Tuesday, November 24, 2020


Recently, I’ve been spending my time in quarantine learning all sorts of new things; how to play the ukulele, how to draw (for realz), more close-up card magic (yes, really), and as the title suggests, how to play Dungeons and Dragons.

 Now full disclosure, I already knew how to play Dungeons and Dragons from a player perspective. However, now I was learning how to be a dungeon master.


Quick definition for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term: A dungeon master is the person who designs, writes, and leads a game of Dungeons and Dragons. You can’t play without one, and they can’t be computerized, because a computer could not possibly predict your every choice. Also, that’s called a video game.


Anyway, as I began designing my first D&D quest, my mind drifted to a cappella (of COURSE it did) and what practical applications my D&D knowledge would have for a burgeoning a cappella group, especially a burgeoning a cappella group whose members are most likely in quarantine.


In my opinion, the biggest challenge any a cappella group faces is staying on task and maintaining an active role in their group, especially when their group doesn’t meet in-person anymore or as regularly as they used to. The simplest solution, of course, would be to drop rehearsals altogether and consider this year a wash. But what if you could maintain interest across your group, AND have fun doing it, AND have it relate to Dungeons and Dragons?


Disclaimer: These rules might be a little difficult to understand if you have little-to-no experience will dungeons and dragons. If that’s the case, scroll to the bottom and read the example to better grasp the order of events.


Here’s how it works:


1) Each member of your group gets a character sheet. This sheet is where you can keep track of your character’s skills and experience points, as well as any rewards he or she earns over the course of the year. The director of your group ( or the president, or just the most responsible member) plays the role of Dungeon Master and determines who has earned experience points or rewards.


2) Every character in Dungeons and Dragons is defined by 6 attributes:

Strength- Natural athleticism, bodily power

Dexterity- Physical agility, reflexes, balance, poise

Constitution- Health, stamina, vital force

Intelligence- Mental acuity, information recall, analytical skill

Wisdom- Awareness, intuition, insight

Charisma- Confidence, eloquence, leadership


In our a cappella version of the game, these 6 attributes will represent different areas of expertise:


Strength- Ability to hold your part, how long can you stay focused in rehearsals

Dexterity- How good are you with technology, how well can you move/dance, can you create dances?

Constitution- How much time do you have to devote, are you always on time, do you attend every rehearsal?

Intelligence- sight reading ability, how fast can you learn your part?

Wisdom- how well are your skills behind the scenes (arranging, directing, editing, etc)

Charisma- how much of a team player are you, motivational skills, behavioral management


Each member of your group (character) starts out with a 10 in all 6 attributes. Then, they are given 6 extra attribute points which they can distribute how they see fit. For example, Melvin decides that his best attributes are Strength, because he knows he can hold his part, Wisdom because he’s an arranger, and Constitution because he has a lot of time to devote to the group, on account of his complete lack of friends (not because he’s named Melvin, but because he’s kind of a jerk). He distributes 3 points to strength, 2 to wisdom, and 1 to constitution. His attributes now look like this:


Strength- 13 (+3)

Dexterity- 10

Constitution- 11 (+1)

Intelligence- 10

Wisdom- 12 (+2)

Charisma- 10


Based on the numbers determined, certain bonuses apply to any rolls of the dice. In D&D, these are called modifiers.


If your attribute score is    Your modifier is

10                                      +0

11-12                                 +1

13-14                                 +2

15-16                                 +3

17-18                                 +4

19                                      +5

20 or higher                       +6                              


3) The purpose of the game is to complete skills related to your a cappella group so that you can earn experience points. Experience points can then be used to earn rewards.


To earn experience points, members complete skills as designated by the dungeon master. Accompanying each skill is a list of attributes the skill enhances. For example:


Organize online meeting (Charisma, Wisdom)

In this example, if Melvin organizes the next online meeting, he will earn experience points based on either his charisma attribute score or his wisdom attribute score (he gets to choose).


Skills can be added or subtracted from the example list below- it should be tailored for your specific group.


Create arrangement (Wisdom, Constitution)

Create learning tracks (Dexterity, Intelligence)

Set up MIDI files in notation software (Dexterity, Intelligence)

Organize online meeting (Charisma, Wisdom)

Send out group email (Charisma, Wisdom)

Update the group calendar (Dexterity)

Remain active throughout the rehearsal (Strength)

Choreograph a dance (Strength, Dexterity)

Set up equipment for recording/filming (Wisdom, Dexterity)

Design an instruction manual to help others with technology (Constitution, Charisma)

Learn and memorize your part (Strength, Intelligence)

Help someone else learn and memorize their part (Intelligence, Constitution)

Make a solo recording that stays 90% or more in tune (Strength, Wisdom)

Be on time to 5 rehearsals in a row (Constitution)

Take on an added responsibility (Constitution, Charisma)

Direct a sectional (Strength, Intelligence)

Manage the behavior of a group in rehearsal (Charisma)


Rewards are what members aim to earn, based on the number of experience points they receive. 

As usual, rewards can be added, subtracted, or adjusted from this list. It should be tailored to your specific group.


Choose 1 song for the group to sing next semester- 200 XP

Veto one song choice for the next semester- 300 XP

Miss one rehearsal without penalty- 100 XP

Get a solo- 500 XP

Choose a warm-up exercise- 50 XP

Direct the group for 10 minutes- 75 XP

Choose the location of the afterparty- 200 XP

Choose the next activity as part of your bonding time- 150 XP

Add 1 attribute point- 100 XP


4) Here’s how the game works:


First, the player/member of your group distributes their attribute points.


Next, the player/member of your group completes 1 or more skills. Every time they complete a skill, they earn the right to roll for experience points.


Besides each skill is 1 or 2 attributes that the skill best exemplifies. If there is only one attribute, then the success of the roll will depend on only that attribute’s number. If there is two attributes, then the player can choose which attribute will represent their success.


For this game to work, you will need only one die: a 20-sided die known as a d20. If you don’t have one, never fear, there are thousands of free online websites that can roll d20s for free.


When the skill is complete, the player rolls a d20 to determine how many points they earn. Whatever the number is, they add their attribute modifier and the total is how many points they earn. 


When the player reaches a specific number of experience points that is equal to or greater than a reward they want, they earn that reward.


Okay, that was A LOT of rules. Let me simplify with an example:


Melvin (remember Melvin?) has distributed his 6 attribute points like so:


Strength- 13 (+3)

Dexterity- 10

Constitution- 11 (+1)

Intelligence- 10

Wisdom- 12 (+2)

Charisma- 10


According to the modifier list, if Melvin completes a skill related to the strength attribute, he will get +2 experience points. This means whatever he rolls will add 2, and the total will be the number of experience points he earns. The constitution and wisdom attributes earn him a +1 modifier, and since the rest are 10, Melvin earns no modifiers for those attributes.


In the skills list, Melvin notices that a skill (Learn and memorize your part) has a strength attribute and an intelligence attribute attached. This means that after Melvin completes this skill by learning and memorizing his part, he will earn experience points and use one of the two attributes (strength or intelligence) to help boost that total number. Obviously, since strength is a 13 and intelligence is a 10, Melvin chooses the strength attribute, which gives him a modifier of +2. 


Melvin now rolls a d20 (20-sided die) to determine how many experience points he gets. He rolls a 12. Because he is using his strength attribute modifier, he adds 2 and gets 14. In total, Melvin has earned 14 experience points for having learned and memorized his part.


Because he completed other skills beforehand, Melvin has 200 experience points in total. He chooses to use these points to grant him a reward: “choose the location of the afterparty.” If he wants this reward again, he will have to earn 200 more experience points.


Confused? Email me: docacappella@gmail.com


Happy adventuring!

Marc Silverberg


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