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Been Away for Awhile...
#1
First post, sorry for length, but couldn't think of a better place to put it. Please enjoy my recent experiences regarding Critical Role and its inspiring to start a DnD club at the school at which I teach. If you have any tips regarding running such a club, please feel free to post and discuss. Or just say "Hey."


Years ago, in my youth, I played Dungeons and Dragons. We had an absolute blast. I wasn't a complete stereotypical nerd or anything, and neither were most of my friends. Some of us played sports (I wrestled), we weren't socially awkward for the most part, and did okay at parties. Usually, though, we simply enjoyed the company of each other more than a large group and enjoyed the prospect of imaginary journeys. Some of my most vivid memories are completely imagined.

One such memory doesn't even come from DnD, but from an alternate system called Palladium that, although clunky in hindsight, had some really interesting race and class options. I won't go into it (nothing much more boring than listening to another's reminiscings of DnD adventures and the inside jokes), but it's enough to say that not much good can happen when your campaign starts with "three trolls and a witch walk into a tavern." Said tavern was set on fire, knocked over, and an armor-smith was unceremoniously made deceased when all three aforementioned trolls and an assassin made criticals or close to it on their surprise strikes.

Fast forward 20 years. I haven't played since college and live nowhere near any of my childhood friends. I have two very young children and can't find the time (nor will I take precious time away from my wife and children) to find a new group and play. So I handle it and deal.

Enter Critical Role and, to a lesser extent, Titansgrave.

Here were voice actors, three of them WOMEN... that were playing DnD and having an absolute blast and NAILING it as far as the overall experience goes. I figured the inside jokes that are such a big part of the experience wouldn't transfer (I mean who doesn't laugh at the prospect of wielding a Wall +1 or giggle whenever you hear the phrase "lobster thermidore" or completely breakdown when someone looks at you sideways and says, "Hey... wanna buy an ogre?" anyone? anyone?), but the transfer works because the audience becomes part of it.

Long story slightly less long, I got the itch. Now, I'm still not willing to take time away from my family, my kids are too young to play, and I can't stay up late without jeopardizing work performance, health, and my marriage. I'm a teacher and commute an hour. I'm planning on playing in the summertime online or at the local game shop but that's 9 months away.

Wait, I'm a teacher, and totally have a high school full of kids of whom I'm charged with the responsibility of bettering our future. High schools have cliques... one of those being gamers!

It took a while to work out the semantics and find willing victims, but I get some bodies and we plan to meet. One kid says, "We tried to get something going last year but they wanted me to DM." His face lit up when I informed him that I planned on DMing, No books are in my possession anymore --and, you know, teacher's salary-- but I splurge on the Starter's Set, which includes an adventure, print out the online copy of the basic rules (sorry taxpayers), and plan on $10 dues for acquiring books, dice, and more adventures. The initial meeting plans on being just talk but I get the feeling some character creation will be done.

Fast forward: I was completely correct about the character creation. We had 5 or 6 students immediately, and began rolling characters right away. I have one set of dice from the Basic Rules, and we were using Wizards of the Coast's online dice roller site. The hour went quickly, and at the end of the day we had two wizards, two rogues (including a Drow), a paladin, and a bugbear weapons summoner for whom I needed to do research.

Day later, two more show up in my classroom, wanting in on the action but are very hesitant. We roll characters (both rogues, including one wanting to be an assassin), but I hear they might not follow through, which is too bad because I get the sense that the girl playing the assassin would have an amazing role-player.

Two days later, two more come in, these guys more serious about joining, one confessing he loves writing pages of backstory. We roll their characters (sorcerer, rogue), and I realize that if everyone shows, I've got 11 students in the party. I was willing to run 9, but 11 is just too much and I fear that the experience would become convoluted and annoying, troublesome and noisy, the exact opposite of what I want for these kids. So I have 3 choices, all of which mean splitting into two adventuring groups. 1. I run 2 games per week. The best option on paper, but with a wife and children this is a non-option. 2. Get another DM. This is another decent option, but the prospect of ME running this thing is what brought these kids here in the first place. They had a student DM last year and it tanked, quickly. 3. Run a biweekly game, with parties alternating weeks. The non-adventuring party can watch, play other games, not come, whatever. This is what I'm going with, but it means that I may need to come up with another campaign, as running the same Basic Rules module for both parties might not work the way I intend ("Hey, don't be rude to the banshee, she disappears.")

All in all, they're burdens that are unexpected and welcome. I can't wait to see what's in store. To say I'm nervous is an understatement. I practice my descriptions during my long commute and listen to podcasts trying to improve on their scene-painting skills (turning "you hit and do 10 damage" into "you swing your great axe and carve a sizable chunk in the orc's side, his eyes are wide, thank you Matthew Mercer).

Week or so later, and we've had our first session! I've successfully recruited another DM, a student who ran adventures at another school. We had two parties at our first session, 4 players each which will almost certainly grow by at least one person next week. I've actually reduced the dues from $10 to $5 due to the amount of interest, which  will be $45 and enough to reimburse me for the Starter's Set and dice I've bought, as well as be enough to pick up a badly needed Player's Handbook. I ran the first dungeon in Elemental Evil's Princes of the Apocalypse adventure, and thought it went well. Someone almost got one shotted, they don't have a cleric, they didn't buy any provisions along the lines of healing potions, but they are having fun and learning about things such as touching corpses without precautions and wandering dungeons without looking around first. I am learning about just what a poor note-taker I am, how awful I am at acting, and world-building. I'm not sure why I didn't use the Wizards of the Coast-provided Forgotten Realms towns of Red Larch and Phandalin, but I felt like I wanted options, I think. 

I had planned for the characters going into an inn, talking up the barkeep, finding out about dead walking in the hills, and pursuing said dead, which is exactly what they did. But I find myself WANTING them to send me off the rails... instead saying things like, "We can leave those dead for another time, I want to inspect some of the buildings near that cliff." 

That will happen eventually, I'm sure. 
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#2
I've got a lot of respect for you sir! Seems like you have the right balance with your family responsibilities. I've just started playing myself (as the DM no less, jumping in the deep end) and a few in my group have family commitments too. Even though all I want to do is play a couple of times a week, I respect that it can't take time away from family. Please let me know how things progress, and I'm sure it means a lot to the students.

On a side note, why the hell didn't I have any teachers in collage as epic as this! ;-)
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#3
It is going well. Still 8 strong and we have a blast every week. Some of them even explained dnd in there stats class.
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#4
Sounds like you're having fun. Have you told the kids about Critical Role? If not why not show it to them one session to give yourself extra time to plot material for your campaign Winking
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#5
Minus being a teacher and having a family, your story was sounding similar to mine.

Have you considered doing an audio recording of your sessions since you only run it for an hour? It would help with any note taking you want to do.
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#6
(01-13-2016, 09:27 PM)fmacanadaguy Wrote: Minus being a teacher and having a family, your story was sounding similar to mine.

Have you considered doing an audio recording of your sessions since you only run it for an hour?  It would help with any note taking you want to do.

Note-taking, not one of my strong suits. Tongue Out
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#7
(01-14-2016, 06:52 AM)MessiahMoose Wrote:
(01-13-2016, 09:27 PM)fmacanadaguy Wrote: Minus being a teacher and having a family, your story was sounding similar to mine.

Have you considered doing an audio recording of your sessions since you only run it for an hour?  It would help with any note taking you want to do.

Note-taking, not one of my strong suits. Tongue Out

Good thing you're a teacher and not a student then ;P
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#8
(01-13-2016, 08:04 PM)LordofUzkulak Wrote: Sounds like you're having fun.  Have you told the kids about Critical Role?  If not why not show it to them one session to give yourself extra time to plot material for your campaign Winking

I've considered telling them about Critical Role, but have fallen short of actually doing that because of the rated-R language. I teach knee-deep in the heart of the Bible Belt and I can't risk getting phone calls. The group's too important to me.

(01-14-2016, 08:22 AM)LordofUzkulak Wrote:
(01-14-2016, 06:52 AM)MessiahMoose Wrote:
(01-13-2016, 09:27 PM)fmacanadaguy Wrote: Minus being a teacher and having a family, your story was sounding similar to mine.

Have you considered doing an audio recording of your sessions since you only run it for an hour?  It would help with any note taking you want to do.

Note-taking, not one of my strong suits. Tongue Out

Good thing you're a teacher and not a student then ;P
Exactly!
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#9
If you're in the Bible Belt you might as well show them - the parents will be coming soon with torches and pitchforks soon anyway for you teaching the kids 'satanic rituals' ;P
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#10
I hear you about bad note taking. I quite often have moments of inspiration while playing and just add in something new that wasn't in my notes while playing a session. When this happens I make a a quick note on a sticky pad with a rough idea of the extra plot so I can work on it in detail for the next session.

This has led me to a few awkward situations, including once when I forgot to develop one plot and introduced another character later on with the same name. Originally a lead to a nasty baddy, I accidently used the same name for a harmless old lady with a rat problem. It took a long time for the laughter to end when I explained this to the paladin who smites her as she turns to make tea for her guests.
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