Ryan McRae

Ryan McRae

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

BTTD #8: Why so dark? Why?

TLDR: How Does One Play D&D? Time’s up. No Candles in the Wind. Rey Just Wrote Your Adventure. Featured on what? Also I’m giving away some dice.

We All Start Somewhere

I’ve been flipping through the Player’s Handbook for D&D and I’m delighted by it. Just the layout and the kinds of characters you can have just really float my haunted barge.

Now, (humble brag) I’ve been playing D&D for over 36 years off and on. I’ve conquered Gen Con and I’ve made enough characters to fill a town. (Oh what a town that would be!)

So, of course, I get this question all the time: How do you get started on D&D? Man. That is a question. Here’s my little bit of advice.

I’d say start with the D&D Essentials. They have great instructions on how to get started. Comes in a box. Boom.

YouTube. It’s a video thing. I’m sure if you search for “How do you play D&D?” Someone with way better skills than me has figured that out and can explain.

Join a game. A lot of game places have open games where it’s like “We are alllll playing some D&D.” You literally show up and say this phrase, “I’ve never played D&D, I want to learn, please help me.” And they (should) help you!

Lower your expectations. Your first time might be klutzy and you’re not sure what’s going on. It depends on a number of factors, especially who you are with. But it gets better and you’ll learn a trick or two and then it opens up a whole new world to you. And then you’ll think about it all the time. I have an analogy for this, but since this is a kid friendly newsletter . . . I’ll just go with: 😉.

IKEA is your Best Friend.

I recently ventured into IKEA (not for the faint of heart, my friend.) And they had these cool little hourglasses. I almost bought one, but I couldn’t decide which one to get. I wanted to get all the colors, but nothing screams serial killer more than having a collection of hourglasses.

But you can find all sorts of cheap, fun little prop things for your game: candles, little sculptures, boxes, etc.

I’d use hourglasses for solving something or making a decision. An hourglass is just thematic and it’s pretty. It’s better than barking “Siri, set timer for 2 minutes.”

When Things Get Broken

I’m always trying to think of problems that aren’t necessarily a monster, but something that looks like a small inconvenience, but ends up wrecking a place. Think about if a well gets poisoned. Ugh. Terrible. No source of potable water.

But what if you could strip basic stuff from your setting that had major consequences that no one thought of?

Example: In this city and three miles out, fire doesn’t work all of a sudden. You can’t light a candle, torch, or anything. Oh, you try and cast a spell that has fire? Nope. Nothing. At night, the place is pitch black. Crime goes up. City watch is overwhelmed. People are panicked. A troll got into the city (they are hurt more by fire.) Something has to be done. But here are some of the hooks:

  • Even more trolls show up. They somehow know that fire doesn’t work.
  • The clerics that serve the deity of fire are sick or missing. Their entire chapel is gone as if it was never built.
  • Perhaps the city has been relocated (no one has left the city and no one has entered it).
  • The mage tower that is miles away has a torrent of fire reaching up into the sky. Saddle up.

Try taking an inconvenience and then stretching it out to a huge, huge problem. It’s easier than you think. (Metal starts rusting at a rapid rate. . . . Ooooooh.)

If you have a space game: somehow the form of travel around a certain planet has winked out. Everyone is stranded there. What’s hampering the ability to “warp out”? . . Or whatever your game calls it.

What Rey Can Teach Us About An Adventure

In The Force Awakens movie, when Rey is scavenging the downed Star Destroyer, my mind cracked in half. Scavenging could be a fantastic adventure. What crashed in your world that your players must venture into? What is so desperately needed?

But isn’t a dungeon crawl basically scavenging? I say NO!

Mostly you dungeon crawl (in whatever setting) to get rich or more powerful. Rey was doing it to survive. Maybe your players are poor? Maybe they need supplies for the town because the town is basically a ramshackle? Or it will be under attack soon?

I just love the idea of adventurers (again, no matter the setting) building up a community and using their (mostly) ill-gotten gains to build up the town into a city. So. Much. Adventure.

Things You’ll Dig

I make a little appearance here in this video. I made it. I’m on YouTube. If you dig the rest, please subscribe.

My friend Shaunta Grimes runs an online writing community called Ninja Writers and she’s put together a whole bundle of world-building resources for you. Fill out this form and she’ll send it right to you. Here’s the link: https://upscri.be/07k9b4

Running an Urban Sort of Game? I Got You Boo. 

I once ran a World of Darkness game (think vampires, werewolves, ghosts. . . ) and the characters had to be human. (I know, right? Who wants that?) But they were IRS agents set to collect taxes from people who had more than an average lifespan.

In other words, they collected money from vampires and the fae. They had to have receipts and everything. They also helped them transition from one identity to another. The IRS just geared them with all the gear to kick butt. I got 1040s from the library and everything.

Tax forms and role playing. I mean, come on!

Have a good week and don’t forget: dice.

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