Friday, August 26, 2011

Gaming Boomer Style

Back when I just started collecting funny table talk, the infamous Boomer, author of the brain-numbingly awesome novel The Hole Behind Midnight was kind enough to share with me some of the choicest quotes from his Spelljammer campaign. The quotes are not by kids and are certainly not for kids, but they are very awesome nevertheless and I'm sure you'll like them!

Dave: Wait, your robot's name is 'Apple'?
Kyle: No, you just always call him 'apple'.
Dusty: He's a Warforged Juggernaut, his name is Apollorax, and he outranks you on this ship.
Dave: you have a robot butler named Apple?

J.B.: Yeah, he died.
Chris: Trying to escape.
Dusty: Into SPACE?
J.B.: ... yeah. Made a run for it.
Chris: He didn't make it very far.

Mr. Hubris: Well, this is pleasant.
Kyle: For you, perhaps.
Mr. Hubris: ... I wasn't talking to you.
Dave: Fuck this, let's kill him.

Kyle: You two - seppuku contest! Right now! Your Emperor commands it!

Kyle: All right, that's it - I'm inviting this mother-fucker to DINNER.
Sam: Oh, Jesus. We need to TALK to him, not kill him.
Dave: You guys kill everyone you have dinner with?
Corey: Statistically, yes.

Davian Kash: RrrrraaaagghhhhaaaAAAA!
Corey: That's it, I'm out - I don't even need this job.

Dave: Run, you asshole!
Sam: No! I'm staying!
Dave: If you die too, who will avenge me?
Sam: How about Kyle?
Dave: No, fuck him. I want YOU to avenge me.

Dave: (gurgling blood) Remember...
Sam: God, that's creepy. I'm gonna wake up hearing that for months.
Corey: Yeah, I'm glad I'm not there. The last thing I need is nightmares of Sue's dying words.

Corey: So where's the captain?
Kyle: Probably negotiating the trade of our ship for magic beans.
Sam: Hope he gets enough for all of us.
Kyle: And once it's completed, where will you go?
Arrin: Why, wherever we please, of course.
Dave: (whispered) I want to kill this guy.
Kyle: (whispered) If you think you can do it in six seconds or less, be my guest.

Corey: (whispered) Give her the baby.
Jen: Oh, my Jesus-Fuck, you're a monster!
Corey: Come on. Give her the kid.
Kyle: I'm going to pretend you didn't say that.
Corey: Pretend whatever you want - but you should give her the baby. It solves, like, eight different problems.

Flynt: We're not expecting you.
Dusty: That's funny - I wasn't expecting you.

All: Sue, NO!
Sam: Dammit, Sue, stand down! This is what he wants you to do!
Dave: Well, fuck him.

Graz'zt: I don't trust you. I hope the feeling is mutual.
Dusty: Oh, trust me, it is.

Dave: Demogorgon & the Abyssals - tonight only at the Civic Center!

Kyle: Wait, why are we doing this?
Dusty: Because I said so.
Corey: Great reasoning.
Dusty: Fine. Because I'm the captain, and I said so.

Gordon: Ello', Sue. You're just in time for dinner.

Dave: I'll just go heat this up, then.
Jen: Oh my God - he's the COOK!?!
Dusty: Yeah... but he fights like hell.

Kyle: I will bring peace to this system, so help me god, if I have to personally kill every Halfling on every world, one at a time.
Corey: I'm in.
Dusty: I think he was kidding.
Corey: I wasn't.
Kyle: Neither was I.
Sam: In that case, count me in, too.

Sam: To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been tried before. Ever.
Dusty: Oh.
Sam: No, that's a good thing. I'm really excited about it.

Dusty: Don't tell Kyle that I said this, but if any of you find anything cool, take it.
Kyle: If any of you steal anything, I am fucking leaving you here.
Sam: Don't worry about me, man - I saw Aladdin. Touch nothing but the lamp.

Dusty: Well, I think we got out of that scott-free.
Corey: You're an idiot.
Dusty: I mean, you know, MOSTLY scott-free.
Kyle: Are you fucking insane?
Dusty: Fine. At least I got out of that scott-free.
Dave: Me too. Good job, Captain.
Dusty: Thank you, Sue.

Dave: (to Kyle) Tell me that he's not throwing loose change at the bard.
Dusty: I'm not.
Kyle: Because there ARE no bards. He's throwing coins at the Expert with ranks in Perform.
Dusty: I don't like his act.

Dave: There is no reason to be hostile. We need not be enemies.
Lady of Change: You struck me with your club.
Dave: Oh.
Kyle: She remembers. Kill her!

Child Dreamer: Boys are weird.
Dave: Yes they are.
Dusty: What's that supposed to mean?

Dusty: Wait... Arch-Cardinals aren't supposed to HAVE daughters!
Kyle: Oh, you figured that out NOW!
Dave: That guy was an Arch-Cardinal? Oh, this makes SO much more sense.
Kyle: Fucking god DAMMIT!

For more awesome quotes be sure to visit the Table Talk section, and if you have some fun quotes of your own, don't hesitate to share! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some old funnies

I can't think of anything smart to say today. Instead I'll post some funny quotes from the time when I was a young (or not so young) boy playing at what could, with some effort, pass as D&D:


Player: Wood... doesn't burn that well... (after being told his fireball set his village on fire)


Player 1: I have things holier than you coming out of my butt!
Player 2: You're not the bringer of holy shit!


NPC: My dungeon was designed to stop fools and weaklings.
Player (after passing through the dungeon): Well, it failed!
NPC (examining the PCs with disgust): I can see that...


Player (playing a Catholic priest): I kill and destroy in the name of Jesus.


Player (describing encounter with the undead): They didn't actually eat my soul... more like licked it.


Player (before a dangerous assault): Wait! Someone has to stay behind and guard the camp...


NPC (flirting): Hi, where are you going to?
Player: HELL!
NPC: What are you looking for there?
Player: DEATH! Wanna come?


Player: So, what's your name?
Elf NPC gets very nervous.
Player: O.K, no need for panic, where do you live?
Elf NPC kills himself.
Player: What? What did I say?!
Craziest DM ever!


These quotes, along with hundreds of others can be found in the Table Talk section of this site. Have fun!

Facebook Dreams #2

Last week I asked how to turn Facebook from a nightmare of spoilers and things no mortal should see into an awesome element of the game. Tonight I supply the answer. Read it carefully, for it is potent and likely to drive you insane.

Dream City
Lovecraft had the right idea. All dreamers go to the same realm when they're asleep, but some enter it like staggering idiots while others retain their faculties and can explore it just like any dungeon or mysterious continent. The PCs are hopefully dreamwalkers of the second sort.
The Facebook page is that city. In it adventurers from all over the land - from the hills of Modi'in to the forests of Shoham, from the sprawling city of Rishon to the rural charm of Be'er Tuviah - can meet and discuss their adventures. They can exchange information (page discussion), read news from around the world (wall posts), enjoy a hearty chat (FB chat) or a gallery of fine fantasy art (album) - but they can't fight. It's a dream, if you get too mad you just wake up, no harm done.
The last problem is trade. I mean, no one had ever gone to bed with a magic sword and woke up with it replaced by 5,000 gold coins. This is too outlandish even for a fantasy game.

Kids engaging in friendly barter, also known as "intimidate check."

Here the Dream Trading Company comes in with happy music and delightful smiles. These arcanes will gladly deliver goods and payments between interested parties in return for a small commission or a secret revealed. Should PCs threaten or harass them, they will just disappear in a puff of perfumed smoke, leaving the bully unable to dream-trade ever again.

So, what do you think of this solution. Do you see any possible problems with it? If you do, lemme know because the pilot begins in less than a month.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Moral Dilemma #2

If you haven't read part 1 do it now. Otherwise this post will make little sense to you.

A mighty argument erupts among the party. The majority wants to heal the raving beast, despite my repeated statements that this is simply impossible. They try this, they try that - all fails. They fail because they have to, because this is the stuff of tragedies, because life isn't always fun and flowers, occasionally you have to wake up and smell the carcass... but I digress.
A minority of two kids wants to kill the beast. One because he is a paladin sworn to protect those peasants and the other is simply mean. The mean kid is locked in the kitchen by the others. The paladin is closely watched.
The majority includes a radical minority as well - two brothers, a ranger and a druid. They care about the animal much more than about the peasants. As far they're concerned, a few hundred deaths are worth the survival of one rare monster. Hell, they'd gladly kill those peasants themselves to save an endangered animal. They'd gladly kill them just to see them eaten by crows and vultures.
So saving attempts go on, many PCs drop to 0 hp, the ship is about to crumble and the beast is still mad, lashing viciously against crew and vessel. Seems that the kids, in their youthful optimism, will keep on trying to save everyone until everyone is dead.

When facing a moral dilemma, consult the Good Book

Suddenly a round of cannon fire rocks the ship. A quite boy passed me a note, "I fire the canons in secret." The beast is dead and the class is dead silent.
One boy, on the brink of tears, says, "I did what you all knew had to be done but were too cowardly to do. Hate and scream if you want to. You can even kill me. You know I did the right thing."

Sometimes, there is no happy ending.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Facebook Dreams #1

Many of my students wanted to befriend me on Facebbok last year.

Now, my page is laden with profanities and death threats to random people, full of bad and, quite frankly, not that funny jokes and lists all my vulnerabilities. Worst, it contains spoilers to the kids' adventures. Worst still, it is written in a language they can't understand.

Instead, I created a new page just for the kids. It is written in a language that you can't understand... but google can. To my surprise, more often than not, the kids commented on pictures and posts in-character. Soon, the page became a buzzing market for rumors and information, something which I felt ambiguously about. On the one hand, it created an inter-city gaming community, enriched the games and encouraged creativity and self-expression (finally, a crowd that will listen and comment!). On the other hand it didn't make any sense inside the game world; how can a fighter hiding in a cellar in Menzoberranzan request directions from a vagabond sleeping on a bench in Urik, and why on earth does this vagabond have wikipedia...?

My boys created a map of their realm and were quick
to share it on the FB page with the cute caption, "join or die..."

By the end of the year, they wanted to trade items and even join forces to take on bigger monsters. Here, I just had to insist on the wall between the real world and fantasy world remaining intact. But this wall (pardon the pun) was already covered in graffiti on both sides and battered to the point of near collapse. Not to mention, I didn't care for this wall too much myself. But how to remove it, without removing the realism of the game with it?

This year, I think I found a solution!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meet the Seven Tailed Sphere!

My first new article since my exile from Wizards is up. It's part of a new series that will feature creatures, classes, races, powers and eventually a whole setting created by my students during last year.

Some of them are pretty dark, but don't get alarmed. In fact, I don't think one should discourage children from using dark themes in their games because this is their way of mentally defusing them - better darkness on the paper than darkness in the soul.

And now, without further adieu - the infamous seven-tailed sphere!

Just one small request - the authors of these creatures may be reading your comments on Geekcentricity, so play nice :)

Moral Dilemma #1

There’s a sticky situation.

The group just got a hold of an airship of their very own. Of course, they are jubilant and take their massive new toy for a ride, looking for trouble (i.e XP). Trouble is soon found – a cloud ray the size of a football field is terrorizing the peasants. It rains lightning from above, setting huts and barns on fire. With its massive “wings,” it creates gusts that hurl men and beasts hundreds of feet every which way to splatter against rocks and trees. On the face of it, it looks like a simple combat encounter to be resolved with sword and spell.


The group loves animals. It’s obsessed with collecting pets and killing poachers and dreams of having truly powerful animal companions one day (so far they only got crows, squirrels and puppies). A cloud ray is pretty sweet, right? Let’s try to befriend it.


A series of Nature checks reveal that cloud rays are ordinarily peaceful creatures (perhaps this is why they’re such an endangered species). The reason this one behaves so violently is because it’s sick. The disease won’t kill it, but it will make it increasingly aggressive and unreasonable.
A cloud ray being unreasonable.
Art by Ben Wootten (from Dark Sun Creature Catalog)

Can it be healed? You need a proper veterinarian to answer this question. Do we have time? No, innocents are dying on the ground even as we speak. An argument about the moral course of action erupts.

How did it end? You’ll know soon enough.

For now, kind readers, tell me – what would you have done?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Greatest Adventure...

I'd been asked three times in the last 24 hours which old school adventure do I think is best suited for young adventurers (aged 9 or less). I thought I might as well write the answer here, so that older and wiser (you're old LOL) gamers could point out why I'm wrong and know nothing about D&D, kids or life in general.

So, the best adventure for kids, in my opinion, drums roll, is the classic, pigeons fly into the sky...

This woman is not rescuing the baby. She's holding him back.

Against the Giants has a simple linear plot and yet full of diverse and fun action. It presents a recurring foe one can learn to hate and yet this foe has enough variations never to grow stale - I like to base the giants on earth cultures; Hill Giants are Russian, Frost Giants are Viking and Fire Giants are Ethiopian. The plot offers few difficult choices and yet doesn't drag one by the nose per se, leaving one with the feeling of freedom but none of its burdens. Kids feel they're RPing but not so much as to make them look at you with frustration and ask, "what should we do next?" (i.e "there are 27 clues and 13 rumors and no clear choices, help!") or the more annoying, "when do we start playing?" (i.e "there hasn't been a combat encounter in 10 minutes!")

In short, let kids slay giants. You can't go wrong with that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Adventure Building Seminar, the Final Post

The third and final report from the adventure building seminar 2011.

Day 3: An Event-Based Adventure
Basically, the assignment was to do an adventure where time was a significant factor. These included a commando raid by Greek gods who had to stop the Roman time bomb, a sortie into an elemental labyrinth where the features of each room changed every ten minutes and the PC grew stranger every twenty minutes. And then, there was this...

“Hair monsters have stolen Rapunzel’s hair; stop them before they deliver it to the evil (and bald) witch.”

The adventure involved a wild chase after the hair monsters through a nightmarish land of twisted fairy tales. As the PC chased the hairy bunch, various traps and ambushes sprang into action. Of special note was the Big Bad Wolf who spilled zombies from his stomach every time he was damaged.
Eventually the group caught up with the evil witch and her gang and killed her with an arrow to the back... only to find out this was Rapunzel, whose hair wasn’t stolen yet.

Day 4: A Sandbox Adventure
The most useless day. Freedom of choice isn’t very hot with my players so they understood freedom of choice as, “you’re in a vast emptiness full of monsters who want to kill you. But you can fight them in any order you want.”
So basically you had big battles between random objects – light and darkness, stones and energy, orcs and elves. Blah! Boring! Next!

Freedom. This is how it looks like.
Day 5: A Mundane Adventure
The challenge was to design an adventure that takes place in our world and includes no magical or sci-fi elements whatsoever. Surprisingly, the kids were quite excited about this one. One group played cops chasing criminals who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (it’s funny how the smiles drained from their faces when I reminded them cops can’t just shoot suspects but have to arrest them and collect damning evidence afterward), the second group played citizens who had to struggle through the unbelievably bulky bureaucracy of City Hall to get a building permit.
The last group went VERY REAL.

Real life meet fantasy. Fantasy - die.

“You play a drug-addicted gambler who lost all his money, a terminal cancer patient who went bankrupt after a nasty divorce and a man with Parkinson's disease whose family had left him poor and lonely. Your mission is to enlist."

This was the last adventure of the seminar, ending the whole affair in a positive note. The DM, the same boy who designed the hair adventure, went out of his way to describe our absolute misery, the apathy of society to human suffering and the cycle of humiliation we went through during enlistment. Eventually (and somewhat surprisingly) we were made a tank crew and won a great battle in a nameless war... and even got medals!

Letting kids DM is an excellent diversion and source of inspiration for your own games. While a seminar is a little too official for a home group, an occasional guest run by willing children is very recommended, especially if you take the time to tickle their imagination by acquainting them with various inspiring works and ideas, including stuff from outside the genre. For older groups, I would even recommend a shared campaign, where the position of DM is rotated between players each month. Your role will be that of a guide and the voice of experience and also of the player from hell (oh wait, that's my role...)
I never tried this, but intend to next year.

Next post will be about moral dilemmas. Prepare the napkins, 'cause you're gonna cry.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Adventure Seminar, day two

Day 1: Non-Combat Adventure
Day 1 of the adventure building seminar was dedicated the non-combat adventures. Some kids understood this as “a ton of traps day” while for most it was a “the instructor went mad, ignore him” day. Fun without violence seems to be unimaginable these days. A sad statement on the affairs of the state. What a sibilant sentence!

Anyhow; one adventure was remarkable for its utterly outlandish premise;

You see this poor guy? Without violence he'll lose his job...

“An evil wizard has made violence impossible. You must defeat him and return violence to the world.”

The universal agreement that there was nothing wrong with this premise was quite astonishing to me. When I enquired whether violence is really such a great thing, everyone agreed that a world without violence would be a better world, but one does need violence because “it’s difficult to kill people without it; you have to poison them and such.”

This more or less summarized the adventure; arrange a series of nasty accidents for your enemies until you reach the sphere of peace and viciously shatter it against a stone wall. Then go on and slaughter orcs and goblins left and right. Afterward, be celebrated as heroes for bringing back the gift of violence to the world.

Had I been the DM, I would have ended this adventure with the sweet irony of the PCs being stabbed to death in a random attack in some nameless alley. But I wasn’t.

The next day, a kid came up with something even crazier...

Day 2: Non-Fantasy Adventure
At first the kids looked at me as if I told them to run without the help of their limbs. Then I explained that non-fantasy didn’t mean mundane, but rather not second world fantasy. Only one kid actually created an adventure free of any fantasy influences at this stage, but I’m afraid it wasn’t very good. The other two, while having strong fantasy elements, were really something though...

Mundane. Utterly mundane.

"You play drug elementals that travel to drug plane to kill the drug hydra to become the emperors of drugs."

Wow, what an insane trip! The kid actually researched various kinds of illegal substances and assigned each player special powers according to the substance they represented. I chose opium, so my powers were  insubstantiality and sleep. We passed through green field, acid pools, illusionary halls and eventually fought the Hydra, who spoke with a Spanish accent for some reason.

There was some plot twist out there, but quite frankly I got a bit too much into my character and don’t remember it. After the LSD halls, nothing could really surprise us. Talking walls, flying joints that burn your eyes, stoner golems - we saw it all.

“You’re a small elf and human outpost attacked by orcs and mindflayers from outer space.”

Possibly the grimmest adventure I've ever played.

We started as commanders of laser batteries, marine squads, fighter jets and so forth. No matter how many enemies we killed, more arrived. We saw our brave lads cut down and die in mud and blood or blown to bits in the trenches and could do nothing to save them. A daring swashbuckling attack blew up one of the enemy space carriers at the cost of two PC lives, but it changed nothing – there were two more carriers in orbit. Things went worse and worse and the last PC was shredded by lasers just before screaming into the radio, “where is the god damn reinforcement we asked for 30 minutes ago!

After the adventure, the DM announced happily that our sacrifice was not in vain – most of the planet was massacred but our families fled to space. I asked him what kept the enemy from intercepting them. He said “oh” and walked away with a mysterious smile.

What can I say – war is hell.

Next post - a taste of bitter, bitter realism. So bitter you might want to ingest something sweet first...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Adventure Building Seminar 2011

This year I ran my third adventure building seminar. It was very different from the first two. In 2009 and 2010, the kids came eager to learn. They brought notepads and pencils and eagerly gobbled my advices on monster and villain design, economical stat blocks, logical dungeon ecologies, classic narrative elements and plot twists, the difference between location and event based adventures, history of RPG settings in general and whatnot. Everyone had his two cents, some even had a few bucks, but their desire to learn was greater than their desire to speak out.

This year most kids were mortally opposed to learning anything. In truth, they would have been quite content if I just sat in the corner and let them DM for each other.

Ha! As if this is ever gonna happen...

A typical adventure building seminar

Instead of boring them with a one-sided seminar, however, I presented them with a series of DMing challenges.

Day 1:
A non-combat adventure
Day 2: A non-fantasy adventure
Day 3: An event-based adventure
Day 4: A non-linear sandbox adventure
Day 5: A real-world, non-magical adventure

Each game lasted for about an hour and a half. There were 15 kids and three groups so everyone got to DM at least once. I walked from table to table and tried to make myself as annoying a player as humanly possible. Otherwise, how will they learn and how will I have fun? (plus I had to pay them back for the whole year!).

How my job feels like

On the first day I'd noticed a curious thing. When left to their own devices, the motivation provided by almost all DMs was, "you're hungry. That bastard over there has/is your food. Go get him!" If anyone has any idea what this means, please tell me... I'm a little scared honestly...

After each game there was a class discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each adventure concluded with my notes and impressions. Surprisingly, the kids were anything but cruel with their critiques. In fact, the only way to get any comments out of them save, "it was fun" was to ask them, "was this the best adventure you'd ever played in your life? no? why not?"

All in all, I quite enjoyed it. It was very different from playing with my peers; bolder and more dynamic on the one hand, but often arbitrary and often railroady on the other (but more on that later.)

So, old folks running for kids, encourage them to DM once in a while. It’s quite the Saturnalian experience!

About the art: these pictures are the work of the insanely talented and talentedly insane Jared von Hindman. His page has many more pics and other cool stuff. Go there. RIGHT NOW!

Friday, August 12, 2011

...and we’re back!

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know who and what I am. The Events saw to that. Nevertheless, I’ll introduce myself yet again. I do so like introducing myself.

My name is Uri Kurlianchik (if you value your sanity, don’t try to pronounce it!). I’m an RPG instructor. I play D&D with groups aged 9-12 in a dozen schools and community centers. This is an after-school activity, a regular class if you will, only instead of being tedious, it’s fun. In the summer, when schools are closed and kids are bored, we have various workshops, such as arms and armor crafting or adventure building, and run large LARPs with foam swords and cloth armor.

Don't you wish your gym classes looked like this?

I am also a freelance game writer. I’d written a couple dozen adventures, stories and articles for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Mongoose and other less savory venues. Best not dwell on that...

DNDkids is the union of these two vocations – an advice column for adults wishing to play with children (previously published by Wizards of the Coast, presently by Geekcentricity), a collection of funny table talk gathered from dozens of tables and hundreds of mouths, gaming materials created by kids for the benefit of playerkind and my general impressions from a cool job with very cool people.

Don't you wish your history classes looked like this?

Of course, every gamer’s experience is unique. I’ve played with hundreds of kids, but they are all the products of more or less the same culture. You’re a DM from Timbaktu? A drow running an overlight game? A deranged cultist running a Call of Jesus game? Share your experience... for the benefit of all playerkind.

The next several posts will be summaries of adventures written by kids who participated in the adventure building seminar. Some of these were pretty wild! For example: hair monsters sent by the evil witch had stolen poor rapunzel’s hair, but there’s a twist. Also, look out for the Roman Time Bomb. It’s not what you’d expect...

An innocent smile. Or is it...?
A request: I’m mostly counting on word to mouth to promote this project and collect as many different perspective and funny table talk as possible. If you liked the articles or the table talk or my luscious beard - please tell a friend. If you hated it, warn a friend – this is also important :)