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.

Advertisements

Liking Magic: The Gathering

I’ve recently started to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG) for fun (i.e. not competitively). There are dozens of casual play formats that let you tailor the game to your preferences, and “kitchen table Magic” can be cheap.

I just bought a couple thousand common cards (i.e. the most commonly found in booster packs, 10 of the 15 cards) for about $40, and that’s enough to play with my family for years without getting bored. These cards are not valuable, nor can you reasonably expect to win much against competitive players in the MTG community, but it’s a ton of fun without a huge investment. The game formats using only common cards are called “Pauper” formats.

Magic has both a main game and a “metagame”. In the main game each player has a deck of cards and tries to defeat her or his opponent. In the metagame each player tries to build a deck of cards to use in the main game. You can opt out of either game if you want. Don’t like the metagame? Buy or build a preconstructed deck and you can play the main game with it. Just want to build decks, or don’t have any opponents handy? It’s pretty enjoyable just reading cards and trying to figure out how to make them work well together in a deck.

I like both, though. It’s fun to select cards for your deck and then test them against your opponents’ choices. It’s definitely better as a social game than as a solo game (although that’s possible too).

I thought very, very briefly about getting involved in the larger community of players, but it’s impractical and expensive for me. I like the game, but playing with cheap cards seems like a better fit than shelling out hundreds of dollars for the “good” cards. This way I’m not worried about my kids accidentally ruining a card and feeling bad about it. They’re super-replaceable (the cards, not the kids).

Both of my kids like to play and read the cards, and it’s been good for them.

We drive each school day for a healthy distance. A couple of weeks ago my son asked for some “undead” Magic cards (black) to read in the car. He read through about a hundred cards, including the “flavour text” (thematic text that doesn’t affect gameplay) in twenty minutes or so, and he’s seven. Magic and Pokémon both have been good reading challenges for him.

My daughter likes to categorize and sort the cards, although she seems less interested in actually playing the main game. She wants to do some drafting with some homemade “booster packs” (deck building based on a limited selection of random cards) soon, and I’m looking forward to it too.

All of the parts of Magic: The Gathering have been fun and challenging, and I’m glad I started. The only problem is figuring out how to store all these cards. :)

A good time was had by all

Yesterday was International TableTop Day, and our family celebrated. We had a big stack of games ready to go, and we played the following: 

  • Magic: The Gathering (even Kerri, out of pity for me)
  • Crazy Eights
  • Chicken/Dice/Ten Thousand
  • Sorry
  • Wizard
  • Checkers
  • Chess (rules heavily modified/ignored by my 7yo)
  • Cribbage

And today we played more games because they were on the table this morning. Everyone agreed that it was a great time, and a fantastic way to be with family. My daughter asked if we could do that every Saturday :)