Years ago now, when I first started trying to explain my Role Playing Group to my wife, it was clear that she didn’t see what I saw. Didn’t see the epic battles, the intense negotiations, the realization that discretion really is the better part of valor and retreat is always an option.
Rather, she imagined foam swords and bad accents.
Since then I’ve imagined convincing her to take part in at least an RPG one-off night where I could show her what it was really like.
She wasn’t interested in playing with a group more experienced than her, so decided I’d have a newbie one-shot night an invite some other friends who I thought I could arm-twist in to playing with me, even for an evening.
I decided it would be D&D 5e because even though I hadn’t GM’d 5e before, I felt I was familiar enough to guide a bunch of starter players through a night. I also wanted them to have enough cool things to do that it would feel epic, so I also decided their characters would be fourth level as, from my reading, it seemed as though the first couple levels might not be all that much fun for a starter players.
At first, I thought I’d simply download a free one-shot and play that and that’s pretty much what I did. I found The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse on the very cool site The DMs Guild. It felt about right, it was very well written and made it easy for me to run as a first-time D&D 5e module. Also, I knew I could get pre-generated characters for the players so I wouldn’t have to make them go through all the cruft of generating characters from scratch. A few emails asking what they want to be and I’d be ready to go!
So, ready to roll, right? Just invite folks over and make it happen.
Would that my brain would let it be that easy…
The rational part of my brain thought I was in pretty good shape. The obsessive part of my brain said, “Oh! This’ll be fun. How about if we…” and then started bombing my brain with ideas to try and make this a special night.
I did email the players and discuss what kind of characters they would be and thus was born the Party:
- Sister Camille, the human Paladin, devoted to Bahamut, god of law and order
- Rinin, the shifty half-elf Rogue, what is he hiding and whose pocket has he picked?
- Kwai Chang Caine, halfling Monk, in search of peace and tranquility, but seemingly doomed to find neither.
- Zoas Ulaxim, epic Elven Sorcerer, searcher of knowledge and power (and he has a crow familiar because the player thought would be cool!)
Me: “Now we’re ready to go, right?”
Brain: “Nah, wouldn’t it be cool if, in addition to their pre-gen character, they got a custom mini and dice?“
The dice were easy, I found that was selling dice reasonably. The minis, well there went a week of free time, but I liked the results:
And it went on like that.Me: “Ready?”
Brain: “Nearly, but you know that cool scene near the beginning where they’re negotiating passage and they have their first fight encounter? I know you were going to just draw that out, but wouldn’t it be even cooler if there were an actual boat for them to fight on and around?
Me: “Seriously? Geez…”
And there went another week of free time, but again, the results were kind of cool.
Note: The ship is constructed from XPS Foam insulation, cut, glued and carved, 3d printed elements added and then paint.
Me: “We good?”
Brain: “That was fun. So … the boat is at a dock. You going to just draw that? They’ll be at different heights. Doesn’t seem quite as cool. Needs a dock. Don’t you think it needs a dock?”
So, I had to build some docks.
The docks use jute twine for the ropes around the pilings and use XPS foam for the pilings, tongue depressors for the boards, paint and hot glue.
Me: “Now, we’re done. Shut up brain.”
Brain: “Yeah, no, you’re doing great. Looks good. You know how that GM screen you were going to use is alright, but not awesome? Isn’t it about time you built your own GM screen that is 3.6x times more awesome?”
Me: “No, I don’t think it is.”
Brain: “You are wrong. Try to sleep now. Can’t do it, can you? My job is done.”
Me the next morning: “Brainzzz… Shut up Brain.”
So, I had to do that because clearly I’m just along for the ride at this point.
The screen is made from a sheet of 1/8″ hardwood plywood, some cool brass bits for the corners and hinges and some cool Chicago screws to hold it all together.
I painted the decorations on the front after tracing them on to the wood. Then sanding gently to go for a weathered look (not entirely successful). The brass parts were “aged” using a mild acid to remove the shiny. All of this is a combination of what my dumb brain came up with and some ideas I stole from various other projects. Oh, and I used a dremel to inset small magnets on the inside of the screen so I can attach my own content on the inside or outside as needed. Finally, before application of the hardware, there were three coats of polyurethane with sanding between layers. Four pieces, two sides, three times. 24 times applying polyurethane.
This went on for a while with me waaaaay overdoing it and putting far more time in to prep than I would use in that one five hour one-shot. Like 10x. Yeah, I’ve got issues.
And, in the end, not only did we not get through the one-shot which I really knew wouldn’t be a one-shot, we really only got through about a quarter of it. But we did use the boat and dock. And I got to use my GM screen.
I think the Party had a good time and my wife and friends got an introduction to playing role-playing games.
Me: “So, brain, we’re done now, right?”
Brain: “When’s the next session?! I’ve got ideas.”
Me: Stabs brain with sharp pencil.