Judge James just ran 15 Road Crew games in 15 nights. He’s a madman! We asked him to write a little about his experience in the road crew. Here are his musings, including some personal admonitions and advice for aspiring judges…
Musings of a Road Warrior
by Judge James Michael Spahn
At the time of the writing of this article, it is December 9th, 2020. Tonight I will be running my 15th Road Crew game of the year. My first Road Crew game of the year was on November 23rd and since November 26th I have hosted a Road Crew game every single night. That’s 15 games in around 3 weeks, with 14 of them being hosted consecutively. That’s a lot.
What kind of madness would lead a Judge to decide to cram a year’s worth of Road Crew games into less than a month? Well, the greatest madness of that has ever befallen mankind: Love. I love Dungeon Crawl Classics. I’d taken a reprieve from DCC for a few years and when I dove back into the proverbial funnel I found the community as welcoming as ever and I wanted to show that love, to participate in it. I wanted to give back all the generosity I’d received from the community and what better way than to play the damn game, right?
So, with the encouragement of the community in general as well as several luminaries, I decided to go whole hog. Because if you’re going to go, go all out. And let me tell you, it’s been a helluva ride. But, how exactly, does one go about running that many games in such a tight space (most of them consecutively), and what’s it like?
Well, first of all: It’s a ridiculous amount of fun., One of the surprising benefits was every night at the end of the day when I sat down a bit weary from the trials of a normal day I got excited because I was going to play DCC. Yes, as the days began to blur together in the business of the day (especially during the holiday season) I got a bit weary, a bit tired. But when the first player showed up, that excitement always came with it. I wasn’t just talking with other fans in the community. I wasn’t just reading the content put out by Goodman Games and the many great third-party publishers, I was getting to the heart of it: I was playing. I think in the craziness of life we forget that actually playing the game is what it’s all about.
Players came. Strangers became gaming buddies. Community members threw in their support for my mad quest. In short, I felt the love and it gave me the determination to see this thing through to the end., It was awesome.
Now, in the Time of Covid-19 Goodman Games has been both kind and prudent in honoring online games as being submissible as Road Crew worthy. I’m not overly tech-savvy, but the resources are there even for the luddite like me. You don’t need Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds or even Zoom to get a Crew game together. You just need people and a way to talk.
Fortunately, Goodman Games has a lively Discord server and plenty of Open Gaming rooms. I readily took advantage of this. I hosted every single game I’ve run on their Discord in an open room. I’ve advertised on the DCC RPG Rocks! Facebook community and the #Road-Crew-Discussion Discord room. All I brought were my enthusiasm, my dice, and my books. And that’s all I needed. Well, a computer too. The point is, while technology facilitates online play, don’t let the overwhelming number of options get in the way. Just get in there and roll dice. I didn’t even have my players use a dice roller. Grab your crazy math rocks and roll rights there by the screen. Any player worth their salt knows the chaos of the number stones is all part of the game and when you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. And trust me, based on the chaos of the events at these Road Crew games, I have absolute faith that none of my players cheated.
If you’re a Judge who decides they want to follow in my mad footsteps, let me give you the biggest piece of advice I can: Don’t overthink it. You’re there to both give an opportunity for others to experience the thrill of DCC and to have that same thrill yourself. Running so many games in a row, I kept it simple – keeping Quick Start Rules close at hand for easy reference for funnel and low-level adventures so I didn’t have to dig through the core book. It kept things quick and clean.
As far as what to run, over 15 games I only ran 4 modules: Sailors on the Starless Sea, Portal Under the Stars, Legend of the Silver Skull, and The Jeweler Who Dealt in Stardust. As a Judge working in a digital medium, you need to recognize which modules work best for that format. Goodman Games’ DCC adventures are notorious for their creativity and props, but I’d not run The Chained Coffin in an online game because, without that wheel in your hand, it’s just not the same.
On the other side of that, keep it fresh. Sure, I only used four adventures – but I changed them up each time. In the first session of Portal Under The Stars, I made heavy alterations and turned it into an icy demiplane ruled by a fey queen of winter. Sailors on the Starless Sea? I did that as a prequel where the players took on the role of Beastmen trying to take back a freshly built castle from the holy men who dared try to set the leviathan beneath the stone into an eternal slumber. If you’re an experienced Judge these modules are likely as familiar as the back of your hand, so feel free to grab them, twist them, and make them your own. Heck, my version of Legend of the Silver Skull is barely in its original form by the time I’m done with it. That kept me from getting bored or tired as the games went by. DCC is meant to be fresh and unexpected. So don’t just run an adventure. Run your adventure.
As I prepare for tonight’s finale, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit tired. But when I began I received all kinds of encouragement from the community that has remained through the entire sprint to the finish, right down to one particular community member dubbing me “Judge Crazypants.” Maybe I am crazy. But you know what? There’s a joy to be found on the other side of madness and though I may have earned a few points of corruption on this strange and sudden journey, I don’t think I’d be experiencing this joy without the game, the Road Crew program, and most of all, the community.
So mount up and get ready. You’re ready for the Road Crew. You have everything you need to do it already. And if you need a bit of encouragement, hit me up. I’m on the Goodman Games Discord and the DCC RPG Rocks! Facebook community and like any good Halfling, I’ll lend you a bit of Luck—and so will the rest of this amazing community.
Go Forth and Conquer,