Hi, and welcome back to the MadisonPL blog. We were gone for a while, but we’re back now and with a whole new attitude. My name is Joe P and I’m here to tell you all about my experiences with the tweens, teens, and young adults here at the library. I wonder how long I should keep this bit here.
An explanation: There’s a whole bunch of Dungeons and Dragons going on here. So here’s a little index for you.
|Adventurer’s League (Grades 6 to 8)||Experience Points (Grades 9 to 12)|
|Today’s Session||Session 0|
|Session 1 – Welcome to Saltmarsh|
Hello and welcome to Adventurers’ League (AL)- where I, Joe, attempt to teach middle schoolers how to play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D or DnD). Today marks the first day of our little club and I got to meet a handful of the new players: Lily, Noah, Logan, and… sorry, I’ve already forgotten the name of our fourth 6th grader, I don’t think I ever got his name, he showed up late.
I would like to mention that these new kids were absolutely lovely – they were well behaved and genuinely interested in everything I had to say. I was extremely happy with them.
Anyways, as the title of the post is – this was our Session 0, meaning we focused on character creation and talking about what D&D is. So here we go:
Our players for this group, which I will refer to as Group A, are:
- Lily – 6th grade, chess player, anime/manga nerd, we actually made her character yesterday at Level Up, the Tuesday middle school program
- Noah – 6th grade, green hair, knows Lily
- Logan – 6th grade, super excited to start playing
- Trent – 7th grade, I’ve known Trent for about a year now, he has some experience in D&D but not much
- Ashlee (-ley?) – 8th Grade, she’s been hanging out at the library for a few weeks now and was curious about what was going on in the room
- I forget your name because I don’t think we ever said it, so you’ll just be referred to as Anakin – grade unknown, from out of town, very interested
- and Me as the Dungeon Master (DM)
I didn’t have much time to prepare to today’s session as I was in a meeting. I left the meeting early to at least get my computer hooked up to the TV in the MacKenzie Room. Trent was already in the room so I asked him to prepare the tables for the new players. Eventually the kids piled in including the group I’ll refer to as Experienced AL Players – these kids have been playing for at least a year and have a decent grasp on how to play D&D. I let them assemble their own group and run their own games without much input from me. I’m sure I’ll mention them in other posts down the line.
I had to print out some things for the experienced players, so while I was out of the room I played a video on YouTube for the newbie players:
My adventures in printing here at the library should be a totally separate blog.
When I returned, I pulled the divider in the room and began my explanation of D&D to the new kids.
Dungeons and Dragons is a game… where you do… things. Yeah. So basically, I’m going to tell you a scenario where you – as your characters – are in and you tell me what you wanna do and I tell you what happens in the scenario as a response. Sometimes you roll dice to see if what you wanna do happens.
I admit, it’s not the best explanation. Explanations aren’t my forte.
I then decided that I needed to explain the world that they would be in before they began creating characters to help them get into the mindset. I’m just going to copy and paste the words from the first Experience Points (ExP) post.
Oerth is a world of kingdoms and magic. Empires rise and fall leaving behind ruins and treasures to be found by countless adventurers. One of the regions of Oerth is known as Flaeness where sits an old kingdom known as Keoland. Once upon a time, the powers that be decided it was a fantastic idea to expand northward. With all the focus on the northern end of the kingdom, the towns to the south became neglected. One such town was Saltmarsh which sits on the shores of the Azure Sea. It soon became a backwater and was prone to attacks from the pirate coalition to the south known as the Sea Princes. Eventually, the kingdoms to the north had had enough of Keoland’s shenanigans and pushed the nation back and realizing that they were now fighting on two fronts, the Kingdom of Keoland formed treaties with the other kingdoms and raised a navy to fight off the pirates on their southern shores. King Kimbertos Skotti then noticed little Saltmarsh and realized that it would make a great major seaport for trading on the Azure Sea. He sent his people down to hire dwarves to prospect the surrounding hills and create new businesses in Saltmarsh. Of course, the people who had already been living in Saltmarsh weren’t too keen on these new developments. Having lived through multiple pirate attacks, they believed they could handle life as is and have become used to how things are. These people consider themselves the Traditionalists while those with faith in the kingdom refer to themselves as Loyalists.
The summary I gave today was a little simpler than this, but it’s the same general thing.
So for this bit, I used DnDbeyond just like I did for ExP. I listed off all of the available optioned and tried my best to explain each. Since Lily already had a character, we began with Noah.
Noah created a Blue Dragonborn Druid originally named Luke but he switched it to Kyren. Dragonborn are a very noble race. In the creation myth, they are not descended from dragons as one might expect, but were actually made at the same time as dragon. From the same stock, as I put it. Dragonborn get to pick a color that aligns with the different types of dragons. Noah picked blue – this means that he has a breath weapon of a straight line of lightning and he is resistant to lightning damage. That’s neat. As a Druid, Kyren is in tune with nature. He can choose to fight on the front lines or cast nature based spells from a distance. Soon he’ll be able to shapeshift into animals that he has seen.
After watching Noah go through the process, Logan was quick to assemble his character – a Human Wizard named Fanota. Humans are the most numerous race of people on Oerth because of their adaptability. While they don’t specialize in anything, they have the easiest time doing everything. (I personally love playing humans.) He picked the variant human race allowing him to pick a feat at level one. A feat is an optional component to a character which further customizes who they are. The feat Logan picked was Spell Sniper, granting him one attack cantrip (Fire Bolt) and allowing him to ignore any partial cover the targets of his spells might have. As a Wizard (Harry), Fanota has studied the arcane to the point where he has learned to manipulate it into spells. Wizards are very versatile because they can add so many spells to their spellbook, but can’t cast as often as the other major arcane class, the Sorcerer. Every in-game morning, a wizard goes through their spell book and prepares their spells for the day. This adds a level of strategy to a wizards plans for the adventure.
Now Trent already had a level 2 Warlock from last year, but we agreed that its best if he make a new character because the party is already pretty caster heavy. We settled on Copper Dragonborn Barbarian named Patrick. A copper Dragonborn is attuned to Acid damage. His breath weapon also shoots in a straight line. A Barbarian is a primal warrior. He can go into a furious rage granting him extra damage and receiving less damage in return. They also have the most hit points at level 1.
Ashlee decided to make a Stout Halfing Wizard named Karen. Halfings are essentially hobbits but instead of wanting to stay in their little hobbit holes, they’re more keen to go on adventure and pull pranks on people. They can hide behind people bigger than them and are naturally lucky. The Stout line of halflings are a little more hearty than their cousins, giving them a bonus to Constitution and resistance to Poison Damage.
Anakin is a Tiefling Druid. Tiefling folk are descended from humans but somewhere in their bloodline, an outside influence was introduced and this blood from the outsider eventually manifested in these humans as horns, oddly colored skin, and a tail along with a few other traits such as resistance to Fire Damage and the ability to see in the dark. I believe that he plans on playing this druid in the opposite direction as Noah. Noah is planning on sticking in the back, playing more of a supportive role, while Anakin intends to run head first into combat.
The character we made for Lily yesterday is a Tiefling Sorcerer named Lazari. A sorcerer gets their powers from within whether that be their bloodline, divine intervention, or even randomly. They can just cast spells naturally – no studying needed. Lazari was granted her powers from the plane of Shadow and she’s interested in finding out what exactly this means.
It’s all connected… somehow.
I will admit that trying to get these kids to come up with a unified backstory is really tough. It was determined that Lazari, having a sage background, and Kyren, having a hermit background, met in the past with Lazari wandering about trying to learn things and stumbling upon the lonely hermit. They didn’t like each other at first but eventually admitted that they were friends. Lazari heard that there might be information about the plane of Shadow in the southern parts of the Kingdom of Keoland and set off to find answers. Kyren, having nothing else to do, tagged along.
Fanota’s story is similar in that he has a history of nightmares and he seeks more answers to them in the Saltmarsh region. His nightmares have scarred him and help explain his haunted one background. He rides on the same boat towards Saltmarsh as the others.
Patrick is a sailor and is the helmsman of the ship the Cadenza (which is the same ship as the high school sessions of this game… but these aren’t the same games so things will play out differently). His father was a sailor and was friends with Captain Beatrice Dawnrider. As a favor Capt. Dawnrider took Patrick aboard and is happy with his fighting skills.
Anakin has a criminal background and when things got hot in his home area, he was told by his criminal contact “Passiave” to go start a new life in Saltmarsh.
Unfortunately Ashlee had to leave before we could get to this part, so we don’t know why she’s on the boat yet. We do know that she has had a previous encounter with Anakin sometime in the past. We also know that she has the folk hero background.
Ready, set, go!
Not wanting to leave these new players hungry for actual gameplay, we spent the last 50 minutes testing out their characters. Anakin had to leave, but I explained that he is on the boat… somewhere.
It’s a beautiful late summer day on the seas. The sounds of waves crashing on the side of the boat, the creaking of the wood, and the chatter of the sailing crew had become background noise for the passengers after months of travel. The Cadenza is host to a crew of 30 and 20 passengers. Behind the wheel is Patrick who hears the crewmember in the crows’ nest that there is a ship in the distance. Capt Dawnrider pulls out her spyglass and notes a sinking vessel with a white flag and smoke rising from its hull. It’s here that I allow the kids their first roll by asking them if any would like to look towards the other ship. I explain that all it takes is a d20 (20-sided die) roll and adding the little number next to the skill Perception on their character sheet. Fanota and Kyren roll less than a 10 while Lazari rolled a 17, allowing her to see the sole survivor on the wreckage keeps looking to their side.
I notice that Lily makes a mental note of it, but doesn’t say anything else.
As the captain orders Patrick to get closer to the wreckage, Noah asked me the color of the smoke – I tell him white and he instantly has a confused look on his face. I reveal no further details. As the boat comes to the wreckage, I slow down my descriptions trying to hint that the players can interrupt me at anytime to act. As the crew begins to lay out boards to cross to the wreckage, Noah asks me if he can cast Detect Magic. Of course. Detect Magic allows him to see magical auras around objects. I explain that the white smoke emits a blue aura, signalling that it is Illusion magic. Kyren shouts to the captain that it’s an illusion but it’s too late. The “lone survivor” shouts “get’em boys!” and a crew of hiding pirates swing onto the Cadenza. A brutish pirate lands in front of Kyren with a malicious grin:
“Well, ain’t you a smart one, boy?”
And with that, I had the kids roll Initiative (which determines turn order. Initiative is equal to a characters Dexterity Modifier plus any bonuses granted by Items or Feats).
And now the fun begins. I lay out a the boat map and place dice representing the crew, the pirates, and the party on it.
The pirates slay some passengers and the Cadenza crew and the party fight back. Patrick begins things by quickly cleaving a pirate in half with one swing. His greataxe deals 1d12+Strength Modifier (STR) slashing damage. The Cadenza crew manages to defeat two more pirates while Fanota draws the ire of the big pirate captain with a Fire Bolt. Kyren attempts to harm the pirate captain with a spear but instead bounces off of one of the metal studs on the pirate’s armor.
“That’s cute,” the pirate captain says.
When Kyren moves out of the way, Lazari rushes in with a dagger and manages to get under the pirate’s armor.
“Now we got a party!” the pirate continues.
Unfortunately, after this time was up and I had to bid the students goodbye. I promised them that we will pick up at exactly this moment and took pictures of the map and the notes that I took during the combat. I’m excited to see how this group turns out. Thanks for reading!
Adventurers’ League meets on 2nd (Group A) and 4th (Group B) Wednesdays, 3 to 5:30 p.m. New players are welcome and experienced players are welcome to form their own groups to play independently in the session space. Talk to Joe, that’s me, for more info.