Games at the Library, part 1
Apologies for the belatedness of this post. November 15, 2008 was (arbitrarily?) declared to be National Gaming Day at the Library. I had no idea until I arrived at the library and was expected to run games:
As part of the initiative, this branch’s children’s department received a bunch of games including two copies of the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set. The other librarian on duty knew I was a D&D player, so she said I should just run some D&D games today for kids.
I didn’t have time or the inclination to read and use the newfangled 4th Edition intro rules (I openly confess an aversion to post-TSR versions of the game), so it was a good thing I had my binder with the OD&D (1974 White Box rules) printouts in them and some extra dice in my bag…
I had two groups total — one at a time, morning and afternoon. Morning was 1 girl and 1 boy, and after the girl left the boy’s dad sat in and played her character. The boy and his father had played some 3.5e previously, so they were familiar with how rpgs run and they really got into it. The second group was 3 boys. I asked them if they played any rpgs online (Runescape, Guild Wars, etc.); their familiarity with classes, attributes, etc. really helped when it came to rolling characters and explaining the game. At first they seemed somewhat hesitant, but soon they got into it and we played for about 2.5 hours, winding down when two of them had to leave.
The adventures were 100% improvised, with some consideration given to the various dungeon tiles included in the 4e intro box set. (I used a mix of tiles and paper sketches to help describe the adventuring environments.) The first one was more structured – a quest to defeat an evil wizard, modeled on the 5-Room Dungeons format. The second was more in the exploratory, freebooting spirit of OD&D – “you have heard of great treasures in this ruined monastery, but beware of the foul monsters and strange enchantments therein.” I ran both games in keeping with the “Four Zen Moments” presented in Matthew Finch’s excellent Quick Primer for Old-School Gaming, especially the emphasis on “Player Skill, not Character Abilities.” Character creation was under 10 minutes. The kids rolled their own character stats (3d6 in order) and chose their classes, then I quickly gave them their equipment and spells and dumped them right in front of the dungeon door. Both games ran smoothly in terms of mechanics; I was able to handle feat- and skill-like actions easily with a mix of attribute checks and spot rulings. I didn’t crack the binder open once during the entire game, only referring to my page of combat tables and saving throws.
The other children’s librarian on duty (completely unfamiliar with RPGs) was blown away by the kids’ enthusiasm and the potential value of RPG play in the library. Now she wants to learn the game so she can run sessions at her regular branch once it re-opens. Based on our experience Saturday, I’m hoping to run workshops for librarians interested in hosting regular RPG sessions for kids and teens at their branches. I’ve been working on an outline for the workshop (short lecture, followed by a session of actual gameplay and some Q&A); the wheels are turning, and it looks like the workshop will happen as early as sometime this spring.