Last night, I played D&D for the first time in months – probably the first time in 2015 – and I did so with my kids. TL;DR: structured make-believe with my kids is the best pastime.
Setup and character creation
They’d asked me to play, and I hadn’t been happy with 5e for various reasons. Mostly, I just find it still too rules-heavy for me. Related to that, character creation takes too long and requires too much understanding. So I went with old-school D&D, in the form of Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying (because I like its straightforward implementation of the B/X ruleset). I don’t really plan to use much of the LotFP-branded adventures with them purely due to age considerations, although there are some things I can lift from a few of them.
My 8-year-old son, who’s never played before, rolled up a fighter named “Oduyx” (pronounced differently every time he said it). We went with 3d6, arrange to taste, and he chose to go with a sword & shield. Equipment selection took longer than I’d have liked, although they both chose to get dogs. (These probably have the most utility per silver piece of almost anything you can get). I told him to think about what his character looks like and maybe a little bit of background while I helped his sister with her character.
As previously noted on this site, my 11-year-old daughter has played before in the guise of 5e as well as Microlite20. She immediately wanted to play a shapeshifter of some sort (e.g. a lycanthrope), so I explained that I would be happy to run an adventure in which her character acquires that characteristic in some fashion. After she thought it over for a few seconds, she decided to play an elf so that she’d have immediate fighting capabilities but the ability to learn magic. She named him “Lloyd” as her first male RPG character. (I think of elves as not really fitting a gender binary, anyway, and she liked that but kept the “he/him/his” pronouns.)
The two kids went off and consulted on their backstory just enough to figure out why they were working together. I made sure they understood that this game involves a lot of teamwork. Their characters will need to cooperate and support each other, because I will obviously be using this as a little bit of a parenting exercise. (Almost everything we do together has to be that, just by necessity.) The two of them didn’t really overthink it, but instead envisioned sort of a non-romantic “meet cute” at the inn where Lloyd worked and they just decided to become friends in the way that kids do. This made my life way easier, if for no other reason than that they understood that the real idea is to get to the adventure quickly.
I decided to use Goblin Gully from +Dyson Logos for their initial foray, although I used the version from Dyson’s Delves II because it had monster stats already included. This includes some obvious tropes – goblins, kids doing dumb things, the sheer evil of elves, hidden treasures – in a small package for brief attention spans. Since I’ve been supporting the Patreon there for a long time and own a couple of the related products, this felt right.
As they approached the old tree over the cave, a couple of goblins let loose with arrows at them. After siccing the dogs on the goblins (to keep them up in the tree), Oduyx tried to protect Lloyd with his shield while the elf let loose with rocks from his sling. Two natural 20s took care of the monsters and it was time for the real threat: arguing about which character would get to go first into the cave…
Already thinking like adventurers, they tossed pebbles down stairways to get an idea of how far down they went. It also eliminated any chance of surprise but I didn’t feel the need to tell them that. I added some flavor text in the first antechamber (“there are faded rectangles spaced evenly on the walls, such as you’d see if there had been paintings or other decorations for a long time that were later removed”). The ambush in the great hall was fun and they were suitably freaked out by the arrows spewing from the mouth of the monster face carving in the far wall. After eliminating all the goblins but one, they took it prisoner and then argued about which order they’d use to cross the suspension bridge. This led to a lot of fun roleplay with the goblin prisoner, whose suspicious manner clearly indicated he was just cooperating out of fear and would betray them at the first opportunity.
Once they crossed the bridge, they had a choice to make: descend the spiral staircase or climb the rope dangling from the shaft in the ceiling. Lloyd took the bait and climbed the rope while Oduyx waited with the dogs. I loved the look on my daughter’s face when I told her that “he reaches the top, grasps the edge, starts to pull himself up – and sees five goblins grinning back at him, waiting”. They cut the rope before he could get back down and the resulting fall brought the already-injured elf to exactly 0 HP (unconscious but alive).
Their goblin prisoner took this distraction as an opportunity to break for the staircase, yelling for help. Oduyx chased after him, only to run into several goblins in their stinky little hole (“it smells of wet dog and onions everywhere”). Thinking quickly, he realized that the kerosene lamp in his hands could be an improvised weapon and smashed it at their feet before running back upstairs. Almost all the goblins failed their saving throws, so he got away.
With his comrade unconscious and not waking up (I let my daughter try some saving throws but the dice were not cooperating), Oduyx had to decide whether to grab Lloyd’s stuff and run or try to drag him away quickly before the goblins above could descend upon them. That led to some heated OOC discussions between the kids, but finally my son decided to do the honorable thing and try to get his sister’s character out of there. They made a fighting retreat across the bridge, then cut the supports so that the goblins would be trapped on their side of the gully and finally could make it back to town.
Aftermath and lessons learned
The characters didn’t get much XP in this session since they literally recovered no treasure. I awarded them 200 XP, though, for defeating quite a few goblins and confirming the presence of the raiders for the local law enforcement. They immediately went to work fleshing out backstory a little more and begged to play again, so in general it was a success.
As the GM, I learned (or relearned) a few things:
- Optional prepackaged equipment is really important, especially with newer players.
- Making funny voices is the best part of this job.
- Kids really like “artifacts” of some sort, whether homemade LEGO swords to wave around during roleplay or towels tied around their neck for cloaks.
- I didn’t understand the rules around hit points and unconsciousness / death well enough. But it turned out that I followed them anyway just by winging it according to what I’ve done in other games.
The kids provided some good feedback too:
- Some combat is fun, but exploration and puzzles are better. More of that next time.
- They’d like to play in a city-type environment, or at least start out with one.
- It was cool not knowing exactly where the treasure was.
My work is cut out for me, as I hope to play with them late this week or maybe this weekend. That will take some prep, but I can’t wait!