Friday, March 8, 2013

I suppose this was inevitable

I have been teaching classes at the middle school for 13 years now.  Regular visitors will recall that this is in the after school program and that it mostly involves cheerful misuse of robotic technology.  Regular contact with middle school aged kids has perhaps kept me in touch with that mind set....or as an alternative explanation has revealed that there is a strong component of middle schooler still hanging around my persona.

At the beginning of each robotics class there are a few spare minutes for the kids to assemble and have a quick snack.  Several of the robot lads were talking about Dungeons and Dragons and asked if I knew the game.

I admitted that, yes indeed, I knew it and had in fact played it "back in the day".  To be clear, this day was long before they were born and probably before some of their parents were born.

One thing led to another and I was persuaded to have an after school "Dungeons and Dragons" class in the spring trimester.  I figured it would be an eccentric way to spend a few hours, perhaps of interest to a few of my more nerdish robotics students.

The class filled in minutes.  Of the first 19 registrations handed in, 8 of them were for Dungeons and Dragons.  Clearly, I had once again gotten myself into something.

But what the heck.  I started mapping and planning out a "Universe" for the game to occupy.  I thought it would be interesting to take the actual environs of my annual Northern England archeology trip and just graft additional features onto it.  As I have mentioned in the past, it looks a great deal like the Shire, and since the part of the Game Master is largely descriptive this makes my job easier.  Besides, the Romans were very much into dice games and quite a few sets have been found at Vindolanda...some of them "loaded" for dishonest play.

A Roman die.  Genuine elephant ivory as it turned out.

I also dug around in the attic and found various bits and pieces of Dungeons and Dragons stuff from as far back as my sophomore year in college.  I also discovered some rather peculiar things.

Many of the basic concepts for the game I was now "creating" existed in notes I made thirty years ago.  Specific things. A swineherd.  An assistant butler.  Doors that opened this way versus that.  Surprises to be encountered.  I have always considered myself to have an extensive - if cluttered - memory, but it seems there are minor details hanging around in deep storage for a very, very long time.

I also discovered that I had, circa 1983, already "seen" Northern England a quarter century before I first went there.  My background notes for a game long forgotten mention a great wall, an ancient road, standing stones, little hamlets centered around an Inn.  Even allowing for the commonality of such things, it is creepy.

I was always a fairly good Game Master.  (Personally I think the official term Dungeon Master is a little will not see me use it again as I am convinced it will attract some very odd "hits" on the site if it is bandied about).  So my games had a lot of detail.  I even found, at the bottom of a pile of dusty notes, three "scrolls" sealed and covered with runes.  The intent back then was that I would know what was in them but the players would have to, at their own peril, open them to find out.

I have absolutely no idea what is inside them.

So it is interesting how Art does not simply imitate Reality, in this odd alternate world case, it Creates it.

In the annals of odd experiences I have wandered into, this one may make my Top Ten. Running a Dungeons and Dragons game based on the place I am visiting in a few weeks, but on descriptions written before I had ever seen it.  And darned if I know what will happen when and if the kids open and read those scrolls!

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