Scripted Dice Roll Themselves: D&D Comes to SL

by Alphaville Herald on 07/10/06 at 11:52 pm

by Fiend Ludwig

Tringo, look out

Tenderly spoofed by Stephen Colbert, and extolled by podcast pundit Alex Albrecht on Diggnation, pen-and-paper (or tabletop) Dungeons & Dragons—you know, that game with the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master’s Guide and those funny shaped dice—seems to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity in a curious place: the original fantasy game is catching on in the fantasy world of Second Life.

Just ask SL resident and Roleplayers Association Game Master Allen Kerensky. He started playing in the late 1970s when he was 8 years old. “I started playing around the time of the first Advanced D&D book. I still play [D&D version] 3.5 pen-and-paper and am writing a pen-and-paper 3.5 book myself.”

Game Master Allen Kerensky

Kerensky continues, “Within days of signing up [with a Second Life account], I got asked to join the [Roleplayers Association] group when Fia Firefly was first starting it. We were in the Welcome Area talking and I started blabbering about RPGs. That’s what got me the invite. That was Aug/Sep of 2004.” Following that chance meeting, Kerensky moved on to other interests in SL including the making of a machinima homage to Ed Wood. “I kept getting questions about RPGs out of the blue and that’s when I realized I was an officer of the Roleplayers Association group and started wondering what that meant. I had forgotten I had joined and still knew very little about groups, [but] once I realized I was an officer, I decided to try to get a game going in SL.”

“I have spent time looking at virtual tabletop software, from VASSALengine, RPTools, Fantasy Grounds, etc., and there’s really nothing in those that SL can’t do, except maybe nice looking character sheets. But I am not 100% sure the UI can’t be tricked into that either so: start small, find a table, chairs, dice, players, and just get a game going to see what the good, bad, and ugly of tabletop role-playing in SL would be like.”

Scripted dice roll themselves

So that is exactly what Kerensky and a group of dedicated RPGers have been spending the last few months doing. They are putting the finishing touches on their version of tabletop D&D that can be played in-world. Complete with scripted dice, campaign maps, and soul quanta (actually movable markers indicate a characters position), tabletop D&D adapts well to the SL environment. Players meet at a pre-arranged time with pre-rolled character sheets ‘in-hand.’ The Dungeon Master (DM) controls the action. Characters, out-of-character (OOC) comments, and scripted dice rolls communicate via chat.

In one recent test game, the chat log illustrated just what went into a pitched battle:

AR [playing Dungeon Master]: The girallon dodges and is surprisingly fast. Callahan feels he is in mortal danger presently.
AR: Fortunately, Moonstalker [another character] distracts it slightly.
AR: What is your AC [armor class], Callahan?
MO [playing Callahan]: OOC – Don’t see AC on [character] sheet.
AR: Let me calculate – this is why DM has a char sheet also.
AR: You are grabbed by the girallon.
MO: Ahh, you beast!
AR: You should roll a strength check to see if you can wrestle free – if you want to wrestle free…
Allen Kerensky [playing Sergeant Rock]: @AR – True, no one knows… Callahan may want to indulge the beast…
MO: roll 19 + 13 strength = 32
AR: The entire group of people here realizes what an awesome rending machine this girallon is. It might be wise to get Callahan out of his grip.
AR: 13 strength = +1 bonus. Your roll is 20! Excellent! But he is MUCH stronger than you!
MO: Ahh, you beast!
AR: It is, of course, Sergeant Rock’s turn
Allen Kerensky: If the beast is engaged with Callahan, perhaps this will distract it!
Allen Kerensky: I ride Calamity [Sgt. Rock’s horse] up in a flank and trample the beast from behind.
Allen Kerensky: Callahan, tumble free!
MO: *tumble*
MO: OOC – success?
AR: Let me have an attack roll, Sgt. Rock.
d20: Allen Kerensky’s d20 rolled 5.
Allen Kerensky: Blast!
AR: Wait; let’s have a Ride roll instead. Cancel that 5.
Allen Kerensky casts “shape up or ship out” on the dice…
d20: Allen Kerensky’s d20 rolled 16
MO: OOC – Nice.
AR: Calamity causes quite a ruckus, following Sgt Rock’s lead, slamming the girallon.
AR: You may tumble free, Callahan, but you will remain in easy reach.
Allen Kerensky: @AR – Was the beast knocked prone?
AR: The beast yet stands. He must be dexterous as well as strong.

Kerensky feels the test game went extremely well, and is eager to see it progress to the next level. “It seemed natural to me if you can do play by mail or play by IM, then playing via SL is a logical step.” Also compelling is the ease with which a prospective player can get the rules Kerensky uses. (They are free to download.) Kerensky says, “Free rules are a ‘knockover’ win for getting people into games.” When I note that it appears that there might be a marketable aspect to tabletop D&D in SL, Kerensky replies “Well sure, I have some ideas on that.”

Tringo look out.

6 Responses to “Scripted Dice Roll Themselves: D&D Comes to SL”


    Oct 8th, 2006

    Virtual Dungeons Dragons in Second Life

    Second Life Herald correspondent Fiend Ludwig has a great story up today about someone implementing a system to play good old tabletop Dungeons Dragons in the virtual confines of Second Life. I love the idea of a virtual world version of the or…

  2. Anonymous

    Oct 8th, 2006

    Also, people have been roleplaying in the ShadowRun RPG group for years. They hold a game on every other Saturday.

  3. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 8th, 2006

    I remember once seeing some tenants about a year ago or so in Solar Plaza in one of these modern Jetson townhouses I have, with an events listing on their parcel. It was a game of D&D — I zoomed in, and they were sitting in a circle inside their house with a game board, chatting about the game moves. It was a game within a game that seemed really cool — but wierd, eh? Except it was a way to bring together live people from different time zones and add some 3-d feel to what they were doing, with a slight bit of decoration of the home.

  4. Nice! :) I just left this comment on the Terra Nova thread about SL (it’s addressed to Matt Mihaly who runs the Iron Realms MUD network):

    “Matt, here’s an idea I noodled on a while ago, and it just came up again with this Second Life Herald article about a table-top Dungeons & Dragons system in SL: Scripted Dice Roll Themselves.

    Why not try porting a text-based VW into SL? You can go full-screen with text in SL, and having the 3D world with the other avatars present would be like a soft back channel for the experience and might help in building community. A text-based game in SL has the potential to get pretty popular and would offer some other creative and communication opportunities. I’m interested to know how that idea strikes you. I’ve been skimming your stuff on Iron Realms site, and from my POV as a non-MUDer (but former elementary and middle school dungeon master, and a dang good one, with novela-length adventures and obsessively detailed maps all drawn out I’ll have you know ;) a scenario like this sounds pretty cool:

    Log into a graphical world. Go to an area themed to match the MUD. Customize your graphical avatar to match the setting. Pull up a common text environment and start MUDing. Connect the MUD to the grahical environment not at all or in ways that add to the experience. May be a way to help update MUDs and mix in some ARG/alternate-reality gaming action.

    Just an idea.”

  5. Allen Kerensky

    Oct 8th, 2006

    As mentioned in other comments, I keep hearing about other people are running games here and there in SecondLife, but details are scarce and there doesn’t seem to be a central clearing house of information about in-world pen-and-paper gaming. Even scarcer are *how* they are doing it.

    I started building an RPA group to start collecting this information at just in time for the Lindens to announce they are killing forums in the near future. My replacement isn’t quite ready yet, but coming soon.

    The real kudos should go to Ama Ree for putting together some in-world characters, uploading map textures, and giving us an excuse to go for it moving counters and playing. Many thanks to Pym Sartre and Buhbuhcuh Fairchild for leaning us some land to game and test on.

  6. Kami Harbinger

    Oct 10th, 2006

    Hi, all.

    Those are my scripted dice they’re playing with, and they’re available for L$250
    at Kami Harbinger’s Curiosity Shoppe, Jiminy (116, 222, 104).

    The Character Journal I have for sale there is still in early experimental stages, really, but it’s a portable database which can track stats, save and restore by email, and display info. Once I have HTML-on-a-prim, it’ll become more useful.

    I’m also working on other tools for in-world gaming, soon to be released.

    I’ve only actually run a couple of RPG sessions in-world, but it has the same feel as really sitting at a table, unlike mere text chat. You can gesture, create and move objects around to show positions, and so on.

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