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Interview with Martin from the Daddy Rolled a 1 blog!

I’ve known Martin as DaddyRolleda1 on twitter for over a year now, and we’ve had chats about playing TTRPG’s with kids from the start – he was one of my inspirations for starting the TTRPGkids blog, and it was an awesome opportunity to get to sit down and chat about his experiences with table top role playing games, working with Wizards of the Coast, and introducing his daughter and her friends to D&D.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Martin, also known as Daddy Rolled a 1 on twitter.  I actually work in advertising, which is somewhat responsible for me getting back into role playing games more regularly.  

I do play a variety of different role playing games and board games, and go to the comic book store almost every week to buy physical, actual, comics.  That was also something that I did with my daughter every week – after her ballet lesson, I would take her by, and she became the store mascot for about 10 years.  Lately, she’s gotten a little older and doesn’t go as much anymore. 

This presences is specifically for my blog, Daddy Rolled a 1, which is to talk about some of the things that I like from my geeky hobbies growing up and me sharing them with my daughter.  When I started the blog, my daughter was about 2, so it covers [comics and TTRPG’s] and the first time I read The Hobbit to her.

I also have a few other hobbies; I’m into vinyl records and craft cocktails.  I do have a few different twitter presences that are a bit compartmentalized.    I made a separate twitter for that because I thought the overlap might be confusing if one day I’m talking about D&D and the next I’m talking about how to make a cocktail.

In terms of professional life, I own a boutique ad agency that I started about 13 years ago while my wife was pregnant with our daughter, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  I work from home, and I hire contractors all over the world.  It’s been cool; we all work from home, we don’t have offices.  It also allows me to do things like volunteer at my daughter’s school because I can make my own schedule, which is something you can’t do in the corporate world.  I was the room parent while she was in elementary school, and it allowed me to have that involvement.  I took on those responsibilities while my wife managed her commute, and I’m super glad I was able to do that. 

Can you tell us about some of your tabletop RPG journey?

I started playing in 1981, so 40 years.  I celebrated 40 years of playing last year.  And I started with – this is the set [showing original set], which is what I always show on twitter with the box and rule book inside and everything.  These are my first set of dice, which they didn’t have the percentile dice so you’d add the d10’s.  So, I started with all that.

I was in 6th grade, and I had just moved to a new state.  I kind of met these kids; they had approached me because they saw I was reading books about Camelot and King Arthur and mythology, so they thought I might be interested in this game.  They asked if I had read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  I had read The Hobbit, I was starting to read Lord of the Rings, and they sold the game to me as you’re basically playing Lord of the Rings, but you’re one of the characters… which is awesome.  Then it sort of went from there with Basic!  I even still have my original character sheet from my first character… because I don’t throw anything away.  

We quickly switched to First Edition, which at the time, was just called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which was completely separate from the Basic game.  Back then, almost no one understood that they were two separate games because with Basic and Advanced, you’d think that Basic was to teach you the basics and then you’d move on, but they were actually two completely different games by two different divisions in the company.  The rules were actually different.  We just took the bits and pieces from advanced that we liked and kept using the rules from Basic.  

I played that all the way up through 9th or 10th grade, and then we moved again to CA.  I thought that this is maybe my opportunity to reinvent myself and not be the dorky nerdy kid.  That lasted about two days, and then I met my people.  All of them had played D&D or some role playing game, but none of them were playing currently, so we would just talk about role playing games but weren’t actually playing. 

Around senior year in high school, so 1987/1988, a friend and I started making up this campaign world, and that ended up being the world that’s my 20 year campaign.  I started making that when I was still in high school.  I also started playing a little Warhammer because that’s what most of my group started playing.  

In college, I stopped playing all together.  No one in my dorm hall was playing, but I was still reading Dragon magazine and buying all the books and reading them, but I wasn’t playing.  That lasted all the way to about 2001. 

You also worked with Wizards of the Coast for a bit too?

Then, I was working at an ad agency who was handling the Hasbro account.  This was during that weird time where Wizards of the Coast (WotC) had just saved TSR from bankruptcy (TSR was the original company that started Dungeons and Dragons).  WotC had just bought them, and they had the Pokemon trading card game.  You just couldn’t get away from it; it was everywhere.  Hasbro moved in to acquire WotC to obtain the Pokemon license, but that burned out, so they wanted to diversify.  That’s when the new edition of D&D, which is known as 3rd Edition, came out. 

Hasbro, having bought WotC, wanted the LA office to handle the advertising because we were in the same time zone.  I went into my boss and brought in my D&D books and my Magic the Gathering cards and my Dragon Magazines still in the shrink wrap from the mail to prove I didn’t just buy all this at the store.  I told my boss, “I play these games! You’ve got to let me handle this account.”

She had heard nothing of these games, never heard of it, but she very quickly figured out that I was able to talk in this world.  The staff from WotC came down to the office, and I had decorated the conference room with all of my personal collection of Magic cards and D&D stuff.  They were amazed – I was the first person they had ever met in advertising who knew what all this stuff was.  

Because of that, they sent me all the core books for 3rd Edition plus the Star Wars D20 system game since I was a fan.  When my team saw them, they wanted me to run a game for them because they didn’t understand what it was, and that’s what predicated me to start that campaign that is my 20 year long campaign.  It started because I worked on the advertising for that.  

You run D&D for your daughter and her friends, correct?

As soon as we had our daughter, you start thinking about all these things that you like or liked as a kid, and I remembered all the things that my mom would do for me, and just wanted to keep that going.  In the back of my head, I was always thinking about when I was going to introduce her to Star Wars for the first time, what about Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, then comics and role-playing games.  

The role-playing games… I got started a little later than I would have liked it to have.  Eventually we kicked it into gear.  I talked to my daughter when she was probably in 4th grade and she had seen me play with friends before.  I asked if she was interested, and she said yes, so I had her make a list of the friends that she would want to play with.  Then I delayed because I wanted it to be perfect.  

What really kicked it off though was the pandemic.  She was going stir crazy; she’s an only child and wasn’t seeing any of her friends, and we had one friend couple who also had an only child who was in our bubble, so we’d let them have limited interaction, but that was it.  We finally decided to start this because it would give the kids something to do and look forward to versus zoom school every day. 

I had them start with the game that I played when I was a kid, which is that boxed set from earlier.  This game is much more stripped down – it doesn’t have feats or skills or class-based and level based powers.  You get everything at first level.  That’s not a downside because they don’t have any context to think that it’s weird. So, I just decided to play that one.  I’m using Old School Essentials, which is just a newer version of that boxed set so I don’t have to bring it out and get soda spilled on it or something. 

We just played our 13th session a few weeks ago – we only play once per month and take off the holidays.  Once a month is about right.  If I had my preference, we’d play more often, but kids have volleyball tournaments and parents are going on vacation and stuff.  Rather than twice a month and keep canceling, we just do 1/month.  Now, everyone is vaxxed and boosted, and we trust each other enough to not go into situations that will get each other sick, so we will actually meet in person.  The girls and one dad play the game and afterwards, all the parents come and we do a potluck dinner.  It’s sort of like that’s our social time. 

How has playing D&D helped your daughter and her friends?

It was a huge change in  my daughter’s emotional well-being when we started doing it.  It gives them something to look forward to.

The parents also sometimes use it as a carrot to go to D&D after finishing chores or homework, but through the whole week they’re excited to play D&D this weekend.  What they’re really excited about is getting to play with their friends, and I understand that, but the catalyst is to have a regularly scheduled game. 

If we said it was just a 1/month playdate, I think people would blow it off or maybe only part of the group would come, and I don’t like doing that.  I don’t play unless everyone is there because I want all the girls to have time to be together.  None of these kids except the sisters go to the same school, so they wouldn’t see each other otherwise.  This is their time to hang out. 

Steph: I also love how you have the kids write out the summaries too – that’s a really good creative writing exercise. 

That really came because it was a lot of work for me to write the recap, but I thought it might also be fun for them.  I think sometimes they get stressed about it, but at the end of the day, they also enjoy it. 

Steph: This is also some awesome bonding and development of those friendships.

It’s been interesting because when we started this, my daughter was barely 11 and is now 12.5.  Even within their group and not seeing each other all that much, there’s still some tension sometimes. 

You can see it on their face or who they’re sitting next to.  I don’t push it, of course, but, just like in my 20 year campaign, you see people that much, you’re going to have disagreements with people.  However, you get over it and are still friends.  I’m hoping that is what this nurtures with the girls is that maybe you don’t always get along, but at the end of the day, you’re still friends and you get past it. 

What advice do you have for people who are looking to start playing with their kids or new players to tabletop RPGs? 

Don’t push it on your kid; you can tell if they’re interested.  Talk to your kid and make sure that they’re comfortable with who is going to be playing.  I would never force my daughter to play with someone from her school that she didn’t know just because they wanted to play.  If she wants to invite them, that’s fine, but this is an opportunity for my daughter to have social time, so who does she want to play with? 

For the system, I don’t really think the system matters.  I know a lot of people feel like they’re too young for one or the other, but I started when I was 11.  It was basic, but it was what was available.  Advanced was as complicated and the writing is atrocious because it’s not organized, but we figured it out.  5e is not like that – it is very specific so that anyone can play it from reading the rules.  If you want to play 5e, then play 5e!  If you want to do other TTRPG’s, I know you have a bunch of stuff on your blog, I really think it’s more about the idea of playing than it is the system involved. 

With regards to starting, have your kid ask the kids that they want to play, and then, I think it’s appropriate to approach the parents.  If you’re going to be asking kids to invest an amount of time on a regular basis, and the expectation is that they should be there on your schedule, the parents need to understand and buy in. 

There’s also plenty of resources online in case parents don’t know what a roleplaying game is.  I had a bunch of parents in my group that either had negative perceptions of it or didn’t know anything about it, so I wrote them an email and told them some of the benefits of playing: confidence, public speaking, decision-making, creativity, etc.  I just kind of hit the highlights with them so they would understand. 

For bringing new players into the group, I would take your kid’s lead.  One of the girls in my group wrote to me separately from everyone else asking if she could invite her friend to play.  My daughter and I both knew who she was, but my daughter hadn’t listed her among the people she wanted to play with.  So, I asked her about it.  My daughter didn’t want her not to play, but we came to the conclusion that we had enough players already, and we were having trouble scheduling games with who we already had.  Maybe we could think about it in the future. 

It probably would have been fine, everyone likes this person, but my daughter had her core group, and there’s that friend politics about paying more attention to one or the other, and we just didn’t want that.  Just take the lead of your kids.  Make them involved in the decisions, and they’re going to come up with a solution that’s going to work for them.

Thank you Martin for the interview!  It was great chatting with you!

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Check out Martin’s blog for more awesome stories here!  And follow Martin on twitter for great stories, chats about running TTRPG’s, and tons of awesome geeky discussions. Martin and I also did a set of collaboration articles where we talk about playing tabletop RPGs with different age groups, which you can find here!

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