The other night, while my group and I, including my nine year-old daughter, were playing the latest session of the Dwimmermount campaign, my nearly-seven year-old son was busy setting up a game of his own. He's too young to play D&D with us and, honestly, has never really expressed an interest in even trying, but he is very keen on our Hirst Arts dungeon models and in the miniatures we use to populate them. Indeed, he regularly swipes miniatures that catch his fancy -- he's very fond of spiders, snakes, and bats, for example -- and spirits them away to places in the house I'd never think of looking for them.
In any case, my son was in a particularly ambitious frame of mind this past weekend and assembled the dungeon pictured above. As you can see, his design skills are very primitive -- that's a railroad-y dungeon if I ever saw one. Likewise, he made no attempt to create a plausible dungeon ecology, perhaps opting for a more "mythic underworld" approach, although, in play, it felt more like a funhouse.
Yes, that's right: in play. My son, as it turned out, was intent on showing off his chops as a referee by running my wife, my daughter, and myself through a scenario he called, "The Evil of the Dungeon." Our goal was to take our group of adventurers into the depths to rescue some miniatures not shown in the photograph. To do this, we had to defeat numerous monsters and traps by getting a certain score or higher on a variable number of D6. Every time we fought, my son would tell us how many dice we rolled and what number we needed to get, scaled for the difficulty of the monster in question. Sometimes, a monster required multiple hits to go down, which I suppose was only fair, since none of our adventurers died on a single hit either.
From what I can tell, my son was basing his game's rules on a combination of what he's observed at our weekly sessions and the rules from the Pokemon Jr. Adventure Game, the only rule-based RPG he's ever played, most of his other roleplaying experiences being free-form superhero LARPs. What was especially interesting to me was both the complexity even this simple game had -- variable difficulty for defeating opponents, for example -- and how much it reminded me of the tales of the earliest Blackmoor adventures before the introduction of hit points or levels. You could almost see the wheel being reinvented before your eyes and I have to admit it was fascinating. What will be even more fascinating is whether he ever follows up on what he did this past weekend and develops it further.