Last night I got to sit down with some of the talented people from our upcoming production of She Kills Monsters for what we've been euphemistically calling "dramaturgical research". Since our fall show is all about the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, we thought it would be helpful to give all of our actors a taste of what the game was like back in 1996, by playing 2nd Edition Advance Dungeons & Dragons, just like the characters in our upcoming show play.
Some of them were familiar with later iterations of the game, which is now in it's fifth edition, so it was great fun to take a look at how the rules of the game have changed in the last 20 years. I got to teach players about the byzantine and esoteric rules mechanisms that I learned when I first started playing with my brothers twenty years ago, such as THAC0, Non-Weapon Proficiencies, and Hit Dice.
While the rules of the game seem odd after 20 years of refinement and re-design, the core of the game stays the same: it's about telling a fun story with a group of friends. And on that metric, this game is still a fantastic success.
I prepared an assortment of characters for the players to choose from and dropped them into a small town in a fantasy land filled with mysterious happenings and strange creatures to investigate. The band of heroes we wound up with included:
Jenn Sisko (Evil Tina) playing Fiss, a Half-Elven Wizard
Ash Coillberg (Farrah) playing Amani, a Fighter/Cleric of Balinor, the God of the Hunt
Mason Tyer (Miles) playing "Stom", a Dwarven Thief
Tess Kean (Stage Manager) playing Filima, a Halfling Fighter/Thief
and Collan Simmons (Steve) playing Mikhail, a Human Bard
Our intrepid (and frequently hapless) heroes set out to investigate strange lights in a cave south of town. They were expecting bandits, so they were surprised when Fiss and Filima stumbled on some undead pirates instead. In a fierce battle, the wizard summoned a rolling ball of fire, Amani laid waste with her mighty bow, and Mikhail sang a song and made some pretty lights. Because that's what bards do.
We had a great time, and the dice were (as always) fickle. Amani, went from falling flat on her face while trying to keep watch for bad guys to using a trick shot with her bow to knock a stalactite down on a skeletal pirate. Stom and Mikhail decided to duel over a magical haversack by throwing knives at each other and both missed by a mile. The players bonded over fighting monsters, squabbled over the treasure, and learned why you should always check the secret door for traps before you open it
If you've ever been curious about Dungeons or Dragons or other role-playing games, I can't recommend it enough. If you are scared of learning a lot of complicated rules, just remember that the heart of the game is just about telling a story and having fun with your friends; everything else is secondary. Head to your friendly local game store and let them know you're curious - most stores run frequent organized games and are always open to new players.
She Kills Monsters opens October 30th, and we'd love to see you there.