Geek To Me

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Gaming geek creates back to high school experience with SCHOOL DAZE

When I was in high school, I would play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with my friends. We’d get together during study period or after class, and transport ourselves to exotic, far-off lands full of magic and adventure, all via the power of our imaginations and a set of dice.

It’s been a while since I’ve played an old-school Role Playing Game (RPG) and I’m guessing that I would really enjoy getting back into it. There’s something about the social interaction that happens at the game-playing table that I prefer to on-line gaming. But whether I’d play D&D or some other type of tabletop game has yet to be decided. I’m wondering if I should get back into the world of RPGs with Tracy Barnett’s SCHOOL DAZE. Tracy is a full-on gaming nerd that I met on Twitter years ago. I mean, the fact that he goes by the Twitter handle of @Rolling20s should say a lot about him. He loves RPGs so much that he has been developing his own RPG that lets players re-live their high school years…sort of.

In this interview for Geek To Me, I asked Tracy about his gaming background; his game SCHOOL DAZE; and which country in North America has the superior sense of humor:

Geek To Me: Tell me, how long have you been into gaming?

Tracy Barnett: I’ve been gaming for most of my life, but only actively for the last 10 years, or so. I got a copy of the Red Box when I was about 8, and used it to make many characters whose stats were all 18s, and who never saw a single session of play. After playing a ton of Baldur’s Gate in my computer in college, a buddy asked me if I wanted to play 3rd Edition D&D. I did that for about 6 years, then had a hiatus before I started running my own games. A landmark moment in my gaming life was Origins 2010, it was there that I played my first game that wasn’t D&D. I got hooked, and hooked big. Now, I’ll play almost anything.

Geek To Me: Any faves growing up?

TB: I’ve always had a soft spot for Dragonlance, as I read those books when I was but a wee lad. In my mind, green dragons still breathe chlorine gas, and are capable of terrible machinations against secluded groups of elves. With the advent of Baldur’s Gate in my life, I fell in love with the Bhaal story. I really, deeply want to run a D&D campaign that explores the story of those games from an outsider’s perspective… or one where Bhaal comes back again. The thought makes me giddy.

Geek To Me: Are you a tabletop or card gaming kind of geek?

TB: I tend very heavily towards tabletop RPGs. I will definitely play and enjoy card and board games, but my bread-and-butter is RPGs. There’s just something about the collaborative storytelling that lights me up. Unsurprisingly, I usually GM games, or I play glib charismatic characters. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut at the game table.

Geek To Me: Tell me about the one you’ve created?

TB: It’s still a little odd to have someone ask about that, as School Daze is the first game design I’ve ever done, really. School Daze is a story-driven game that’s designed to tell stories in a high school setting. That means the system is really light, and the game focuses a lot on what the players bring to the table. It takes 10 minutes to make a character, so that and someone to run the game, and you’ve got a pick-up experience that is a blast.

Oh yeah, and the high school bit. I know it probably turns a lot of people off to think about revisiting high school. To you, I say these two things: this is an unrealistic game. It’s designed to emulate high school like we see in movies, and on TV, so you’re not bound to relive anything. It’s The Breakfast Club, not your own senior year. Second, if you’re still worried, take this as an opportunity to stop letting your high school years haunt you. This is just a game, and I’m not psychologist, but this might help you move on. Give it a shot.

Geek To Me: How does it differ from games that are already on the market?

TB: It differs in that it’s very free-form. Now, that’s not a unique thing in the indie RPG world (School Daze was heavily influenced by Fiasco, among other things), but in the mainstream world of D&D and Pathfinder, having a character with no real stats whose actions are largely determined by how the story goes (with a little dice rolling thrown in) is different. Every game of School Daze I’ve played or seen, everyone has had a blast. High school is a time that everyone remembers, and it’s not hard to play the stereotypical characters that we grew up with, and saw emulated on TV.

It’s also different because it’s all licensed under a Creative Commons attribution-only license. That means you’ll always be able to get the rules at my website (http://www.sandandsteam.net/schooldaze), and you’ll be able to share the final product, hack it, make a game based on it, or whatever, as long as it’s attributed properly. We, as gamers, hack and adapt the games we play. It’s in our nature. I want people to feel free to do that with my game without any fears of me coming after them for any copyright nonsense.

Geek To Me: Good, chaotic, neutral or what?

TB: The world? Largely neutral, because everything balances out. Me? Chaotic Good, without doubt. I tend towards neutral when I need to focus and get something done, but I like to walk my own path.
My cats? Chaotic neutral, all the way. Pet me! Now I’m gonna puke! Wait? Is that your hand? Attack!

Geek To Me: Is it true that Canadians are funnier than Americans?

TB: Well, yeah! I mean, come on, have you seen Strange Brew? No contest.

Geek To Me: Finally, where can people learn more about your Kickstarter project?

TB: The School Daze Kickstarter is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/170831994/school-daze and we’re on our way to our second stretch goal, which is an expanded setting book for Trowbridge High, Home of the Fighting Kraken. You can also check out my website: http://www.sandandsteam.ne  and follow me onTwitter: http://www.twitter.com/Rolling20s