As a wee lad, I rolled my fair share of 20-sided dice while battling imaginary monsters at slumber party sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. As with many first gen (or arguably second gen) gamers who started playing after they got their hands on those famous red books, D&D has always informed who I am, but has not always been a driving force in my life.
I lost interest in wizards and warriors in high school, it completely dropped off my radar in college, and I tried to play a campaign with some like-minded dorks in my 20’s, but it never really came back full-force like when I was 12 years old. Instead, I’ve gotten married, became a father, have a full-time job (and a couple of part-time ones, too), so D&D simply cannot be as important to me as it once was. But that doesn’t mean I want D&D completely out of my life, either. And I’m not alone.
Recently there’s been a real resurgence in D&D as older fans have started to feel nostalgic towards gaming. Most of us have kids and playing is not only a great way to spend some quality time with them, but it also gets them off the internet, the iPad/iPod, or to put down their DS, and do something that requires a little bit of imagination and creativity for a change. Some OG gamers who may not have kids simply want to get back to something that was a great excuse to hang out with a group of friends and have some fun. Unfortunately, with my busy lifestyle, I don’t really have time to schedule a live session with my nerdy friends once a week. So, for me anyway, play-by-post is a better solution.
For those of you not familiar, play-by-post is essentially playing D&D via message board posts. The DM says what’s going on, you give an opinion on what should be done, everyone in the party discusses it, and then the DM says whether or not it worked. Battles run in much the same way – you say you’re going to attack the kobold, you roll some virtual dice to determine if you hit and what kind of damage you’d do, you post that to the message board, and the DM responds, telling you whether or not it was a successful attack. It can be a somewhat long process to play-by-post, but when you have so many other things going on in your life, it’s easier to check the board once a day than trying to get everyone together to play a live session for an hour or two every week.
So with that in mind, ever since I got my Google+ invite on June 30, I’ve had it in my head that it would be a really great platform for running a play-by-post Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Get a couple of your buddies, add them to a D&D Circle, and then post all of the adventure-related entries to that Circle. I started searching for someone who was doing just that and it appears that everyone else is focused on using Hang Outs to play. That idea makes perfect sense, but it’s not perfect for my lifestyle. So since no one else was doing it, I decided to just do it myself.
To that end, this week I’ll be kicking off a Google+ D&D campaign called, “The Mines of the Blood Diamond Clan.” My adventurers – three willing friends of mine – are going to be searching for a young woman that has been presumed kidnapped by the notorious Blood Diamond Clan, a mafia-like group of dwarves that control the precious gem syndicate in the Cor Myn region. There are rumors that the Clan has a secret mine where they force slave workers to toil away, unearthing the gems the Clan uses to gain wealth and power; it’s believed this young woman has become one of those disposable servants. The party will be going in search of her and these mythical mines, but, as you might expect, they’ll get more than they bargained for in their quest.
Part of the goal of this is to use as many Google products as possible to play. That way everything can easily be shared via G+ and everything is in the cloud for access anywhere in the world. Obviously we’re using Google+ for all of the gameplay posts, but we’re also using Google Docs to share our character sheets. I’m also using Google SketchUp to draw all of my maps. Thus far I’ve drawn up a floorplan for the Blood Diamond Clan headquarters (see the image below) that I’ll be sharing with the adventurers, complete with stone walls, wood floors, furniture, and decor (like the treasure chest further down the page). It will be a truly 3-D environment that they can explore for clues to the disappearance of this young woman. I’d love to be able to just give them the 3-D SketchUp files and let them walk through the building, spin around rooms, zoom in on things for detail, etc., but I don’t believe any of the other guys have used SketchUp enough to know how to do this. How cool would it be to have a tiny inscription on a table that you’d only be able to read if you zoomed in on it in SketchUp? Maybe next time…
Unfortunately, the one aspect of the game that I can’t use a Google product for is rolling the dice. Ideally, there would be a Chrome app that would roll for you and allow you to +1 post the results to your D&D Circle. But I’m no programmer, so I have no clue how to get that done. For now, we’re going to use Unseen Servant, a really cool website that allows you to create a campaign, have everyone assigned to that campaign, use it to roll your dice, and it saves every roll to the campaign. I trust my friends to be honest with their rolls, but I’m also trying to make a road map for other people to follow. Not everyone is so trusting, so I needed a solution that would make everyone accountable and every action recordable. Again, this is where a Chrome dice roller would be ideal, but this is the best way to solve this problem at the moment.
I thought it might be fun to keep you Top Hat-wearing cryptids updated on how the game is going. I’ll discuss some of the highlights of running the game through G+, as well as any obstacles we’re running into as well. I’m really seeing this game as a proof of concept, so there’s going to be a lot of in-game evaluation of what’s working and what’s not working in an effort to find the best solutions. And, of course, there will be an extensive post-game debrief to see what I might do with the second adventure, as well as what others might do if they’re interested in following our lead.
So stick around as we dig deeper into The Mines of the Blood Diamond Clan on Google+. And if you have any suggestions, please respond in the comments. I’m really looking to make this sort of a road map for others to follow, so any input is greatly appreciated.
Until next time, keep your blades sharp and your shield at the ready!