Welcome Adventurers.. there is a faint musky smell in the air as you peer about the cave. Though the darkness you hear a faint moaning sound coming from your left. Raising your torch above your head you catch a glimpse of what appears to be a man moving slowing in your direction.
Uh.. what did you just say? Yes you heard correctly, there are some magical things brewing around Crack Clan! We have officially started a Dungeons and Dragons group! Crack Clan is originally a first person shooter organization, so this is a very rare and extraordinary event happening within our ranks. We are also extremely fortunate to have our first campaign run by a very experienced Dungeon Master known by the alias drsouluno. Without any more delay please read on for our interview with the man that’s making all of this possible:
Smithy: Hello Doc, how about you introduce yourself to the readers.
Dr.Souluno: My name is Ahmed Mahmoud. I’m a first generation Egyptian American who lives in Jersey City, NJ. I’m 35, and have been gaming and DMing since I was 12. My earliest memory of DnD was one of my childhood friends bringing over a book of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. What do you mean itâ€™s a game? That’s not a game, that’s a book!? After explaining that it was no different than our usual imaginative game play with toys, we were hooked. We interpreted the rules to the best of our abilities and played. We soon realized that we could be the heroes of our adventures and we could go anywhere, do anything. We played for a few years on and off, and then college happened, life happened. We grew apart and didn’t play for years. On one faithful Sunday night I received a call from my buddy Bob that he was running DnD again. I gave it a shot and once again I was hooked. But this time it was different, the world was darker, everything was more mature, and difficult. It seemed that DnD had matured with us! That was 14 years ago, and I haven’t stopped playing since. Some people had football, some had poker – we had DnD to bring us together. And now I bring the legacy to you.
Smithy: How would you describe Dungeons and Dragons to our readers who are unfamiliar with the game?
Dr.Souluno: DnD is about coming together with a group of friends and overcoming challenges and making decisions. Do I go through that door? Do I choose this path? It’s actually no different than a video game, but instead of counting on BioWare or EA to write and execute a great story; you’re counting on the books and friends. The DM or dungeon master runs the outcome, and that can change far more than any scripted video game. So it tends to be far more flexible. You can do anything, literally. DnD was invented in the 70’s by a man named Gary Gygax who imagined what it would be like to play a game as if you were the heroes in Lord of the Rings. In fact, much of the lore of DnD can be traced right back to Tolkien’s masterpiece. Any Role Playing Game you play today in video game form or otherwise is based on DnD. Are you getting experience? That came from DnD. Are you getting levels? Guess what? DnD Pokemon evolving?, using rules for Magic the gathering? DnD HP?, MP?, DnDÂ Initially, Gary pulled no punches with his first editions introducing Christian demons and devils as creatures you could battle. That’s where the whole controversy of DnD being a devil’s game started. But it was a cult classic, not a cult. Gary toned down the game shortly after, making it more accessible and it grew a following. Today, there are all sorts of game systems using his template. Since it is essentially your friends that run it, you choose your level of difficulty, maturity, and fun. DnD is fully modular, and you can play anywhere!! Take that Xbox!
All Hail Gary Gygax! Seriously, not a cult.
Smithy: So what were your initial impressions upon learning about Crack Clan and the future newbie players you were going to be DMing for?
Dr.Souluno: Initially, I thought it would be difficult to satisfy the FPSer’s need for instant gratification when it comes to action and kills. I figured a faster paced game with a battlefield mentality may help to bridge the gap, but I discovered something very different. The group turned out to be out-going boisterous individuals with a flair for the dramatic. Not at all what I expected, but the ideal kind of group any DM would want. For that, I thank you for making this an interesting game on both sides of the table.
Smithy: What all is involved in being the Dungeon Master and what do you find to be the most challenging things to deal with?
Dr.Souluno: Being a DM first and foremost requires a logical imagination. One must be able to create a unique and creative gaming atmosphere while grounding it in logical real world physics and description. You can border absurd, but the minute you cross the line, your players will fail to suspend their disbelief and the world will come crashing down. Secondly, a DM must fully understand the environment in which he/she(usually he I think) is placing the players. This requires preparation and a thorough knowledge of how to interpret the rules fairly. That last bit can take years to truly master, if ever. The creation of places and people takes time, and determining how they interact with each other and the environment takes a discreet understanding of people and their motivations. Lastly, the DM must know how to adhere to changes that the players induce in their world. This frustrates many, many fledgling DMs. When a DM creates a vibrant world with his/her blood, sweat, and tears, they tend to protect it at all costs. So when the players trample all over the DM’s vision of what “should” have happened, the DM can just shut down at the table. For example, “I took 3 hours to create this amazing NPC(non-player character), and I know the group will love him. He will be the corner stone of magic in the city!” When the PCs(player characters) meet this wizard, they hate and kill him immediately. “You broke my game and missed the wonderful exposition that my NPC was going to share!” A bad DM would not be able to cope with the destruction of their world, and shut down or give up. “Screw you guys, I’m going home!” PCs are unpredictable, unruly, ruthless, and rude. A good DM, however, would see this as a challenge for the validity of the environment he/she created with improvisation and the ability to create logical and interesting outcomes. Sure you may have killed the wizard, but little does the group know that his apprentice son is seeking revenge for his father’s death. Cause and effect. When a group of players starts challenging the boundaries of the world, pushing back the frames and breaking the fourth wall, thatâ€™s when it really gets interesting!
Smithy: What do you love the most about Dungeons and Dragons?
Dr.Souluno: Dungeons and Dragons allows me to create or tell stories that can be played and appreciated by others. That is a wholly rewarding experience. When the players figure out a puzzle I worked hard to conceal, or follow the clues to discover a secret, it’s exhilarating for everyone involved. Especially if the players finds a unique way to solve it, above and beyond the initial intention. It’s a lot of fun to design a world that players can imagine and interact with through story telling. It calls back to some ancient time when ritual story telling was sacred. It touches a part of us long since forgotten in this modern age. But most of all, I love when players become emotionally invested into their characters and honestly praise a good session and my efforts. It can be very fulfilling and addictive.
Smithy: We have officially run four complete three hour sessions so far. During that time frame what has been your most unforgettable memory.
Dr.Souluno: There were actually several unforgettable moments. Deth’s character Esteban, for one, is an unforgettable moment! Smithy’s ridiculous accent and antics, Bravo! Pockets impersonating Deth, classic! And who will ever forget the Dog Puncher. That will be burned in my memory forever!
Smithy: How do you see Dungeons and Dragons fitting in to today’s ever-connected, social media, online gaming scene?
Dr.Souluno: Dungeons and Dragons is a more personal than online gaming. Having the versatility to do anything you can imagine is very empowering. Whenever someone role-plays a character, they are expanding the boundaries of their comfort zones and delving into new territory. DnD offers the player a chance to expand their horizons and step into the shoes of another person they create. This is much like an actor taking the stage, or a musician performing for an audience. With virtual table tops(like Maptool) and voice over IP, DnD has been propelled into the 21st century, making it a formidable match for online gaming and Facebook. DnD is a great venue to get together and play with some friends or even meet people with like interests. I personally like the challenge of taking the “nerd” out of role play. I have been to too many places where the average DnD players are sniffling, poorly groomed, and confused nerds. Their games are dry and boring, and their breaths stink! You don’t have to be a dork to love DnD! My circle of DnD buddies were anything but text book nerds. We had jocks, womanizers, geniuses and fashionistas. But it takes a good DM to draw the “non-fanboys” into the game, and a better one to show them how to run a good game. And of course a love for the game that allows you to break through the stereotypes and show people you “can” be cool and still play. I feel I have an obligation to show players the best role playing experience I can offer by creating a rich and interactive world. And hopefully, I pass down a trick or two that they can use in the game that they run. And maybe, just maybe, we improve the genre. That is how it can survive the ever-changing online fads and games of our time.
Smithy: Going forward what path do you see this fledgling adventure heading to?
Dr.Souluno: I’m really excited for the day the group comes into their own with the rules and their abilities. I want to see them doing the hero stuff. I want to see them taking every tactical advantage imaginable(you are FPSers after all), and using spells in ways they were never before used. I want to see them save the world and defeat the great evil (or good if they swing that way). Mostly, I want to see them having fun while they do it.
Smithy: Anything else you would like to add?
Dr.Souluno: Gamers can be passionate, intelligent individuals on and off the table.