Sunday, March 4, 2012

Good news and bad news.

So the good news is that the teacher's strike will be over by Thursday so we will meet at the regular time. The bad news is that Cherry Bomb Toys can't host us during business hours so that avenue of potential meeting is closed for the time being. I will field suggestions in the case that we want to meet over spring break, when I get back from out of town.
I think our last session was a bit of good news and bad news too. The good news was that they got their iron ore vein working and some trees cleared to start on the first permanent structure of the new estate. The bad news was that the bickering and arguing made it quite frustrating for some and not a lot got done overall. Also, it seemed some of the bad news came in the form of good old DM illustration by example wherein the under-prepared were shocked with how hard outdoor living can be if one doesn't make the necessary arrangements. I think next time the attention to shelter will be far better cared for. I'm looking forward to the next session. I love seeing what this gang comes up with. It's always awesome.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Very Exciting

I got to pass on some very exciting news with my group today and they shared some awesome stuff with me. First off, the 'guys' were really quite good for a two-hour session in the computer lab. We got through the election of the village council, the selection of their liege lord and most of them completed their conversion from generic to standard classes. For the most part I gave them more skill points than they would have had in standard 3.x as I strongly feel that characters tend to under-perform at lower level and since this will be a lower power more medieval themed campaign it suits just fine. This group is not suited to grinding for levels because honestly the effort of fielding the swathes of generic baddies does not thrill me nor does it suit the ethos of the campaign or the grander idea of Lego d20. The purpose has and hopefully always will be to build team play, cooperation (or coopertition as FLL would have us say), creativity, strategy and community. Sort of why their big reward from the coopertition heavy battle was a group managed property which they are responsible for building and creating with their fertile minds. Since they did select the 'easiest' (they think...) liege lord, the estate will be less rich than the other two I had offered but it will offer the easiest access to other villages, and the favor of King Oleg.

Oh, but the first bit of good news. Well lets put this first: I'm now a member of VicLUG, the Victoria Lego Users Group, a very awesome and active bunch of adult Lego enthusiasts who have basically adopted me into their fold since they witnessed the awesome (or just bizarre) spectacle that was my first convention demo. One of the best advantages (and my timing was just right) is that they are just about to put together a bulk order from Denmark. Now those baseplates and trees and ugly rock bricks and castle window pieces aren't going to be such a chore to track down.

Second bit of news: I'm going to try to put this together as a book. I'm thinking Brick d20. I don't claim to be the first person to play D&D with Lego, not at all, I just seem to be systematizing it effectively for jr. play, something my background in education and gaming brings to the table. Having a degree in writing won't hurt either.

I also broke out my new pantheon. Lan, Envir, Gojan, and Olea. Ha ha. But it really worked well. You have the Lawful Lion Lan (think Aslan) as the primary deity (at least in Olegia) you have the trickster, Envir, often aspected as a raven, like Raven. You have Gojan, the dragon, and the destroyer, because in a Lego world there is always a destroyer. Sometimes your little sister whether you want her to or not (apologies to all the good little sisters out there who never smashed a new lego build), and then there's Olea. Olea is perhaps the most complex in that she is a nurturing bear or a tree or a crone. But in all ways she provides the female balance to the primary four. I really thought of this as a wolf pack of gods, with Lan as the Alpha, Envir as the Beta, Gojan as the Omega, and Olea as 'top cow' as a prof of mine used to put it. Although come to think of it, Gojan doesn't have to be male, not all the time at least. I think there is definitely room for more wisdom, order and other gods, but Lan's shoulders are big enough.

I almost forgot to share the awesome news they found for me. Images of the Lord of the Rings sets and minifigs to be released this year. As I said, VERY EXCITING.

In the next post I hope to share a number of the teams' backstories, if they don't want them to be secret as I am sure S. M. would prefer.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cherry Bomb Toys and Minifigs.

Cherry Bomb Toys has a build-your-own minifig setup in their store on Broad St. It has been of the best things I found for getting the little weapons to equip and re-equip all the little minifigs I have collected over the years (especially from '82-'86 when I got the bulk of my space and classic castle stuff, although I must approve of some of the selections made by my brother as his pirate, forest keep, and colonial ship sets have really put some flavour to the collection). I have probably spent $30+ on minifig accessories alone at $1 a pop (way high, I know, but when you need bows and axes, you've got to get bows and axes).
Also, both London Drugs and Toys 'R Us have the Minifig Series 6 in stock for $3.50 each. I have found the decoding site at that has the 'braille' bump codes and have confirmed that they work (got a fig I wanted that was an easy pick, not saying which one, might spoil some campaign surprises), although I really want to dig through and get several of the Roman Soldiers and the Highland Battlers... I mean really, Celts vs. Romans? Why Not!

I think the main reason I want to mention this is to underline two things. I am spending my money that I am basically getting as an allowance from my lovely wife to spend on toys for the Lego Robotics kids to play with -- which I am happy to do. The other is to possibly encourage those who are enthusiasts and excited by Lego d20 to go and find these places and pieces and spend their own $5 to MAKE their character. I remember the joy as a kid to have found a lead mini that might have looked sort of like a character I wrote up for my D&D games. I would love for the kids who for the most part seem to be having a blast playing Lego d20 with me, to have the joy of owning their own character fig, which some guys have already done, bringing theirs from home, even adapting Star Wars or other series figs to the fantasy setting.

Oh and I have to give a big shout out to my co-leader who is bravely, and often with bemused looks, doing what she can to help cat herd this crew along in this highly experimental process, and who recently added a beautiful addition to her own Lego collection (ahem - Hogwarts Castle - ahem). Two yellow hands angled directly up for her! I must not forget to mention with extreme gratitude my thanks to the Lego Robotics University sponsor for letting me essentially hijack her Lego Robotics team for this grand experiment, all with encouraging smiles and patience, especially in those madhouse moments, like when 10 boys are all needing help with their character creation and there is only one me.

This brings me to my final topic for this late night post: Book the computer lab so the kids without books can get on the d20 Hypertext SRD so they don't have to try to glean their info from over the shoulders of the few experts.

Friday, January 13, 2012


So... a friend of mine was in a bit of a pickle this week. For a few moments he was out a couple of tables worth of RPG Mastering for the Gottacon Gaming Convention here in Victoria, and he was asking if I could help out if the guy he'd asked fell through. I said sure, but what do you need me to run? I said I could run Labyrinth Lords Keep on the Borderlands or this Lego d20 thing I have been playtesting. He said they'd both be great. When he got back to me that the guy he was waiting on confirmed, I have to admit I was a little disappointed, but I said, "Hey, if you want me to run one anyway, I'm game." He got back to me today to say that there were a couple of tables free. Now I am excited to be taking this out "TO THE NEXT LEVEL" as a certain friend of mine would say. So sign up for Gottacon. Come, enjoy. Sunday, February 5th, 9am for round 1 -- another grand melee, which will lead to, dun, dun, dun.... I can't tell...

Oh and if you plan to come there's a preregistration thing at their site. Visit :

Money, money, money.

So one of the big issues with the game so far is bridging the gap between the various rulebooks on item costs and the very real possibility of making the monetary truly physical by having real values for items of Lego based on their material (color) and size. There would have to be a certain differentiation of value based on quality... I mean a longbow only looks like it takes 4 studs of wood, but 4 studs of firewood or palm tree is not the same AT ALL as a longbow. I do know that I want to use my little round black flat 2x2s as Iron ingots but how much is that worth? I think probably one gold stud... but is a gold stud a gold piece? I have some numbered dubloons from my brother's foray into pirate lego so that can help.
The other thing is trying to keep all the kids stuff separate. I found some great 1"x1.5" mini containers at Dollar Giant which is perfect for a minifig and his stuff, so that is a help, and I have tiny ziploc bags... but man, keeping all this straight for my sanity and the enjoyment of 12 year olds is challenging.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Excellent Start.

"We got through two rounds," said Darren, surprised -- and not in a bad way. Considering when we started up 2 players hadn't made characters, there were rule changes to adapt to, one had left his character at home and had to remake his all over. After swarming me about the rules changes and any other question, we sort of got them focused enough to sit down. We had to stop them from constantly raiding the lego buckets and the premade minifigs I had put together (which came in really handy when someone wanted to play a sword and shield Warrior, had a couple good to go.) The tricky part was getting them to understand that Scholars didn't get to use spears and wear helmets, and to get them to (sort of) uniformly make their class and team identifiable in their minifigs.
We finally got initiative sorted by 4:15. Getting initiative sorted was a bit of a challenge with 16 participants, many of them never having played before, ever. One participant, who doesn't speak much on account of just moving from a totally French speaking area, didn't even get himself into the initiative, and hadn't put a minifig together and on the table. Luckily a lot of my organization let me field his mini in seconds.
Some really interesting tactics. A spectacularly bold move from one of the guys was to, instead of heading to base to protect the flag, jump over the king's banquet table. His move didn't go so well so he ended up pinned by the other team right on the table. Luckily he only took one hit, albeit from a sheathed Greatsword... As silly as it seemed to go, it provided a key distraction for his teams power character to go for his biggest asset -- his horse. We weren't too keen on him trampling everyone so we encouraged the idea of playing fair and using the mount only for movement, dismounting for combat and meeting his opponents (not really enemies, but fellow tournament participants) on foot.
These smart and silly moves aside, my biggest kudos goes to one participant who held her action to 'wait and see' and then declared to help pull her table dancing comrade out if he went down. Turned out when he jumped off the table he critically failed and face planted right on her character, luckily the held action then triggered and she used her turn to get them on their feet. On the ground they could have been pounded into hamburger.
What is interesting is that they are starting to get the idea that LISTENING is to their benefit, that INTERRUPTING detracts from other peoples' turns and stops them from getting to THEIR TURN. Aside from the imagining and creativity and excitement playing games like this generates, it is these simple lessons about manners that stand out for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Refresher

In case you are stumbling upon this page and wondering what the heck is up with it, here's the backgrounder. For the past year and a half I have been a volunteer leader with a Lego Robotics group attached jointly to the University of Victoria and Arbutus Global Middle School. Last year our team of twenty whittled down to 11 by the time we went to the Districts and Provincials. After provincials a malaise of boredom and lack of purpose set into the group and getting anything done was like a trip to the dentist... you know, pulling teeth.
This year, while a few moved on to High School, we were inundated with new blood. Even after our less than stellar turn at Districts we are still 16 members strong. One of the problems with our performance was essentially due to lack of group cohesion, respect and essentially teamwork. Now during that time, my colleague and I were doing our final practica for our Education Degrees, so we weren't as energized to wrangle this extra wiggly bunch. Some time over the holidays, however, it hit me. What was nerdy, helped group cohesion and was essentially a very effective brain gym when I was young? Role-playing games. Since almost every single one of these kids has played the Lego computer games which are essentially the boiled down, button mashing grandchildren of the games I played as a kid, then taking them on a little medieval adventure seemed the perfect thing.
During our medal ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance of the final scene from Star Wars (literally -- we had the music and everything), I announced that we'd take a break from the Robot game for a few weeks, but we'd still be playing games with Lego to the kids and parents. This seemed to go over well, when I told some of the already inclined boys that it would be Lego D&D... well let's say they were REALLY, REALLY, excited.
So, in the last of the holidays and in this break while I wait for my Teaching Certificate, I have been remembering how to build Lego fortresses, ballistae, and trees, while at the same time finding ways to make the Open License D&D rules work for a group ranging from wiggly 11 year olds to quite mature 13 year olds. What is great is that some kids have played 3.5, 4E, Pathfinder and other RPGs, and they are quite good at helping the kids who are new to the rules along with this.
Well I for one am excited about the adventure to come, and I hope the kids like it too. Most of all I have to thank Big D for all his help with minifig building, rules bouncing, and this week he gets to meet all my little monsters.

Next Post: The Grand Melee!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A few changes between my brain dump Character building session. I have tweaked the skills a bit. I haven't worked the exact conversion yet from GP to Wooden Bit, Stone Bit, and Metal Bit (WB, SB, MB) but it's on its way. For more information on the Noble character class see :, and the Warrior: Most characters will have a few more skill points than they started with (I forgot about the 4x multiplier at first level, and am changing it to a 2x because I halved the number of skills) but boosted the base number and the amount per level. Warriors start with 4 + int mod, Nobles with 8 + int mod, Scholars with 12 + int mod. Craftsmen are essentially Experts, with the ability to pay 1:1 for Crafting skills, really important in the Lego world. See : I am also sticking with a d6 hit die for the Nobles. It's an easy life for an upperclass legoman!

Hey so this is the beginning of something fun I hope.

And this to be incredibly handy:

I will upload my handmade character sheet shortly.

The next post has the character sheet now. I used slightly more skills than 4E and a lot less than 3.0. Less skill points for NPC character classes though. The four choosable classes at this point are Warrior, Aristocrat (Noble), Craftsman (Expert) and Scholar (Expert). It's sort of like the players are at Level 0.5 right now and will mature into *mostly* full PC classed level 1 characters by the end of session 2.