Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crafting A Roleplaying Experience for Kids

Many gamers who entered the hobby during the “Dawn of Roleplaying” (otherwise known as “The Early Eighties”) who start families seek to expand their gaming opportunities to include their children, sometimes as an offshoot of existing gaming activities and other times to rekindle a hobby set aside in the course of handling a deluge of adult responsibilities. While various companies have published many “introductory” roleplaying games over the years, most focused on luring fans of game worlds (including kids) into the companies’ mainstream game lines. These don’t always work right out of the box -- usually having a roleplaying savvy gamer among the players helps -- and the rules and/or the setting aren’t always ideal for introducing children to roleplaying games, especially particular groups of kids exploring roleplaying games with a parent-gamemaster.

The introductory roleplaying games explored in the last Hobby Games Recce dispatch remain admirable efforts; but ultimately kids need an experienced parent-gamemaster to craft their first roleplaying game experience best suited to their particular interest in an engaging genre and their ability to understand and play within the rules mechanics. This essentially boils down to the parent-gamemaster adapting a familiar roleplaying game rules set to a younger audience and their setting interests.

Generic game systems best lend themselves to this process, though gamemasters with time and a keen analytical mind can distill the mechanics out of any setting-specific game and port them to other genres. Some very good child-oriented roleplaying games exist, though these, too, benefit most from an involved parent-gamemaster.


Whether using a game system specifically designed as “kid friendly” or adapting an existing system meant more for “adult” players, parent-gamemasters might keep this “formula” in mind:

Cool Setting + Easy Rules = Fun for Kids

Note the setting comes first; that’s the teaser for kids. Few children want to play games with complex mechanics without the promise that the adventure setting offers some fulfilling rewards. The setting may be original or based on a popular media property that captures children’s imagination and attention. Most parent-gamemasters who entered the hobby through some iteration of D&D channel their enthusiasm for the dungeon-delving, hack-and-slash genre to their kids. Some children like medieval fantasy dungeon adventures with elves, dwarves, goblins, and treasure. Others might prefer typical science fiction adventures. Many prefer to explore specific settings based on well-established and appealing licenses that captivate kids’ attention; they want to play in the world they read about in books, see in films, and watch on television, visiting the same locations, fighting the same foes, and engaging in the same kinds of misadventures.

The rules should be familiar to parent-gamemasters to the point they can easily distill core elements -- character generation, combat/skill tests, adventure elements -- into a meaningful game experience appropriate for the age of children joining the game. Parent-gamemasters might follow a philosophy of emphasizing action, character, and setting, with the rules as a secondary storytelling aid. Taking the part of gamemaster requires serving as both game moderator and rules encyclopedia so players don’t have to worry about knowing all the rules. In his recent reflections on the Tom Moldvay edited Basic Dungeons & Dragons, Al at the Beyond the Black Gate blog noted that “Having fun = Not worrying about the Rules,” at least from the players’ perspective. That premise should serve as the foundation as a parent-gamemaster crafts a roleplaying game experience for a younger audience, whether distilling existing game systems to their level or explaining rules during play.

As children grow into the system and understand its nuances one can always increase the complexity of the game system by slowly adding optional rules left out from initial play, as agreed upon by everyone involved. Remain open to the philosophy the recently released Lego board games always include, an interesting concept regarding modification of existing rules engines: “The secret to changing a game is to change only one thing at a time. That way, you can see if the change makes the game more fun. If it does, keep it and then try another. Changing a game is always more fun when done together. That way everyone knows the rules and knows what is being changed.”

Easy Rules to Customize

Several game systems stand out as ones ideal for customizing to a children’s introductory roleplaying game experience. Some include iconic game elements from our own youth -- like polyhedral dice, classic terminology, hack-and-slash dungeon crawls -- while others continue pushing the boundaries of innovative game design in concise formats ideal for busy parents with little free time on their hands. All these recommendations assume an adult with experience running roleplaying games shepherds kids through the game processes, from creating characters (or pregenerating them) to teaching rules and leading them through some basic adventures. Some are genre-specific, others are generic and require more work to customize the systems to a setting that engages children’s interest and imaginations.

Any Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Why re-invent the wheel? Start with a streamlined version of any D&D starter set (and I’ll include the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box here, too). Longtime gamers might still have some version of an original Basic Dungeons & Dragons rulebook gathering dust on their shelves, and the current D&D starter sets have the benefit of a low price point compared to other professionally published games. One might also try one of the numerous D&D retro-clone like Swords & Wizardry, Warrior Rogue Mage, or Labyrinth Lord (though I don’t consider Old School Hack in this category, as it’s more a hybrid of retro-clone merged with some innovative new gaming concepts; see below). While the rules for D&D-style games might seem complex for kids, a good parent-gamemaster can distill the essentials into a playable format while retaining some of the iconic concepts and terminology like hit points and armor class.

Old School Hack: Those seeking a D&D-style play experience with some innovative rules and presentation might check out Kirin Robinson’s Ennie Award-winning Old School Hack (available in free PDF format online). While it simulates “old-school” gaming, the game actually incorporates some intuitive, innovative rules. The graphically appealing and well-organized layout makes each page feel like a quick-reference handout, from the actual character sheets and class descriptions to sections explaining combat rules, monsters, and treasure. The visual representation of each character’s actions in the combat round by either cards or the hex arrangement can help younger players understand the tactical advantages of taking certain actions before others and the importance of resolving challenges through a set sequence. (I’ve gushed about Old School Hack in a previous Hobby Games Recce dispatch….)

Risus: The Anything RPG: S. John Ross’ key contribution to the collective roleplaying game evolution stands as a basic game framework one can easily customize. (It's also availible online for free.) Players define characters with clichés to which they assign dice, which they roll to succeed against challenges and lose as “hit points” of a sort. The concise, intuitive rules take very little time to read, comprehend, and customize to nearly any setting. Parent-gamemasters can help kids understand the concept of clichés, but once they do, and can use them to craft a character, they can learn how to justify using them for various tasks, especially those not usually associated with a  given cliché…which is part of the fun behind Risus. Subtle nuances in optional rules allow for more storytelling and character depth using “hooks” and “tales,” and greater game power by “pumping” die rolls or using “funky” dice. Those using Risus have a wealth of resources available from the game’s active online fan community, which releases material ranging from the generic to the setting-specific. (I’ve talked about Risus in the context of short and sweet roleplaying games in a previous Hobby Games Recce dispatch….)

D6 System: In any of its incarnations -- from the classic D6 Star Wars Roleplaying Game to more contemporary iterations like Cinema6 and Mini Six -- the D6 System remains an intuitive, easy-to-learn roleplaying game one can quickly customize for younger players. Mini Six in particular lends itself to customization across genres in its overall presentation and approach, and encourages parent-gamemasters to pick and choose which rules options they prefer for various mechanics. (As a fan of the D6 System and its various incarnations, I’ve briefly discussed Mini Six in a previous Hobby Games Recce dispatch….) Since the D6 System remains available through an Open Gaming License arrangement, one can find many materials, from rules sets to entire settings, free online.

New Developments Every Day

Introducing children to roleplaying games has swiftly become a trend in the adventure gaming community, as demonstrated by a surge in online discussions, game materials, blogs, and free or for-pay products. DriveThruRPG and its affiliates recently highlighted the host of games it offers geared toward children, and a site search for “kids” reveals a host of possibly appropriate games ranging from those tailored specifically to young kids’ interests and abilities and those with child-like settings they might find engaging. A general internet search for “kids D&D” or “roleplaying with kids” returns a flood of results -- more than most humans can meaningfully comprehend -- demonstrating my firm belief that the internet has caused such an exponential explosion in the sharing of ideas that it threatens to overwhelm humanity’s collective sense of reality.

Most of the recently released games cater to parent-gamemasters seeking to introduce their kids to roleplaying games the way they first began…with old-school renaissance retro-clone-style hack-and-slash, dungeon crawl action. Some, like the Warriors Adventure Game mentioned previously at Hobby Games Recce, tie the game to a particular setting, and others, like Argyle & Crew, use original premises that relate directly to the rules. These more recent entries require more exploration on my part (and thus more time than I have at the moment) before I can knowledgeably discuss them; but they’re worth investigating yourself and watching for future developments:

rpgKids: With claims kids as young as four years old can play it, rpgKids seems ideal for introducing young children to a very basic roleplaying game experience. Creator Enrique Bertran packed the rules, introductory scenario, character cards, and hero/monster tokens into a 24-page PDF rulebook; and one can purchase the rules bundled with the Adventure Pack (four scenarios plus related maps and tokens). Wired’s GeekDad column offered some first-hand insights on the game in a recent feature. Definitely on my list of things to explore as time allows.

Argyle & Crew - Soppet Adventures: Another game claiming kids as young as four years old can play it, Ben Gerber’s Argyle & Crew links gameplay to physical sock puppets (the eponymous “soppets”), whose physical properties, as created by children, serve as the character sheet. The soppets help break down barriers of play acting and encourage imaginative play. Wired’s GeekDad column offered some first-hand insights on the game in a recent feature.

DungeonTeller: A basic roleplaying game experience geared toward kids, Dungeon Teller is available free through author-illustrator Doug Anderson’s Blue Boxer Rebellion blog (which also explores elements of early D&D in the context of both the old school renaissance and games for kids). The early version rules set includes iconic character classes for kids to play, with lots of special abilities, an innovative luck/hit point system, and the chance to roll handfuls of dice. Anderson posts updates and expansions for the system on his blog, along with artwork he’s rendering for a new version and entertaining insights on D&D. Definitely a work-in-progress worth following.

As always, I realize I’m overlooking some very worthy entries in the recent spate of introductory roleplaying game resources for children. This missive isn’t meant to be a comprehensive survey or encyclopedia of such games, only a brief overview and cursory exploration. I’m always interested in hearing about new developments in all aspects of the adventure gaming  hobby, so please don’t be shy about dropping me a line with suggestions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Roleplaying Games for Kids

Introducing children to roleplaying games might seem like a recent trend in the adventure gaming hobby, despite its evolution from a marketing urge by established game publishers to a personal quest for many parent-gamers seeking to interest and involve their kids in one of their own favorite hobbies. Then as now it presents numerous challenges in merging engaging settings that captures children’s imaginations with workable rules systems within kids’ comprehension and attention spans.

Publishing a roleplaying game solely to introduce a younger audience to the adventure gaming hobby has long remained the “holy grail” of game companies. Many felt an introductory product would help create a new generation of players to fuel future sales of existing product. One finds many admirable efforts in this vein given the hobby’s short and prolific history; however, their degree of success varies wildly, and no one product stands out as being quite the iconic introductory success publishers would like. Some of these weren’t necessarily marketed as introductory roleplaying games specifically for children; most catered to fans of a particular license or genre seeking to play out their fantasies within the scope of a roleplaying game. A few examples of introductory products come to mind, not all of which were or are suited to children, even with adult guidance; but they offer some insight into past approaches and pitfalls of designing roleplaying game products with newcomers in mind:

Dungeons & Dragons: Throughout most of its publishing history, most editions of Dungeons & Dragons have had some introductory boxed set available to lure unsuspecting game enthusiasts in mass-market toy stores into the roleplaying game hobby. They usually come in boxed sets with a variety of components, depending on the TSR/Wizards of the Coast budget at the time; some include the bare essentials of player book, gamemaster guide, and polyhedral dice, while one even came with unpainted plastic miniatures and CDs with sound effects to accompany the obligatory beginner adventure module included in the box. One might argue the original Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons experience was an early effort to introduce a younger audience to the terminology and gameplay of Advanced D&D.

Prince Valiant: The Story-Telling Game: A long-lost gem of the introductory game genre, the Prince Valiant game was designed by Greg Stafford and published by Chaosium in 1989, based on the extensive knowledge he poured into the Pendragon Arthurian roleplaying game. The game system relied on only two attributes, Brawn and Presence, and resolved game conflicts with coin tosses (though some of us preferred six-sided dice with 1-3 as “tails” and 4-6 as “heads”). The text was generously embellished with amazing Hal Foster line art from the comic strips, which helped to maintain visual interest in the rules and, in many cases, illustrate basic game concepts with examples from the comics. The game introduced basic roleplaying game concepts through the storytelling perspective, complemented by its comic-strip provenance. A rare treasure these days -- I found my copy in New York City’s The Compleat Strategist when it maintained a storefront in the subterranean shopping concourse of Rockefeller Center.

Pokemon Jr. Adventure Game: Possibly the most successful in execution -- though not sales and continued play -- of the professionally published roleplaying games for kids, this game attempted to introduce younger kids (6+) to gaming in the Pokemon universe without the complexities of the collectible card game produced by Wizards of the Coast at the time (before losing the license). Designed in 2000 by the venerable Bill Slavicsek and Stan! (both West End Games and Star Wars Roleplaying Game alumni), it included an extremely simple Pokemon combat system and a book of linear adventures through which kids could play. While it represents a solid effort to design an introductory roleplaying game product for children based on a popular setting, it failed to reach and retain a large audience; plans for supplements supporting the game line were scrapped after Wizards of the Coast lost the Pokemon license.

Lord of the Rings Adventure Game: Iron Crown Enterprises’ 1991 attempt to lure new players into its complex yet well-established Middle-earth Role Playing system used a much simplified rules set based more on the company’s Middle-earth Quest books than the main game. Programmed adventures walked individual players through the basic rules and a gamemaster through the nuances of running a game for several players. The books came in a box with maps, dice, and cardboard characters with stands; two full scenario supplements were also released. It’s doubtful the adventure game lured too many games into its more complex cousin, which already had an extremely loyal following, and the company lost the Middle-earth license in 1999, ending any plans to support the introductory product. (And while subsequent Lord of the Rings roleplaying games had far better, full-color production values, they were clearly produced for an audience steeped in the intricacies of roleplaying games.)

Star Wars Adventure Game: This was my personal contribution to the introductory roleplaying game genre. With the release of the Star Wars Special Edition trilogy re-release (way back in 1997) West End Games hoped to draw more fans into its roleplaying game with a introductory boxed set with a host of components: player and gamemaster booklets, an adventure campaign book, cardboard stand-ups, maps, and dice. I took a hiatus from editing The Official Star Wars Adventure Journal to develop the intro game in-house. I’ll admit the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game influenced my approach in providing programmed adventures for both players and gamemasters; I also attempted to distill the more expanded, complex rules that sprouted with each new edition of the Star Wars roleplaying game toward a more basic form, more like the game’s first edition. The game was published in time to capitalize on the Star Wars Special Edition re-release to movie theaters; again, evidence remains purely anecdotal that fans who picked up the intro boxed set at Toys R Us and the other, limited mainstream venues in which it appeared moved on to play (and purchase) mainline Star Wars Roleplaying Game materials.

Warriors Adventure Game: This 54-page roleplaying game available for free download online introduces fans of the popular Warriors novels (about cat clans living in the wild) to roleplaying, providing guidelines to create their own cat characters and interactively create their own stories in the Warriors setting. The game uses some standard roleplaying game elements like ability scores, skills, and knacks, but leaves out the random nature of die rolls in favor of “chips” players can spend to improve their scores in trying to overcome particular obstacles during the game. Players take turns each scene as the “Narrator,” giving everyone a chance to run the game. The game includes a short sample adventure, plus game information for the major cat characters from the books. One of the better games for kids seeking to explore roleplaying games on their own.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box: The only contemporary entry in this list, the intro box for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (an iteration of the popular D&D 3.5 edition rules as released under the Open Gaming License) serves as an example of what a current introductory boxed set looks like in this day and age of slick, full-color booklets, cardboard stand-ups, dice, pawns, and maps. Although the level of game complexity remains based in D&D 3.5, the beginner box presentation and streamlined rules gradually introduces game concepts to newcomers. I regret I’ve not yet acquired a copy to evaluate first-hand, but the model seems to work for Paizo Publishing, though much of Pathfinder’s popularity rises from its firm grounding in D&D 3.5 and its hordes of followers who rejected the latest D&D 4th edition and its many changes.

No doubt a web search for roleplaying games for kids would turn up a number of sites offering general surveys of acceptable materials offering varying degrees of success and numerous genres that may or may not interest a particular group of children. The “RPGs for Kids” listing provides relatively comprehensive and recent guide, but most all the entries fall under the category of games that are good for parent-gamemasters to introduce kids to roleplaying rather than ones kids can pick up on their own and start playing.

I’m sure I’m inadvertently forgetting or overlooking some key examples individual gamers remember -- this isn’t mean to be an exhaustive survey or dissertation on the subject -- but most of the above-mentioned, professionally published games rely on potential players’ previously established interests in a particular license, setting, or genre. While these products -- and others -- purport to introduce the concept of roleplaying games and iconic setting to newcomers to the adventure gaming hobby, they’re not always well-suited for bringing children into the gaming fold. These games are either specially designed for people new to roleplaying or are easy and inspiring enough for an experienced gamer to introduce to non-gamers. Roleplaying games remain an esoteric pastime that many of us learned not out of the box on our own but from others who showed us how to play. Few are ready right out of the box; at the least they require an adult gamemaster to learn the rules and translate that presentation to the level of children with limited attention spans; at most they require lots of effort to port existing game product to a child-acceptable level, possibly including pre-generated characters, simplified rules, and modified setting material.

One might argue many games exist adults can easily to use to introduce kids to the roleplaying game hobby; but finding a game that, in and of itself, is a good introduction to teach kids, without an adult, to play roleplaying games is a far more difficult creature to find or design. Which leads me to surmise that the best approach to introducing kids to roleplaying games comes from a knowledgeable parent-gamemaster customizing a game to the interests and attention spans of a particular group of children, and not from any “ready to play right out of the box” kids can explore on their own.

Where does that leave parents seeking some elusive product that can magically entice their children into an enthusiastic interest in the roleplaying game hobby? The solution requires a bit of work, but ultimately crafting a roleplaying game experience for kids in an engaging setting customized from an easy rules-set familiar to the parent-gamemaster seems the best option; one Hobby Games Recce will explore further in the next post.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Showcase Games

Although we generally play games in the form in which they’re initially produced-- with the original components in their intended format -- some enthusiasts enjoy crafting elaborate versions of or accessories for those games, a phenomenon I call “showcase games.” These forms of existing games employ custom-made, often oversized components to create an interesting spectacle for onlookers and a memorable game experience for players.
Board games provide the best possibilities for conversion to showcase games. European parks (and a few American ones) sometimes feature oversized chess pieces, with boards painted or inlaid into the pavement. Some renaissance festivals stage “living” chess games varying from ones with attendees wearing hats or holding pennants to note their particular pieces to ren-faire actors taking the role of pieces that engage in staged combat sequences to win over contested squares.
Many high-end board games -- what folks might call Euro-games or German-style games that dominate the market these days -- provide beautiful components, but they’re designed to fit into a game box; some gamers go one step further and create showcase versions by increasing the size or details, such as the Settlers of Catan boards made of oversized hexes with diorama terrain and large custom pieces frequently featured at major game conventions. Looking through the photos for some games at BoardGameGeek.com often shows how players have crafted their own showcase components for a favorite game using techniques from simply enlarging components to crafting more elaborate pieces from miniatures and terrain cross-purposed from wargames and roleplaying games. Avid wargamers certainly have the existing resources to turn military themed board games into more visually impressive games. Some convert combat-related board games -- often called “battle games,” like Richard’ Borg’s epic Memoir ’44, Battle Cry, and Command and Colors: Napoleonics -- drawing on their existing resources of painted soldier and vehicle miniatures, field mats, and modeled terrain features to play out scenarios from the board game in the much wider wargaming format. Some board games -- most notably the aerial Wings of War (newly reincarnated as Wings of Glory) and the line of Axis & Allies Miniatures games, but also the recently released mainstream Battleship Galaxies from Hasbro -- blur the line between board and war games and offer pre-packaged showcase games in their original forms. They combine high quality, pre-painted minis as “pieces” and combine basic wargaming concepts in easy-to-understand board game rules.
Miniature wargames are naturally showcase games unto themselves since they often require vast tables of terrain, objectives, and painted unit miniatures to create a diorama upon which participants recreate historical battles or fight fictional ones. Gaming conventions featuring such games offer tables covered in amazing terrain and intricately painted miniatures; I’ve seen many impressive ones, including a table-sized diorama of an ancient Egyptian tomb valley for Crocodile Games’ WarGods of Aegyptus and a miniature wargame table depicting the siege of Rorke’s Drift, complete with hordes of Zulu warriors. Although they offer a fantastic visual spectacle that often draws onlookers, the rules frequently used tend toward the more complex, not exactly ideal for attracting new players either to the game or the hobby. The aforementioned “battle games” and board games with miniatures and basic rules seem more appealing to newcomers dabbling in the hobby.
Roleplaying games seem the least likely to lend themselves to showcase games since the action often takes place within the players’ imaginations, aided by frequent consultations of character sheets, rule books, and occasional maps or battle maps with hastily drawn dungeons and minis denoting the position of heroes and adversaries. Transitioning roleplaying game action to a showcase game setting doesn’t really enhance regular play, but can prove an attractive visual spectacle to draw interest from newcomers to the hobby. Showcase roleplaying games often consisting of elaborate dioramas with painted minis similar to those used in wargames, but tailored to the particular roleplaying game’s setting; using these visual props during gameplay helps transition players familiar with board game concepts to the different paradigm of pieces as characters and the “board” as an environment in which to move them and with which they can interact. While working on West End Game’s Star Wars Roleplaying Game we ran demo games at GenCon using a massive mine diorama showing both the above-ground installations and subterranean works, complete with painted Star Wars minis; the demos and visual presentation drew newcomers to the game and helped them learn basic game concepts (and possibly interested them in purchasing the game).
Like many things in the adventure gaming hobby, showcase games remain true labors of love -- though some might claim they’re cries for attention -- given the vast amounts of work required to craft such spectacles. Because they’re custom-made they have limited use. They often require adequate space to set up and play, and work best in places where their visual appeal can draw an appreciative audience. Their creators don’t necessarily make them to be sold, since they’re meant to impress rather than make money; though for many wargames, individual terrain components can often find use in other games, so selling them off doesn’t make sense to those actively pursuing the miniatures wargaming hobby.
Where do you find showcase games? Your best bet still remains gaming conventions (or fan cons with gaming programming tracks), particularly miniature wargaming conventions. On rare occasions they serve as impressive centerpieces at library gaming events for kids, teens, and adults, museum functions, game days, renaissance festivals, or other venues catering to geeky interests. Such novelties look amazing and provide a more enjoyable play experience for participants, but they’re best in public environments where such visual spectacle can promote games and encourage enthusiasm for the hobby.
My Own Showcase Gaming Materials

I’ll admit I don’t have the time, money, or much inclination to create showcase versions of games I love. I suppose the closest I came was when I was working for West End Games and doing frequent demos for The Star Wars Roleplaying Game (D6 version) at conventions and stores (back when I had time and inspiration). I built several set pieces, as I call them, to arrange into game dioramas to use with painted Star Wars miniatures. The most impressive was a diorama of downtown Mos Eisley based on the map from Tatooine Manhunt, including the cantina and a nearby docking bay. My brother built a customized wooden box to house the entire diorama (about 3 x 6 feet when open); a combination of painted metal miniatures and Galoob MicroMachine figures populated the Mos Eisley streets, and appropriately scaled models of a YT-1300 freighter, Lambda-class shuttle, X-wing fighter, and other vehicles could dock in the landing bay. I later crafted other, smaller set pieces, including piles of rubbish simulating a starship junkyard and a bunker, barracks huts, and speeder hangar tent for an Imperial scout post.
I have some ancient Egyptian-themed temple and tomb diorama materials and associated figures I occasionally use for running Pulp Egypt scenarios or displaying at vendor’s tables at conventions to tempt passers-by. They generally attract interest when statically displayed and enhance the play experience when used to help visualize the action at the gaming table. I also have a few boxes of miscellaneous medieval fantasy minis and terrain pieces that don’t see much action these days (I’d done some demos on the road for West  End Games’ Hercules & Xena roleplaying game way, way back…).
I do engage in miniatures wargaming, though I don’t have a huge amount of gaming materials: some desert and forest terrain pieces, a company of 1880s British soldiers, a horde of dervishes, some painted (and many unpainted) tanks for Flames of War. Frequent readers know of my love for the World War II version of Wings of War; although the basic version is a board game incorporating cards and counters, the use of a few aircraft miniatures greatly enhances the visual appeal of the game. I’ve recently become interested in the World War I version, so I expect to invest in some additional aircraft minis for that period.
Overall, however, I prefer to revel in the spectacle of other people’s showcase games; I’m looking forward to Historicon this summer now that it’s held in nearby Fredericksburg, VA, for the next two years.