AJET TTRPG (Table top role playing games) Conference 2020 Ada Smith

In the heat of the battle!
In the heat of the battle!

“Your party is camped out at the edge of the Forest of Doom and night is falling. Suddenly, you all hear something coming through the forest. Not on the well trodden road just off to the right of your camp, but crashing through the underbrush as though running from someone, or something. As you ready your weapons and spells, you see a small dwarven man break his way through the tree line. Some of you recognize his scarred and bent armor, stocky features, and magnificent beard. This is Lieutenant Bigleg, second in command to General Gilibran of the dwarven army. He manages to tell your party that the great warhammer of Gilibran has been shattered into two, and the pieces are lost in the Forest of Doom. He gives you the task of finding the pieces and returning them to the city of Stonebridge before the rising troll army can crush the now demoralized dwarven forces. His last words are cut off as he falls forward, poisoned arrows protruding from his back. Your party now sees three trollkin, the enemy Bigleg was fleeing from, readying their weapons for an attack.

What do you do?”

Team setting up characters for game play.
Team setting up character sheet.

This was the general premise that was set for the first annual Table-Top Role Playing Game conference in Matsuyama, Ehime. The rented room was filled with seven groups of three players and one GM (game master) each. The event was organized by the AJET Event Coordinators Kate Flake and myself, Ada Smith. When picking a game and a theme, we wanted something that would be accessible and enjoyed by veterans of TTRPGs and first time players alike. Dungeon World, a fantasy game similar to the infamous Dungeons and Dragons, was an obvious choice. One of our favorites, the system focuses less on battle strategies and leveling up, and more on collaboratively telling a narrative. Though each group had the same basic premise; find the hammer pieces and return them to the dwarven army, as well as the same list of monsters, everything else was left up to the GMs and, more importantly, the players.

The event was open to the island of Shikoku, but due to timing and size restrictions, only people from Ehime attended. Players traveled from the far reaches of the prefecture, though, and the different groups were a mix of people from every region. The purpose of the event was to bring people interested in interactive games together, and hopefully foster new friendships and future campaigns. “I really enjoyed how we were one large group made of smaller groups….it felt like there were more opportunities to interact with people because of the smaller groups making up the tables,” said Michael Havarty, a GM for the event, “Then we could come together as a larger group and share our experiences.”

The event ran for about five hours, and we encouraged participants to bring their own drinks and food (though most parties seemed to sustain themselves from coffee and corn soup from the vending machines outside the room). The first hour of the event, after introductions were made and expectations were set, was dedicated to world building and character creation. Statistics for charisma, strength, dexterity, and wisdom were divvied up, and flavor such as religion, alignment, weapon of choice and appearance were written down and shared. Then the GM asked the players some simple questions to guide their game; what rumors have you heard of the evil in the forest? What treasure lies there? What is so special about this hammer of Gilibran’s? This free form storytelling is what allows each game to have it’s own individual outcomes and narratives, despite starting with the same basic premise. It’s also thrilling for players to feel like they have some control over the story. The excitement and recognition on a players face as they realize that the monster they described way back at the start of the game is what they will be facing off with in the final battle has always been one of my favorite parts of running these games.

Game master leading players through challenges and the game world.

Dungeon World still uses dice, but not the iconic 20-sided die used for D&D. For most of the moves and decision making, only two six sided die (like you would find in a Monopoly set) are required. By leaving moves up to chance, surprising things can happen, like convincing an enemy to join your party, or an unexpected heroic moment changing the tide of battle.The simplicity of the characters, moves, and the open style of the gaming system means that the rules themselves are relatively easy to explain and quick to grasp. Many people came to this event as first time players, and they had no problems picking up the mechanics along side the veterans of the game. It was heartening to see people explore and connect through this event, and I met many people who I hope will be encouraged to come out to future events. I was pleasantly surprised by the turn out, and I hope it bodes well for other gaming events we may plan. One event goer even said that it was the best attended AJET event that they had been to, and they’ve been here for five years!

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