Lifetimes of Fun

We made the decision to homeschool back in 2017, simultaneously the same year we started playing Dungeons and Dragons. Believe it or not, I had never really heard of the game except for a few whispers back in the 80s between the evils of Halloween and video games. Much to my surprise, Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop roleplaying game providing a means to tell stories.

Storytelling is something we have done since the dawn of time. Myths and legends, history and tales, all in oral form around the campfire, in lecture halls and eventually scribed upon parchments. Eventually, we filmed movies on the big screen.

I believe a revolution is occurring; one where we show our dissatisfaction with the current content of entertainment and desire to simply create our own. Read more about which one you think you are here, Consumer or Creator?

When we started incorporating Dungeons and Dragons into our homeschooling curriculum, I watched as my children read more, solved math with ease, and picked up writing their own stories at night before bed. In short, it enriched our education and curriculum, read more on that here! All things any parent wants to see. As a dad of 3, I have my very own adventuring party right there to play with anytime! I hope it stays that way for many stories to come.

Three Steps to Take to include Dungeons and Dragons in your Life

  1. Purchase the Starter Set
  2. Sign up for my personal coaching for players and dungeon masters
  3. Gather together 3-6 of your friends and family and schedule a game night!

Bring back the old ways, when we used to sit around the table and face each other. Rolling dice, keeping notes and having fun with each other. It’s no surprise that tabletop roleplaying games have resurged, and now is the time to bring everyone together and tell a story.

May your story continue

Welcome Sojourner

This is your call to adventure

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The sojourners finally arrive in Lonelywood and it's full of exciting characters! Welcome Sojourners! Continue following along with Will the Dungeon Master Rismyn the Drow Silmarn the Elf Sugardumplin the Halfling Nexsan the Dragonborn Rime of the Frostmaiden, a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition adventure. Visit TableTop Audio for wonderful background music and ambience Visit Halfling Hobbies for resources to give your game advantage May your story continue!
  1. The Rime of the Frostmaiden – 10 – Lonelywood
  2. The Rime of the Frostmaiden – 9 – A Slight Detour to Lonelywood
  3. The Bookish and the Brave – 4 – Battle through the Forest and How they Continued
  4. The Rime of the Frostmaiden – 8 – Minding the Kobolds
  5. Welcome Sojourners!

Research in Dungeons and Dragons

I heard it once said that D&D is a monster killing game. Although I enjoy killing monsters, I disagree. It is not only a monster killing game, but a way to tell stories. Since the rules for the game mostly circle around combat, when a player tells the DM they would like to, I don’t know, let’s say research a topic, the Dungeon Master has few rules by which to play. You might think that less structure lends itself to more playtime, but in my experience, players like rules and regulations, dice rolls and roleplay.

Learn to research topics in D&D

You may read the except titled “Research” in the Dungeon Masters Guide page 187. However, I have found that when a player says they want to research ancient lore, a magic item or learn a new language, the Dungeon Master fumbles through the DMG, and eventually simply says “make an ability check.” The player rolls and the DM decides, “yes, you now know elvish, moving on.” If you want to tell better stories, then find ways for everything to matter in the game, rather than simply waving your hand over an arbitrary DC and deciding if the player fails or succeeds. In short, I think this challenge is what makes researching a dynamic story. Since you are here looking for a way to tell a great story, then consider the following recipe.

During any point of the game, the player decides they want to research a topic, or an NPC questgiver asks the scholarly PC to do so. Then DM says, “before you can research, you must convince someone for access to property since that is the place you can research” Perhaps this is an NPC who owns a vineyard and has something they want before they grant you access to their land/library/basement for research. So, you now must find out how you can help the vintner achieve their goal. However, in helping them, you make an enemy. A rival faction, a jealous sibling, a scorned lover. And they seek revenge. After all of this, the hero finally gains access to the land, and then the research can take place.

How to Run an Exciting Chase Sequence!

  • Quest: Research a Topic
    • Convince a Vineyard owner to Use their property to research
    • Perform a grisly task for the owner
    • Deal with the rival faction
    • Gain access to the land and begin the research

That alone can take quite a while, many sessions perhaps, considering that other players are performing other tasks in the downtime. I would exact a gold piece cost from the player during this time to pay for expenses. Once the research begins, I would treat the research project like a boss monster, where the player must take an action every turn and roll an intelligence check to “attack” the research by using these 3 methods.

  • Pour through Documents (make an intelligence check)
  • Tinker with Components (make a dexterity check)
  • Query a Scribe (make a charisma check)

After making the rolls against the Research Project, the DM decides how much “damage” the project takes and if sufficient, the project is complete. If not, then the Project takes an Action in the form of Setting the Player Backwards in Progress with an illness (poisoned condition), exhaustion, injury (loss of hit dice), or mental fatigue (disadvantage on intelligence checks). To make that attack more similar to life, the hero now has to go on another adventure to repair their mental and physical faculties, rather than just taking a long rest.

  • Set Initiative as Player first
  • PC takes action against Monster DC level
  • Monster takes action against PC Intelligence Modifier + 10
  • Rinse and Repeat until Monster or PC HP is reduced to zero

There are SO many stat blocks of monsters that can be substituted for your Research Monster. This process is called re-skinning and totally legit. Rather than giving you a stat block though, here are three features of this monster.

  • AC = 10 + player level
  • HP = 3 x player level
  • Attack = + player level
  • Damage equals 1d6 x player level and one condition as stated above, poisoned, exhaustion, loss of hit dice, or temporary disadvantage on intelligence checks.
Consider carefully the fine print

After all that, the PC gets another turn and hopefully resolves the conflict, and wins the prize. If not, rinse and repeat until blood is spilled. Can a PC die from too much work??? Also, consider the other players rolling initiative to come up with clever ways to use the Help Action by giving the PC advantage on rolls.

Research in Downtime can be a simple montage or it could be an exciting part of the adventure you are all unfolding around the table. Let this advice guide you as your story continues!

Dungeons and Dragons as a Homeschooling Supplement and Enrichment

Sojourners seek to understand life from the road of adventure

In this age of Do It Yourself, people are diving into gardening, starting businesses, and learning an instrument. The “DIY” culture helps a community grow in its knowledge. The RV community is another good example.

Homeschooling is the mother of all DIY projects. Now, more than ever, parents are looking to homeschool their children, by choice, or by obligation. The modern homeschool family has a wealth of resources at their fingertips via the internet. And along with these resources comes the famous roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons.

I like to use a Growth Mindset when planning my games.

While some parents might consider the themes to be too violent or include magic, I would have you consider that D&D can be used as an endless resource to supplement your child’s education and enrich their experience.

How does D&D supplement education?

Now, when I say supplement, I am indicating that D&D, while not necessary to be present on your child’s transcript in order to pass to the next grade, does strengthen the natural intelligence of the child. Howard Garner’s Multiple Intelligence divides intelligences into multiple categories such as musical, logical, kinesthetic and linguistic. His theory surmises that each child, while having access to all forms of intelligence, usually drills down on 1 or 2 in development. While topics in school are sometimes isolated to draw upon one or two intelligences only (Math-Logic, Writing-Linguistic, Music-Musical) D&D draws upon all of the forms of intelligence. This means each child’s experience is different, although they are playing the same game.

This learning is natural and holistic. The child flexes their brain without knowing they are doing so. That is the power of playing storytelling games in the school place.

Read how to develop a growth mindset while playing Dungeons and Dragons

Worlds come alive with learning to narrate a story

How does D&D enrich the experience?

Besides math, reading, writing and social studies, can you think of other topics we might use on a daily basis? Think of systems thinking, critical analysis, risk-assessment, workplace collaboration, and conflict resolution. As adults, we might be familiar with some of these terms and have sat through seminars explaining what they mean. But I don’t see these taught in any textbooks, because education is primarily information download.

Memorization, Study and Test. Now, I’m not wanting to revamp the education system, nor do I know how you homeschool. But what I do know is that within the game Dungeons and Dragons, a high level of energy goes toward using each of those features that children will eventually use in the workplace. D&D enriches the educational experience of the child by potentially preparing them for real life situations in a safe fantasy simulation.

One of the reasons I love homeschooling is that I get to build my child’s education, and often we do it together, as a family. While incorporating multiple intelligence theories in our learning, I can justify any activity as educational! This includes playing such a wonderful pastime of dice and storytelling. 

So, next I will explain exactly how to incorporate D&D on a weekly basis using your current curriculum. And so, our story continues!

Asking Great Questions

I started off by asking the player’s “what do you do?” I got a lot of blank stares. I figured that I wasn’t doing a good enough job setting the scene for them to make any informed decision. So I increased my descriptions, but then got interrupted by players stating their actions, probably just to shut me up from talking the entire game.

The truth is, I don’t want to talk more than the players. I love the games where I sit back and watch the story unfold in front of me. I prepare most of the week for a game, writing quotes down, reviewing lore, developing

Good GMs ask great questions one of the questions I posit to my players is “where do you pay attention?” I ask this question upon describing an opening scene for exploration. For example: a thick layer of mist blankets the floor in this cellar. Crates stack to the ceiling and rats scurry in the corners. Somewhere beyond the walls, you hear the faint click click click. Where do you pay attention? Assuming the PCs are all here for the same purpose, to discover the secret hideout of a gang, they then have the opportunity to “play” with the descriptions i provided. They could ask, what happens when I press my ear against the cold stone wall? and get a great result, “along with clicks you hear the shuffling of hurried feet”. However, if they want to get creative, they can push the boundaries of my descriptions by coloring outside the lines. They could ask, do I see any meat hanging in this cold room? Notice I didn’t mention any meat hanging in this cellar, but because the player demonstrates curiosity, the meat now exists. Of course, I would only say yes assuming this was probable, very likely that meat hangs from metal hooks in this cold room. But it gets more interesting when the player then begins to show suspicion as they snoop around the meat locker. A quick GM could then drop a discovery of foul play as the PC then finds a familiar signet ring in the ground meat packaging. Yikes! The power of asking the players an open question “where do you pay attention?” broadens the search field of exploration beyond your simple opening descriptions. For simplicity, it gives the PCs a chance to play with the 1-3 descriptors you do hand out for free. For creativity, it gives the chance for PCs to search beyond the explicit descriptions.

Another great question I ask is “how does this affect you?” “how do you respond” “who do you notice?” “where does this day find you?” “how does the story continue?”

Recipe for a Chase Scene in Dungeons and Dragons

Recipe for a Chase Sequence

I watched a scene in Casino Royale and asked myself, what is the recipe for a satisfying chase scene? Tabletop Roleplaying Games are not known for their action packed, intense speed, but I still think there are ways to increase the dynamics in any scene in your game. Here is a recipe I made, and hope you enjoy!

Hunter: the one pursuing the quarry

Quarry: the one chased by the hunter

In preparation, divide the scene into 5 turns of the chase. Success occurs when the hunter obtains the quarry and failure occurs when the quarry escapes the hunter. Success or failure is determined by the table master by the fifth turn and not sooner. The goal is to have the quarry and hunter run in 5 turns to create tension and release.

Pro Tip: Include as many dimensions as possible (height, weight, depth, time, space)

Rules:

The hunter cannot catch the quarry by simply succeeding on movement. They must interact with the setting and succeed upon a skill check. Do not give advantage until the final turn.. The turns increase in difficulty, 10, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25. Upon a successful die roll, the player moves forward in their pursuit as described. Upon a failure, the player moves forward in pursuit, but at a cost and the table master rolls upon the mishap table. This ensures the chase does not grind to a premature halt due to a dice roll.

turn 1

As the table master, establish the setting, distance between hunter and quarry, and describe 3 interesting features of the setting.

Players may then take their turns in initiative order, and describe how to maneuver through the environment to obtain success. 

turn 2

Table Master: restate the setting, making sure to include any changes in the setting due to the previous turns (continue this step throughout the chase).

Players: take their turns in initiative order.

At the end of turn 2, have one explosion occur and make an attempt to weave this from the player’s actions. 

Explosion examples: a crowd erupts into an angry mob, a fireball, a car drives off the bridge, earthquake: any of these will work as long as they make sense in the setting. The goal is not to create false action, but rather to impose a loud dynamic to alter the plans and give the players a new feature to interact. Again, make an attempt to have the players cause the explosion if possible.

turn 3

Table Master: Establish the alignment of the quarry by giving them NPC interactions

Upon intersection, consider running combat. This helps break up any stale motion by giving an enjoyable social interaction moment. During time of banter, consider leaving the initiative order to give a more free form conversational style between hunter and quarry. By the end of the interaction, the players should learn something about the NPC that creates tension in the chase, or further validates the chase.

Players: take turns in initiative order, and allow for more free form order while conversing with the NPC. 

turn 4

Table Master: Upon the beginning of the 4th turn, introduce a setback for the pursuit. This could look like the quarry/hunter having to strip their armor to continue the chase, or split the party momentarily to avoid burdening a creaky bridge, or it could be leaving behind the party’s favored NPC due to the danger that awaits. At this point, pull out all stops on the tension and prepare for the outcome upon turn 5.

Players: take turn in initiative order.

turn 5

Tablemaster: stay silent during this round until the players make their final move.

Players: describe attempts to finally achieve success either by obtaining the quarry or escaping the hunter. 

Table Master: allow for rolls if needed, having increased the difficulty, at this point, give advantage. Describe the final outcome with a closing statement. Whether success or failure, the description should include a highlight of the player’s actions. Think of yourself as a bard in that respect, you are embellishing the feats of heroism, no matter how the chase ends. However, it ends, make it glorious!

Note to the Table Master: this 5 turn chase sequence was designed by watching chase sequences in movies and developing a framework. Sometimes, in RPGs, the players will incur an action that warrants a sudden halt to the “plans” of the table master. This is where you use judgement to decide if the scene should come to a close. The 5 turn chase sequence is simply a place to start, but it is still decided upon by the table master and the table whether or not to close the scene. Chases that drone on or end early are both disappointing. Make the magic happen.

Enriching your life and your games with a Growth Mindset.

There are many reasons TTRPGs like Dungeons and Dragons have been lauded for their ability to simultaneously grant us fun and growth. Part of that reason, I think, involves all of the tenets in the the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.

In the book, the author explores tons of research involving human motivation and success. I liked this little chart here and thought how similar the growth mindset is to how we play our characters in D&D.

Unlike real life, our characters are simulations of our imagination, and often we expand our exploits way beyond how we would behave in our own life situations. But now look at the markers of a growth mindset and see how often tabletop roleplaying games match up with this mindset driving us to success in life.

A fixed mindset avoids challenges where a growth mindset embraces them.

WOW. If that isn’t D&D, I don’t know what is. In life, we avoid challenges when we are laced with shame, fear or frustration over the potential for failure. In a growth mindset, we embrace that challenge, because those three toxins are not worth the embrace that a challenge can provide. The main reason is that a growth mindset seeks to experience and learn wisdom. A fixed mindset stays home when the wizard comes knocking at your door, but a growth mindset says, “I’m going on an adventure!”

A fixed mindset gives up easily where a growth mindset persists in setback.

Again, wow! In the game, the player’s role is to determine a team goal and pursue it. But you didn’t think the villain was going to hand you the keys to the fortress? In the game, the dungeon master’s role is to provide setbacks that the players so they can practice persistence in accomplishing their pre determined goal, through all the setbacks. What I think is wild is that because the players and dungeon master agree that these are the roles, no one gets upset when the DM throws a curve ball the players’ way. It’s expected. Setbacks are encouraged and like the person who thinks with a growth mindset, they thrive off of the experience that leads to wisdom.

A fixed mindset sees effort as fruitless where a growth mindset masters

Part of the fun of the game is taking a level 1 character that begins an adventure and using the rules of the game to level up after completing an experience. Some tables use experience points, some tables use checkpoints to level up the characters, but all understand that the purpose of the game is to do better at playing your character by granting that character bonuses, rewards and features. A fixed mindset would remain static in their levels of mastery because they don’t believe it would make a difference. But then again, the fixed mindset is already avoid challenges and running away from setbacks, so why would they attempt to master their craft? The growth mindset, as you can now see, builds upon itself like a series of interconnected muscles. The growth mindset believes that every experience adds up to reward and therefore, they look for that reward. Seek and you shall find, it has been said, and when players defeat the long awaited villain, they indeed look for treasure and lo and behold, it is there. I wish to gather that gumption in my own life, that I look for the reward.

A fixed mindset ignores criticism where a growth mindset learns from it

So much can be said about criticism. When to give, where to give, how to give and more importantly how to receive. We cannot control another’s opinion, but we have agency over our reception. In the wonder of D&D, as a player, you can have a metagaming view of your character, watch them, learn from them and even criticize them from a 30,000 foot view. Yes, the player brings the criticism and not afraid because they have power to learn from their character’s weakness, flaws and mistakes. In our own lives, I believe the reason a fixed mindset avoids criticism is that we feel powerless to do anything with it. A growth mindset apprehends the criticism and uses it as a resource, for everything is a value of energy. Sit around and think about that for a while!

A fixed mindset feels threatened by the success of others where a growth mindset celebrates and becomes inspired by the success of others.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

At it’s heart, D&D is a collaborative storytelling game. The rules create a party balance in which not one character has every tool and resource to beat every challenge presented by the dungeon master. Therefore, the collection of the players must celebrates the collective success because the party moves as a unit. There is no room to feel threatened, because the healer’s spellcasting might bring you back to consciousness before the axe falls upon your neck! The warrior’s rage might shield you from flying arrows! The inventor’s brilliance might bring about the answer the entire party needs in a split second. A growth mindset is required to play the game well.

Those who continue to operate in a fixed mindset eventually see their fate as determined and their agency stripped to a life of doom. Flipping into a growth mindset is the answer to bring about the agency, the free will and the empowerment one needs to achieve and succeed. By playing Dungeons and Dragons, with a growth mindset, we can simulate real life situations with imagination. In doing so, I think we will find ourselves “leveling up” in real life, because lessons are transferable. It’s that easy. May your story continue.

Tips from the Dungeons and Dragons Community

I found a wonderful thread from @slyflourish on Twitter. He asked about one simple tip to dramatically change the game (for the better). I found these answers from the community to be most helpful and inspirational! May you use them to add to your life and games!

  1. Technically a house rule not just a trick, but very simple: PCs only get the benefit of a long rest in a place of relative safety and comfort, not when camping in the wilderness. Lets you run wilderness adventures like they were dungeons. – @alexbro97829019

I really liked this suggestion and it reminded me of the wilderness rules in the Middle Earth RPG for 5th edition, something that I’ve used in my games to make overland (and underland) travel grittier and more deadly, therefore, giving the PCs more to consider. If you want to create strong tension and upbeats in the game, limit how and when a long rest can occur!

2. Electric tea light candles go on for concentration spells – @geekmoviehouse

Haha, at first, I had to read this a couple of times, but slowly realized that the electric tea light upon the table, acts as a physical prop and indicator that concentration spells are being used. This is an amazing idea, affordable and also adds to the ambience around your game. I love this idea!

3. -having states of failure, meaning one dice rolling bad is not the end of the thing, for instance if some is trying to persuade an NPC, rolling 1 or 2 fails just makes the PC act less friendly. – @skinny_bob

I couldn’t agree more. Keeping in mind a scale of variance for success and failure in the game makes for more of a dynamic game, rather than one that stops/starts upon success and failures. Having a mind of variant success and failure means the difference between pushing a button and turning a knob. Good advice!

4. Create problems, not solutions to them. – @groshnik

Wow! This is a discipline for every tablemaster! Many times I have prepared the “plan” or “way out” or “answer” and that, I have discovered, puts out the fire for the players. It can be tempting to give the answer while simultaneously asking the question (for we want our players to succeed). I think in the culture of having a more “friendly” DM has also brought about the “answer DM”. I believe part of the fun of RPGs involves some opposition birthed by the tablemaster, and of course no one has to be mean! But creating challenges, problems, and allowing the players to then take the wheel and drive home the solution, now that’s good RPG.

5. Asking my players to describe why they fail at something when they roll a Nat 1. It gives the player control over a dramatic moment, it lets them scale what happens based on how they’re feeling at the moment and often give amazing insight into the character’s thoughts! – @oboeluaren

I couldn’t agree more! The first couple times I tried this, my players looked back at me blankly. Not used to having a DM allow for such narrative power, the players took sometime to get used to this routine, but since then, less of the narrative burden on me and more various description from the other players at the table! It takes trust, but worth doing, in my opinion.

6. For theatre of the mind, on a player’s turn, describe the last turn/what they seeing through the PCs POV. Ask “what is (PC name) doing?” instead of “what do you WANT to do?” This helps alleviate choice paralysis and helps players who might not have caught every detail. – @marcellus_krowe

Daaaaaang. What a game changer! Just a simple turn of phrasing completely alters the course and the flow of combat. I have witnessed this choice paralysis in theater of the mind and I can see how by simply asking the player “what is your character doing?” keeps the narrative flowing in the fantasy game, rather than breaking immersion and asking direct questions to the player. I’m going to remember this one for sure.

There were many more suggestions in this thread and many more threads, but hopefully, if you have but a moment, you can trust and add a few of these features to your games around your table. May your story continue!

Soon

In 10 years of hospice care, I trained myself through intuition and paying attention to the obvious things in front of me to know when something was dying. Part of my job a pair of those who are closest to me and closest to the person dying on what to expect. There’s something terrifying about the unknown but even in a difficult time such as death, one can experience solace in knowing that the hospice nurse told them this would happen. Innoway I was a profit but not because entirely of intuition sometimes when you see something happen over and over again you just understand the patterns. The difficult thing is communicating that to a person, how do you tell someone they’re about to lose someone they love?.

maybe you can remember back to the story of Passover. Moses said stay inside, prepare food, have a to go bag packed and ready. Be with your family. Those the ones those ones you love the closest. And my angel of death will Passover you outside. There were three days of darkness where no one could see their hand in front of their face. I would like you to think about your hand and possibly what you were holding now in your hand. Prepare for darkness that doesn’t mean communication stops but it does mean there will be a severe disconnection, much like in a death.

Again if you know somethings coming when it comes your comfort and that someone was prepared. Take a deep breath look at your family take care of them and trust that this too shall pass. I remember the words of Juliet of Norwich you said all is well all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. Everything will be all right in the end and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end

I’ll see you soon