A Peculiar Thing with Young Gamers…

Originally posted 2016-01-20 17:00:21.

I really felt the need to share this gaming experience, it was such a good and bad experience that I just needed to share it as quickly as possible!

This past weekend was Tech Con, the gaming convention that the residence hall puts on for students and community members of the Oregon Tech campus.  This is the second year that I have been involved and putting on a table top RPG.  Last year I did a Call of Cthulhu game, this year I decided to do a Dungeons & Dragons game.  The amount of game prep time that I put into this was maybe about 7 hours for plot and dungeon building and about 15 minutes for building their big bad guy.

The game–which I decided to call ‘Castle Crashers’–went a little something like this: “Rumor has it that there is something foul happening in the farming Village of Fald. Shrieks in the night, missing villagers, slaughtered livestock all within the last month.  The residents fear that something sinister has taken up residence in the near by abandoned castle; they’ve had no choice but to call for adventurers to rid them of whatever lurks in those darkened, decrepit halls.”

As with all of my games, I’m very story based, so my main villain was a misguided youth that started out with good intentions that were quickly warped by evil.  He loved a girl who didn’t love him back, didn’t hold a position of respect in the village, and all of other young men his age treated him like an outcast.  That is until the young man found a Necromancy spellbook and proceeded to wreak havoc, kill his competition for work in the fields, and kidnap the girl he was in love with.

The twist of the story was that he was initially presented to the party as the next potential victim.  So the party to time to ask him questions, check his house, and ensure his safety.  And I have to give my friend Jo credit where credit is due.  He played the villain character with only the following notes:

Tristan Wells – Wizard Necromancer Level 6

  1. 19 years old
  2. Curly, red hair, freckles
  3. Stand-offish, skittish, thin, sickly
  4. Orphaned at young age has been living with Harold Family since then.
  5. He normally works as a go-fer for the men that work in the fields (lowly rank), but since the rest of the young men around his age had been taken, he was upgraded to a more important job.
  6. He clenches his fist when he’s telling a lie.
  7. He’s terrified that he will be taken next (Lie)/He terrified the adventurers are going to find the truth about him (Truth)
  8. Heard snarls and growls the night Sonja Harold was taken (Lie)/Sonja put up a fight when he took her (Truth)

And he played the character beautifully.  All of the players really felt for him and did everything they could to make him feel comfortable.

So the party goes into the castle, killing and setting off traps along the way.  They reach the Death Knight, thinking he was the one behind it all, and they take him down.  Then from the shadows steps Tristan screaming at them that they’ve ruined everything.

Then a strange thing happened…

Up until that point, we had emphasized that in my games I don’t like to get bogged down in the rules, that the story comes first and more often that not I’ll fudge the rules.  The minute the true villain was revealed the rules lawyers came out and all of the players (except for 2) wanted to nit pick about every little thing that was happening.  It blew my mind.  Everyone was having such a great time and then…bam!…complete 180.

At the time, I was a little upset, but now that I’ve had some time away I’ve realized something.

These young men and women that I was running the game for were so trusting that they couldn’t believe that someone would betray their trust like that.  It seems now that their reaction was more out of embarrassment that they have been played as fools by someone that they had thought they were protecting.

One step further than that, they had characters that had the ability to root out what the truth was (with abilities like Detect Good/Evil and Sense Motive).  But they took everything that fed to them as absolute truth; they did nothing to investigate further.  It makes me pause and wonder: If you’re like this in a fictional game where (in the grand scheme of thing, none of it matters), what do you do in real life when someone bails on you for a group project?  Or when life throws them a curve-ball.  Or, god forbid, if someone throws them under the bus for something they didn’t do.

As a new parent, this whole situation makes me realize that I want…no…need to encourage, inspire, and expect my son to question things.  To be trusting but self-reliant.  And while I can’t prepare him for everything that might go wrong, I can teach him to be adaptable and flexible.

Life Lessons from D&D, man…