Being a Nerd in Prison

In prison, I have been lucky in being able to find nerds to play table top games with (like Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer 40k, DnD and Pathfinder). Of course, being in prison there are certain adaptations we have to make.

A game of Warhammer lasts longer than than a single yard period, and the models are more expensive than most prisoners can afford, so we make army lists, lock them in for the duration of a campaign, then play on grid paper. We will check out a couple board games from the office (preferably Risk) for d6’s.

Playing DnD or Pathfinder has similar hurdles. Two to three hour time blocks to play in and lack of dice. We make our own character sheets on lined paper because we don’t have access to a printer/copier. Again, grid paper and checking out a Risk board solves two of these problems, but for the d4, d8, d10, d12, and d20 we have to get creative.
Some solutions include:

+ using a deck of playing cards (tossing the kings gives you two sets of 24 cards which is good for the d4, d6, d8, and d12. “Reroll” jacks and queens for d10 and d20)
+ scientific calculators have a random number function (random number * dX + 1 = dice roll)
+ make a spinner from a paperclip card stock, and cardboard

To play Magic: The Gathering probably takes the most prep work. We can’t get the cards themselves, so we have set lists and ban lists sent in with descriptions of all the cards. We then go through these lists to make standard, modern, and commander decks.

The making of a deck takes forever. We cut scraps of paper and tape them to playing cards and write the card description on each. Alternatively, we write the card descriptions on a separate sheet of paper and just put card names and converted mana on each line of the card. Thus we can fit six or seven Magic decks on one deck of cards.
There is an ongoing debate among us about going for the “best cards” verses being mindful how much collecting the cards of a given deck would cost in reality.

The thing that makes gaming really difficult is that some DOC employees target gamers and will take our books and other materials claiming we are engaged in an “unauthorized group activity.” This is the same phrase used to describe gang activities.

Because rolling perception and initiative checks is obviously the same as drug smuggling and extortion.
They are able to do this because gaming is not expressly allowed, or disallowed.

I believe gaming should not only be allowed, but supported in the same way drawing, painting, and beading are, with a permit that allows us to buy gaming materials from approved vendors.

Gaming is a pro-social activity which requires cooperation to make it work. It also often involves a lot of math and logical reasoning skills, especially when playing RPG’s.

The thing I tell people when they ask me why I play them is “The point of nerd games is not the game itself. The point is giving socially awkward people the means to interact with other socially awkward people in a positive way. Also, they’re fun and bring me joy.”


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