D&D Little League: Generation x(box)
Part Two
By: Glenn Bresciani

In the movie, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, there is a scene where an exasperated Dungeon Master complains about the group of players in his D&D campaign. "If I don't keep them focused on the story, they're going to run around looting, killing and impregnating my entire world."

Yeah, I hear you buddy, I hear you. All I've had is grief since my two nephews Zak (aged 13) and Jeremy (aged 10) joined my campaign. From preschoolers to high-schoolers, they have grown up playing video games. They've never once played any other games, not even Hungry Hippos. Joining my campaign was their first D&D experience and, like being hit by a fire ball cast by a powerful wizard, they were blown away by the freedom that the game provided. Anything they could imagine; they could have their player characters do.

I started the game session with a role-play encounter. That was stupid of me. A group of Non-Player Characters warn the player characters to run away, far away, or else they will be killed by a hungry Owlbear that prowls the backroads. My kids and nephews, drawing on the back of their character sheets with a crayon, ignored my campy performance as I roleplayed the NPCs.

"We keep walking," said Mandy, (aged 9) still doodling on her character sheet.

What's wrong with my players? How could they not be concerned? Don't they crave the excitement and glory that rescuing the innocent, and slaying a monster, would bring? Maybe I failed to get the point across, so I have one of the NPC repeat the warning in a more urgent tone.

"We don't care; we keep walking," Zak interrupted me, never once looking up from his drawing.

The encounter ended before it begins. I continued narrating everything that the player characters can see, smell, and hear. I described the warmth of the midday sun, the tweeting of birds, fluffy white clouds drifting through the sky, the peasants tending to their wheat fields.

Zak sat up straight, grinning as he picked up his twenty-sided dice. "I'm gonna shoot arrows at the peasants."

All the other players dropped their crayons. Did someone say combat?

"Make an attack roll," I said with a sigh.

Zak did just that, his thief, Hudson, firing off a few "intent to kill" shots. Luckily, for the peasants, he rolled under 8 on his d20. The arrows hit everything else but their intended targets.

The peasants run off screaming- having only 4 hit points, what else is a normal human to do?

Having ignored my first event-based encounter, my players have failed to take their first step to becoming the heroic saviors of the helpless, the slayers of monsters, that the game intended them to be. So, I executed the second event-based encounter, hoping to push my players across the proverbial threshold so they could begin their hero's journey.

As the player characters rambled down the road, I have them pass the Dragon Down tavern. Of course, the players want to go inside. Who wouldn't want to go into a tavern? That's why they're so popular in D&D. Even my players, who are children and not even close to the legal age to consume alcohol, are mesmerized by a tavern.

I described the common room, the barmaid who is pouring ale into mugs, the few customers sitting at tables-

"Sleep spell!" shouted Mandy.

I hid behind my DM screen so my kids and my nephews couldn't see me cringe. Why, oh why, do I always forget Mandy's Sleep spell? I despise that spell. With no saving throw to save them, all the NPCs in the common room succumbed to a deep, magical sleep. With a smug look aimed at me, Mandy and Zak had their elf and their thief rob the sleeping patrons then leave the tavern. They even stole a donkey that was parked out in the stables.

Another failed event-based encounter. Looks like my players won't be beginning their hero's journey after all.

After an hour (in game time) of having the player characters drifting up and down the highway between wheat fields, I asked the players what will they do; where will they go? I pointed out where the player characters were currently located on my map. My kids and nephews leaned towards the middle of the table to study the map. They all agreed to visit the nearest farming village.

Tsk, seriously? I shook my head in disbelief. Never mind that Hudson has been shooting arrows at the peasants in every wheat field he has passed this morning. My players fail to see the problem with walking into a village after one of them has tried to kill the villagers working in their fields.

The front gate, the only entrance into the village, is closed and barred. All along the top of the rampart, the peasants take up a defensive position, their bows, and arrows good to go. Yeah, take that you munchkin murder hobos! See how you like being shot at. I ask everyone to roll initiative.

Zak glanced over his character sheet, to see which of his thief's special abilities will aid him in this encounter. "Sweet. I can climb walls. Can I run round to the back of the village, then climb over the rampart?"

"Yes, you can," I said, failing to hide the dismay in my voice.

"Wait, Dad! Dad!" shouted Mandy. "I wanna distract the peasants- the ones above the gate shooting arrows at us- so they don't see Hudson run off."

"Okay. How will you do that?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"I'm gonna have my elf unbuckle her leather armor, pull off her undergarments, and run around naked doing cartwheels and backflips."

Zak and Mandy gave each other a high five.

Dan (aged 11) gawked at his sister and his cousin in open-mouthed horror as arrows struck and broke against the chainmail that his orc wears.

Jeremy had his cleric deflect the incoming arrows with his shield. He still can't get over the fact that a cleric is forbidden in the game to carry a sword. What a bullshit rule.

I told Zak to roll his percentile dice, as Hudson has only a 25% chance to Move Silently- ah, stuff it. Why bother rolling; my game is ruined anyway. I allowed Zak's thief to succeed his Move Silently check just to see what he will do. While the elf was in the nude going all Cirque Du Soleil at the front gate of the village, Hudson snuck round to the back and climbed up and over the rampart.

"You're now in the village," I told my nephew.

"What's the biggest building?" said Zak.

"Um…that would be the Baron's manor," I replied.

"Ah, sweet. I'm gonna climb the wall and get in through an open window."

Hudson did exactly that, sneaking into the bed chamber of the Lord and Lady Carrington. Zak grinned as Hudson swiped a jewelry box from off the dresser.

Why- oh why -did I even bother using the event-based encounters written in my DM notes? The plot turning points I had engineered into each encounter have nothing to turn. There is no plot; there is no point to anything that Zak and Mandy do in my game. Everything they do, they do for their own self-gratification. If their player characters existed in the real world, their bad behavior would have landed them in jail, or on the electric chair.

A village, a town, a kingdom, thousands of imaginary lives could either be killed or saved by an imaginary hero, depending on the real whims of a real player.

As the Dungeon Master, it is disenchanting when my notes- which I spent hours, planning and writing -are made irrelevant by my players' lack of action. Sure, each game session never goes as planned. Sure, my players do anything they can imagine. Sure, everything my players imagine involves looting, killing, and impregnating my entire world. But, honestly, it's fine. I'm fine. The beauty of a game like D&D, which is powered by creativity and not by computer code and pixels, is that I can have my campaign world, and all the NPC who populate it, respond to my players' aggression anyway I can imagine.

Try doing that on an Xbox.


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