Artist Boy has been trying to get his friends interested in Dungeons & Dragons for quite a while — years, actually — but he has never really succeeded. That is, they are happy to play, but the gaming is never quite up to Artist Boy’s standards. “The problem is, they spend too much time playing video games,” he complains. “They think the goal is just to have the most powerful character and win all the fights. They haven’t read the right books. They don’t want to solve mysteries or role play. They don’t get it.”
So I gave him some maternal advice. “You should require them to come up with back stories for their characters,” I said. “And then make their back stories relevant to the campaign.” We then had a long discussion of favorite D&D role playing moments.
“Mom,” said Artist Boy plaintively, “will you tell all this stuff to my friends?”
“Um, okay,” said I.
So yesterday I found myself preaching D&D to half a dozen 14yo boys. I actually came up with a backstory for one of them. The conversation went something like this:
Artist Boy: How about you hate all members of a particular race.
Friend: Okay, I hate gnomes.
Me: Why? What’s your grudge?
Friend: Ha ha, they messed up my potato patch.
Me: Potato patch! Perfect! Okay, how’s this? You are a serious potato farmer and the best potato chef for miles around. That means you have to bring an extra pack animal when you go adventuring because you are bringing sacks of potatoes and all your cooking equipment. And every time the party stops for a meal it takes an hour for you to cook it. This will be annoying to the others but you will insist. And you occasionally take detours to search out special cooking herbs and everyone has to wait while you do it. But your potatoes are amazing and anyone who eats them gets +1 to their morale. Or you have a better chance at bluffing them later. Or maybe they regain one hit point. And Artist Boy, you have to make sure there are plenty of gnomes to get in the way.
Later, Artist Boy found me and asked me to come down and explain to his other friend why, as a paladin of Anubis, he should have a mace as his primary weapon and not a bastard sword. I’ll spare you the details on this one, but after five minutes of conversation the friend was totally convinced and super excited about the mace, even though maces are much less powerful than bastard swords.
This morning Artist Boy told me it was his best gaming yet.