by Alphaville Herald on 07/10/06 at 11:52 pm
by Fiend Ludwig
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.”
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.”
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: 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.