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Old 06-21-2022, 02:39 PM   #11
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Re: DFRPG Camp

Today was the second day of our second week-long session of RPG camp. We've got eleven kids this time. To our amazement, one of them flew in from New York just to participate in this camp with a Minnesota friend of his. Pretty fun to attract someone from out of state!

Things that have gone well:
  • Everyone seems to be having fun.
  • This group gets the joy of disadvantages and quirks. In some ways, choosing disadvantages is their favorite part of character creation.
  • We have some creative kids who are excited about the building-block nature of GURPS in terms of designing new races and character abilities.
  • Like last time, we had a student spontaneously claim that DFRPG is "so much easier to figure out than D&D."
  • Ignorning equipment was a good choice. We basically just said that everyone has the weapons that go with their skills, basic adventuring gear, and a bit of armor. (Two, three, or five DR for Smart, Fast, and Strong delvers respectively.)
  • On Monday, when we introduced the dice, we had everyone roll a bunch and record the results on the whiteboard. Made a nice bell curve, of course. It was a great advertisement for constructivist education—the kids clearly understood the underlying principles better when they did it themselves than when we presented it via slides during our first week.
  • Our modified version of "You All Meet at an Inn" was a hit with everyone. We timed it perfectly this time, managing the grand finale in the last 15 minutes of camp. (See a bit more below.)

Things that could go better:
  • One of our tables is lower energy than the other two. We're not entirely sure, yet, if that's just their happy place or if they need some help revving their creative engines.
  • Character generation with 11 kids all at once remains challenging. I think we did a better job guiding them through the Delvers to Grow process, but there was still a chaotic period of Q&A about oh-so-many details. We're considering building an even simpler process for next year where we basically pre-apply the Basic and Advanced modules to the Journeyman template for every profession and then just have the kids choose their Upgrade and Disadvantage modules.
  • Our initial rules intro on Monday, despite the cool bell curve activity, still felt too expository. (Too much teacher-talk.) We should have started with some ice-breaker activities so that the groups were better equipped to have conversations with each other. (Kids in this age group can be so awkward on this front.)

You All Meet at a ... Marketplace!

We had two veterans from our first camp last summer at one of the tables for our intro adventure. Since we ran it last year, I wanted to change it up so it wouldn't feel like they were playing the same adventure twice. On the fly, I transformed the inn into a small town marketplace. Instead of a well, there was an obelisk in a fountain. This gave us ample time for roleplaying in the market (especially fun for the kleptomaniacs) instead of in the common room. When the Bad Things started happening, the obelisk grew into a tower with an ominous balcony at the top. Instead of climbing down the well, they climbed up the tower. The ceramic idol looked different and was in a different sort of room. To my delight, the two students had no idea that it was the same scenario as last year.

On another note, my son invited a bunch of kids from the first camp over last week to continue their adventures. They had a good time and hope to keep going in the future. One of the kid's parents told me that he enjoyed reading the DFRPG rules and that they had played as a family over the weekend. It made such a difference that we provided them with boxed sets this year. That's a requirement for the future.
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Old 06-21-2022, 03:25 PM   #12
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Chagrin Falls
Default Re: DFRPG Camp

Where was this when I was a kid?

More seriously, do you have a stable enough curriculum, schedule, and process that this can be replicated?
Life has a funny way of making sure you decide to leave the party just a few minutes too late to avoid trouble.
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Old 06-25-2022, 07:32 PM   #13
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
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Originally Posted by benz72 View Post
Where was this when I was a kid?
I know. This is part of why I'm running it. It's the sort of thing that I wish had been offered when I was growing up. I'm also continually amazed at how "cool" RPGs have become. There's not nearly as much social stigma around the hobby as there used to be. We've had a bunch of kids sign up just because they thought it sounded interesting; they had no prior experience and no sense that it was "too nerdy" or anything.

Originally Posted by benz72 View Post
More seriously, do you have a stable enough curriculum, schedule, and process that this can be replicated?
Our "curriculum," as it is, is not yet replicable. Or, rather, it's not yet publishable. Much of it is in our heads. Notes are haphazard. Our slides include many screenshots of copyrighted material. Etc. (Note that we buy all of the rules for the kids, so I think we're mostly legal and certainly respectful of SJG and Gaming Ballistic's intellectual property, but we can't share it publicly on the internet.)

With that said, we do hope to share an overview of where we ended up on our third iteration of the camp, particularly in terms of schedule and process. Probably in this thread soonish.
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Old 06-25-2022, 08:02 PM   #14
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
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Couple of other reflections after the week drew to a close:
  • Douglas Cole volunteered to give a talk on Thursday afternoon (as he did the first week). He was a big hit. He shortened his formal presentation a bit and then introduced a great method of generating NPC personalities on the fly using a deck of cards. At the end, he demonstrated some Viking combat techniques with one of his replica shields and a yardstick. The kids were overwhelmingly positive about it when we talked to them the next morning. They encouraged me to see if we can get an exception next summer to the school's usual "no weapons on campus" policy so that Doug can show off some of his axes and swords.
  • One of the toughest things with a youth camp is always the chemistry of the group. Kids at this age vary widely in their emotional maturity and social skills. This was only exacerbated by COVID, naturally. We had a few difficult situations this week, but I think things worked out pretty well by the end.
  • This year we spent more time emphasizing the role of disadvantages in play. This was a big win. The kids loved reading over the disadvantage packages in Delvers to Grow and had an easier time understanding that they couldn't just take "all the disadvantages" to get zillions of points to spend.
  • A fun after-lunch group activity was naming DFRPG abilities that fictional characters possessed. I would ask someone to name a well-known fictional character. They would shout out something like Gandalf or Harry Potter. Then we would brainstorm game traits that that character might possess. Potter, for example, clearly has a Sense of Duty to his friends.
  • Two of our repeat kids from last summer were thrilled to get boxed sets to take home this time. They both said that they would definitely be back next summer for the third time.

Finally, I wanted to share a positive experience I had with one of our groups on Friday. I spent most of the day being the GM for one of our tables that had been struggling a bit. They started off by asking for more "puzzles." So I dropped them into the biggest cliche of them all: They woke up in the dungeon, captured by a mad archmage and forced to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles to escape (or die trying...). I even had the archmage's face appearing on the walls to taunt them.

The whole thing went... just ok at first. One kid was really into logic puzzles. The other two were far shyer and less engaged. I kept trying (and mostly failing) to find ways to bring their characters into the spotlight.

Finally, for the last encounter, I spent time looking over their character sheets and fell back on one of GURPS' great strengths: the many hooks that Disadvantages provide. I noticed that two characters had a phobia of machinery. So, of course they had to land in a room with a massive steampunk machine that was doing something diabolical. (A pipe of concentrated evil was flowing from it.) Rolling against phobia rolls was fun for the two PCs, and the third got to take the lead a bit since she wasn't afraid of it (and had Curiosity to boot).

I didn't really have a plan in mind, but just described lots of gonzo stuff that they could mess with. All three characters had plenty to do, dodging jets of steam and massive pistons while trying to sabotage the machine. Eventually, they froze a coolant pipe, causing it to burst. As the machine started overheating, a bronze spider technician came in to fix it. One of the shy kids realized that she had a levitation spell that could affect the spider. It was unlikely that she would succeed against its resistance, though, since her skill was 13 vs. its 15 ST. But luck was with her: the spider rose into the air, utterly helpless with no ranged attacks. She was pleased as punch. The machine exploded and they escaped from the mad archmage (for now!).

It was telling to me that the best encounter of the bunch was one that I generated on the fly based on their character sheets. All of the other ones came from books that I had lying around. Good puzzles and challenges, but they didn't grab the protagonists directly.

Something to think about for future camps.
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Old 06-26-2022, 11:07 AM   #15
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Location: Burnsville, MN
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Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
They encouraged me to see if we can get an exception next summer to the school's usual "no weapons on campus" policy so that Doug can show off some of his axes and swords.
I do note that it is only about 20 minutes from your location to the Asfolk location where we train. It would be a non-issue given the attendance level at the camp to open up the longhouse and do both roleplaying as well as some instruction in shields and weapons for one of the days. There are several tables there that would accommodate three groups of gamers, easily.

The head instructor at Asfolk is a gamer as well, so this would be up his alley as well as mine.
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Old 06-26-2022, 01:16 PM   #16
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
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Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
I do note that it is only about 20 minutes from your location to the Asfolk location where we train. It would be a non-issue given the attendance level at the camp to open up the longhouse and do both roleplaying as well as some instruction in shields and weapons for one of the days. There are several tables there that would accommodate three groups of gamers, easily.
That's a pretty exciting idea. I've put it on the list of things to consider for 2023!
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Old 07-06-2022, 10:53 PM   #17
Tom H.
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Central Texas, north of Austin
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I just got around to reading this thread.

I always enjoy hearing about your experiments and adventures, Dalin.
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Old 08-09-2022, 01:00 PM   #18
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
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I received a surprise email from one of our RPG campers who has started a new DFRPG campaign with a bunch of other alums. I love it that a week long introduction to dungeon fantasy somehow led to this premise:

I'm setting the campaign in the modern-day Twin Cities. I watched a D&D show that I like do a season set in New York, and I really liked it. I thought maybe playing more relatable characters would be more fun, plus I could have things happen at places we actually go to. It has a lot of cool lore that I intend to work into our story.
The cast of characters:
  1. A knight named Jean that works as a club bouncer.
  2. A barbarian named Brock Jackson. He is a security guard. He's big and burly, but very sweet and also not incredibly smart. He is a single father of the next character.
  3. A rebellious 17-year-old cleric.
  4. A druid that lives in the forest that exists between the River Road and the Mississippi. He has a hatred for 'urban dwellers,' which I think will be fun to play in a story inside of a city.
  5. Jeremiah, the ten-year-old boy who featured in our campaign at camp. He lives in Edina, and will need transportation to and from battles.
  6. A middle-aged wizard who owns a coffee shop that serves the magical residents of the area.
I can't wait to hear how their adventures unfold!
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Old 08-13-2022, 03:44 PM   #19
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
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Rereading some of this thread, I realized that I never posted the notes about our "curriculum" such as it is. This is how we organized things this year.

Supplies for each camper:
"Camp Library" of books to share (enough for at least one copy at each table):
Plus a variety of other GURPS, Gaming Ballistic, and general RPG books on a side shelf for browsing and inspiration.

We adjusted our plans on the fly as needed, but I think this is close to how we ran things:

  • Introductions
  • Pass out loot, open boxes, write names on things, etc.
  • Jigsaw book readings — One person in each group skims over Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, and Monsters, then shares the big picture. (I.e., "I looked through Exploits. It includes a lot of rules for dungeon delving and combat and some general GM advice.")
  • What's a character?
  • Jigsaw readings from Adventurers — basic and secondary attributes, advantages, disadvantages, skills.
  • Bring out yer dice! Everyone rolls 3d6 and we graph the results on the whiteboard. A beautiful bell curve emerges. Discuss implications.
  • Introducing Delix Madigan, sample character from Smart Delvers. Speedy overview of Delix's stats, advantages, disadvantages, skills, spells, and equipment. Compare with Kaja as an example of a character with more interesting advantages and Jean-Baptiste as an example of a character with a skill higher than 18.
  • Combine groups into two.
  • Hand out pregen characters to each group. Players can discuss and decide who they want to play today.
  • Run each table through a heavily modified version of Matt Riggsby's "You All Meet at an Inn." Start with role-playing at the tavern with some skill checks. Ambush. Fight. Descend down well. Solve final puzzle to lift the curse. (Effectively, the first portion of the adventure is largely played as written. The dungeon below is replaced with a simpler situation that requires teamwork to solve.)
  • END OF DAY 1.

  • Debrief Monday's adventure.
    • How’d it go?
    • How did it compare to other RPGs that you’ve played?
    • What did you like? What was challenging?
    • Same questions about your characters.
    • As a GM, what are some tips for how to do a good job?
  • Jigsaw readings from Exploits:
    • “No ‘I’ in ‘Teamwork,’” p. 6
    • “Influence Rolls,” p. 10
    • “Reaction Rolls,” pp. 11–12
    • “Physical Feats,” pp. 20–22
    • “Traps and Hazards,” pp. 23–24
    • “Non-combat Skills in Battle,” pp. 57–58
  • Discuss / Q&A?
  • Pass out encounter handouts (each page is a single scenario that can be resolved in multiple ways)
  • Players rotate through the GM seat, choosing encounters from the handouts. They are encouraged to improvise and use the encounter as a seed rather than a script.
  • Adults observe, answer questions, and help out as needed.
  • Quick discussion and then more encounters.
  • END OF DAY 2

  • Introduce Delvers to Grow and walk through building a character together.
  • Concept of Strong / Fast / Smart delvers and creating a balanced party.
  • Everyone gets to make their first character.
  • Lots of Q&A and individual help during this process.
  • Continue running encounters, but now with unique characters for each player.
  • Encounter design. What makes a good encounter? Brainstorm ideas and discuss.
  • Time for each participant to create one or more encounters of their own. Each one is intended to take roughly 30 minutes of play time.
  • END OF DAY 3


  • Run through original encounters. Each player gets a turn as GM and the rest of the table plays through their encounter.
  • BREAK after two encounters
  • Continue with remaining encounters
  • Debrief. What worked well? What didn't go as well as you had hoped?
  • Special Guest: Douglas Cole
  • Presentation on designing and publishing RPG supplements.
  • How to rapidly generate compelling NPC personalities using playing cards. (Lots of time to try it out.)
  • Demonstration of combat techniques (Doug had a Viking shield and chain mail).
  • END OF DAY 4


  • Final debrief. Feedback from the week?
  • Mention GCS, GCA, and on-line resources for GURPS.
  • Rest of the day is for open ended gaming. Some groups choose a single GM to run through a full adventure (either of their own design, Crypt of Krysuvik, or "I Smell a Rat").
  • Adults troubleshoot problems and assist with groups who haven't bonded as well as the others.
  • Clean up and gather everyone's goodies.
  • END OF DAY 5.
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Old 08-13-2022, 07:23 PM   #20
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I love this so much. I have no more to say to that. Maybe an emoji? Yes. That'll do. I <3 this.
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