Note: this is a transcribed interview, edited for ease of reading
- About Jamie and Lawrence
- Geeking together
- Coming out as geeks
- Starting TTRPG’s
- Starting D&D with the kids
- Benefits of D&D with the kids
- Tips for introducing TTRPG’s to children
- Closing remarks
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
J: I’m Jamie, I’m one half of the UK podcast, Dad’s & Dragons
L: You’re an ex-RAF soldier
J: I am, I play rugby, and I’m a massive closet geek
L: Absolutely true! My name is Lawrence Marsh. I am Jamie’s biggest fan. I am his pet project, like he nurses me through all of this thing, so I’m the second part of this. Jamie is the primary part of this, and I just do my best to hang on.
I’m the same, I’m a closet geek, and we actually outed ourselves as closet geeks and it’s been amazing ever since. I used to be into warhammer and found my way into D&D through Jamie.
How did you find out each other were into D&D?
L: It’s a very specific story, and we were hit by a thunderbolt together! It was a magical moment.
J: We can do this like D&D – it was a rainy day, we were walking the dogs in the woods
L: Together, holding hands
J: If you look up, you see the drips falling in the trees
L: Nah, we were with our wives and children, and everything is above board
J: Basically, we were walking through the woods, we had dogs with us, and I think did you like… have some Warhammer figures out or something?
L: Yeah, so I had just been getting back into painting my Warhammer stuff, which comes and goes over the years… I get back into it and then realize how bad I am at it and give up again… and I was telling Jamie about this little struggle and he mentioned that he played D&D in Bath back in the day, at university. I was like… yeah… I played a little bit of D&D, and then we just looked at each other.
You know those Discovery Channel moments when the camera just kind of zooms in and everything is heightened? That happened. I got goosebumps, and he got goosebumps, our hands touched
J: It’s the exact scene from Step Brothers, isn’t it? Where Will Farrell and John, they looked at each other and went, “Did we just become best friends?”
L: There was so much more room for activities
J: We now have bunk beds
L: And that is exactly how that happened
J: To be fair, I mean, it was that whole lightbulb moment of – you used to paint? I used to paint as well! I used to do this, and you used to do this
L: And then our wives were just in the way
J: haha, yeah, and I think we lost the dogs because we forgot about them
How was it coming out as closet geeks?
J: It is just so nice to come out, isn’t it?
L: I have to admit, I’m not “out-out”.
J: You’re not locally out, are you?
L: I’m not locally out. I work in the construction industry, and it’s fairly testosterone and masculine and nobody shows weakness… that kind of industry, so I haven’t actually come “out-out”. I’m just on the internet “out”. So, you can’t broadcast any of this in the SA68 area.
J: Me, I’m full out
L: Jamie’s full out
J: I am singing proud
When did you start playing TTRPG’s?
J: I must have been about 13 or 14, and I was massively into football and rugby. I played for all my local teams, and I was very sport-orientated. I went around to my cousin’s house – we got along really well, but he was more of a geek than I was – and he was painting these Warcraft figures. I was like, “That’s really cool”, and he said, “oh, do you want to have a go?”
Instantly hooked. I remember that Christmas, any money that any relative gave me, I pumped it into Games Workshop, and I loved it. I never knew you could game it, I just thought they were these cool little figures. One of my friends that I was really close with – we used to go surfing, we used to play football together – I went around his house unannounced, so he didn’t have time to hide his stuff. I was like, “oh my god, I’ve got these!” and he was like, “do you fancy a game”? I was like… game?
When I discovered D&D I was in college. I got in on a rugby scholarship, so there’s me in my tracksuit, and I went up to the TTRPG table and wanted to join. They all thought it was a joke, but I was like, “no, I want to play Warhammer”
L: It’s like a jock coming in!
J: They said they play D&D more. Whatever, I’ll play it! So, that was what… 19? That was about the time I got into it.
L: For me, I used to spend extended amounts of time at my grandparent’s house in Cardiff. I’d go there for 2-3 weeks at a time. My grandparents were Christians, so they would go to Christian days, and I’d have to go to the church all day. One day there was a book sale, and I found the complete rulebook to Warhammer, but it was like the old thick edition. They’re worth about 80 quid now, and I bought it for 50p!
I didn’t even know what it was. I just like the picture on the front, which was a goblin with an arrow through its neck, and I was like YES! YES!!
J: You found that at church?!
L: Yeah! I was like… that doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen before, so I haggled this guy down from 75p to 50p. Then, my cousin, Andrew, he was like, “I really want that book”, so then I wasn’t going to give it to him. I wanted it because he wanted it more, and it just kind of egged me on. So, I spent the rest of the summer reading this book, and I just got into it. My cousin got into it as well, and he had a lot more access to Games Workshop because he was in Cardiff… there wasn’t even one in Swansea, was there?
J: no, no
L: and Swansea was 50 miles from us, and Cardiff was a 100 miles away. There was never any time to get there, so the next time I bumped into him… he knew all the rules. But that was where I picked it up, and it was amazing.
How did you start playing D&D with your kids?
J: I think it was an excuse for you to buy the kit, wasn’t it?
L: Yeah, so we had this moment in the woods together, and I went home and bought the starter set, and it was brilliant. Initially, we started playing as a whole party because I was not out. I was like the… the girls are going to think I’m sad. I mean, we’re both punching above our weight and we don’t need to give them any more excuses to leave us. So, we went around as a group… Kate tried befriending a wolf. Your missus wasn’t having any of it, was she?
L: And then the kids were playing with it. We had a Saturday night together, and even looking back at it now, it was a rubbish game, but it was still amazing.
J: We were thumbing through and trying to find stuff… I think the last time I played before that was back in college when it was 3.5 edition. I had missed a whole edition. I had missed so much. We kind of knew some.
L: We were also making the rules up somewhat in the interest of moving it along.
J: We were forever looking… which one’s the 20… and it slowed the game down a bit, but the kids were instantly hooked. They were hooked like that.
L: Callum wasn’t
J: your youngest
L: doesn’t like it, won’t have anything to do with it
J: but the other three love it
L: absolutely love it. Ameilia, Yestin, and Reese – he was more of a slow burner, but now he’s probably the biggest fan.
J: He adores the books and actually has the Young Adventurers books now. Hero Kids – he is insane on it. He loves playing it, and he is actually a really good DM. For a nine year old, he is actually savage.
To be fair, you’ve probably heard our Christmas edition and our Easter sessions – I wasn’t going to kill the kids on the special. They are wildly overpowered – we’ve done that with a lot of the earlier quests too. We want them to have their character and grow their backstory.
Then Yestin will turn around and ask, “Can I DM this weekend?”. And we can’t even get past a second encounter!
L: Just desperate to kill us.
J: He cannot wait to hang us out to dry, but it is lovely to see that they want to do that side of it as well.
What benefits have you seen by playing D&D with your family?
L: It is amazing, particularly with Reese, I would say. Yestin (Jamie’s eldest boy), he doesn’t need any help with his books and studies and math – he is… we call him the rain man.
Reese is from a different mold and has a different process.
J: He’s very creative, isn’t he?
L: Yeah, he is very creative.
J: He does it where he doesn’t need the whole thing written out on monster cards. He will just say, “Dad, do you want to play?” and I’ll say, “yeah, have you prepared?”, and he’s like, “nah, just got something in my head”.
He literally just sits down and will go, right… you’re at training camp…
And he’ll make me fight hologram monsters because I’m training. He doesn’t worry about AC or HP. I go to make an attack, he tells me if it hits and puts his hands up like… they’ve got that much left. It’s all in his head, but it doesn’t matter because we just roll dice for an hour and we had fun.
Steph: That’s a great bonding experience
L: it definitely has been that for us a lot, the bonding
J: oh god, yeah. The bonding is brilliant. The imagination of the story. We’ve never completed an arc. We’ve done bits of arcs or we’ve found something online, and they’re just running with it. It doesn’t have to make sense. We do a bit of this quest, a bit of that, but their imagination and backstories for their characters have been amazing to see.
I did a one shot for Yestin and Amelia, the two eldest, and I killed their characters. That was the story though, they were in a mindflayer’s world… and their characters died. Amelia was like… what just happened. Yestin was like whoa… hang on a minute.
I was going to go, “anyone want a drink or anything?”… but I thought… oh no. I’ve done something here. I remember just going, “you both wake up in a room!”.
She was so happy and so sad, she burst out crying, and I thought… I’m never going to babysit again.
L: Yeah, I’m coming to pick her up in a half an hour, and she’s in bits!
J: But then she was so happy! She’s so into her character, she’s got pictures of her character now that she’s drawn.
L: She’s invested with her
J: She’s got a book she fills in and loves and loves and loves her character. Not interested in anything else, is she?
L: No, not interested. She doesn’t want to swap characters. She doesn’t want to try other things. She knows what she knows – this is what she wants to play. Akira’s her character, and that’s the end of it. There’s no if’s and but’s.
There’s another side to it too. Sherilyn is only jokingly against D&D. She loves to rag on it because it’s funny, but she’s also spotted the benefit it has for the kids. Mathematically, literacy wise…
J: She works at the school, and has said, “How can I introduce this into school?”, so we’ve had that conversation with her a few times, haven’t we?
L: So, that’s the other good thing as well. It’s not only good for bonding but education-wise. It forces them to read. It’s what brought my reading on. I was terribly behind in school until I found that book. It was a very obvious turning point in my life because nothing I had read before interested me. I’ve got a reason to read because I wanted to read this.
Do you have any tips for parents, teachers, or caregivers who want to introduce TTRPG’s to kids?
J: There’s two ways you can go. You can read the book, read the rules, and that’s the rules… but I think you’ll lose players if you do that, especially young kids. What me and Lawrence did was, until about level three, we didn’t have things like disengagement. If they’re next to something and HP is low, I’ll let them move away. Later on, we introduced it. Now, whatever level they are, that’s a rule. Introducing that rule at level one, it’s just another thing to complicate the situation.
L: It gets over complicated. We couldn’t sell the product if we were like, “no… can’t do that… can’t do that”
J: I think if I’ve got any tips for anyone going to play with kids, make it player heavy. Make it their story. It doesn’t matter if they win all the time.
L: Overpower them
J: Yeah, don’t be that rules lawyer. Even with adults.. I’ve been around the table like, “He said NO again…”
L: We are not believers in the restrictive game. The game is a tool to have fun, for us. To live totally within the confines of the rules does not work for us; that’s not how we play. The end game is to have as much fun as possible.
J: No ammo, no spell components, they can just go out the window because you don’t need all that stuff.
What we have introduced though is one of our house rules – if I’m DM’ing and you’ve made me laugh with a persuasion check, I don’t even roll. You pass or we do it at an advantage. Be quite givey with advantage because it helps bring them out.
I mean, god bless Yestin. He’s got an arsenal that’s wild, and he loves to drop kick things.
L: and Jamie will go, “that’s an unarmed attack, Yestin?” And he’ll go, “YEP!”
J: But it doesn’t matter. That’s part of his character.
Any closing words?
L: I would first of all like to thank you for letting us on! I love being interviewed, it makes me feel really important.
J: It’s been really nice, it’s different because we’re normally the ones interviewing and taking notes. It’s nice to say what we’ve done, and, thinking, we’ve actually done quite a bit.
L: It’s only when you look back do you realize how much you’ve done. I was listening back, and I was like… wow, I forgot about that… and that… and that.
I’ve got to pat Jamie on the back; it wouldn’t happen without him. He’s the driving force behind this podcast.
J: Oh, stop it Lawrence. You’re the looks and I’m the brains.
J: Got to give a shoutout to the Nomads. Steph’s a Nomad!
L: That’s been really successful hasn’t it, the Nomads?
J: And it’s very much like the way we play with the kids. It’s easy, we turn up, it’s one shots. We mess about and I love it.
And obviously we’ve got to shout out our stuff. We’ve got podcasts on itunes and spotify and all the others. We’re on twitter, discord. You can check our linktree.
Thank you for the interview!