Confessions of a D&D Camp Counselor: Year II – Best Bits

by Bauxtehude (Liam Gallagher) on September 19, 2011

Well D&D camp is over for another year. Looking back it seems to me that the best way to share stories from D&D camp without a lot of superfluous context is to use the “Hey, do you remember when…?” approach. So for the final time this year I would like to share some of the best bits of fun, excitement and hilarity that happened this summer at D&D camp.

Video Games!

Obviously the kids come to camp to have fun first and foremost. Playing and learning the game of D&D is the secondary objective. A lot of the rules can be adjusted to suit the situation at hand if it’s going to make thing more fun. Each week as new kids come to camp we assess their level of play and do our very best to accommodate people so that everyone has a good time. Many of the issues that arise are because some kids just want to play even though they don’t know or don’t want to know the actual rules of “how D&D is supposed to be played.”

That being said, every year we get kids at camp who have never played D&D before and don’t seem to have any interest in it as such. Instead when their parents said “You’re going to camp, pick one!” they picked the camp that sounded most like video games. Well at camp this year we had quite a few Mine Craft kids and it made for some pretty strange in-game interactions.

Most people who come to D&D through videos games start off with some base assumptions about the way they can interact with the game world (that are quickly corrected, though no less amusing). Some pretty common things are kids who try to use video game logic to solve problems instead of behaving like a human being.

For example:

King: Oh thank goodness! You’re returned from the hills. What news do you bear?

Kid: I show him the crown.

King: You show me the…? Oh my crown, thank the heavens! My right to rule is restored. Many thanks, but tell me how did you ever come to return it?

Kid: I killed a dragon.

King: Oh. How heroic! Please I’ll gather the court so you can recount your incred—

Kid: How much XP and gold do I get? I want a magic sword?

King: “Ex-pee”? I’m not sure I follow you sir, though you will be amply rewarded!

Kid: I need 600 XP to get to level 2 and I need a neck slot item.

King: You’re a very strange fellow you are… you’re short on words often, and just as often your words are incoherent.

Kid: I kill the king.

King: You kill me?! Quick Guards!

DM: <<He runs away and a cohort of guards imprison you forever>>

Kid: <<Aww, you’re not actually supposed to be able to do that!>>

The Foreman

Every year we have kids who are video game kids. There are those who played a lot Final Fantasy, or maybe the Fallout games, but this year we got Mine Craft kids. These kids had trouble dealing with the scope of D&D. They wanted to spend time focusing on things that are not important to D&D. For example, they want to know what the shovel in your adventurer’s kit is made out of? No clue right? It doesn’t matter, it magically disappears into a bag of holding which is just short form for “inventory management is boring.”

For example, a kid got a pick axe and shovel (the party is the crew of a pirate ship) and was very upset to learn that I have no interest in tracking the expended durability points of the shovel that is never going to get used. Equally upsetting to this kid is that I won’t tell her what the shovel is made out of so she can determine how many points of durability it has in the first place.

Kid: This isn’t fair! I want to run a mine.

DM: Listen we had a vote. 6 People wanted to play a pirate ship campaign and one person wanted to play Mine Craft, the video game.

Kid: That was me!

DM: I know. Just train in Nature and Dungeoneering.

The Pokemancer

So there’s left field and then there’s this kid. This kid didn’t want to play D&D but had to go to camp, so I did my best to accommodate him in the game. Maybe you’re a Wizard who summons minions to come to their aid that are a lot like Pokemon? Yeah? That got a good reaction. Well, after picking powers and determining how they would actually be the attacks of Pokemon we got into the first combat and the signs that I was not well understood were hard to ignore.

My first clue was that the kid was tracking six different pools of hit points. Then in was that he had access to 24 powers at 2nd level, then it was that his fighting type attack should do more damage against the wild boar because fighting type is super affective against normal type.

All of this would have been different if the kid had a good handle on the rules of D&D and cooked up a cool home brew class. D&D camp as it goes is pretty loose, I let a lot of things slide rules wise because the kids enjoy it more, but this was too much. He had essentially built six level 2-10 PCs that he was playing like a tag team. Apparently one of his Pokemon didn’t evolve to the form he wanted until level 9, so clearly he should be using level 9 daily powers in a level 2 encounter. Makes perfect sense, right?

It gets worse. I blame myself for not having put my foot down earlier, but things really got to much when this kid started trying to capture the monsters they were fighting in Pokeballs. Again it would be different if he had come up with a cool way of making these changes fit, but you can’t capture my lead villain NPC in a little ball, I’m sorry. Literally, in the middle of dialogue between the villain and the party the following scenario arises:

Kid: I throw a master ball at him. They always succeed, I add him to my Pokedex.

DM: One; he’s not a Pokemon. Two; you guys were just supposed to sneak in and free the slaves. He doesn’t have any gym badges for you, he doesn’t have any Pokemon for you to battle… everyone else is playing D&D.

TPK 50,000 Leagues Under the Sea

So this story is short and sweet. By the end of the summer I always run out of adventure ideas, and so in this last week the players were set up in an underwater fortress. Needless to say this was the fastest TPK I’ve ever gotten. After setting the scene, telling the characters what they’re doing down there and what their quest is, one of the kids makes a bee-line for a viewing window and smashes it with his mace. Crushing watery death, TPK, good game guys, make new characters.

Poor Judgment Day

So this last story is one of those magical D&D moments, something that couldn’t have happened anywhere else but in a game of D&D. The kids were playing an arena and one of the kids asked permission to house rule his ability scores. He thought that he had figured it all out, so he dumped every stat other than Constitution and Strength down to 2 and called it a day. Conscore McSwordy would be so proud!

You’re in an arena so all you need is a billion hit points and I giant blade right? After making it clear to him that a 4 intelligence meant that his character never would have any capacity for language or the ability to solve problems more complex than “get warm by moving closer to fire” we were off to the races.

So another kid puts together a Wizard in such a way that when he casts sleep on you, you’re never saving from that. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about. Well that’s pretty much how combat starts. Our meat-head character rolls a cumulative -3 for his initiative check so he is going last and spend the first round slowed and then immediately fell unconscious. This is the clever part, the Wizard lets him fail his saves for what accounts for 5 minuets, and so I rule that the combat encounter has ended. The Wizard gets the jump on the fighter and casts Fast Friends on him.

Now Fast Friends stipulates that you can’t have your new friend do anything that would go against their interests, but what if you have an INT score of 2? I decided that such a person wouldn’t really have a good handle on which things benefits them and which things are to their advantage so the following scene transpired:

Wizard: I tell him to go get a bucket.

DM: Ok, you go get a bucket.

Fighter: I get a bucket.

Wizard: I tell him to fill the bucket with water.

DM: Ok, you fill the bucket with water.

Fighter: Fine, I fill the bucket with water.

Wizard: I tell him to drown himself in the bucket.

DM & Fighter: WHAT?!?!?!

And that’s how the fighter died.

And with that D&D Camp ended for another year. I had a great time and I would like to think that despite some of the problems I’ve describe above that the campers had a great time as well. After two summers at D&D camp I’ve learned that playing D&D with kids is nothing like play D&D with adults. It’s equally rewarding but a lot more exhausting. Just remember that D&D is a game and that in the end everyone’s just wants to play and have fun.

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1 Sentack September 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

You are a brave, brave, insane man.

2 Randilin September 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I’ve loved reading your various reports over the past two Summers. You are a braver man then I. Hopefully I’ve learned a little something from your experience for when the time comes to teach my grandson to game.

3 PCB September 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Having grown up in the era where inventory management was a big part of D&D, I think it’s awesome that kids are coming to the game with an interest in shovels and how much a bag can hold. To help accommodate them, you might take a look at the encumbrance / inventory rules in the retro-clone “Lamentations of the Flame Princess” – they’re quite simple and give enough of a feeling that you can’t just carry everything you find and you’ll have to make some choices.

4 Liam Gallagher September 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Inventory and encumberance, how many actions it take to draw a weapon, load a pistol or choosing which weight of sling stone to use given the range and the durability of the target are all things I love too, but I feel like in this love I am neearly alone. Most inventory systems that are particular and sophistacted enough to (accounting for what the reasonable acapacity of a character’s strength given means of storage used) merit thier use play like an activity designed to ease people off thier OCD.

That kids have exposure to the legacy of a past era of gaming is a very good thing though I’ll agree.

5 Rabbit is wise September 19, 2011 at 11:19 pm

ok so technically if your underwater fortress is far enough under water that breaking the window would crush them without giving them the chance to swim for it… then the window would have to be atleast 6 inches thick, at levels of 1000 feet deep or more it would be thicker… if a window can keep the water out at that depth, a sword isnt going to break it easily or on the first attempt… I would have told him the windows were magically protected and you take 2d8 douchbag damage… but your approach atleast told them while you can do anything you want in d&d you cant do anything you want without repurcussions

6 Gloria September 20, 2011 at 10:10 am

I believe that a game of D&D remains the primary objective. Which can keep them glued to it all day.

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