The Opposite Of Inside


Aaaaggghhh!! The sun!That's what many of us think when I bring up the out-of-doors. I realize, gentle readers, there are yeti out there, but the places outside of your hermitage hold rich and thrilling opportunities for role-playing, just right to spice up a tabletop game that may be suffering a little between the Elvis on black velvet and shag carpet.

Aaaaggghhh!! The sun!

That's what many of us think when I bring up the out-of-doors. I realize, gentle readers, there are yeti out there, but the places outside of your hermitage hold rich and thrilling opportunities for role-playing, just right to spice up a tabletop game that may be suffering a little between the Elvis on black velvet and shag carpet.

It first occurred to me in college, at Alexander Library on the Rutgers U campus. I thought to myself, "Man, this is a great building, I need to get the map for this place and run a module here!" I was surprised at the time (a different climate than in which we currently live) that it was actually a great deal more difficult to get a blueprint of the place than I was prepared for. Undaunted, I decided to make a map myself, gauging distances, and walking creepily and suspiciously through the library's stacks. Needless to say, that was also frowned upon. . . and dangerous - those who have been in Alexander's 5th floor bathrooms know what I mean!

It was then that epiphany struck. Why not bring the entire group to the building itself and play as we navigate the library! It was brilliant. Of course, we had a few rough spots in the first session with a player or two swinging imaginary swords in Reference, and the poorly timed spell incant near Romance Literature, but altogether it was a great time. We got ourselves an electronic die roller and spent four sessions in the monster infested Alexander Library, then went back to the kitchen table with a new verve and, at least for me, a better understanding of spatial relations.

On to the meat of my advocacy (as I eat the meat of my dinner)! Play RPG's in real life venues! Be judicious, though, my friends, the most important rule is to have a good time without impinging on anyone else's. A large public library is a good choice, as is a public park, or a train station. Your watchwords should be discretion, courtesy, restraint, and fun.

Don't go overboard; that is, unless you enjoy suspicious looks and tickets for disturbing the peace. Come as you are, the inclination is to make this trip outside into a mini-LARP, but resist it. LARP's run in constrained areas with rules of conduct and insurance, and this excursion technically operates under none of these three. Be discrete. Get an electronic die roller, or the like. I have a roller on my Palm, and it works great - makes me look technological and whatnot. Try to keep your voices down, if for no other reason than you're in a public place, and you're a member of the human race.

If it looks like you're disturbing others, be ready to move out. The opportunity to get excited is immense, and that can be threatening to Joe Normal Passerby. Common courtesy dictates that you are sensitive to the needs of others. . . and some people need you to quit being so weird.

Restraint, of course, is the facilitator of both of the above. Just act casual and things will be great. I like to use outdoor excursions as lessons in spatial relation, as I've said, but for many, the mood of the venue is most important. When the location's mood leads to excitement, it's easy to get carried away. Here's the litmus test: if you're doing something weird, ask yourself: are the people here laughing at me because I'm funny, or is it the nervous laughter of those who frantically dial the police on their cell phones? A fine line to be sure, but being able to draw the distinction will save you a lot of headache in the long run.

And it goes without saying: you need to have fun. Otherwise this was just a lesson in fabulous lameness.

I've had the pleasure of living here in the New York City area, which has provided me with a number of memorable RPG field trips. To name a few, Shadowrun at the Limelight, and Downtown at night; D&D in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and the Appalachian Trail; even a killer Deadlands game in New Jersey's Pine Barrens - the Jersey Devil was out that night!

Anyway, there's a lot of fun to be had out there in the world of yeti and sun. Just keep your eyes open for good public places where you won't make people feel uncomfortable or raise the hackles of the local authorities. And, for God sakes, keep out of Ball State's steam tunnels!

A cookie to whoever gets the steam tunnels reference.

Mazes and Monsters with a very young Tom Cruise?

Mazes and Monsters with a very, very young Tom Hanks?
Great flick that all D&Ders can laugh over on a down night.

Just remember kiddies, if ya do get lost in the steam tunnels to strain the water in your underwear.
If it so happens that you go commando, just skip ahead to the neverous breakdown and get it outta the way.

I know... those steam tunnels are nice, but sometimes the shape of the floor makes you get blood all over the hem of your robe--er, wait... sorry, I meant, "What steam tunnels?"
(You know.. someone is almost certainly going to take this seriously. :p)

Great idea! Sometimes, no matter how many minis or set pieces you put on the table, it's hard to imagine what the setting is really like. Just how big is a 20' x 20' room anyway?

The rats. The rats are a real problem down there under Ball State. Forget what wussy members of your gaming group might say and bring firearms. And, whatever you do, don't dig out in the middle of Hawg Waller's bar.
I actually spent some time trying to get into the tunnels under my college but never managed to do so.

Wow. The majority of the posts to this article are KoDT-related. Of course, when the author encourages the recognition of a point, I guess that's to be expected.
On a more serious note though, I'd like to hit a few points concerning this article:
1.) I'd imagine that anyone who has ever attended college has searched for it underground labyrinthe of steam tunnels. I remember mine being more suited to a horror movie feel, and that they flooded during the heavy rains.
2.) To a degree, I'd imagine that even table-top players have reached into that LARP aspect, at times, and used their environment when they were truly into their characters. I know that I have once or twice, esspecially during games that took place outdoors and a very nice day.
3.) I agree with bluegirl that sometimes a map just will not convey the area of a place. It's impossible. Esspecially with the D&D 3E, and their whole, "a 20 ft radius is now squared off" spiel.
What happened to the good old days? When the DM would tell you "OK, the room your character is in, is twice as long as this one." Roleplaying involves using part of the imagination. Kind of like a book turned to a movie. No matter how sweet it looks on screen, usually I'd had the scene better imagined in my head.