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Troy’s Crock Pot: A game of Imagine Nation

Posted By Troy E. Taylor On April 23, 2012 @ 1:01 am In GMing Advice | 19 Comments

It’s not my job to keep Martin, our gnome-in-chief, happy. We gnomes be too mischievous for that!

But I seemed to have rekindled his interest in older editions of D&D, and gotten him in touch with the Old School Renaissance gaming community by sharing my gaming adventures using the old Basic game rules with my kids. And for that, I was more than glad to play a role.

That in mind, I thought I’d offer up another experience in that vein — if only to keep Martin reading my posts.

Well the Taylor clan got together for a little D&D Basic session during the Spring Break holiday. Except, it wasn’t around the dining room table. Nope, this session was in the car during our five-hour road trip to Grandma’s house.

Gaming in the car?

“Not possible,” says Eldest Daughter in bewilderment. “You can’t lay tiles out. No minis.  How do you roll dice?”

(I confess, before the trip, I was pondering some of these challenges, myself.)

Before I could reply, Youngest Son pipes up. “You don’t need those things. It’s a game of Imagine Nation!”

(Yes, he meant, “imagination.” But it came out as “Imagine Nation!”)

But the enthusiasm! Yes, this was going to work, I told myself.

So, for those of you interested in gaming on road trips, here’s a few things the Taylor crew did to do D&D in the car:

  • Index card character “sheets.” Everything important about your PC goes on an index card you keep in your hands.
  • Golf course pencils. Small character sheets require a small pencil. Everyone got a small pencil for making changes.
  • Master map. The dungeon map was printed out on a sheet of paper (In retrospect, I should have done it on an index card as well, but hey, this was a first time). Everyone could reference the map.  It meant there were no surprises — such as secret doors. But at the same time it kept the action moving from room to room, which is the point of this kind of game anyway — keeping the kids occupied during a long road trip.
  • Only the dice you need. Each player got a d20 and the polyhedron appropriate to their main weapon. The rogue also got a d10 for percentages (Yes, I’m aware that a d20 works for percentages, but I wasn’t going to make a 5-year-old jump that hurdle). *
  • Shoebox cover served as a dice-rolling surface. I was skeptical about this approach. But it worked surprisingly well. A couple of bumps in the road even “helped” a couple of rolls turn in the players’ favor.

I’d have to call the experiment a success. I ran the game from a standard module, so all the monster stats I needed were at hand in the module text — no need to flip through rulebooks. In fact, every time I needed to make a judgment call as GM, I did so by fiat, rather than look things up.

That was our experience. If any of you have on-the-road rpg experiences, I’d love to have you share them here. And if you have any on-the-road GM organization suggestions, please offer them up.

* Obviously, gamers with toys can use dice-rollers on their phones. But we kept this game as low-tech as possible, for obvious reasons. It’s good to be unplugged, you know.

About  Troy E. Taylor

Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.




19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: A game of Imagine Nation"

#1 Comment By Lee Hanna On April 19, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

Three bits of data I can add. When I was MUCH younger, my brother and I tried both Basic D&D and Star Fleet Battles on long car trips, in the back-back seat of a station wagon. D&D was less unsuccessful than SFB, but we never repeated the experiment. We preferred to wait until we got to the basement of Aunt Bee’s or Grandma’s house to play.

Second, about 2 summers ago, I prepped a Star Frontiers mod to run for my wife and son when we took a Megabus trip to Chicago. They had more interest in the scenery and reading, so the game never went off. I was prepared, with minimal books & dice needed. We could have gotten a table to use. Train and bus trips are a possibility for on-the-road gaming sessions. Bring some extra blank paper for sketching out maps or battles, unless you have a portable small battlemat.

Finally, I ran my wife through a solitaire Serenity RPG adventure on a car trip last summer– she drove, I ran it and rolled dice while interpreting her decisions and actions– using a small dice tower was handy (but noisy). Electronic dice might have helped here.

#2 Comment By evil On April 19, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

Back during my long lost college days a group of friends and I took a trip across the states. (For those of you that aren’t familiar with the United States of America, it’s huge….a two or three day trip from coast to coast.)

We played with one sheet of paper, one pencil, and two six sided dice. Before the trip began we created three characters that people would pass around during the trip. The characters only had life points, a few skills each, that’s it. At each stop (bathroom, world’s largest ball of twine, food, etc.), we traded off the DM job. It was considered a success, and it saved us from having to fight about what music to listen to on the road.

#3 Comment By Riklurt On April 23, 2012 @ 2:14 am

I’ve done something similar. Back in junior high my gaming group didn’t have anywhere to play, and none of us had a car (obviously), so we were forced to be very minimal on the amount of stuff we could transport between games. While I haven’t played in a car, exactly, I’ve used such widely varying locations as a tool shed, a church community center, a beach, et cetera. We’d keep everything in a briefcase strapped to a bicycle, which also served as die-rolling surface. Three books, a small handful of dice, a map. While it’s very impromptu, I have to agree that there’s something kind of appealing about keeping it down to the basics in that way.

#4 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 23, 2012 @ 7:28 am

Great article, Troy!

Funnily enough, one of my earliest and most memorable D&D experiences — a foundational one — occurred on a holiday as well, but not in the car: We played on the beach. Which is kind of similar in some of the constraints it places on the game and what you can use to play it.

#5 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On April 23, 2012 @ 8:05 am

I began playing fairly young (9 or 10) so we used to get kicked out of the house a lot over the next few summers to “play outside.” Of course, we just moved our game to the picnic table.

Nature being what it is, windy days or stinging insects made it difficult to play via tabletop. We soon got used to narrating a lot and roleplaying the heck out of our characters (as it was easy to fill a lot of time without reaching for character sheets or dice). Our campaigns began to resemble soap operas more than dungeon crawls.

I daresay it had a major impact on my eventual GMing style.

#6 Comment By teaman On April 23, 2012 @ 9:31 am

This is almost exactly the way I play with my kids. We use “Roll d20 under your stat” rather than attack bonuses, so that keeps things even simpler. All attacks di 1d6 damage too. Great to see other folks keeping the tradition going.

#7 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 23, 2012 @ 9:31 am

@Lee Hanna -Star Frontiers? Now that brings back memories. Now we’re talkin’ Old School Rennaissance.
@evil – I loved that you guys traded off the GMing job. Playing the car can sometimes seem like you’re teasing the driver — who can only minimally participate. Neat solution.
@Riklurt -An “on the go” gaming pack. Some gnomes have shared their convention gaming packs, but this sounds even more portable.
@Martin Ralya -Were you playing “Dune” or Al-Qadim?
@Walt Ciechanowski -Our Steffenhold game has moved to the picnic table a time or two. (And we light up the grill for lunch.) It’s weird dungeon crawling in full sunlight, though. Alas, our picnic table did not survive the winter. We purchased more lumber over the weekend to build a new table. Another project on the Taylor “to do” list.

#8 Comment By Don Mappin On April 23, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

Humm, guess this may be insight as to Martin’s “secret game” that he’s prepping…

#9 Comment By patv On April 23, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

Another way to roll dice and keep them contained is the new Kickstarter Project for PopAble dice rolling…

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2067825909/attacks-of-opportunity

looks like fun!

#10 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 23, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

@Don Mappin – I was surprised neither you nor Daniel had figured it out. ;-)

#11 Comment By Don Mappin On April 23, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

@Martin Ralya – How could we when you haven’t told us anything? Your gaming hymen is impenetrable!

#12 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 23, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

@Don Mappin – In a perfect world, you never would have figured it out. I was half hoping for total surprise, but I think there will still be plenty of surprises.

Assuming the occasion to run it comes up, that is!

#13 Comment By danroth On April 23, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

Great article! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do this, but could never convince my friends it would work. Now with actual ideas in hand, maybe I can.

Also, what about using something like Microlite20 or Sketch, which only uses one kind of die?

And @evil – only 2 or 3 days from coast to coast?! How fast were you driving? Take time to smell the roses, man, it’s a road trip! :)

#14 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 23, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

@Don Mappin – OMG! I didn’t mean to spill the beans, or anything. Sorry if I lifted the lid on Martin’s newest game. I didn’t realize it was a secret.

#15 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 23, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

@Troy E. Taylor – I’ve been talking about it for the past couple months on G+, and posted about hexcrawling here. It’s not that secret, and no worries!

#16 Comment By Don Mappin On April 23, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

@Martin Ralya – I can’t figure out how to use G+ so your secret was safe. I don’t stalk your every word like your devoted fans. ;)

#17 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 23, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

@danroth – I’d be interested in hearing others’ experiences with Microlite20 (which I’ve read but never played) or Sketch (which I’d never heard of before this). For myself, though, you can expect me to keep using the Basic-Expert rules. Nostalgia just being one reason.

#18 Comment By danroth On April 24, 2012 @ 7:55 am

@Troy E. Taylor – Sketch is a super-light system (the rules are 3 pages long using only 3d6 for all the mechanics. It’s almost just a mechanic, as it’s designed to be customized to any setting you choose.

The website: Sketch System

#19 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 24, 2012 @ 10:27 am

@danroth – Thanks, I’ll give it a look.


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