Hop Aboard the Space Canoe

Posted July 3, 2014 by Chris Lincoln in Nerdy Bits

D&D Logo

Hi everyone, this week we’re going to talk about Dungeons and Dragons. Before I begin, however, I have to tell you about D&D Encounters. Encounters is a program run by Wizards of the Coast, the current owners/publishers of D&D, that gives anyone who wants to try the game out a chance to see what it’s all about. Every Wednesday, in stores across the USA, anyone who wants to can show up to Encounters and join in a game, or learn the game if they’re new. The campaigns run for 12-13 weeks and are designed so that people can show up as their schedules allow.  One week I was in Ohio for business, but I didn’t want to miss out on that week’s session, so I found a participating store and played there. If I had missed playing that week, however, I wouldn’t have been punished in any way except missing out on some story. I started playing at Encounters shortly after it began, I’ve made a lot of great friends there, and I’ve been running my local store’s program for at least a year now.

An original D&D module by Thomas Young.

Now that you know about D&D Encounters, I can tell you about last night’s session. First off, we stopped running the official modules last season. WotC was only making the module available as a PDF and I refuse to run a whole campaign from a tablet or laptop. I need the immediacy of paper, and with 4-8 players throwing questions and plans at me en masse I can’t wait for a page to load or a device to spontaneously reboot. A good friend offered to write up a 13 week adventure for us to run, we had a great time, and have decide to continue running his adventures until the official release of D&D Next/5th Edition. After we finished his first campaign he started writing something more off the wall, with more fancy magical stuff happening. At first the party was just exploring a spooky tomb that no one’s returned from. There have been skeletons, time doesn’t feel right, disappearing stairs, even a mad lich. And this was just the first three sessions! Last night, during our fourth session, the party went to space.

The rules of space have changed.

Enter Spelljammer, the AD&D 2nd edition module of fantastical space flight. The short explanation of this is that, with enough magic, anything is possible. At the end of our third session of this adventure the party found a throne, the bard sat on it, and they were all teleported to the captain’s chambers on a nice galleon. Once they left this room they noticed that there was no sea for them to be sailing upon and they were floating among the stars themselves. The ship was also being towed by a group of goblins whose “ship” was little more than a small hollowed out asteroid. The party agreed to come aboard as cargo, were locked up, and promptly escaped. The goblin captain didn’t want any more hassle, so he gave the party supplies, directions to a nearby base, and let them have their ship back.  Oh, didn’t I mention that? The ship they arrived on was previously owned by the party’s bard.

Cleric and badass

Father Elmer’s sheet, along with his holy symbol, the “squirrel de lis”.

This brings me to my next topic, how groups build mythologies over time. My friend Max likes to play a bard, as you may already know from our podcast. He often plays the same bard, though different incarnations of him depending on the game system. Through various events, and with my DM approval, his current bard has 3 separate personalities: Quintz, the bard he usually runs; Vendriss, the darker bard; and Rokk, an orc bard he defeated the previous season. Quintz was present when we played Murder at Baldur’s Gate (recaps here and here), which culminated in the theft of a ship and the party’s escape. The next season he brought back Quintz, but as an amnesiac who had lost his ship. When he materialized on the spelljammer ship last night, he immediately recognized it and spent the entire night determined to get his ship back. The party for this adventure also contained Father Elmer, run by Dan from the podcast, who is a cleric of war that worships Mudnutts, an albino barbarian he ran in a previous season. Father Elmer was also present for Murder in Baldur’s Gate and once he realized this was their old ship he went off to find his set of armor that he had stolen from a Flaming Fist guard over one real world year ago. Also on the ship were a couple of ragamuffin messengers from Baldur’s Gate. When we were running that campaign the party befriended the local street urchins and began paying them to deliver messages, which became a business of sorts for some of the kids. Once the party got their ship back last night they found 10 of the little guys hiding below decks and they’ve offered to help crew the vessel. We’re not done with all the crossovers yet, though. When I drew up the maps for the fight on the goblin ship I put a safe in one of the rooms. As I expected the party cracked the safe  but it wasn’t in the module at all and I hadn’t decided what would be inside yet. Suddenly I had a plan. You see, one of our players had once played an ardent paladin who was a minotaur. His name was Alvenor and he died just about every single week. We had another player who was a changeling and he kept turning into different races just to mess with the minotaur. This led to some arguing (in character) and the changeling hired another pc (a half-orc barbarian) to be his bodyguard.  At the end of the campaign they had a scuffle and the half-orc decapitated the minotaur.  I’ve been joking for years that his head would show up again, and now I had a fantastic chance to do it! So, when they opened up that safe, all they found was the mummified head of a minotaur. Those who’d been playing at the store for a few years knew exactly what/who it was and burst out laughing. It was the punchline to a joke that took 4 years to pull off, and it was glorious.

Well, that’s all for story time today. What I hope you take away from this article is that Dungeons and Dragons is more than just Lord of the Rings with dice. It’s more than just playing pretend. D&D is about you and your friends weaving stories, working together, and having fun. Even if you sometimes lose your memories or your head. You can always roll up a new character, and you’ll always be welcome at Encounters.

About the Author

Chris Lincoln

A gamer through and through. A first class nerd. All games are his realm, but the tabletop is where he sits upon his throne.