started but will never be that good.”  “My GM skills are really weak.”

Think of it this way, what if any of the folks we are looking up to in the industry had given in to their self-doubt?  We wouldn’t have the historic situation we have now, would we?

All kinds of voices are needed for this hobby/way of life.  Our kingdom of gaming geekery is vast and full of resources.  We’re all needed.  New players, veteran players and, yes, even us grey beards. We’re all a part of this and every productive voice adds to the whole in one way or the other.

If you’ve been down lately and if you feel like it, I’d like for you to get up too.  Do something small.  Speak up.  Write something.  Draw something.  Paint a mini.  Sketch a map.  I don’t care if it’s your first attempt or your hundredth.  Maybe you were down before but are doing better?  How about talking about it for others to have inspiration?   Whatever it is, put it out there for all to see.  Put it on Twitter or Tumblr or your blog or anywhere.  If you do, reply here, tag me on Twitter or use the hashtag #GeeksGetBackUp.  I would like to cheer you on and throw a virtual high-five because this shit isn’t easy when you’re battling yourself.

 

 

 

 

Tis The Season! Holidays for your Campaign

Holidays help provide us with important breaks, excuses to party, to meet up with old friends and family as well as offering times of reflection and peace.  More so, the mid-winter season is a special time since it’s the time of year where a host of different holidays combine to create a juggernaut of a holiday season.  I enjoy diving down into the histories, traditions and folklore surrounding it.  From the ancient party of Saturnalia, to the Irish horse skulls of Mari Lwyd to the more modern Kwanzaa, it’s always a fun ride.

This year, it got me thinking about fantasy worldbuilding and the importance of festivals and holidays in a game world for a gamemaster.  In table top roleplaying, holidays can often be treated as throw-away events for a game, typically being used as a backdrop for a one-shot game.  However, I think holidays and festivals  can serve the campaign, and a game’s host, by providing more depth to the game world with not only the build up towards a holiday but the holiday itself.

If, as the game host, you already have a calendar for your world then your set.  If you don’t have a calendar it’s not necessary but it does help to give the players a sense of time.  In the game world, the cycle of annual holidays can help a community or society to understand the flow of the year.  Holidays, festivals and feasts are like sign posts letting communities plan a planting season, a harvest season, special moments of import to be celebrated, etc.

Though I’m mainly going to talk about a fantasy setting this can serve just as well in science fiction as well.  We are going to look at five components to review for inspiration in crafting a holiday for your game; Culture, Survival, Celestial Events, and Themes.  At the end of the post, I’ll present a sample holiday made up with these components.

Continue reading “Tis The Season! Holidays for your Campaign”

What’s Your Character’s Front Story?

One of the best ways to get a handle on a character for a role-playing game is to fill out their back story.  Where did they grow up?  Who were their parents?  How did they do in school or their apprenticeship? Did they get in a lot of fights?  Did they keep to themselves and read?  Did they steal something?  Did their first love break their heart? What events led them to where they are now as the game starts?

Some games, and gamers, more focused on the hack and slash elements do not need this exercise.  You roll or pick your stats, grab your equipment and go.  I’m a wizard.  I have spells.  I’m taking my fighter buddy and we are walking into that hole in the ground to look for treasure.  My first game consisted of this level of play and it worked just fine!  Sometimes games will start this way and then later a player creates a back story to fill their character out more fully.

I’ve been guilty myself of writing up a 2, 3 or 5 page back story for a character to help me understand them and their choices in a game after I had played a session or two. Sometimes a character will stand out before the first session and the back story comes easily.  Other times, it takes a bit of work.  Regardless, it’s always a good idea to get a feel where the character is coming from in their past.  Even in real life we go back, review our life and look to see what made us who we are in the present.  It’s a tried and true method.

I would suggest, however, this is only a half of the creation process.  There is another layer that is often overlooked.  I would suggest it is just as important to look at a character’s front story, their future.   Take a bit more time and understand why your character wants to go forward.

This should not take long and should not require too much more time.  I feel it helps give your character momentum and drive when it’s time to get the game rolling.  I would even argue that you can run with a character’s front story a lot easier than you can with a back story.

How do you push a character into their future?  Like a back story, start with some questions.  Here are a few questions to get you started.

 

What do they want to accomplish immediately?

Maybe it’s just to go into a dark hole and get some treasure?  Cool.  Maybe they want to punch that merchant?  Fine.  Maybe it’s to get off the out-of-control train they’ve found themselves on?  As long as they have some idea of what they want to do NEXT then you’re good to go.

If your game is not starting out with immediate action, like a dungeon crawl or a train rushing to its doom, perhaps a character just wants to go into that tavern for a drink?   Even though this is simple enough and often used, it’s important to move on to the next question.

 

Why do they want to accomplish it?

We know what they want but now let’s answer why.  Why are they mad at the merchant?  Why are they so determined to get into that dark hole in the ground?  Why are they on the out-of-control train in the first place?

And if they are just going into that tavern for a drink then why?  Are they bored?  Thirsty? Looking for someone?  Any answer works.

 

What is it your character desires in the next month or so and why?  How do they hope to accomplish it?

What does your character plan to do with the next few weeks or months of their future.  Sure, they are going into a dungeon, going to kill a few monsters, grab some loot but is there something they are working towards in the short-term?

When you start to answer these questions it raises the stakes for the character and gives them some powerful momentum. Perhaps a character is going into that dark hole to find something valuable so they can help their aging parents who are about to be evicted?

What if a character, born into nobility with training as an excellent negotiator, is on that train to go to peace negotiations with an age-old enemy?  If they don’t arrive the peace talks will certainly fail and thousands of his countrymen will be killed in the fighting.  If so, well, it’s time to find a way off that train.

 

What are the character’s “big picture” goals? When will they feel like they “made it?”

Does your character have something they are striving towards which will take an extended period of time?  Something which will take years and a collection of experiences and quests to complete to reach the goal?  Look at your character and think, “What does this character want to be when they grow up?”  This is the character’s larger aspirations and hopes.  What is the legacy your character wants to create?  When you fill this part in you are tapping into the real energy of why the character will make the choices they make and what drives them forward.

Perhaps a fighter is going into several dungeons because they are trying to build up wealth to hold some political power, settle down with a small estate and raise a family? Perhaps a cleric wants to eventually form his own temple somewhere or build a charitable organization?

Even if the character, at game start, is going into that tavern to get a drink because they are bored and uncertain about what is coming next I would still inquire what the character’s deeper motivations and goals might be.  Everyone is powered by something internal.  Find it and use it.

As an example, I once ran a character who started as a pretty basic thief.  You know, a pickpocketing 2nd story guy with a dark cloak and a knife.  That was it.  However, one thing came up in the back story.  The current head of the thieves guild had been particularly cruel to my character.  So, for my long-term aspiration, I decided my character was going to eventually take over the thieves guild or build another one to dethrone the current leader.  It was going to take several game sessions.  The goal ended up being a nice lodestone for the character to come back to and work towards in every single game regardless of the plot going on with the overall party.

Once you answer these few questions I think you will find that your character will begin to take a life of their own.  These questions do not need to be completed in full nor are any of them permanent.    They can be quickly jotted down as notes or guidelines.  Some empty or vague answers are perfectly welcome and you should leave some room for when inspiration or events in the game work to help you fill in those blanks.

Finally, review the character’s front story every time they progress, finish a quest or level up.  In the real world, people change.  Events may take place during the course of the game, or games, which causes the character’s internal trajectory to change.

Keep some notes and allow your character to move forward on their new aspirations.  I think, when you look back, you’ll find it has added deeper levels to the character and made them even more enjoyable to play.

 

5 Ways to Be A Better Roleplayer

I recently read a post on Twitter from a younger player who had just started and ran his first session as the Dungeon Master in a game of D&D.  It caused a reminiscing smile since I can still remember how it was to kick off my first game while not being sure I was doing it right.  On the other side of the screen, I can also recall sitting down at my first “real” game at GenCon and being pretty unsteady.  The Twitter post got me thinking about how many new players might be out there and feeling the same way.

This is the first post in a series for new players to the tabletop game community who might be a little unsure about this stuff called “role-playing.”  There seems to be a lot more people coming into the hobby these days and, whether it’s the interest from shows like Stranger Things or the increasing popularity of streamed live games and podcasts, there is no doubt we are seeing a surge in interest.

In order to kick this series off, I’ve put together a list of top 5 things you might want to practice as a player in any role-playing game you might be playing.

I’m not saying this is the be-all-end-all of tips or advice.  This is just my opinion on the things I have found are important items to keep in the forefront of your mind when you play.  If you’re coming here for the first time I also recommend my article about the contracts around a role-playing game table.  Many of the points below can be considered sub-clauses of that contract.

I firmly believe role-playing, whether you are game mastering or playing, is more of an art form than a skill.   If you keep these 5 things in mind you will be on your way to having a memorable time at the table with the other players.

5 Ways to Be A Better Roleplayer

1.) Be Flexible

There is an adage in improvisational acting circles,  “Never say no.”  Improvisational acting (and roleplaying) has a particular energy or flow to it.  By saying no, you run the risk of negating that energy or blocking it.   Always be willing to take what is thrown at you and then toss it back out to your fellow actors.  By doing this you stay flexible and allow yourself to interact with the story instead of trying to always shape it to your will. You are not blocking anything coming your way.  This allows you to build the story instead of negating it.   Don’t worry, your chance at imposing your will to the story will come in Tip #3.

Part of playing in a role-playing game is knowing that bad things are going to happen to your character.  See Tip #4. Let them happen. Learn to roll with them.  Say yes to them and see how it moves the story along.

This concept might be difficult at first and definitely takes practice.  Pay attention next time you play and try to notice when you can add to the story by being flexible.

2.) It’s Not About You…

You don’t have to be in every scene.  You don’t need to have a say in every situation.  Learn to sit back and let your co-players have their scenes and their moments.  Let them have their time in the spotlight.  Your time will come around.  If the GM is focusing on another character’s back story this means you need to chill for a few minutes while a few scenes get played out.

When I played a lot of sportsball my coach used to say, “Just because you’re on the bench doesn’t mean you’re out of the game.”  This meant to keep watching the game and to have an understanding of the flow of the game when you got put back into it.  Use down time to think about what you might want to do next with your character or to think about your own back story.  Even better, pay attention because it gives you a chance to learn about your fellow players and their characters in the story.  That knowledge will help form a richer tapestry with each passing game.

It’s easy for your vision to narrow and to only focus on what is going on in the game that is relevant to your character.   You’re playing a mage and you get “zeroed in” when the rival spell caster shows up with the spell book you have tried to find.  You’re playing a ranger and your favored enemy arrives on the battlefield.  You’re playing a cleric and the undead finally show up.  When those situations come up it can feel urgent to get in there and “show them what I do best!”

However, be patient.  It’s not about you.  It will be better if you can take a breath and wait for your moment without interrupting someone else’s.

Which leads to…

3.) When It Is About You, Go For It

Has the spotlight come your way?  Is it finally your turn in an 8 character initiative order after you rolled a 3?  Hooray!  It’s time and, at this moment, it’s all about YOU!  Don’t hold back.  Run with the ball and make it count for all it’s worth.

Maybe you’ve waited fifteen minutes for your character to act.  Do you really just want to go with, “I try to hit the orc with my sword.”  Try to think what it would look like on the movie screen when it’s your character’s turn and play it out, describe it, even if it really only boils down to “I hit him with my sword” within the mechanics of the rules.

An example – In a current Dungeons and Dragons game,  I’m playing a rogue dwarf who does not like to get into close, physical combat.  He prefers to stay near the edges of the fight, using his perception, stealth and range weapon to help with team tactics and to pick off targets as he can.  After finding himself in the middle of a melee he had just dodged into another room to gain some space and some cover.  I sat for some time while the other players took their turns but for my character the only action was to stay put and shoot one of the enemies.  It’s the only thing that made sense.

But, when it came to my turn, I didn’t just say, “I shoot the bad guy.”  I tried to think what it might look like “on camera” and then gave a short description of how he edged around the corner  of the doorway, watching the fight as he brushed stray hair from his eyes, yelling out a warning to another player and then finally took his shot at the bad guy.

Bonus points – find a way to bring in other characters or combine your actions with other player’s character during your scene or moment.  Remember, keep the flow between everyone going.

4.) Do Bad Things to Your Character.

This one is pretty easy but I’m always surprised how many people resist it.

Be willing to have your character do things that will be bad for them and allow the game master to do bad things to them.  Of course, you could argue having a character go into a dark dungeon filled with creepy monsters matches this definition already but I am talking about something a little different.  I’m focusing on actions you KNOW are going to turn out poorly for your character but they are things your character would do.

Part of the fun of these games is playing out a situation involving an action or an attitude you might never do in real life.  Is your character a hot-headed firebrand that would slap the city guardsman for having an attitude?  Then go for it!  Is your character a bit too curious for their own good and would sneak out in the middle of the night to investigate the manor house where they are staying?  Go for it!

Of course, this should be tempered with Tip #2 above, right?  This one requires balance because not every scene at the table is about your character doing something bad to themselves.  You’ll have to learn the rhythm going at the table but the only way to do that is with practice.

5.)Respect What the Game Master is Trying To Do.

This is a bit of a repeat of the Contracts Around the Table post but I’m mentioning it because it is very important.  Always keep in mind the person who has invited you to their game has spent a lot of time creating and setting the stage you are now running around on.  It’s very possible that for every hour of game play you are enjoying they have put twice that amount into making maps, building nasty villains, placing slimy monsters and trying to plan ahead, as best they can, for you and the other players.

They are trying to tell a story for, and with, you and I feel that deserves a bit of respect.  Show them that respect by not making fun of the story, try to read what kind of story they are telling and see how you can add to it.  For many game masters this is why they do what they do.  They want to see how the characters are going to apply tip #1 above and throw it back at them.  Make sure you tell them if you are enjoying the scene, the surprises, the tension or maybe just loving the whole game.  Did you notice some subtle thing the game master slid into the scene that effected a character’s story?  Tell them you noticed.  As hard as it is to imagine, game masters are not psychic and knowing a player is enjoying their game is a super fuel for them.  It will inspire them to go even further on their next session for you.

 

Each of these tips should add to the energy at the table and help make the game become more memorable for you and everyone else.  All of these requires practice and you are not going to get it all right every time.    However, if you keep these 5 tips in mind and reflect on them both during and after the game, you are going to find yourself getting better and better at them every time you sit down.

Just remember, after the last die roll, it’s about telling a story and having fun with your friends.

 

 

The Contracts on the Table

Several years ago I was running a fantasy role-playing game and the group of four to five players were working well together.  Things were getting tense during a nasty combat that was going poorly for the players.  Finally, one of them saw an opening and described a combat maneuver which was perfect for his character.  In addition, it was a perfect chance to move that character’s narrative along because of the way he chose to reveal the character’s training through colorful and detailed combat moves.  It was really great and after a wonderful narrative of exactly what he was doing to the bad guy of the encounter, the other characters cheered and applauded.

The player happily rolled his attack with bonuses.  The dice clattered, bounced and came to rest.

He missed his attack roll by one point.

I, as the game master, am embarrassed to say I chose to stick to the die roll and to the game system and declared the action had failed.  The deflation of excitement around the table was felt by everyone in the room, including myself.  The flow of a fun, dramatic game was lost in the snap of a faulty decision.

And what was the faulty decision?

I ignored the invisible contracts on the table.

When we sit down at a gaming table to play a role-playing game there are a lot of expectations.  We expect to roll dice.  We expect to be entertained.  We expect a possible combat and having to make decisions with the abilities we have on our character sheet.  We expect to see the story progress in some way.  Many of us come to the table with these expectations of what we want but don’t stop to think about the other expectations in the room held by the other players.  Those expectations are part of this contract.

The key element to these contracts is Trust.

What is a contract of trust?  In a healthy role playing game it’s the unspoken contract that I will be able to trust the game master (GM) with my character’s story, that I will be able to emote and play through my character’s narrative.  In addition, there is another contract on the table which says I will abide by the other player’s, and by default, their character’s contracts as well.  Every player is trusting me to take care of their character as well as I want them to take care of mine.

On the game master (GM) level, I am being trusted not only with the player’s character content but that my work on the current adventure will not undermine any of the character’s narrative.  Instead, it will support it in time.  This could mean the character goes through a rough time but it also means that, in trust, I as the GM will offer clues, hints, etc. to the player so the character will be able to come out the other side and grow from the experience.  The hero may get captured, beaten up and tortured but an opportunity will arise for she or he to escape and save the day.

In return, I’m trusting the players to move an adventure along, to not run roughshod over my game world and to engage and play with the story hooks and landscapes introduced.  I’m trusting them to help me have a good time as well.

There is a sub-clause in those contracts to not waste anyone’s time.  As you get older, time is more precious.  When I was younger, I remember hours, whole evenings, whole days being lost to running or playing in a game.  I imagine it’s the same for most anyone reading this.  As we get older as players, we are lucky to get 4 to 6 hours in for a game that occurs once a week, once a month, every three months?  I find it’s much more fun spending that time being aware of these contracts and building an entertaining story together.

When a game begins, especially with new players to the hobby, these contracts are unseen but often flying around willy-nilly and never getting signed or perhaps signed by a few players but not the entire group.  Occasionally, no one even knows they are there.  Though this is typically in place with young and or new players, I’ve seen veteran players completely disregarding the contracts of other players as well as the GM and focusing only on what they wish to accomplish.   We’ve all seen players like this and, I hope, have learned not to emulate them.

The best games I have been honored to play in are very cognizant of these invisible contracts.  There is a flow not only in-between the players but also with the players and the GM.  Players look out for other players, sometimes at the expense of their own characters.  Players remember that they have a contract with the GM and work to support the plotlines, NPCs and encounters she or he have worked hard to design and bring to life.

If the contracts of trust are being observed then a magical, improvisational  alchemy comes into play.  One player, Player A, might take the spotlight for a period of time or for an entire adventure knowing at any time another character will be coming forward to replace them.  A good flow and recognition of this contract would be for Player A to make sure the spotlight moves over to Player B or Player C or even the entire group as quickly and as naturally as possible.  This could be through the actions of Player A’s character or a simple conversation with the other players and the GM, “I see this next part being about Player B.  I’ve hogged enough of the spotlight, let’s move it.”

In my experience these contracts are so important and powerful there are occasional moments when they should be recognized over the game rules.  For example, the story which began this article.  The easy way out from that example would be to blame the game system.  The system wasn’t flexible enough.  The rules didn’t give me an out, a failure on the dice is a failure.  However, that’s really just shifting blame from the real issue and the contract.  As game master, I can manipulate the rules at any point in time.  I could have easily ignored the roll and declared the action a success and in the case above, wish I had done so.  There were a host of other options but, instead, I opted to not pay attention to the contract of trust regarding the character and it’s narrative.  How much better would the scene had been had I respected that contract, had I reinforced that trust instead of kicking it out from underneath the player?  Thankfully, I’m still good friends with the player after that decision.

Though all this talk of invisible contracts may sound rather vague and a little too ethereal, you can get to this mindset easily.  Look around the table at the start of the game and realize, “Everyone here is trusting me with parts of themselves, with their personal creations.”  Think about that for a minute and then just internally sign those contracts.  Try to be present through the whole game of the levels of trust happening around the table as you go through the story of the session.

As a player, look for ways to boost another player and their character’s story.  Want the equivalent of a stage-dive trust fall?  Do something ridiculous to your character and look for other players to catch you.  Afterwards, turn around and catch other player’s characters when they jump off the stage next.   Look past your GM’s dungeon and try to get a feeling of what story they are trying to tell.   Look for the love and care put into the adventure and the setting and use your character to let the GM know you appreciate the story.

As a GM, put your creations, plot lines and monsters to the side and try to figure out how you can support your player’s and their ideas.  If it goes with the character’s story, let them kill that undead lich king you spent hours honing and for which you have 10 pages of back story written. Just make it a good scene and then go back and harvest another villain from those 10 pages later.  Don’t worry about fleshing out every detail of that three story tavern and inn you’ve fallen in love with and instead build  an adventure around part of a player character’s backstory.  Then, throw your tavern into that backstory.  If the characters begin moving in a different direction then what you had planned, keep that trust up and happily let them go in the new direction.  Don’t railroad them back to what you think is right.  Let them know they can trust you with aspects of their character.

Look around and find those contracts.  Sign them with a flourish and support each other around the table.

I think you will notice a difference in the feel of the game if you do.

How It Started

The late 70’s were big for me. I had my brain explode twice before 1980.  I had grown up with Star Trek episodes, Godzilla movies, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Daniel Boone and a little known science fiction show called Space 1999. During the summer of 1977 I had my eleven year old brain blown by watching Star Wars on the big screen and spent most every weekend afterwards figuring out ways to see it again and again and again and again.

At the end of the 1979 I went to visit a friend I had not seen in a while.  When we lived next to each other we had spent idyllic summer days in the yard behind his house chasing frogs and damning up the nearby creek. We played war with little green plastic men. We played cowboys and indians. We played daring knights and fought off monsters.  My parents had moved from the city and now lived two hours away in a much smaller town.  I’d not seen him for a long time and was excited to hang out with him again.

It was a Christmas-time visit during the holiday break.  The weather was cold and somewhat nasty so we played inside and caught up with each other.  For Christmas, his parents had given him some sort of weird new game he was excited about but which I had never seen. The box for the game was very colorful and featured a wizard and a knight confronting a dragon sitting on a mound of gold. It was called “Dungeons and Dragons.”

Sitting on the floor together, my friend tried to explain the game to me and wanted to know if I wanted to make a “Character.”  He showed me a handful of very oddly shaped plastic dice.

“It’ll make more sense if we just play,” he said.

I didn’t understand but I agreed. He took me through the steps to make a wizard and we began to play. I entered into a creepy old dungeon and fought two rats and, later, some goblins. I fired off a magic missile for the first time. I found a treasure chest with some coins and a magic wand. Once I realized it was a game of make-believe I got excited.

My brain exploded for the second time.

Then my parents were coming to get me and it was time to go. He hurried me out of the dungeon, wrapping up my first adventure. I asked him where he found the game as I rushed to get my coat and shoes on. I needed to find a copy!  I needed to know more, to play more!  What about my wizard? What would happen next?

“I’ll use him as a character in the game I play with my older brother. When you come back you can play him again.”

My parents were pulling into the driveway.

“Where can I find this game? Where did you get it?”

“I don’t know where my parents got it. I really wanted it and told everyone about it.”

“But, where did they FIND IT?”

My parents were coming to the door. There were greetings and hellos. I would have to leave very soon.

“I don’t know but…” and my friend suddenly ran back into his room. He came back carrying a Dungeons and Dragons box set still in its shrink wrap . “Look, I asked for this so much I actually got two copies. We were going to take this one back but here… I want you to have it.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Really? Are you sure?”

My parents were calling me and it was time to go. It was the holidays. Family to visit. Meals to eat.

He smiled and pressed it into my hands, “Yes. This way when you come back to play again you’ll know what you’re doing.”  He laughed.

I thanked him profusely and left with my parents back out into the cold December air. He waved to me. I waved to him. “Look what he gave me, Mom! It’s really cool. It’s a new kind of game!” As we drove away, I had the box open and was looking over the items inside, flipping through the book.

It was the last time I would see my friend.

Time passed.  We didn’t make the two hour trip as often.  People change.  Kids don’t really have firm control of their destiny, let alone long drives.  Things shift.  Life takes you on different turns and then, before you know it, you have lost touch with someone.   That was before the internet and easy communication.

I went home and poured over the book.  I made a dungeon.  I made several characters. It was the holiday break and at the first opportunity I had a friend or two over and we started to play.  We played very badly but we played.  I discovered that a local hobby store in my small Indiana town carried some modules and books.  Over the next few years, I moved on to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and became a poster child for the Stranger Things cast.  I ran a game.  My buddy ran a game.  Then another buddy was running a game.   We talked about the game during lunch breaks at school.

You know how it goes, right?

And that’s how it all started.  From a simple, generous gift came a lifetime of creativity, stories, drawings, maps, friends, adventure, laughter and fun.  A simple act of generosity followed by infinite ripples of effect after effect flowing outward over the decades.

That’s how I want it to continue.

It’s the most important part.  It’s the bottom line behind this entire project and all that I have planned here.

It’s a gift.

I hope you like it.