Sunday, July 26, 2015

Adventure Games Camp: All Wrapped Up

This past week we successfully finished up another summer enrichment camp, involving a two-week total of 26 kids from 6th graders to college freshmen.

About a third of the students had participated in prior years, and I had several younger siblings of camp alumni as well, so I'm confident that the kids are enjoying what we are serving up!

Here are a few of this year's highlights:

  • we introduced six kids to table top role-playing for the first time -- I love watching them count the sides on a D20
  • I got to demo Olde School Wizardry, my home brew, all-wizard RPG
  • we ran approximately 96 separate games at 3-4 different tables, sharing something new with just about every participant from our selection of 20 games
  • we completed a highly competitive, multi-day tournament
  • my oldest daughter (now in middle school) chose to get up early and come along each day of the two weeks, completely of her own volition!
I'll take just a moment to gush about that last point ...

In addition to rolling out of bed at 6 AM, she also decided that she wanted to earn points for her team by running games for other kids (an option I offered to all camp participants).  She brought her prized 1983 Mentzer Basic D&D box along and started off with The Heart of the Minotaur, a cool one page dungeon by Joe Sarnowski.

She went on to run Citadel of Evil from Robertson Games (free at Drive Thru RPG) and "Rank Amateurs" from an old issue of Dungeon magazine.  

After some initial success and growing confidence the first week, I casually mentioned to her the concept of a "mega dungeon" during our commute and the hook was set!

She filled the next several evenings and mornings with scribbled notes and page-flipping as she pulled familiar, published dungeons from various places along with unstocked maps and proceeded to stack them, jotting in connections and making substitutions as she went.

The excellent Goblin Gully by Dyson Logos (who cranks out a staggering amount of great materials for table top RPGs) made a fine transition from the surface world and then debauched into first level one, then level two of the Shrine of Cretia from the TSR module X3 Curse of Xanathon, then down, down, and down further still.  

By the end of the week her complex spiraled down 13 levels, each progressing in difficulty and reward (as I heard her tell her players each session)!

I even got to join in the action our last day of camp, taking on the role of a freed prisoner on level 5.

The biggest thrill of all, however, was watching her skills as a DM grow over the two weeks:  
  • Her voice got louder and more confident
  • she came out from behind her screen to stand at the table
  • she unflinchingly directed a table of rowdy boys to settle down so the game could move forward
  • she converted material between editions and sources on the fly
  • she improvised encounters and tactics (switching the theme of the Shrine of Cretia to an orc shrine dedicated to the shuggoth-like "Ja'Crispy," an avatar of slime-lord Jubliex, as she riffed off of a critter in Dyson's adventure)
  • she enforced a no character-vs-character rule to avoid a degenerating game
  • she improvised rules for flaming arrows
  • she made ad hoc rulings on "death checks" to keep players involved
When, on the last day of camp, after the tournament results were announced and the victors cheered while others made their "we would have won if ..." statements, the tables were opened up for "free play" -- one last two-and-a-half hour pulse where the kids could pick the table of their choice without regard for the opportunity costs or tournament standings.  I was gratified but not at all surprised to see her table instantly fill with players eager to delve deeper!

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