I love playing Dungeons and Dragons. More so, I love teaching children about the world we live in through fantasy worldbuilding and storytelling.
There are minutes in life that pass us by while we work and play. And then, there are moments in which time slows down. As if God was tapping us on the shoulder saying, “No, really, pay attention to this moment.”
It will change your life.
That moment, that kairos moment tapped on my shoulder today.
I run a few D&D classes for kids throughout the week. We play for 2 hours, with a short “bio-break” interlude. Then, kids walk out the wiggles, go to the bathroom and buy Magic the Gathering cards for $0.10/card.
During the game, the kids take turns adding to the story of their characters and rising conflict, climaxing in either an ultimate battle with evil, or getting out of a hilariously sticky situation. Challenges are resolved with the roll of a dice, which can be so satisfying with success, and so frustrating with failure.
Either way, the kids learn. They learn to deal with the consequences and get back into brainstorming mode until something works. To be honest, most of the memories made surround character failures rather than outright wins.
After the game, I hand out homework.
Laughing to myself, why would kids want to do homework?
They do with D&D. Parents tell me the kids don’t stop talking and thinking about the story and what will happen next. So, I give the the kids a topic in the game world to research to see what they come up with. Truth be told, I resource from their great ideas most of the time.
Today, I received a ton of papers from the student on Pixies. That’s right, little tinkerbells and bloomin’ fairies!
The students provided some serious research, to be honest, enough for me to source an entire upcoming adventure. But the most heartwarming moment (the one that slowed me down) was reading the credits to my student’s homework.
Special Thank to Mr. Jonathan for all his hard work on Dnd!
My heart is full of thanks!
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
At this moment, I am thankful for my wonderful students who learn and play along with me in our journey of life.
I am Jonathan and welcome to Sojourners, Awake. I build young men and women into leaders and storytellers.
Sojourn – travel a day together under the sun
Two things that children have always done well are Fun and Faith. No matter how old we become, I believe that there is still room and time to access that eternal child and grow in your fun and your faith.
By teaching tabletop roleplaying games, I build up young men and women into storytellers of their values all the while, making their own home made entertainment.
Listen to my podcast and subscribe to my newsletter. If you are in the area, meet me at our friendly local game store. There you can join my class or register for a gaming retreat.
However you choose to sojourn with us, as always, may your story continue!
Last week, I was at a birthday party. Naturally, I brought up Dungeons and Dragons as a topic. Someone there understood the reference, but then asked me “but how do you play?”
Nowadays, we understand tabletop roleplaying games through references from our favorite streaming shows. But less of us know HOW the game is actually played.
And that is why I refer to listen to actual play podcasts.
Here are a few reasons why I think listening will increase as a medium for entertainment.
Radio Shows – do you remember this? Chances are, you probably don’t, because no families sit around the fireplace and radio, listening to their favorite story. Stories like Abbot and Costello, Roy Rogers come to my mind, but I know there are hundreds more. FDR spoke his fireside chats and we all listened. Radio, unlike television, requires everyone to pitch in with their imagination. With the sense of sight not being appeased, I believe listening to a show helps the audience participate more with the entertainment.
Here are a few things I do have in my life: cable, movie theaters, dvds, or more than 2 streaming services. There are a lot of great movies and shows out there, but lately, the stories are starting to smell of recycling. I have been more entertained by listening to someone “rewrite” hellywood’s stories rather than actually watching the movies. With actual play podcasts, I get a fresh story, because I’m certain the players at the table simply want to have a good time, make each other laugh and get a chance for a few good moments in the game. Ironically, this translates into better storytelling than a multimillion dollar company of experts.
Thanks for reading this bit of a rant, but also a call to action. If you want to be happy, get into the habit of creating your own entertainment. Make art – a simple expression of linguistic creativity and do so with friends. Lately, my favorite entertainment has been doing just that through my podcast Sojourners, Awake!
Take the time to visit these creative works below who have brought me inspiration.
For me, the best time to enjoy a podcast is while driving. I also listen while doing chores like laundry and dishes. Sometimes I play the podcast while making dinner. I’m sure you could make room today for one of these great stories in your day! If you enjoyed this writing, leave a comment, or share with a friend. We need more creative works in the world.
Homebrew Adventure for busy gamemasters and homeschool parents
Time is a commodity and I hope to show you a simple adventure design to inspire you to prepare less for your tabletop roleplaying games. If you are a busy gamemaster, or a homeschool parent want to write up an adventure for your children, then enjoy this recipe and have fun homebrewing your own in the future! If you want to skip to the pdf version of this adventure, scroll to the bottom of the screen.
A Villain appropriate for the player level
A Target the villain threatens
Villain Action Zero (instructions below)
A Secret Ingredient! (it’s magical)
Player Character Motivation
Final Showdown Location
Here is how to work all of the ingredients into an adventure!
This is a Level 1 Adventure Recipe
First, pick a villain that you are comfortable roleplaying. Skim through a manual of monsters. Let’s choose a bullywug captain for this example. He’s a bullywug stat block, but you will add a cool weapon and more hit points to increase his challenge.
Next, pick a target. This will be a person, place or thing the villain threatens. I think of a small fishing village named Songbird that recently moved near the bullywug’s swamp. They are peaceful, simple and often hunt in the swamp to make ends meet. For surefire motivation to complete the adventure, consider having some if not all of the player characters from this location.
Next, decide on a villain action zero. Every story has a conflict. The villain, in this adventure, makes a move that starts up the adventure. In this case, the bullywug captain has possessed the swamp and believes no one is allowed to hunt there. He has a problem in that his forces are not enough to drive them away, so he leaves his tribe and makes a journey into the wild to gain aid from a fiend. In the meantime, he allows a troll family to watch over his tribe for payment of frog flesh. All of this action happens outside of game, but over time, the player characters may discover the plot. When you design your villain action zero, consider that you are creating problems for the players to solve.
Now you may choose your secret ingredient. Browse through your favorite 5th edition book and choose a spell. Any spell! This spell is the way in which the villain accomplishes their mission. For this example, let’s choose fireball. Using fireball as inspiration, I decide then that the bullywug captain makes a deal with this fiend that if he provides acolytes to serve this fiend, then he can learn 3rd level fireball which he will use against the village. Ta da!
Next, establish the main motivation for the players. When designing a motivation, I encourage you to assign the main motivation to the players. Allow them to develop their characters over time, within the game and story. But if you assign them a basic motivation, it ensures that their characters will care about the adventure at hand.
Then, set up the 3 step villain plan. These are the events that will occur for the villain to reach their goals. Finally, develop 3 steps for the players that will guide them to defeat the villain and accomplish their goal.
Player Character Motivation
The PCs desire to establish peace in Dugget’s Swamp.
Add any specific player goals as well. Example: The ranger wants to make her first kill with a monstrous beast. The monk wants to discover the lost relic of Dugget’s Swamp.
Adventure Initiative with Player Steps and Villain Plans
Using the steps and the plans, you can write up an adventure. The adventure plays out a lot like combat where each party makes an action, back and forth, until the conflict is resolved in the final showdown location. Keep in mind, that of course, this is only an adventure outline. Naturally, the players will drive the story through their character’s actions and the game master narrates the outcomes. Nevertheless, preparing an outline provides leverage points for the players to access in case they require guidance. With the adventure outline, you are simply preparing the outcomes and the responses of the villains in case the players take the most probable route.
The sojourners must discover the presence of many tribes, conflict and understand that resources are limited in the swamp.
Under the threatening rule of the trolls, the bullywug tribe panics. Before the captain returns, they capture a player ally from the village to serve as a meal.
The sojourners must rescue their ally from the troll cave and discover the alliance.
Now the captain returns and instructs the tribe to raid a nearby lizardfolk tribe to gather resources and recruit them as acolytes to the fiend.
The sojourners must warn the lizardfolk tribe to prevent the spread of the bullywugs influence and discover the plans for fireball attack.
Upon the fishing village, the tribe attacks, and the bullywug captain releases a massive fireball to destroy the fishing village once and for all.
The sojourners must stand against the attack upon the fishing village and defeat the captain.
Now that you have design an outline for the adventure, choose your Final Showdown Location. In this case, we should use the fishing village, Songbird, for this location. Drive the players towards this location by designing the villain to make their final action against the target. Your locations should be somewhere the players have investments, whether it be a person, place or thing. As you are the world builder, you can make sure the villain shows up to this location to have the final fight.
For this simple approach to developing adventures, browse your list of 5th edition spells for inspiration for the actions of your evil villain. You might choose Mental Prison, Polymorph, or Contagion. Don’t worry about the statistics for how the spell works so much as concerning yourself with inspiration on how the villain accomplishes their goals. Fill in the blanks anywhere the text has been underlined and gather your players together.
There is plenty of information on how to better prepare for your tabletop roleplaying games, but what about how to better improvise during the session?
I have learned a few tips from people who think quickly on their feet and I think these techniques can help you improve your improvisational skills in each of your games.
These techniques will help the game move along and make the story have a natural flow; use them often enough and they will become second nature to your game master abilities!
What is Improv?
Wingin’ it, making it up as you go, responding on the fly, faking it till you make it, improvisation – all of these silly phrases define a performer creating content on the spot and under the pressure of an audience. In these techniques, the game master is the performer and the players are the audience. Improvisation, like any skill, can be developed with practice.
Two Techniques – Making Connections and Perspective Shifting
Improvisation can simply be done by gathering information from the table. You can do this by either connecting disparate objects or shifting your perspective.
Make Connections through Randomness
In stand up comedy, one of the most used techniques is to take a random topic from the audience. After one single word is accessed, the comedian takes the word and riffs off of that word into their bit. TTRPGs have forever used random tables for this very technique, for indeed, it generates a new thought, topic, encounter or idea into the mind of the gamemaster. However, the skill of improv comes into play as the game master draws the connection between the current situation and the random topic.
Here, the gamemaster is stuck as the players wander around the tomb. Despite the preparation made beforehand, the game is slowing down to a painful crawl through an empty space within the setting. The Gamemaster has nothing else prepared, so they grab a random table and roll the dice – the dice points to the word “crocodiles”.
There are three connections the game master can make between the current situation and the word “crocodiles”.
At first guess, one would think draw up 1 crocodile for each player and fight to the bloody finish. The crocodiles are hungry or mad, and if fighting is fun, then this works to continue the story.
Another choice is to incorporate the random word as some feature within the setting. In this case, the players arrive in the next room where a large statue of a crocodile stands in honorable worship during a ceremony. This provides some exploration for it requires further investigation on the player’s part. Now, the story can continue through the tomb as the players explore and introduce their own actions in the setting.
The final option is to use the random word to start up a social encounter. In this case, the players find an archeologist who made camp while selling crocodile based products. It’s all of the supplies available that a player would find in the rulebook, but with a crocodile theme. Clothing – but made from crocodile skin, a longsword, but inlaid with crocodile bone. Mechanically, all of these items grant a +1 bonus when used for or against all things crocodile.
In conclusion, use this improv technique of accessing a random word and connecting it to the story through something to fight, explore or interact.
Shift the Perspective by Listening
The second technique, like the first, uses the power of randomness, but rather you listen to the player’s talk through the story in order to fuel your next improvisational encounter.
While your players are plotting their next adventure, listen to the direction they are taking the story. One player speculates that there will be traps located in the dungeon, so he prepares a few methods to disarm them. Another player laughs about the last encounter she had with the shopkeeper who swindled her into buying a potion of giggling. The players all talk about the dungeon preparation and mention that after they get done clearing out the dungeon, they want to go back and inform the baron that they will escort him on a dangerous mission.
I’m prepared for the dungeon encounter, but I want to use my improvisational skills as well, so while the players are talking I scribble down three words.
I heard the word “trap” so I plan to deliver a trip wire that releases a swinging scythe. I make sure to place it well hidden in a long hallway bridge and deliver the blade to not the person who trips the wire, but the person behind them. And I make sure to put many of these wires in each tunnel, hoping that the one time the player forgets to check, the trap delivers a dangerous attack!
I heard about the potion of giggling and think that a great opportunity for it to be used is to set out food and drink in the guards room. I’ll make sure to describe the guards taking it easy, but ready to defend if the players are spotted. This spread of food and drink might prompt the player to use the giggling potion to incapacite a few guards.
I also heard something about the players wanting to help the baron on his dangerous journey across the wilds, so I make sure to have the players discover that the castle owner plans to send an envoy to attack the baron. This last piece of the improvisation helps me connect this dungeon to the next adventure. Now the players have some intel on the quest they already want to embark upon.
I know you spend hours preparing for your sessions, and as well as you know your players, you can’t possibly prepare for everything. Improvisational skills such as making disparate connections and listening to the perspective of the players will help you improve each session as well as build the skill of improvisation.
Enjoy this end of the year update! I have a few things in production and in planning.
As a gamemaster and dad, I always have my kid’s campaign running. While the games are not produced, I still like to post blogs and articles on realization I make while playing D&D with my children. This is something that binds us together and we enjoy as a family.
Sojourners Awake also produces a storytelling podcast Anchor and Spotify host the podcast as well as Apple. We cruised past 3000 listens this year, for a record breaking 503 listens in a month. The podcast hosts 14 hours of gaming a month, 9 volunteers of gamemasters and players and 3 series. We also have 3 series archived for binging. Subscribe and leave a rating today to support the podcast!
I’m very excited about this! You can now Follow me at Gumroad where I post products for game masters! If you are interested in investing in your role as a gamemaster, you can purchase pdfs, videos and audio content to improve your storytelling. This is a great way to support Sojourners Awake and partner with me on what kind of content to create in the future.
I write for Roleplaying Tips! I love producing articles and have a few featured in their newsletter. Johnn Four created the Five Room Dungeon Model and let me tell you, this revolutionized my gaming preparation.
I love supporting other creators that help game masters. Tabletop Audio has been a constant source of inspiration for my games, and provides the background music and ambiance heard in the podcast. If you want to support them, visit the site, or become a patreon supporter. You can also support with one-time donations via paypal.
Speaking of creators, Halfling Hobbies is the go – to resource for your Dungeons and Dragons games. This article was the post I read that CHANGED my understanding of TTRPGs and led me down a long dark path of worldbuilding.
I hope to start a neighborhood game here this year. I hope to hit 10,000 listens by the end of the year. I am very much looking forward to creating workable content for game masters and players to use to make memorable stories around the table. I hope great things for you this 2022! Whether you are a game master, player or somewhere in between, please sojourn with me and as always, may your story continue!
In our family, we homeschool, and you may think of this as the DIY of education. We also play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, as that was the game we first learned. By blending learning styles such as Garner’s, along with TTRPGs, here is how I think the game brightens our children’s intelligence. I will only explore 6 styles in this post and plan to show you how each child may use all 6 styles to learn through playing table top role playing games.
Naturalistic – these children can store tons of data in their brain and at the same time, understand systems. All of the plants, animals, planets, stars, and humans mix together in their mind with concern for the parts making up the whole. Naturally, they are good at understanding any system, since they fascinate themselves with our first big system of nature. One of the lures of TTRPGs is the worldbuilding, the creation of a fiction world with laws and powers that resemble our own. Sometimes this creation can feel so real in the mind, we are then free to “wander” about in it and influence it from the table. This naturalistic way of learning provides moments of exploration in the game, seeking to understand how the small village in this kingdom fits in the larger continent of your fiction world. They are also the most likely to collect items, relics, books and animals. They love adopting pets.
Action: allow these learners to collect and build their own systems such as pets and shops.
Action: allow this learner a diary to classify discoveries in the fictional world.
Linguistic – these children excel in verbal skills. Through writing, reading, and speaking, they fill the game time up with all of the literary devices that enhance a story. Players can generate a backstory for their character. Without much effort, these learners love to write up their character stories as they play. They also enjoy telling the tales of creation, destruction, gods and powers, rise and fall of empires right down to the homely hamlet in the wild, communing with an eldritch force that threatens to overthrow all we think we know.
Action: allow these learners to assist with writing up a short narrative of the lore in your fictional world.
Action: allow this learner to write up a 10 sentence narrative recap of the last session.
Visual/Spatial – The game master can incorporate physical items in the game to stimulate visual learners. Maps, physical puzzles, miniature toys, and image depictions of the the villains are all examples of ways these learners enjoy the game. They often have a “photographic” memory as well and can easily remember what they saw. The other component of their brilliance is understanding the physical distance between two objects. They will enjoy travel, plotting courses, acting tactically in combat and visual artistic depictions of the game world.
Action: allow these learners plenty of visual examples of your descriptions. Include maps, letters and pictures as often as you can in the game.
Action: allow this learner to assist in setting up the terrain or map on the table.
Kinesthetic – Anyone who learns by moving their body may not want to sit for an hour and play a board game, much less a tabletop roleplaying game where so much is left up to the imagination. However, it is easy enough for a game master to collaborate with those who learn through movement. Rather than using jumping and running, remember that kinesthetic learners also learn through their manual dexterity. Including tactile information, such as physical maps, terrain, toy miniatures and dice is a sure way to enhance their learning experience. Allow them to stand up while playing. Allow them to act out their scenes in person. Allow them to continue the roleplaying game outside afterwards, for in fact, they will learn the best, the more often they move. When playing TTRPGs, most children will need something to fidget with during the game, might I recommend modeling clay, since it is dynamic, but also silent? Consider taking the roleplaying game to a new level by setting up a live action scavenger hunt, or puzzling game of Twister.
Action: allow the player to stay in motion at the table by moving miniatures, or drawing pictures.
Action: Ask this player to assist by rolling for the monster in combat.
Auditory/Musical – With the ability to primarily learn through processed sound and rhythm, these children will be the first to enjoy ambient background music, read aloud poems, clever word play, and live action bardic inspiration. Consider that these children might not always make eye contact, or even seem engaged. Because they learn primarily through hearing, they will make an attempt to shut out the other senses, by looking down, remaining still. When they do express themselves, they might stand to speak, annunciate clearly, or even be shy if they don’t understand what is required. Much of the game is listening to the game master describe through words, requiring a level of auditory learning.
Action: allow this player to restate in their own words what the game master describes. This helps the quiet child engage in an appropriate way and engages the other children in a second round of listening.
Action: Spend 30 seconds describing a pirate ship and then ask this player to verbally describe what their character sees using their own words.
Logical/Mathematical – Much of TTRPGs involve strategy, logic, probability, and you may be surprised to know that math is at the heart of every game. Learners who excel at this enjoy puzzles, clearly defined answers, binary options. Often this is called “optimizing” and looks like the learner keeping their character sheet up to date, pre-rolling sneak attack damage, or commanding the team during combat. They will be the first to examine the rules and the first to make an attempt to challenge them! They enjoy the game best when the information is clear, objective and goal oriented.
Action: for the sake of the table, clearly state the options, risk, reward of the quest and allow the learner to win the game by discovering loop holes and flaws in the villain’s plans.
Action: allow this player to assist with difficult rulings by resourcing the handbook and their own logic.
In this short and simple explanation of how the Multiple Intelligence Theory is proved in playing tabletop roleplaying games, I hope to have encouraged you as a parent or educator that this kind of play is remarkably beneficial in children’s learning development. I also hope that you may intuit that playing TTRPGs also keeps adult’s brains plastic and resilient with regards to learning. Overall, play is the best way to learn and build understand between us and even, our own world.
Imposter syndrome can be described as doubting one’s self. I have heard many artists and professionals dealing with this phenomenon, including many game masters who sit behind the screen and wonder if they are doing their best, or even if they are worth the game.
In this blog, I have a few ideas to address imposter syndrome and help game masters move through it and onto the reward
First idea: imposter syndrome comes and goes in waves. I hope you can relate to this. Sometime you feel on top of the world in success and for some reason, another time you will be crippled with doubt wondering why you even try. Imposter syndrome is not something to be cured inside of you, but rather a storm to be weathered outside of you. Rather than doubting yourself, consider that the conflict of doubt originates from outside of you. In the same way, I wouldn’t blame you for getting wet while walking in the rain. The rain of doubt falls on the most amazing game masters as well as … you. If you start thinking of doubt as an outside source, then you will not blame yourself when you weather through this storm of imposter syndrome. And like the weather, this too, shall pass.
Second idea: imposter syndrome is just that – a syndrome. We don’t know why or where it comes from so we call it a symptom of something else. May I propose that at the moment you experience doubt, that you are on the precipice of something great? Remember as game masters, we design monsters before the treasure. The reward always follows the battle. In every struggle, there is victory. Doubt stands there to cripple you, but in reality, it’s only standing in front of the spark of reward. When you start to realize that reward always follows battle, you will find yourself actually getting excited the moment that doubt arrives in your mind. Roll initiative.
Third idea: don’t forget to look for the reward. Imposter syndrome, self doubt, anxiety, shame, and other monsters do not naturally grow within you and their goal is to cripple you as an artist, as a creator, as a game master. You will weather the storm, you will slay the dragon, but you may fail to look for the treasure after this storm of doubt.
Example: I love the movie Kung Fu Panda. If you haven’t seen it, it is a great lesson in dealing with imposter syndrome. Though he comes from lowly state, Po practices, serves and cares for his team. But suffers from one problem – self doubt. Along the quest to the treasure, Po had practiced with diligence, served with humility and cared with love for his team. By the end of the movie (spoilers!), Po, discovers that his own self is the treasure which he sought. He learned his generous presence already satisfied the team. After his doubt was weathered, he then took ahold of his skills and defeated the enemy with ease.
As a gamemaster, you are the reward. For the game, for the story, and for your players. After you have done all of your work, service and shown care for your players, the only thing that can really defeat you is doubt. And believe me, it will try.
So, to you game master, I see how you have practiced the rules, you have poured over pages of story and graciously set aside the time and energy to bring fun to those around your table. And notice this: they keep coming back for more fun. You are doing it right. The only weapon that can take you down now is doubt. Weather the storm, slay the dragon and be the reward.
Today, we have so many apps and tools available at our fingertips. How far away is your smart phone from you right now? Maybe on the table, a docking station, or upstairs on your bed, or possibly in your hand at this very moment.
Have you ever seen someone tie a string around their finger? This old trick reminds the person that they wanted to remember something in particular and the out of place string wrapped around their finger reminds them of that memory.
Since we don’t normally keep strings on our finger, it can serve as a reminder to get something done. And we need reminders, otherwise, the day drifts into hours passed and minutes spent until the cycle completes and we witness the sun sinking behind the western wall with the same pressing feeling that we didn’t get anything done.
May I suggest setting aside all of the screens for a moment and do this one simple thing: make a list. Grab a mundane piece of paper, a blank one that allow you to freely express your handwriting. Retrieve a pen or pencil, depending on whether or not you like to scratch a hard line through your editions or buff them away with an eraser. Place the instrument on the paper.
Write anything that arrives at the top of your mind. Lay everything out on the hospitable parchment which holds all of the space for you. Without consideration, pour out your hearts desires, whether it arrives as a grocery list, unpaid bills, goals for schooling this next year, dream vacations or something you have been meaning to say to your mate. Deliver it up to the paper.
Watch in wonder, as your breathing changes. There it lies before you in honesty. Your thoughts, now in broad daylight, appear before your overarching witness. Whereas before, the jumble of activity in your brain looked more like a soup, this collection of words map out the recipe for how you think, how you dream and how you feel. Appreciate this feedback.
Finally, it all of it’s glory and imperfection. Post it. Not for anyone else to see, but give it just enough light to oblige your attention on a daily basis. You will thank that list many times over as it holds your thoughts for you. For now, my friend, your mind begins to create. Without clutter, and without encumbrance, it sets itself alight with the wings of the spirit and begins to fashion a life for you with the list in view.
Back in the 80s, my family homeschooled. I remember the days of workbooks, reading assignments, playing outside and household chores. During 2020, everyone in the USA experienced a sort of homeschooling. This landed most everyone staying at home with their children while performing online calls with teachers and classmates. My family of 5 was already homeschooling during this time so not too much for us changed. Although I remember that homeschooling usually involves playdates, field trips, and trips to the library, during this crisis, we aren’t truly homeschooling. That being said, I do think that this time can provide some much needed reflection on how to identify our values. As I mix together tabletop roleplaying games and homeschooling, think about your own values that you have had time to realize.
When I thought a little more about our situation, I realized that homeschooling is so much more than completing your textbook at home as if it was a sick day or if you were snowed in and the country shut down. During this time, we played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, having no real place to go and recreate anymore. Quite a few people joined me with online calls as well and we had a great time. So I thought of some ways that home schooling was a lot like playing Dungeons and Dragons.
First, I decided to identify my values with homeschooling. As of now, we live in the information age. Find an opinion on a topic, and I’ll find a counter opinion. Find a truth and I’ll expose it as a lie. Find a fact and if we dig deep enough, science is just science and nature is just nature. Even reading through history, I’ve discovered that there are many takes on what happened in the past based on perspectives and sometimes, editing or omission of information.
Dungeons and Dragons can be a lot like that. When the story teller describes a scene of welcomed oasis in the middle of a scorching desert, they’re not going to give you every detail of information. Nor will each player experience the scene in the same exact way. When I’m done with my description, I ask each player to then ask me a question about the scene. This tells me #1 what I failed to inform and #2 what the players pay attention to in settings.
Do I see any animals?
How deep is the oasis?
What time of day?
Does anyone look thirsty?
These example questions prompt me to continue on with the description before assuming I know what they want to hear. It’s not that there are no caves nearby, but only that none of the players really care if caves exist. Theoretically, if a cave existed in that scene, no one remembers or their brains just simply blocked out the info so they could see what gave them interest.
Now tie this back into homeschooling. We see what gives us interest. And these lenses help inform our view of the world. The practice I’ve implemented is asking the children more questions. What do you see? What do you notice? What would you like to know more about? What questions do you have about your reading?
The next point is that on the opposite end of the table, the reason Dungeons and Dragons works as a collaborative story telling game is because every player and the story teller agree to share the same reality.
When the story teller describes a rickety rope bridge over a river of snapping crocodiles, the players then share that reality by testing the bridge, attempting to fly over using magic, befriending the crocodiles by feeding them a prisoner. You get the idea. If the players disregard the narrative by announcing they walk along the bridge with no consequence then the information given by the story teller is invalid. Now, some story tellers will then describe the consequences to the players careless actions, but even then, the players have to continue to agree that what the story teller describes is the same story they play in their minds.
Along with sharing the narrative, players agree to enhance the narrative by adding dialogue, describing responses to the sway of the bridge, tossing a rock down to the crocodiles to see how hungry they might be. This not only agrees with the narrative collectively, but builds a world that can further expand into another story. Like roots from a seed, they expand out and down to create a system of thought with a story.
Homeschooling requires agreed upon values. Teaching your kids at home is not just about handing them information to memorize, although most of study can be about memorization, kids love trivia! Teaching values using rhythms of life, routines and honoring choices with consequences impart the worldview that one is to adopt. How we spend our resources defines our values and homeschooling can really drive a person to identify the treasure they protect, the values of their life. Once they agree upon those values, then watching a child enhance them is one of the most innocent and beautiful events in creation. Their radical adherence and promotion give radiance to the value, arguably increasing its worth. Stop and take a minute to think about what you have found important during this time of repose.
Values are the last of ourselves to remain in the flames of trial.
Dungeons and Dragons. Homeschooling. I’m sure that like myself, you have little teachers in your life that show you the path. Gardening. Photography. I hope that when the rats begin to crawl back into their wheels, that when the bright lights and hum of activity increase back to “normal”, that you have made friends with your values. Shelter them. Grow them. And teach your kids to love them as well.
Maybe you have seen the 20 sided dice show up in pop culture lately, or heard the name of the world’s best role playing game. I don’t know about you, but most of my childhood was spent fantasizing about other worlds, adventure quests, role playing as a different creature, and leading my siblings into that realm. Books like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Pyrdain, Redwall, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH all deeply influenced my choice of games played. And like my childhood imagination, the game is all about telling stories of adventure. Around 2017, I suddenly had an enormous amount of free time handed to me via losing employment. That’s the opposite of striking it rich. However, in many ways, I have confirmed some powerful principles in life through researching the world of The Forgotten Realms and such, in the game Dungeons and Dragons.
Perception is seeing what’s there
While adventuring through Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms, stopping to take a look around goes a long way. The game is at it’s simplest form a series of ability checks your adventure makes in progression of the game. The dice roll determines percentage of success (by the way, the game is also great at building your math skills!) Just know that your adventurer will not usually be handed information without asking for it. However if you venture out there and look around, there’s no limit to what you can find. Quite simply, If you’re not looking, you won’t see anything! Life is first accomplished by investigation, perception and taking in what’s in front of your, or even better, looking behind the curtain. Take a lesson from Curious George.
You are not as resilient as you think you are
As I researched the game, the rules of adventure, it surprised me at how few hit points it took to knock an explorer unconscious. 3 swipes from an raging ogre, 2 bites from a bloodthirsty wolf, or even a fall from a slippery ledge would issue enough damage to end the quest. At first, I thought, “how can you get through a campaign alive if the adventures have such limited resources on health?” But the more I thought about it, I realized that that’s pretty much how it is in this world as well. It’s easy to believe our health and stamina are invincible, but as we traverse through danger, we can only take so much damage to our bodies and minds before we find ourselves chronically ill, in a hospital, or mentally used up that we are only able to take one day at a time without caving into darkness. Of course in D&D, the answer to maintain health is partner up with healers, choose your adventure appropriately (don’t chase down the level 14 dragon if you are a level 2 rogue!) and quite simply: learn to rest.
Rest goes a long way and helps you stay alive
You heard it! Quite a bit of the game is going to sleep, resting and vacationing from perils in the wild. The sojourners will head to an inn, the kind old hermit woman in the woods, the hall of a great lord and enjoy the peace and quiet until their wounds and minds heal. I’ve worked in hospice most of my nursing career and have witnessed so many people engaging in life with only 1 hit point to save. I’ve watched fellow colleagues give all to work and leave no room for rest before chasing down another week of work. I myself have fallen prey to the lure of working overtime instead of tending to my bleeding soul. Really folks, learn to rest, vacation, veg-out, unplug and the like. And really rest. Not staring at your phone swiping through an app, but rest that truly unplugs you. This will be different for everyone and I can’t recommend http://www.personalityhacker.com enough for the resources they provide on discovery of your personality and how it rests. If the travelers forget to rest, they certainly will not be prepared for the next skirmish around the corner, and may suffer death.
Sorry, there is always room to fail
In the game, every attempt the hero makes, whether choosing to convince a law master to set your party free or take a stealthy stab at an unsuspecting goblin guarding the bridge, it is all determined by a roll on a 20 sided dice. Rolling a 20 is automatic success! However rolling a 1, despite any bonuses your well-developed hero might have, is a total and devastating failure. Ugh, this is a humbling lesson because rolling a 1 does not care how much you have previously achieved in success before this roll. Imagine investing thought and time into developing an adventurer all the way to level 6, being careful to rest, wise about the pursuits, perceptive of the surroundings, planning each battle strategically and then make one unlucky move and fail. It happens. You will spend years at a church investing into the heart of the people and the mission only to have someone turn on you and your family and find yourself kicked out of the tribe. You know why it happened, but you didn’t think it was worth splitting fellowship. Or you pour your heart and soul into a company, promising your family that it will pay off and everything looks great for the promotion that will make life so much easier and then they hand the offer to an outside hire and terminate you because you are now overqualified for any other place in the company. Or you look left, look right, proceed your vehicle through the intersection and still find yourself injured in bed and without hope of healing. Should I go on? You fail your boards, you fail the relationship and find yourself sobbing on the floor of an empty house with even an emptier heart. Grief is really mourning something that was once loved and is now off limits for you to love. Your love is no longer allowed. Or at least it must be changed into a lesser version of that love. It hurts. However, at the end of every failure, there’s always another chance to roll the dice. Try again. Rest, heal up, start over, but please don’t stop playing the game.
Little guys win, sometimes
You know what though, sometimes you do roll a natural 20. And win big. With superhero powers. Just like the natural 1 doesn’t discriminate failure to only failures in life but also to very successful adventures, so the natural 20 roll hands a good luck charm to those adventures starting out with very limited resources. That’s what I love about the game. It keeps the adventures humble in this large and threatening world. Even the bold remember that they too, bleed. Conversely, the promise of a bulls eye, or getting rookie of the year calls out to everyday ordinary people to step out their door and make something happen in the life around them. The first time your level 1 adventure does the perfect acrobatic and slays the fiend in one fell strike encourages them to keep going! The first time your novice cleric attempts a healing against all odds as the princess is bleeding out, and magically brings her back to life, it’s encouraging! The first time your stealthy rogue sneaks into a locked dungeon and rescues the entire party from a hungry giant, it’s encouraging! Unexpected winning can happen to you too, but you do have to roll!
Not much adventure happens if you just sit on the couch
With that being said, as Gandalf said to a polite and everyday ordinary hobbit who had just finished breakfast “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Dungeons and Dragons is such a great game because it involves a world where everyday people with stories and backgrounds can start as level one adventures and set out to make a difference in the world. A great campaign is not one where your party simply demolishes an orc stronghold, but one where the orc stronghold is demolished and the dam freed, bringing the river back into the town, boosting the economy and encouraging free-trade in safe lands once again. Now the adventures are heroes that make the world a better place. And that’s the principle, we are all formed by the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that connect us to each other and into the world. We sing songs, share dreams and relay tales, but none of that will happen if you choose to bypass the quest to the comfort and safety of your own home and hearth. Really though, we are wanting a world of adventure so we can tell those stories by the fireside one day. As Gandalf the wizard wisely said, “do you suppose, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit?” Get off the couch and off the phone, leave behind your pocket handkerchief and share an adventure with folks who enjoy your fellowship! Because life is not just about a solo trip, but a party-shared adventure that changes the world. Prepare, be wise, use all your resources, enjoy your quirks and roll the dice!
Sojourners, Awake! is a production of storytellers. Between an actual play storytelling podcast, youth classes and retreats, supporting our local game store Runcible and now Adventure Design, we are happily creating our hive like busy bees.
I have a vision to move Sojourners, Awake to tell ourstory. This mean working (and playing) with others to nourish our creativity. And everyone is, by the way, in their own way and often with inspiring amounts of effect on the rest of us in the audience.
We are currently working on developing a 2nd Spring Retreat and a fully produced audio drama with a professional cast set in the world of Bonzarel.
This audio drama will be family friendly with common themes, set in the fantasy world of Bonzarel. We hope to release it on major audio retailers by the end of March 2023. The best part is that we have already done the work of creating the story while playing our favorite table top roleplaying games. So there won’t be any dice rolls, pauses or confusing rules. It will be easy listening stories that are sure to meet you in the heart space.
Did I mention I wrote an adventure designer? It’s simple and it’s available for purchase (pay what you wish) on Drive Thru RPG. Here’s the affiliate link.
If you purchase this, I see it as friendly support to help produce and pay for the cast of the upcoming audiodrama. You don’t even have to use it! It can be just your way of saying, “I like what Sojourners Awake is becoming” – not just a self contained podcast, but a local community of creative work. It’s not just a story, or history; it’s ourstory.
Most of the hard work I put into storytelling and gaming goes towards my live games with children. When running a game with 10 kids at the local game store, I had to work extra hard to keep their attention. Let me tell you, the method I used really worked and I think you can use it as well to help children stay focused during the game.
Problem of Focus
With table top roleplaying games, only one player can speak at a time. Since the game requires speech in order to move the game along through commands and statements, or question, then the player who is speaking has the attention. Unlike video games, the game master can only focus their energy towards one player. This means that when a player is asking questions about the story, or for more information about the game, other players can sit idly and risk losing focus.
A Quick Solution
With my children’s games, I first describe the situation. Then I announce that each player will get to ask 1 question for their character. After everyone has asked, each player will get 1 action. I always start with the player on my left and move counter clockwise, giving each player the chance to inquire about the scene Periodically, I will remind everyone to listen because they can all use the information when it comes time for action. After all of the questions have be asked, each player then announces their action based on the information they communally acquired. The practice of active listening is accomplished because each player is rewarded for their fellows asking other questions. The more players you have, the more answers the party gains.
A Fun Solution
To really grab the focus of 1 children, I place a gigantic six sided dice in the center of the table and set it face up to 1. I announce that “when the moves to 6, something happens!” This sets the children on edge and helps them anticipate “what comes next”. In short, I have single handedly captured the entire table’s attention for the next 6 rounds. Each time a player announces an action, I subtly move the dice face up to the subsequent number. The children giggle and squirm with excitement knowing that their actions are moving the story along to adventure. When the dice faces up “6”, I remove the dice and announce the change in scene – which better include something epic.
How about your table? What ways do you capture the attention (and keep it) for your imaginative and energized players? As always, may your story continue!