Dungeons & Dragons: How You Play

I’ve recently introduced my young nephews to D&D, and that inspired me to write a how-to series, which Loren Rosson III has been hosting on his excellent blog The Busybody. I’m gratified and humbled he’s supported the project. I started playing D&D in 1980, and a few years ago, I became interested in really figuring out what makes it work — that is, when it does. In 2014, I wrote a long essay for Baen Books that covers the history of D&D and indulges in some general theorizing, but I wanted to write a more practical guide on the topic. I got my nephews up and playing and having fun within an hour by explaining to them the core trappings of the game, which I cover in article one, and then adopting a viewpoint that I now outline in article two. I will probably write a third and final article that puts everything together, describing the adventure I wrote and ran for my nephews and how I employed my own advice to keep things moving.

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Liberalism Needs a Housecleaning

After this post, I hope to leave off religion and politics for a while. I’m a liberal and liberal apologist but also a philosophical conservative, meaning I’m more into Adam Smith than Karl Marx, more into Plato and Lao Tzu than Nietzsche. But don’t let me do your homework, please. Read widely.

I’m bugged by the logical fallacies and dissembling self-described liberals engage in. When we stray from logic and the facts, we give our opponents ammunition, end up being unfair, and generally sabotage the whole project of making the world better.

Continue reading

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Essential D&D on The Busybody

Last month, I introduced my nephews Max and Eli and their friend Griffin to D&D. I hadn’t played in a while, and I needed to get back up to speed. I waded through several old rulebooks and also the Pathfinder rules, scavenging ideas about how to present the essentials to them. I also ended up buying the new, 5th Edition, rules. After a couple of weeks of this, I proposed an article series on D&D essentials to my friend the excellent writer Loren Rosson, and he generously agreed to support the project on his blog, The Busybody. Here’s the first article.

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Six Hours, Part 7

Our home

We dropped off the guide at the Hop and Brew. I only gave him a twenty, but he was much obliged.

Alyx and I met Karen for pizza at Martolli’s, and then we went home. It had been a full six hours.

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Six Hours, Part 6

The skylights

After we passed the fumarole skylights, we went a quarter mile in the dark; the only sound was dripping condensation. The guide lagged until the cavern roof sloped down low; then he brushed past and held up a warding hand into Alyx’s flashlight beam. He got down and crawled ahead, dragging the toad bag.

We waited a good ten minutes.

When he came back, the bag was empty. “Go on. He won’t bite.”

I’d like to tell you how the meeting went. Alyx is still buzzing.

But that would be against the rules.

The meeting

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Six Hours, Part 5

The fumarole

We headed back west, into forest on the lee of Three-Fingered Jack. The road was tough for the Civic. I kept stealing looks at the bagged toad in the guide’s lap. Finally, he signaled a stop at no place in particular. “Do you have any flashlights?”

I told him I did. There was one on my phone, and I took one from the glove box and gave it to Alyx.

As we got out, I noticed a four-inch pit in the dust. Alyx had never heard of antlions. I caught an ant and tried to demonstrate. I kept dropping the ant in the pit, but the antlion wasn’t hungry, so I dug him up to show her. Alyx was impressed and a little repulsed as it humped across my palm.

The guide started off without us, toad bag swinging in his grip, and we had to catch up. We passed from pine-needle duff to bracken and into a fir grove that was incongruous among the old pines. The air became cool, and strangely thick. I got light-headed. It was very odd.

“Lots of oxygen here,” said the guide. “They need it to grow so big. Usually, they mindfog people wandering in, to redirect them, but they know me.”

We paused after a climb, and Alyx sat on a rock. She noticed it had a deep cleft.

The guide said, “It’s the top of an old fumarole. Watch this.” He set down the toad and brought out a box of matches. He lit one and tossed it in, standing back. The match wood erupted into a ball of flame. He waved us forward, and we watched the ball flare brighter as it dropped down, down into the deep dark, throwing sparks before it died.

“This is where the oxygen comes from,” he said. He retrieved his toad. A little further on, we approached a larger hole in the ground. “I set a ladder here,” he said.

Fumarole closeup

Cave entrance

Cave descent

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Six Hours, Part 4

Lake and Mountains

Back at the car, I remarked about the heat.

“Let’s go to the lake,” said the guide. “There’s more there, if we’re lucky.”

The lake was shallow and warm as bath water, but clear and clean. Alyx and I had bathing suits with us, and we took a swim. As I was looking at the mountains, something plopped in the water between us. Alyx laughed. “A fish just jumped. It made an upside-down U, like in a cartoon.”

“What kind of fish? A trout?”

“I don’t know. It was silver, about this long.” She held her hands six inches apart.

I’d thought the water would be too shallow and warm for fish.

Back at shore, the guide said, “Did you see it?”

“The fish?” asked Alyx.

“That was no fish,” said the guide.

On the way to the car, we found a large toad in the dust, still wet, head smashed by some vehicle. The guide picked it up by one flipper and took a plastic bag from his pocket. He stuffed the toad inside.

I wanted to ask, but I didn’t.

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