Starting a new Role Playing Game Club

Today was the inaugural meeting of the Superior Heights Role Playing Game club. Over the past two weeks I’ve asked interested students to create first-level characters that they would be interested in playing. I recommended orcpub2.com using the Point Buy system for stats to help ensure a “legal” character for each of them. To my surprise, fifteen students want to play.

That’s a lot.

Like, three games’ worth.

I’m the only GM available, it appears, so I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. I’m committing to spending two hours with them every Friday night after school, plus all the prep work between sessions. I’m considering rotating groups through, running two or three games on a cycle.

This afternoon there were “only” six players. Several students had other commitments or couldn’t get rides home after the game. Six was manageable, but only just.

Rules

Apart from the official game rules, I set out some rules for the club at school. Here’s a paraphrasing of them.

  • Everyone is responsible for ensuring the group is having fun.
  • You are not your character. In-game stuff (especially conflicts) need to stay in the game.
  • No foul language. You might be okay with it, but I’m not and the person beside you might not be.
  • No sex of any kind.
  • No violence towards children.

The students also added a rule to my list:

  • No player-versus-player (PvP) combat.

The Start

This was even more challenging than I expected. All six players were new to the game, but they had all spent time developing characters already.

My plan was to help them to build connections between characters by requiring them to answer questions about their pasts. “Sally, what serious event did your character and Mark’s character both witness?” “Jim, what is it about Jordan’s character that irritates your character?” That sort of thing.

There was a frustrating trend that began here and continued throughout the session. A player would suggest something (here it was an event in the backstory), and then another player would suggest a different and mutually exclusive idea, and then both players would be at a standstill. Both were invested in their idea, and neither wanted to work with the other’s suggestions. I didn’t know how to help them work this out, but I did the best I could. This problem slowed the game significantly.

I did my best to roll with (ha ha) the backstories the players had developed to set the initial scene. Players didn’t really know what to do, and I wished that I had forced them to develop a party before starting (instead I asked them to work at coming together in the first session).

Some characters took actions that helped the party come together, but other characters took actions that drove the party apart. Making decisions among six people was onerous.

When the session was wrapping up I recapped the major events so far to make sure we were in sync. I also talked with the players about how to play together instead of just making sure their characters did cool stuff for themselves. I guess we’ll see next time if my post-session pep talk was helpful.

Even though the game was super-challenging for me and not as successful (progressive?) as I’d hoped, it was clear that most of the players had fun. They left the classroom and stood in the hall, talking about what happened and speculating about what could happen next. They were intrigued, and some talked about tweaking their characters to make them more “playable” with the rest of the group.

Fingers crossed that I’m a bit better at this next week.

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Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft TCG with Standard Playing Cards

A few months ago my 7-year-old son casually mentioned that it would be cool to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG, or Magic) with standard playing cards (sometimes called a poker deck or a French deck). We gave it a whirl. He won, naturally, as he was making up the rules.

But he got me thinking about how to craft a Magic-esque experience with the cards that everyone has in their homes. Magic is fairly difficult to explain to people once you understand and appreciate some the complexity that makes it awesome. The simpler parts of the game, tapping for mana and attacking with creatures, are often lost in the avalanche of keywords and strategies.

The first TCG/CCG I really learned was World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (or WOWTCG), with has a fair bit in common with MTG. You play allies (like creatures), resources (like land for mana), and abilities (like non-creature spells) in a similar fashion. A major difference in WOWTCG is that you can play any card as a resource. For example, you might draw an “expensive” card and realize you’ll never get to play it. Lay it face down as a resource instead, and it now serves to make your other cards more viable.

So I combined that WOWTCG component with MTG to make the following game. If you don’t already know how to play MTG or WOWTCG this will likely be too brief of an explanation. A ton of stuff isn’t included (enchantments, equipment, artifacts, sorceries, and approximately a bazillion keywords and mechanics). All non-creature spells are instants.

The Setup

The game requires one deck of 52 standard playing cards.

Choose a dealer somehow (e.g. cut for a high card). Shuffle the deck and deal 7 cards to each player. No mulligans are allowed. The remaining cards are placed between the players and to one side; they make up a shared library.

Each player begins with 20 life points. Track them on paper or with dice.

Anatomy of a turn

The same steps apply as for MTG: untap, upkeep, draw, main, combat, main, end. Everything’s normal here. Creatures still have summoning sickness, blockers are declared in the same way, etc.

One major difference is that the active player can play any card as a Land (source of mana)… there are no specially designated Land cards. This is the bit from WOWTCG, see? Below is the list of card meanings.

Because the deck is shared, you’ll need a common graveyard. When the library is depleted, shuffle the graveyard to replace it. The maximum hand size of 7 at the end of any turn should ensure there are always cards available for the library.

Winning

You win by reducing your opponent’s life total to zero.

Card Meanings

Suits don’t matter. Here are the card meanings based on their values. You’ll probably want to keep this handy if you’re playing.

Ace: A 1/1 creature for 1 mana.

2: A 2/2 creature for 2 mana.

3: A 3/3 creature for 3 mana.

4: A 4/4 creature for 4 mana.

5: A 5/5 creature for 5 mana.

6: A 6/6 creature for 6 mana.

7: Instant: Counter spell for 3 mana.

8: Instant: Cause 3 damage to target creature or player for 2 mana.

9: Instant: Gain 3 life for 2 mana.

10: Instant: Give a creature +4/+4 until the end of turn for 3 mana.

Jack: Instant: Destroy target land or creature for 4 mana.

Queen: Instant: Cause 1 damage to every creature for 2 mana.

King: Instant: Draw 2 cards for 3 mana.

Reference Cheat Sheet

Here are some little card meaning reference sheets that should fit nicely inside of your Bicycle deck box:

MTG-WOWTCG-FrenchDeck-CheatSheets

Feedback?

Please comment with happiness or concerns. I’ll try to play this sometime and then I’ll have some feedback for myself as well.