Tag Archives: dungeons and dragons

I still like D&D at my library

…in case you were wondering.

But seriously, I thought I would update my library Dungeons & Dragons life for you all so you know how it’s going. Also, I got a message from someone on Goodreads – hello new friend! – who asked me about my experiences. She was just asking for some general tips for running D&D campaigns for tweens/teens. I’m not an expert by any means and I get stuff wrong sometimes, but this is also something that anyone can do. It obviously helps if you’ve played D&D or some other roleplaying system before, are moderately organized, and like having fun, but those aren’t requirements.

Well, you should like fun. D&D is very fun.

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We usually have anywhere from 8-10 players and 10 is just A LOT of kids. As far as adventures I’ve used mostly pre-made – with lots of tweaks and changes – from the Dungeon Masters Guild via Wizards of the Coast. You can buy adventures for cheap and they are pretty good! I tweak them a bit by adding in more combat and simplifying the story. My teens like killing stuff, what can I say?

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous thoughts about DMing (Dungeon Mastering aka running the game):

-Be sure to know your story really well and be ready to either improvise or fall back on prepared side stories when your players do something completely unexpected. They will, because that’s the fun of D&D. I also like to have the teens summarize the last session but also try to take notes.

-Make sure you have a few copies of the Players Handbook around for kids/you to look stuff up. Your players will ask lots of questions. I don’t think that you need to know everything off the top of your head, but they want to know quickly. Try and review the classes and mechanic beforehand. I also like to put tabs in the Player’s Handbook for frequent sections like races, classes, weapons, spells, and leveling up. I also just discovered the D&D 5e Compendium from Roll 20 which is great for quick reference. Its so helpful!

-Always make sure to have plenty of dice, scrap paper, blank character sheets, and pencils around. I often have new players drop in right before we start so I have some pre-made characters as well. Also snacks. Snacks are key.

-My friend and DM for one of my current campaigns told me about DM David’s imitative tents. They are great – I love them! He has some for creatures/monsters too.

-The Dungeon Masters Guild has a lot of stuff on the website: pre-made characters, cheap adventures, and help. I’m sure there are people on there who know way more about this than I do.

-I definitely fudge the rules a little bit to make it more fun and because rules isn’t really what my group is playing for. They are into the story and the adventure. (And the murder of monsters and sometimes innocent NPCs. Did I mention the murder?) I tell them that if they want to be super picky about tracking how much food they have, they can, but that I’m not especially interested in that level of minutiae. I promise to not let them starve.

-My kids are also super concerned about things being really fair – as are many kids – so I try to be really aware of that when it comes to any rule bending or treasures giving out or inspiration. If you fudge the rules for one player, make sure to give the other players similar opportunities to get a second chance. Also, if they start complaining that no one is attacking them, I will have the creature attack them next. That’s what you get! Don’t complain!

-Finally, the biggest challenge for me is making sure that the kids aren’t talking . . . ok SHOUTING . . over each other and making sure everyone is getting a chance to talk/share ideas. One way I need to try out is to have a party leader. Basically one player will tell the DM what they want to do as a group in a roleplaying situation or if they are setting up a trap or something. Then you don’t have 8 kids talking to you at once! Or you could do to “talking stick/dice/ruler” whatever and only the person who has that can talk. Either one could work though I admit I haven’t really tried for various reasons.

So that’s how D&D has been going. We have the best time! How do you game at your library?

(Wait you don’t game at your library? Get with it.)

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Why I’m Excited about Dungeons & Dragons at the Library

Well, mostly because I’m excited about Dungeons & Dragons in the rest of my life. I am playing in two games right now, I’m planning a game for teens at the library, and I even just finished reading a book about the game’s history, Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. I wanted to like it a bit more, but the guy is just so stereotypically nerd bro-y that he either cannot imagine a woman liking the game, or is AMAZED the once or twice that he meets a woman who plays. OMG CRAZY. Cue giant eye roll.

My feelings exactly, General.

My feelings exactly, General.

The book just made me want to read the more meticulously researched and well-received Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventure from Chess to Role-Playing.

But I digress. Let me tell about why I’m excited to try D&D at the library. Emphasis on the trying since my program doesn’t start for a week. It could be a giant disaster and everyone will hate it! WHEEEE! But hopefully not.

I’ll definitely tell you if it fails so you can learn from my mistakes and not just never mention it again and deny it happened when you bring it up.

Anyway here’s why I hope D&D @ MHL will be fun:

It’s collaborative, creative storytelling. Telling a story with a group of people is not something we get the chance to do all that often. We get to read other people’s stories or make our own, but this is telling your story along with someone else’s and seeing how it turns out for both of you.

It makes you get to know yourself better . . . and then stretch yourself. I wouldn’t say that I’m the first person to jump in when there is a problem or heck even respond to a question in a discussion. I like to listen and wait, then maybe listen some more and talk about it later. This means I am not good at making decisions. But that’s ok because when I’m playing a character I can make them like me – a decision avoider – or I can try to be a decision maker. I know that’s what I’m like in real life but I can certainly try out different personas – someone who decides immediately! or isn’t afraid of spiders! – in D&D.

It allows you to be outrageous in a way that your real life doesn’t allow you. Wait, Anna, you’re not a half-demon sailor whose whaling ship got stolen by your ex and now you’re out for revenge? Surprisingly, I’m not. I’m not a dwarf on the run from the mob family either. But I can be those people in D&D! Tell a story about a ghost whale or plan an elaborate trap that involves kicking at shrunken down wooden door at a group of hellhounds, and have it work out well? Yeah, it’s ridiculous but that’s sort of the point. I can’t do those things in my actual life because . . . reasons.

It teaches you how to get along with different types of people. Or they will really annoy you and you’ll figure out how to deal with it!

It’s just really fun. I mean, did I mention that you get to go on adventures where you are the main character or one of them?! It’s basically like 10-year-old Anna’s life goal. I wanted a Star Trek holodeck not for any weird reason – looking at you Riker and your weird sex holodecks – but because I wanted to be in The Lord of the Rings. If I had known that that’s basically what D&D was? Well, my adolescence would have been a lot different . . . and a lot nerdier. Which is saying a lot. 

It’s actually not Satanic. If you didn’t know: it’s all pretend. It’s like Harry Potter aka made upMagic isn’t actually real so no one is sacrificing anyone to get power or worshipping the devil! Get your 1980s Satanic Panic outta here! (You should really listen to the SYSK podcast. It’s fascinating and super terrifying.)

If you were wondering – and I assume you were – we’ll be using 5th edition because that’s what I know.

There are a lot of other reasons that I’m sure I’m leaving out. I hope the teens enjoy it. I’ll be using some pre-written characters and adventures from the D&D Adventurer’s League and Dungeon Master’s Guild. Anyone currently running role-playing games at their library or just want to be ULTIMATE NERDS and talk about D&D with me? I’m here!

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PLA Highlights

I’m back from Denver with a miserable head cold – yippee! Apparently, cold + mountain altitude + flying at . . . plane altitude = Head Cold of Death with Fluid in Ears as Bonus. So while I’m not feeling the greatest right now, I really did have a wonderful time at PLA. I was able to attend some really helpful sessions and see and reconnect with some librarians.

Here are some quick and dirty (hehe) highlights of the conference:

-Downers’ Grove, Illinois’ documentary film class series for teens was really inspiring and I’d love to recreate it at MHL but they spent a LOT of money on filmmaking equipment. Maybe that’s something to think about for the future.

-One program was entitled something like, “How Two Libraries Quit Summer Reading, and You Can Too!” and it was awesome. They didn’t really quit – you just can’t really quit summer reading – but they did change their programs drastically. One library, Park City, UT, went to a more creative and self-directed program and the Nashville Public Library created one program with a point system for kids, teens, and adults that included activities and goals. Both were really interesting approaches and I’d love to incorporate elements of both at my library. One signup and program for all ages?! Yes please! And I love how Park City had patrons create their own reading goals. My coworker Rebecca and I are thinking of moving to a summer reading bingo board with prize suggestions from the teens. They want the “swaggiest” bookmarks*, candy, and Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. We can do that!

-Another awesome idea I’d love to incorporate at my library is to convince the school system to either  give out library card applications to new students as part of their school registration or just share the school records with us and let us give library cards to everyone at school. Another great idea is to have students’ I.D. cards be their public library cards. It would be so amazing and make it a lot easier for kids to access books from the public library. Right now they are supposed to show I.D. to get books and get a card, and they have to physically come into the library to get that card. Some libraries, like Haverhill in our consortium, have an online sign up for a card. I’d love that. It can be really hard for kids and parents to physically come to the library but if they already had cards or we just mailed them to them after applying online, they could still access a ton of our resources without leaving their house!

-Ok, so by far my favorite session was the very last one I attended called “Dragons in the Library: Tabletop Gaming and the Public Library” and it was so great. Obviously, it was totally right up my alley but it was fascinating. The Fresno library system created a tabletop gaming convention at the library and ran D&D games, hosted game premiers, and had a ton of people. Over 300 people over two days! It was just really fun to hear about how this library and others were using gaming in their programs. I asked a question about D&D one shot adventures – I’m going to be hosting a game for teens next month and they are super excited – and got lots of suggestions and helpful ideas. Basically, librarians who game – whether tabletop, video, roleplaying or whatever – are my new favorite people.

Denver was a cool city as well. I have been to the Rockies but hadn’t spent much time in downtown Denver and it was nice! Though, there are a lot of oversized things which make you feel like you’re in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! See giant blue bear:

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And giant dustpan:

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I wonder what it all means….

While I was traveling and out there I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab which I really enjoyed. I’m sort of on a fantasy kick right now – wait, am I ever NOT reading a ton of fantasy? – and am also reading N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I’m also listening to The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey but honestly, I liked the book better when it was by Laini Taylor! SICK LIBRARIAN BURN. kanye

That’s all for now. I’m going to take some Sudafed.

*Is “swaggiest” a word? Unknown. What does it mean? Cool . . . I think? I’m not sure. I’m getting old.

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