Posts Tagged ‘Activity’

(This is part 2 of an article about the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 and the role playing game of Dungeons and Dragons.)

To many of the Boy Scouts who have played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in my fictional world of Tenne the countries of Givemea, Acirema, and Minta are almost as real as Brazil, Germany, and Egypt. They know the cities of Givemea, Pleasantville, and Dogrum almost as well as Sauk Centre, St. Cloud, or Duluth. Games have been played in the forest, the desert, the plains, and the mountains.

When a new player begins playing I will usually start him out with a human character. Once he has joined in several games and learned the basics of the game he may chose to create another character of a different race. Elves and half-elves have been the most popular, but there have been dwarves, halflings, and gnomes. There have even been a couple half-orcs. My world is based on the first edition books so there are probably fewer races available to players then the current fourth edition books.

One feature of Dungeons and Dragons that I like as both a gamemaster and a scoutmaster is that the boys usually have to work together as a team to accomplish the game’s objective. They have to help each other battle the monsters. They have to brainstorm ideas to solve the riddles and traps. They need to protect each other through many situations.

Sometimes I like to add a special theme to a game to see how the boys will react in different circumstances. Some of those topics have included racism, chauvinism, homeless children, and slavery. It has been interesting to see how they handle these topics.

It has been fun to watch the development of villains in my world. Most of them only last for one game, but two villains have become legendary. Brutus, the human, and Gary, the green dragon, are villains that were designed to be in only one game but somehow became bigger, badder, and more villainous. Each became so powerful through various games that each were around for nearly a year’s worth of games before they were finally defeated.

Several of the boys have taken the time to write stories based on their character’s adventures. Those stories have been posted to a subsection of our troop’s website and to a special forum that has recently been created so the boys can post the stories themselves. The stories can be found HERE (site) or HERE (forum). Take a moment to read them. The boys have written them from their characters point of view.

I was nineteen when I was introduced to a roll playing game called Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). A couple of my high school friends and I would get together on weekend when we were home from college and play a game at Chuck’s house. He had been introduced to the game by his college friends and he was eager to introduce this world of fantasy role play to Neil and me. We had a great time hanging out with each other during those games.

After I became an adult leader of Boy Scout Troop 68 I wondered if the Scouts would be interested in playing D&D. I talked to a few of them and they thought it sounded like fun, so I learned how to be a dungeon master (game master) and began to create dungeons and a world they could explore.

I will never forget the first game I hosted. Two of the Boy Scouts played. We created their characters and began the game, which only lasted for fifteen minutes before those characters were killed by monsters. I learned a lot about being a game master during that short time. I had managed the game by the rule books. I needed to use the books more as guidelines and fit them to the gameplay. Once I began doing that the games lasted longer and they were more fun. More boys wanted to get in on the action. Nearly 100 boys have played in my world during the last thirty years.

The realm of Tenne, the world of my D&D games, has grown to have quite a history. While many games are the simple explore the dungeon variety, there have been quite a few quests and other types of adventures. Villains have come and gone, giants fought, and dragons killed. There have even been wars between countries and gods. Some of the player’s characters have become legendary. Some of the games have become a part of the lore of Tenne, passed down from one group of players to the next.

To this day I am still amazed at how the boys, and sometimes myself, can get caught up in the game. They become very attached to their characters. They can recall events from past games that I have completely forgotten. When the guys who played in the 1980’s get together, they talk about their games with such clarity that it almost seems like it was a Scout camping trip they attended. Many of them still have their character sheets just in case they get the call to play again when they come back to town.

Most of the D&D games I host begin at 6:30 in the evening and end near midnight. Of course, there have been shorter games and some that last quite long. The longest game was a twelve hour marathon. We all got so caught up in the adventure that no one was watching the time.

Sometimes I have to remind the Boy Scouts that D&D is not a part of the Scouting program, but I have been known to use the promise of a game as incentive to get the patrol or troop to earn advancement or complete a project well. There have been many times while sitting around a campfire that the boys have discussed past games and strategies for future games.

(…to be continued.)

There has been a message that has been going around the internet for a few years already. Last week it appears as a column in the local newspaper. You may have already seen this, but I wanted to post it anyway because I grow up during this time period and can relate to it. I have seen it titled “The Things We Survived”. I do not know who originally wrote it but I congratulate them on capturing the spirit of the times.

To all the kids (and Scouters) who survived the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads. As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes. Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight.

Why? Because we were always outside playing, that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. — And, we were okay.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

We had friends, and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and – although we were told it would happen – we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors ever. The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If you are one of those born between 1925-1970, congratulations!

So, are you a survivor?

After supper on Saturday, the Order of the Arrow set up several “carnival” style activities to keep the Scouts busy until the evening’s Call Out ceremony was scheduled to begin. Stations included activities like throwing a ball to knock down the stacked blocks, throwing a football through a hoop, and throwing darts at balloons. Candy prizes were given to Scouts who were successful. There was even a softball game and an Ultimate frisbee game being played.

The four Boy Scouts from Troop 68 were having fun going from one station to the next. Just before the stations were closed down for the evening we walked by a station which caught the boys attention. Two Scouts would stand on a 2×4 piece of lumber and then try to push or pull the other Scout off balance. The first to step off the 2×4 and place his foot on the ground lost the game. The winner stayed on the board to accept a new challenger.

A female troop leader had been playing the game with the boys and had won several contests. She was a larger woman and did have weight on her side, but the boys only saw that as a greater challenge. One of my 14 year old Scouts decided to get in line to give it his best shot.

When it came time to face her on the board he seemed to have a few second thoughts. How was he going to get her off the 2×4 when so many before him had failed? He finally decided to charge her with his shoulder down, hoping that brute force would knock her off. She caught him in a near bear hug and threw him off to the side. He laid there for a moment, accepted her hand to help him up, smiled, and then cracked a joke as he rejoined his buddies. We walked back to the barracks to get ready for the Order of the Arrow call out.

As we were changing into our uniforms this Scout went off to the bathroom. When he returned, he told me that he was not feeling well, had just thrown up, and had a bad headache. I told him to lay down for awhile and asked my assistant scoutmaster to sit with him while I took the other three boys to the OA call out. On the way to the call out I met the same woman who had challenged the Scout on the 2×4. She happened to be walking with the camp nurse so I asked them if they would go up to our bay and check the Scout who was not feeling well.

When the three boys and I arrived back to our bay after the ceremony we discovered that a few council people and the nurse were hovering near the bed of the ill Scout. The nurse said that the Scout had a concussion. The council staff had already phoned his mother and they all thought that we should take him to a nearby hospital in Little Falls to have him checked out. When the Scout tried to sit up to go to the car he got very dizzy and his head pain increased. His vision was blurred. He immediately laid back down. Oh no, did he have a neck injury also? We decided that it was time to call for an ambulance, just in case it was worse then we thought.

As a scoutmaster you never like to see anyone get hurt although you know the small chance of it happening is always there. You hope that there will never be anything more then a skinned knee or a little bruise. When something like this happens you think about the worst, but are hoping for the best. I tell you, it is almost like being a parent.

To make a long story short, I rode along in the ambulance to the hospital so that he had someone with him that he knew. The hospital staff asked him a lot of questions, attached five electrodes to his chest to check his vital signs, did a cat-scan of his head, and sent the scan to a hospital in Australia. After an hour in the emergency room they determined that he did indeed have a concussion, but nothing more. He uncle, who had met us at the hospital, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Since the Scout was feeling a little better they released him to his uncle’s care with instructions on what to watch for over the next day or two. I went back to Camp Ripley with another Scouter who had followed the ambulance to the hospital.

The council staff, the first aid and venture staff, the paramedics, and the hospital staff all did a great job. Everyone stayed calm and professional. But it was a bit of excitement that none of us really needed, especially the Scout himself.

By the way, I visited with the Scout and his mother Sunday evening when I dropped off his gear from the weekend. He still had a bit of a headache and a little tunnel vision, but he was doing much better and seemed to be almost back to his usual self. His mother was going to take him to her doctor on Monday to make sure everything was going well.

Saturday morning at the Central Minnesota Council’s Ripley Rendezvous started out well. The Boy Scouts awoke, got dressed, and made it to the dining hall a little early for a great breakfast of french toast, scrambled eggs, and sausage links. Even the weather was cooperating. The forecast had been for a wet cool day but the sun was shining through partly cloudy skies.

The day quickly soured for the Scouts of Troop 68 when we discovered the program schedule had changed. Our Scouts, who were all 14 years old and older, had registered for the Outdoors Experience program which was to introduce them to the various high adventure bases and have them participate in team building exercises. It sounded like it would have been a good program, but it did not happen. The people in charge of the Outdoors Experience had backed out of the activity too late for a new program to be planned in its place.

So our boys were placed into the First Class Adventure program, designed for 11 and 12 year old Scouts who were working on their Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Ranks. This was a big mistake. Within 45 minutes my Scouts were so bored they decided to head back to the barracks. I now had four teenage boys on a military base with nothing to do. Not a good situation. I needed to get them in a program fast or we may as well load up the gear and head home.

I walked to the event’s headquarters and just happened to catch most of the event’s leadership in the office. I calmly explained my troop’s situation, that the boys and I were pretty disappointed, and that we were thinking about going home. They understood the problem, made a quick phone call, and were able to get the boys transferred to the range program if I was able to drive the boys to the site which was a few miles away from the barracks area. I agreed, went back to the barracks to talk to the boys, and soon found myself driving the Scouts to their new activity. The boys spent the rest of the morning rotating between the archery, rifle, shotgun, and black powder stations. The rain stayed away. The sun kept shining. The boys had a good time.

We returned to the barracks with two hours of free time before supper would be served so we decided to visit the Camp Ripley Military Museum. This became a highlight of the weekend as the boys looked at the uniforms and weapons used by the National Guardsmen over the generations through the wars. They were also able to climb onto many of the tanks and military vehicles that were on display outside of the museum.

A potentially bad day had turned out well. Unfortunately, the day was not yet over, and the worse was yet to come…
(To be continued.)

This year’s Central Minnesota Ripley Rendezvous proved to be challenging for me as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 68. It almost felt like Murphy’s Law was trying to prove to me that it still applies even after nearly three decades of being with the troop.

The troop originally had five Boy Scouts and three adults registered for the annual event. Four days before the outing I received a phone call from the father who had planned to attend. Due to a family matter that came up he had to back out. My assistant scoutmaster and I still were still going so we were still covered in the two deep leadership department.

A few days before the event I got a phone call from the oldest Scout of the troop telling me he would not be attending. A Scout who did not register in time but wanted to attend filled in this spot after a few calls were made. Then, a few hours before we were to leave, I received a call from a mother who explained that her son had been sick for the last two days and would not be able to attend the outing. That brought our total to two adults and four Boy Scouts.

Another small snag occurred as we gathered to leave on Friday night. When one of the Scouts discovered his buddy was sick and not going along he suddenly decided he was not going to Ripley either. His mother said he was going. He said he was not. But after I had a short talk with him he decided to go along. (He ended up having a good time.)

Checking in at Camp Ripley was quick and painless. The council had send out an email with information so we already knew which building in which we would be staying. It was a simple matter of checking in with the barracks supervisor. Each of the barracks had eight bays, four on the main floor and four on the second floor, each with 23 cots. We were assigned to Bay 6 which was located on the second floor. We would be sharing the bay with two other troops.

The evening program went pretty well. Lights-out was scheduled for 11:00. The third troop in our bay had arrived late in the evening and were not quite ready when the time came for lights out. At 11:15 I announced to the bay that the lights would be going off in five minutes. All the Scouts were ready by then, but the other troop’s adults needed another minute. Finally, it was time to sleep.

Well, maybe not. The boys in the next bay were still yelling at each other and creating a lot of noise. After five minutes of listening to this I got out of bed, walked to the next bay (which had the lights out), and announced to the boys that a Scout is courteous and that they should be in bed and quiet so that everyone could get some sleep. I walked back to my bay and crawled into my sleeping bag. In five minutes there was nothing but silence from both of the bays.

As I laid on my cot I thought to myself, “Why didn’t the adult leadership in the other bay take responsibility to keep their boys quiet?” I should not have had to tell their boys to go to sleep. I felt like the grumpy old scoutmaster that I never had wanted to be. Oh well, it was quiet now. Time to get some sleep for the next day.

Little did I know what surprises were in store for me the next day…
(To be continued)

cwazyrabbit1The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 have had an interesting connection with rabbits during the last three years. In fact, I think rabbits could become the troop mascot if things continue…

It began late in the winter of 2004. The troop attended the council’s annual Ripley Rendezvous which takes place at Camp Ripley in Minnesota. Five Scouts from the troop attended. Two of them were newly graduated Webelos Scouts, two were boys who had not yet reached Second Class, and one was an experienced Scout.

The program at Ripley is based on patrol competition. Each of the twenty-some stations would test the patrols on their Scout knowledge, teamwork, and patrol spirit. The top three patrols of each of the four districts, along with the top three patrols overall, are recognized for their achievement at the Saturday evening program.

This year the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 were actually from three different patrols so they formed a new patrol for the outing and called themselves the Cwazy Wabbit Patrol. The came up with a pretty good patrol call before they left for the stations Saturday morning.

I knew this was a very inexperienced patrol so I made a deal with them Friday night. If they would take a spot in the top three patrols on Saturday night then I would buy the pizza on the way home Sunday morning. I thought I had made a pretty safe deal. I was sure there would be no way this patrol would take first, second, or third place.

It is amazing what boys will do to make their scoutmaster buy pizza.

When the Saturday night program began I was not very worried. Yes, the boys had done well at the stations during the day, and most of the station captains were impressed with the patrol’s call and spirit, but there were a lot of patrols at this year’s event.

It was time in the program to announce the winners. I am sure my jaw dropped when the Cwazy Wabbit Patrol of Troop 68 took first place for the Scenic District. The boys were very excited and were grinning from ear to ear as they went to the stage to accept their ribbon. I have a vague memory of someone saying how good the pizza would taste on the way home as they left me to approach the stage, or maybe I just imagined that.

The second shock came when the Cwazy Wabbits were called on again to come to the stage to accept the ribbon for second place overall. I knew then that it would be a long time before I would hear the end of this from the Scouts. But my smile was just as big as theirs was as the received their honors. They had made me proud. The boys’ faces were smiling the whole time they ate their pizza on the way home Sunday morning.

The spirit of the Cwazy Wabbit had made his first contact with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 from Melrose.
(to be continued…)

eggdrop2006Boy Scout Troop 68, the troop I have been with for over 25 years, has a camp site on some private land about 10 miles north of town that we go to every spring, usually in May, many times over the Memorial Day Weekend. We call it Camp Watchamagumee. It is a camp site that the troop members have made over the years with the permission of the owners of the land. Every year the boys pour a little more sweat into the site to make it a little better then the year before. There is no running water, no plumbing facilities, no electricity, and none of the comforts of home.

It is the boys’ favorite place to go camping.

It is a site where the boys can go and just be boys, just be Scouts. We need to bring everything in with us, including water, but no one seems to mind. The view over the beaver pond is beautiful, and there are plenty of trees and brush to help cut down on the stronger winds that could be a nuisance. (You can see pictures of it on our website at

Some day I may have to write about how this campsite was developed, but not today. Today I write about what has become a grand tradition at Camp Watchamagumee – The Great Egg Drop Competition!

The egg drop competition began many years ago as an activity for Saturday afternoon. The boys form two or three member teams. Each team is given one raw egg, although there was once or twice when we gave them two eggs. No hard boiled eggs are allowed. Each team must “package” the egg using only materials found in nature around the camping area of Watchamagumee. No man-made materials are allowed. The packages must be made so the egg can be easily removed for inspection after each drop.

At the end of the “packaging” period, the boys bring their packaged eggs to the drop zone. Then the dropping begins. The first round of dropping begins at waist level. After the drop, each team must open the package and display the egg. If the egg survived the drop the team proceeds to the next round. Teams are not allowed to add to the packaging, or modify the package, once the competition has begun. The next drop is from shoulder high, and each round of dropping gets higher until finally one team emerges as victorious.

It has been very interesting to see how the teams package their eggs over the years. They will use leaves, sticks, birch bark, long grasses, and mud. They can be quite ingenious. Some packages look like they would win the competition, only to loose in the second round. Others look like they could not possibly make it through the first round, only to make it all the way to the final rounds.

And boy, do they make them strong! There have been times when I stood on the floor of a lashed tower, ten feet above ground, throwing the packages onto a jagged tree stump below me, trying my best to break those eggs. Being a scoutmaster can be so rough at times.

The best part is that we never know who will win. Sometimes the oldest, most experienced Scouts will take the prize. But then, the next year, the newest and youngest Scouts who have never competed before will take home the title.

It will be interesting to see who wins this weekend. Hmmmm…the signal tower is down. Anyone know where I can borrow a twelve foot step ladder?