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An Adventure with the Adventurers League, and Pathfinder Society – Jenni Rhodes

An+Adventure+with+the+Adventurers+League%2C+and+Pathfinder+Society+-+Jenni+Rhodes

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With Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) recent rise in popularity thanks to the incredible talent of Matthew Mercer, and support from Geek and Sundry, geek culture has exploded. Here at The Geekwave we are dedicated to supporting anything geeky and encouraging everyone to follow what their passionate about and produce content about it. I happen to be quite passionate about Role Playing games like D&D, and with the surge of popularity in the D&D culture I wanted to talk to the Dungeon Masters (DMs) working professionally in the RPG world, and hopefully learn some things. Specifically how individually they got into the difficult task of DMing, how they encourage new players to join or old players to come back, and because they DM in a public setting how they deal with controversy at the table.

During this year’s Salt Lake City Gaming Convention or Gaming Con I had the immeasurable pleasure and luck to sit down with several Dungeon Masters that work for the Adventurers League, and the Pathfinder Society. Hearing the passion for the game from all the DMs was inspiring and immediately made me wish I had the time during the convention to sit down and play. A couple of the DMs I spoke to, Dave Knighton and Derek Grey, that run the Adventurers League and even produce adventure modules for the conventions to run. In this piece, I’ll run through the conversations I had with each individual Dungeon Master in the order in which I talked to them.

 

Jenni Rhodes

The next guide I encountered on my epic quest for knowledge of the professional Dungeon Master was Jenni Rhodes. A more recent DM, but still considerably experienced and willing to share her knowledge with me, not to mention an avid Utes supporter. Her origin begins long ago with the desire to play, but her experience begins not so long ago . . . 

“A lot of the people in my age group, if you didn’t play when you were a kid, you were definitely affected by the Satanic Panic that happened in the late 80s.”

Jenni inaugural session began only 6 years ago, when her husband introduced her to 4th edition. Though the desire to play was always strong within Jenni, someone to play with was her bane. “A lot of the people in my age group, if you didn’t play when you were a kid, you were definitely affected by the Satanic Panic that happened in the late 80s.” Though I was familiar with the satanic panic surrounding D&D, the thought of experiencing it first hand still remains beyond my comprehension. As anyone, including Jenni, who currently adventures through the wilderness of the imagination would tell you, “It’s a lot of fun. It’s not a scary thing. I promise I’m not doing blood rights with babies at midnight!” Luckily, D&D is far more accessible now, so when Jenni’s desire to quest was passed to her current husband, he remembered the miasma of adventure and joy from his childhood. And six year ago, as the 4th edition of D&D was released to the masses, Jenni began to adventure. Though this beginning was with the cards that held the information for you’re spells and the monsters, Jenni pointed out that “regardless of what edition of D&D you like, it’s all D&D.” It matters not what version of the game you allow to dictate your adventure! At its core, you must use your imagination to breath life into the world. This led to Jenni’s first taste of the role, Dungeon Master. “We all decided to start rotating out, so everyone could have a turn DMing. The swap happened for my turn, and it just never stopped.” During her time as DM the game moved to 5th edition and as the curse of reality goes, people’s lives change and Jenni has remained in the eye of the hurricane, continuing to control the madness. It was clear to me that Jenni was fiercely passionate about the game, why else would she be a part of the Adventurers League? 

“As a DM you have to move the story around your players, they think their running wild, but really you’re just moving around them.”

I moved to my next question, I asked Jenni to regail to me the differences between DMing for her personal cloister versus the travelers that seek her guidance in adventure. Her answer was well thought out and spoken as thus, “It’s a little bit more relaxed when your playing at home, often you don’t have the same time constraints.” The quests that the Adventurers League will send travelers on typically only lasts a couple of hours. “As a DM you have to move the story around your players, they think their running wild, but really you’re just moving around them. When you’re at home, you have the time to let them do the things they want to do.” In the local taverns and conventions, there are set rules that all patrons must follow, but when at home your own rules can apply. Where there are rules in place, there are those who will try to break them and some might even bring in unacceptable topics like racism or sexism, and my curiosity was sparked. I wanted to know how Jenni handled those that would cause dissent. “Being a female, it does happen, that I will get a ‘raised eyebrow’ or occasionally a player gets a little to involved with their characters mindset which might not always be. . . [acceptable.]” Jenni is a strong DM and as such she is more than capable of deterring the inappropriate. “[These situations] I can quickly nip in the bud. I think part of it is because I can turn on the mom face, and sound.” What is continuing to be enforced to me is the camaraderie within the Adventurers League. If any of the DMs feel uncomfortable there is always someone there to help defeat any villainy alongside them. Of course if a problem cannot be solved at the table, the disruptive person will be asked to leave. Jenni luckily has never been a that situation, but she’s certainly seen it happen.

After the weight of that discussion I felt I needed a lighter topic. In the wilderness that is the convention, the DMs have to run a narrow adventure, or railroad, for the sake of completion. I couldn’t help but wonder what type of adventure Jenni prefered to run though, and she didn’t disapoint. “I myself, don’t usually run a sandbox campaign, with the exception of a full campaign book. ‘The Curse of Strahd’ for example. There is A LOT of content in there, so I will prepare like 5 or 6 areas. . . “

 BLAAAAAIIIIRING NOISE!!!!

It is at this point that the pirate ship across the sea of tables decided to test their ability to disrupt my quest for knowledge. It was effective. . . but it did not deter me! It just made the recording harder to edit. . . 

We continue “. . . 5 or 6 areas out of everything else, and I’ll sort of drive them towards those areas. But honestly if they really really want to go somewhere and they see it on the map, we’ll go there, I’ll run it cold. If I can direct them away from them somehow then I will. . . but in the end, the only way I would be able to sandbox something would be in a fixed campaign where I have documentation to learn from.” Though Jenni professes to not a world builder, she is. Though she might not be a writer, she is able to take people on an adventure to any location though her voice creating the atmosphere that she interprets from the writing. 

“[Women] aren’t just there behind the scenes, not there because their boyfriends are playing and their there too. No, I play.”

Having spoken to Brynn Salvadori about the Maiden’s and Mimics charity, I discovered that Jenni had also been apart of that event. Seeking a deeper understanding on how the Adventurers League conjures these charity events, I asked Jenni for more information. Jenni is friends with Dave and Cheney Knighton who initiated the conquest for the Maiden’s and Mimics charity for the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA). There also happens to be a lot of women DMs. So together the Knightons put together this very specific charity event. Jenni brought up how important it is to show how many women are involved in the gaming community, and at the highest level. “[Women] aren’t just there behind the scenes, not there because their boyfriends are playing and they’re there too. No, I play.” Something else that Jenni noted, is how difficult it seems for women to join the culture, without knowing another woman that quests, having a male friend invite them on an adventure tends to be the gateway to this culture. So to Jenni “doing the Maidens and Mimics was fantastic because there were males that showed up to support it, but it was just a lot of ladies, which was such a treat.” 

Since Jenni had already brought up ‘The Curse of Strahd’ I wanted to know if she had any other modules that she loved to run and she immediately had an answer. “I’m a huge fan of an adventure called ‘No Foolish Matters.’” the module has the party of adventurers investigate the strange happenings surrounding a carnival. Allowing for the party participate in the carnival as they discover more and more about the increasing creepy ruse the carnival uses as a front for evil. “Actually when I was introducing my daughter to D&D, and she and her friends discussed playing, she wanted to know some good [adventures] that her friends would enjoy I immediately jumped to ‘No Foolish Matters.’” I can honestly say that after I complete my journey here amongst the DMs, I will be looking for this module for use in my own campaign. Both Jenni and I feel that the 5th edition of D&D has been the easiest edition to begin adventuring. As Jenni says, it’s so accessible. There aren’t enormous heaps of rules to learn before you can start on a quest which allows people to pick up and play very quickly.

“As I’ve progressed as a player from being far away, to being a little closer and being able to sneak away. And then now being able to just be like, I’m going to punch it in the face!”

Because our time was running out, I had my final question primed. As I asked Brynn, I asked Jenni. What is your favorite character build? As the head of character creation for the Adventurers League Jenni tends to see two things with their characters, “they either build one that is their antithesis, so they can explore themselves through this character. Or they build themselves, something they are comfortable in. If I were in this world, what would I do?” Jenni prefers the latter herself, and so her first persona was an Elven Ranger, because she likes to take on the role of ranged support character. However, as her time amongst the world of never ending stories continued on, she has found that she likes to be up in the thick of things more. “Often I will create a halfling rogue, or the most recent I have is a Tiefling fighter. As I’ve progressed as a player from being far away, to being a little closer and being able to sneak away. And then now being able to just be like, I’m going to punch it in the face!” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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About the Contributor
Talon Dillman, Director
Talon is a senior at the University of Utah getting a B.S. Degree in English. He is the current director of The Geekwave, and when he's not busy with running the platform, he's probably playing a TTRPG or working on one of his campaigns.

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An Adventure with the Adventurers League, and Pathfinder Society – Jenni Rhodes