Ryan McRae

Ryan McRae

Creator of Burn the Tavern Down.
Bringing Creativity Back to Gaming.

BTTD #1

Just Starting Out

Today, one of my co-workers asked—”Hey, I just got asked to play D&D. . . where do I start? What should I expect?”

He looked a little afraid and I said, “Imagine you are invited to a poker game. But it’s going to be much more fun and whatever you saw in Lord of the Rings. . . you can try and be that. It’s fun.”

And I think for soon-to-be-gamers, they have to cut through all the bull and see what it’s really about. It’s about friends or potential friends, getting together to tell a story. One where they might save the day or even the town.

It’s about flexing that imaginative muscle that so very rarely gets flexed anymore.

It’s about tapping into that creative flow that might have dried up between our commute and our cubicle. We get to be someone else for just awhile.

So if you’re invited, just jump in. If you have a regular gaming group, think about expanding it to someone who has always been curious. And don’t interrupt the GM—that is generally frowned upon.

Book I’d recommend

A lot of people think they need a backstory to their character—and I vote no. I read a reddit thread that said that characters don’t need a backstory until about level 3-4 (or however your RPG does levels. . . milestones, points, growth, whatever). Why would you develop a massive backstory, when your character, well, doesn’t make it across the orc bridge and plummets to his death? How’s that story about your father’s weird mole now? Useless.

If you are looking for a fun book about backstory, I’d suggest The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide.  

It’s a way to develop quirks about your character like idioms. . . you simply put together some key fragments to get your character’s favorite idiom. Mine? For my barbarian named Toe. . .

Gold spent on a peasant ends up holding your nose.

No, I’m not sure what that means, but I can’t wait to use it. (I mean, does the gold hold your nose?)

Grab this book if you need a boost of creative juice for a backstory.

Stranger Things—You May Have Heard of it. #storytelling

Man, I am four episodes deep into Stranger Things Season 3 and I am here for it. One, I think it’s responsible for the resurgence of D&D and gaming. I would like to thank Netflix personally.

Two, I think Stranger Things is the codex of how to game well, how to develop a story and keep people enthralled. You have recurring villians, friendship, competition, people leveling up and just plain old good storytelling. (I’ll talk about the games Tales from the Loop or Kids on Bikes at some point, but I haven’t just played them yet. These are RPGs that are modeled a bit like Stranger Things.)

One takeaway from the mulitude of Stranger Things options I could write about—turning something good into something dangerous is a great use of story and adventure.

See what you can use from that. Maybe healing magic in the area has gone haywire because of a hidden artifact or ancient invoked curse.

Now there’s a plague and it is spreading. . . quickly. The characters only have a couple of days to restore healing magic before there is irrevocable damage. And if someone uses healing magic. . .the consequences are dire. Poor acolyte Byton.


Well, that’s my first installment of Burning the Tavern Down. Hope you enjoyed it and if you wouldn’t mind, forward this on to a friend, DM or some rando. Thanks.

Shoot me a line. I’d love to know what you thought.

P.S. If someone passed this email on to you, you can subscribe here, and subscribe to Burn the Tavern Down. You’ll get emails on how to simply game better. Click here to get the best gaming newsletter around.

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