The first national Lockdown destroyed the school roleplaying club back in March 2020. I wasn’t allowed to offer the club online – at the time, school leaders in the UK weren’t comfortable with the idea of a teacher meeting students online via Zoom or Teams. Ironically, three months later, we were all being encouraged to teach using these platforms and, a year later, it was compulsory. But suspicion about using the platforms for extracurricular D&D was strong until last late last September.
I started offering to run some sessions online in the two weeks prior to my mental health crisis in November and then, unfortunately, the club stopped again. Fast forward to my recovery and the return of students in March 2021, and we tried again to get things going. Falteringly, we played online using Teams and Zoom but the group was just two or three lads… yet my ability to play was impacted further by the demands of the assessments that replaced examinations. Too many evenings were eaten by marking.
By the time I was allowed to come offline and meet students in my own classroom, around the end of June 2021, there were only three players. All were new to Dungeons & Dragons – keen as mustard Year 7s but new – and it was a short-lived run till the end of July.
The question in my mind is how to approach what has become known as the Dungeons & Dragons Club now that we are returning to school. Restrictions in the UK are largely lifted – I can mix students of all year groups in my room and there is no distancing, no mask requirement, it’s pretty much back to whatever “normal” means. I desperately want to game but…
I am weary of the idea of running beginner games of Dungeons & Dragons week in, week out. Pre-pandemic there were other Dungeon Masters – students – running games; but they have all moved on in the past two years. The older students graduated while the younger guys are now in the examination years and have already expressed a concern that they need to focus on their studies.
On the other hand, there is a deep joy in bringing new blood into the hobby. In past years, I have run beginner games of not just Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition but also earlier iterations of that venerable game – the most memorable of which was a run of B/X D&D which peaked with about 14 players.
We’ve played GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, Traveller, even Mythras. Because new players don’t need to know the rules, I was able to share some of the experience of different games with relative ease. But my fear is that the young neophytes who were chanting for D&D last year will be looking to me to continue running the game.
I face a quandary: on the one hand, I want to offer the new curious onlooker a chance to learn to play. On the other hand, I don’t want to bind myself to being the sole Dungeon Master of a 5th Edition game I (frankly) don’t enjoy all that much. This is my free time too, after all. What to do? What to offer?
I think I am going to have to hold an initial Session Zero meeting of the club and see who, if anyone, comes along. I think it will be healthy to talk about the way the club once was – with three or more GMs offering to give running a game a go, not just me trying to run a campaign for all.
I can offer some introductory games, certainly, and I can offer many introductory products to take home and read. But I am not sure I can offer to run an extended 5th Edition campaign throughout the year. It’s simply a little bit too much to ask.
Why am I writing this? Partly to share the quandary with the friendly members of this community. It’s as much a plea for suggestions and advice. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I am determined to keep passing on the torch for this amazing hobby that has given me such richness in life.
Let me know what you think.
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