Wednesday, August 19, 2009

D&D Jr.

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.


  1. "The Evil of the Dungeon"!? Amazing! That's a great title!

  2. That's totally adorable and awesome. This is why I love kids.

  3. Reminds me of the free-form dungeon delve games my brothers and I played while on family vacations. The difference is that we used a combat mechanic based on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and UNO cards as our randomizer (because we always took UNO cards with us on our trips, but never dice for some reason).

  4. As a father with a two-year old daughter who is already fascinated with dice and miniatures, I love this story.

  5. And another D-/GM is born - awesome!

    " superhero LARPs..."

    LOL! Is that anything like the "free-form Old West LARPs" many of us indulged in as children??

    (Word Verification: "Mantions" - noun; big houses wherein dwell religious green insects)

  6. > A mother's eyes wet with tears of happiness <

    So VERY cool, James.
    --And a fine dice-pool system your son has devised!

    Congratulations. :D

  7. That's a great story, James. :)

  8. "Free form superhero LARPs" = running around in one's underoos with a Cape tied around the neck.

    "...a railroad-y dungeon if ever I saw one..."

    Jeez, Jimbo, harsh critique of YOUR OWN KID!

    Ha! I can only hope he developes into a skillful gamer (or a fiendish architect). I know my little brother started playing B/X D&D around age 7...

  9. You must be very proud! Awesomeness.

  10. How old is he? Or did I miss it?

    My own 8-year-old daughter regularly swipes her mother's dice, and is a big board game fan. Hasn't seemed to express any interest in RPGs as of yet, despite her good genes.

  11. That's great! I hope, The Evil of the Dungeon, 2E, dosn't stray too far from the original vision.

    Ha! my word verification is, "churl"

  12. And yet, I feel one of the most important things I picked up from this is the fact that there is a Pokémon RPG... That would have been so awesome when I liked Pokémon

    But it's great to see that your son is getting into roleplaying! That's awesome too!

  13. Well done with the little dude! It sounds like he made a quasi version of West End's Ghostbusters system.

    In a year or two get that lad a copy of the original rules, and some of the Real Ghostbusters DVD sets and I think you will have yourself the making of a great GM.

    Plus what kid wouldn't want to chase around spooks and beasties with a laser backpack and a cool hearse as a mode of transport?

  14. Superb - I can only hope my own son has the same calling!

    And you do realise that you'll have to design a dungeon bash called 'The Evil of the Dungeon' now, don't you? What a fantastic title - extremely old school.

  15. Did the game involve rolling a variable number of dice depending on the toughness of the monster?

    My own spontaneously-generated system created when I was 11-12 turned out to look a lot like Warhammer Battle, everyone rolls a single d6 to hit, target number depending on enemy toughness. Most opponents die from 1 hit, PCs and tougher foes have multiple 'wounds'.

  16. Hmm, makes me think that maybe a simplified version of the Basic Fantasy RPG might be a good way to introduce my son to RPGs - all PCs are Fighters, Hits to Kill = Level, Target Number on d20 = enemy Armour Class.

  17. Here's my draft of "Intro D&D", suitable for a parent or 10 year old GM to run for 4-8 year old players...

    Introductory Dungeons & Dragons

    I recommend Basic Fantasy RPG as the template, but any OGL version of d20 D&D should work (eg 3e D&D, C&C), as long as it uses "higher is better".

    Task Resolution Mechanic: Roll Target Number or higher on d20+Level to succeed.

    Combat: PCs normally act first, unless surprised, then alternate. A hit inflicts 1 Wound.

    PC Fighters
    Level XP Wounds to Kill
    1 0 2
    2 20 3
    3 40 4
    4 80 5
    5 160 6
    6 320 7
    7 640 8
    8 1200 9
    9 2400 10
    10 3600 10
    +1 +1200 +1/2 levels

    Base AC: 17 (heavy armour), 15 (medium armour), 13 (light armour), 11 (no armour)
    Shield: +1 AC.
    2-handed weapon: +1 to-hit.

    Fighting Defensively: Add Level to AC rather than to Attack roll.

    Multiple Attacks
    Level Attacks
    1-6 1
    7-12 3/2
    13-18 2
    19-24 3
    25+ 4

    Magical weapons and armour bonuses apply normally.
    Healing potions restore 1 wound.

    D&D monsters may be used normally. A monster's Level = its Hit Dice

    Monster Attack Bonus & Wounds both = monster Level

    Damage: Monsters normallly inflict 1 wound per attack. For BFRPG, S&W etc those that do 2d8 on a hit can inflict 2 wounds, 3d8 3 wounds, etc.

    XP: Monster XP totals are divided by 10 (1 orc = 1 XP). Optionally 100 gold = 1 XP.

    Sample monster stat block:

    Orc: Level 1 AC 14 XPV 1
    Goblin: Level 0 (1 wound) AC 14 XPV 1
    Fighters count as +1 Level (1st level Fighter worth 2 XP).

  18. Extremely cool! Glad you guys had fun!

  19. LOL! Is that anything like the "free-form Old West LARPs" many of us indulged in as children??

    Something like that :)

  20. Jeez, Jimbo, harsh critique of YOUR OWN KID!

    I did intend it to be read as a caricature of my supposed overly critical nature :)

  21. How old is he? Or did I miss it?

    My son turns seven at the end of this month.

  22. Did the game involve rolling a variable number of dice depending on the toughness of the monster?

    That's basically the set-up. Weak monsters might need 3 or better on 1D6, while very tough ones needed 15 or better on 3D6. It was all a bit vague, but my son seemed to think more dice and higher numbers were commensurate with toughness.

  23. Ah, right - Narrativist constructionism through variable dice pools - sounds very cool and po-mo Forge-ist.

    OOC: Damn I'm looking forward to my son being old enough to GM. :)

  24. What if you tried to live your life with Dungeons and Dragons dice determining all your decisions? The Dungeons and Dragons Dice Experiment

  25. Cool.

    More dice, of course, create a curve that makes high rolls far more difficult.

    3+ on d6 is 50% chance of success.
    15+ on 3d6 is a 4.6% chance of success.

    Harsh, but it does work.