So the dust of the new year has started to settle, and the post-holiday chaos at the firm has also started to die down (somewhat). I can finally dip my pen and pick up the blog again. I hope that you all had an enjoyable holiday season and have had a good start to 2012.
Heading into New Year’s Eve, my wife and I had planned a quiet night at home with the kids, with copious amounts of reasonably healthy snacks and loads of board games. When she approached the kids with this idea, the unanimous response that morning was that they wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons with Dad.
We’ve played occasionally over the past couple years; I started the four of them off with the 3.5 Basic Game, the 2006 edition of the set. It’s not a bad iteration of the rules...a very simplified version of 3.5 with each pre-gen character (there are four) having an entire booklet for their character. Granted, the way the rules are presented led my children to say things such as, “I want to move my speed, then move my speed again.” It also reveals the nerfed version of some of the 3.5 monsters: just three encounters after reaching second level the PCs are led to face (and expected to defeat) a young blue dragon.
No joke. Allow me to repeat myself here: THE iconic creature of D&D is expected to be defeated by a party of four second-level characters.
At any rate, after funning through the encounters contained in the Basic Game in September, I had several different ideas about where to take the characters next. The appeal to play on New Year’s Eve made the decision critical, so I turned to something that I knew would allow for some range of open decisions on my kids’ part and something that would allow for some exposition on detail, backstory, and whatnot. I was also concerned that it pose a serious enough challenge to them that it subdues their memories of killing a dragon so easily. What I decided upon was this: Dyson’s Delve.
I had a “battle map”: I’d wanted to run my adult players through this little gem in the next few months and so I’d already taken some time to prepare some blown-up versions of the first three levels. They weren’t perfect and they weren’t hi-res, but they worked with the kids’ miniatures at 10' per square. And they gave the kids something to look at. And I know, all my OSR friends and readers are apoplectic right now. I know that I didn’t have the maps and miniatures back in the day and I did just fine with my imagination. My kids range from sixteen to eight and have varying degrees of concentration so I’ve found the miniatures and maps are necessary for now.
I also have to admit that I turned to what most consider to be an overused trope: the tavern meeting. Not having a lot of time to plan any kind of set up, I jumped to Digital Orc’s Inn Table. The percentile dice came out and rolled twice giving me The Putrid Wand, a less-than-reputable inn on the edge of the Thieves’ Quarter in Burlingbrook, the town at the base of Mt. Chal (my homebrew location for the dungeon in our Basic Game).
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!! (And to my Players: this means STAY OUT.)
Cast of Characters
Lanin: elf wizard (16-year-old daughter)
Carn: human rogue (14-year-old daughter)
Regdar: human fighter (11-year-old son)
Dothal: dwarven cleric (8-year-old son)
The town’s mayor sought the party out to hire them to clear out a nest of bandits that was harassing the town. The bandits had been tracked back to their nest in a nearby set of ruins. What the PCs didn’t seem to realize that they were being used; the mayor didn’t think they were actually expert adventurers, but they were easily expendable. Or they might get lucky and rid the town of the bandits and it would only cost the town a piddling amount. Win-win, in the mayor’s mind.
Well, they had a choice between heading to the entrance in the ruins or checking out the cave in the foothills that the passed walking toward the ruins. Of course, both entrances lead into different parts of Level 1. The kids decided to head to the ruins, because that’s what they were hired to do. Well, they marched right down the stairs, alerting the watching goblins, one of whom ran to warn the rest of the squad. The other one waited until all four were in the room and attacked from behind.
Long story short: the kids learned a few things, hopefully. One thing they learned was not to split the party. The other thing was the value of cooperation. Because my two sons decided they’d rather go off exploring two different sections of the level by themselves, individually, Dothal, Regdar, and Lanin nearly died. They wound up exploring all but two rooms on the level and turned seven or eight encounters (including a random encounter) into three encounters by "activating" several encounters at one time. There was far too much going on at once. Chaos reigned. Foes were swarming the PCs from all directions. My oldest almost died from an attack of giant rats, as did my youngest son. My oldest boy almost died surrounded by a horde of skeletons. And the rogue couldn’t hit anything to save her life.
Now, the details. They all came in at #4; Carn (green) and Regdar (blue) immediately went down the south hallway chasing a goblin. They ran into a group of goblins and a hobgoblin coming the other way. Lanin (yellow) headed that way and then doubled back east chasing another goblin. Dothal (red) headed immediately east, followed by the goblin Carn was chasing. Carn followed Lanin, and when the gobbos were all downed, Regdar made a beeline for #9. Dothal headed down the cavern hallway to the "X" where he was swarmed by four giant rats. Lanin stopped partway down the cavern and tried to help Dothal, but couldn't hit much. She was eventually overwhelmed by rats (and a sneaky goblin or two) and nearly died. Dothal eventually wandered all the way down to #2, followed by Lanin (once she popped a healing potion) where they ran into a den of giant rats. Regdar, all alone, found a zombie in a room off #10 and headed into room #11 without waiting for aid. Immediately inside the door he found four skeletons waiting for him. He ducked back out and took the skeletons one by one as they came out. Carn joined him just as he ducked back into #11, where he was surprised by five more skeletons. He used the same tactic to take them all out, one by one.
Lanin wound her way through the caverns and hallways to join Carn and Regdar, leaving Dothal to go back up to #4, then into #5, walking through the door and dead into the Level 1 boss--a brutal hobgoblin that dropped Dothal to his knees with one blow. Without any backup. The other three had no more than seven hit points between them.
And that's where we left it, at ten minutes to twelve.