Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swords & Wizardry With My 9 Year Old Nephew: Fight!

Every few weeks we’re able to enjoy our nephew's company and watch after him for a day or two. Last night we went to the symphony and saw "Play" - I really recommend checking it out if it comes to your town - especially if you have a youngster in the family that loves video games.

For today’s game, I decided to use Chgowiz’s Quick Start dungeon. It’s been nearly a year since last we played, previously using the LL rules. We’d rolled up some characters back in February and didn’t have to spend a lot of time with the preliminaries. We more or less rushed through the beginning bits to place the party at the mouth of the dungeon with its spiral staircase.

I'd purposely not taken out the miniatures at this point - he’d asked about them and I replied that we might not use them as they weren’t really necessary anyhow. He was fine with this. I think it actually focused him a bit more (although I think the additional year has helped too). As the party descended, he took great interest in the details of the first area. The iconic demon statue from the cover of the original player’s handbook is more or less in this room, with its bowl and flames. Josiah eventually made his way up to it and poked his sword into the bowl searching for traps and for the source of the (magic) flames. I suddenly realized that there was a great picture of this statue on the cover of the original DM’s screen, which I was using just for the screen aspect of it, and it was right there in front of him to check out. I think this actually added a lot, props to Michael for adding that detail to his dungeon.

There was some difficulty in conveying or understanding the rooms layout, and ultimately I sketched it out and realized that I’d be basically handling the map making for him - which is fine, he’s already managing 4 PCs at nine years old after all. The real fun started when he began to split the group - two were going to go one way, and two another. I had the sole female character pipe up and suggest that maybe this was a bad idea and that they should probably stick together. She’s going to be a great help, that sassy female fighter! He immediately agreed that this was probably a good idea, but then for some reason (possibly because he didn’t want to appear to appreciate “her” (ie. my) advice, he decided that “his” character, the elf, was going to begin to sneak off in the opposite direction of the rest of the party.

I was a bit worried by this turn of events, as there was a trap in the direction he was going - a portcullis was going to fall from the ceiling, trapping any characters on their side. The only way to lift the gate was with a combined strength of 40 if I remember correctly. Talk about learning quickly not to split the party! I decided that the three others heard the gate fall, noticed the elf’s absence, and ran back to find him. They were able to lift the gate and join the elf. I avoided the characters having an argument about what the heck he was doing sneaking off by himself (which would seem natural to bring up at this point), hoping that the circumstances would make his mistake obvious.

He’s an enthusiastic role player, and occasionally I’d have to reign him in when he began to take on some of the duties of the Dungeon Master. He'd offer things like “and the gate breaks when I run into it with my shield” to which I’d have to gently dissuade him with “Um, no actually…” a few times until he seemed to finally accept the DM’s authoritah.

Continuing in the direction the elf had been going, the party listened at a door. I did my best to describe what I thought bones walking on rocks occasionally dragging swords might sound like. He made a few guesses, then his fighter (“Buff”) managed to force the door. The skeletons inside nearly wiped them out, even though I’d reduced their number by one guessing ahead that this might happen. I fudged a couple of rolls and allowed the cleric to resuscitate both of the downed fighters to one hit point, though I carved a few charisma points off the male and permanently reduced the CON of the female by one so Josiah realized how fortunate they were.

At one point his elf fumbled his sword. I may have to devise some means of discouraging cowardice since at that point he had his lead character dive to the ground and crawl behind his comrades. Good survivalist tactics, but not exactly good leadership! This might be difficult to do, since we’re playing a solo game. I don’t want him bullying his fellow party members either. During a segment where he started losing focus on the game and goofing a little too much, I had “Buff” poke fun of his elfish antics a little. Josiah didn’t like that at all, and actually described how he was going to pull out his sword and rap the fighter in the head with its hilt! Here again, I had the voice of reason (the female) step in and chide him for threatening to cause a fight in the party “when we should be fighting monsters not each other!” When this didn’t work, I had the cleric (or “priest” as I sometimes referred to him) step between the elf and Buff and admonish them. I presume Josiah realized that striking a holy man would be going too far, because at this point his impetuous elf backed down and we were able to move the game forward again.

All of this in only three rooms. After resting a while, the foursome was able to again hoist the gate trap, and make their escape. The fighter’s shield had to be left behind (again, a consequence) being too heavy to keep since the priest had to help the grievously wounded Buff up the stairs and out. The female was also too weak, and apparently the elf wasn't about to carry it for him! Of course, they’ll be as good as new in a week. Joe mentioned that he’s thinking about asking his best friend if he’d want to play, “since he likes swords a ton.” I don’t know if anything will come of that, but it might allay some concerns I have. I purposefully placed the game's start at a location in the Dordogne setting I’ve been preparing for my wife - there might come a time when the two of them will be able to play together and she can help provide some social/ethical guidance when needed. All in all, a very fun and enlightening day's adventure for both of us.


Aaron E. Steele said...

Sounds like great fun, makes me want to organize a game for the kids on the block!

Unknown said...

I can't wait untillmy boys are old enough to play. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your nephew might be inclined towards Donjon.
Basically the players help create the story and dungeon more than is D&D. e.g. You roll to find a secret door. It doesn't matter if the DM has put one there, if the player succeeds, there's a secret door there.

Otherwise, make sure you've got the mirrored shades for next time.

ze bulette said...

I've considered other gaming systems but for now I'm very attracted to the idea of introducing the game as I initially played it to another generation. Not only do I think it's probably just as much fun as other games, but there's a slightly selfish aspect to it. I get to see ways in which I, as a young player, approached the same game - what were the impediments, what's there to learn from it? That type of thing. Of course I didn't have an experienced DM at first as a kid, so there's that difference. I also feel like somehow there's value to passing on the original table top role playing game's style for its own sake, if for no other reason than to preserve it in a way for posterity. Does that make sense?

Someday and somehow though, I'd like to play a host of other games with him, including diceless systems like Amber and exploring others I've never played myself.

christian said...

This is a really great entry. I like how the NPCs provided much-needed advice on not only how to survive the dungeon, but also on how to work as a team. Very nice!

Whirlin said...

Good stuff. I love the fact that there are so many rules lite fantasy offerings for the kids nowadays. Anyone played Faery Tale? For D&D, I like the Microlite ruleset. Also, Wizards just released the Heroes of Hesiod to introduce kids 6 & up to the hobby:

Truly the golden age of kids' RPGs.

Anonymous said...

not only did i play with my own 9 year-old nephew today (his second session), my 63 year old dad also joined in for his very first rpg session. (he was amazed there were no miniatures involved!)

he actually enjoyed it a lot and already displayed many veteran player disorders...

"those kids want to steals our reward. we need to watch out for them!"
"we don't need to gather those rare herbs, i will grow them right here with my magic."
"we either need to outrun them or fight them..." (talking was out of the question obviously. they were a bunch of kids after all.)
"we don't care about the fire, we keep traveling towards the village. we want food!"

good times indeed! :)

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