Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Keep on the Borderlands… with an eight year old boy!

My daughter was off on a shopping spree with her grandmother and it ended up just being me and my son. My son being, you know, my son asked to play games. He wanted to play Carcassonne, Dungeons & Dragons, and Pandemic. I think it’s cool that he has this idea that pulling out a role playing game is no different from busting out any other game that comes in a box.

We’ve played quite a bit of in the past year (see here for details), and we had some characters that were already rolled up. He even has a few second level characters thanks to his successfully retrieving the giant ruby from the Palace of the Silver Princess. He’d just rolled up a new halfling character (“Bilbo”, attributes 5-7-10-11-12-15, 1 hit point, AC 8) and I suggested we take just him out for a session because my son thought he was pretty rad. (My son can read now, so he picked out the equipment this time.)

He made his grand entrance at the Keep and carefully set his weapons aside when he saw the men looking at him through the arrow slits. Then I just described the area inside and he wandered around looking at the random buildings. He went to the apartments and to the Guild Hall and I had to explain what the various craftsmen did. I also had to teach him what the cardinal directions are because it was about the only way I could figure out how to describe things.

I think it was a bit much to be turned loose in an imaginary world with no obvious thing that needed doing. So I decided to interject some other characters to give him a hint: two watchmen went by and he overheard them talking about going to the tavern. (Hint, hint.) I think he followed them, but he got distracted checking out the fountain in the main square. So I conjured up a creepy old blind man that seemed to be coming right towards him. This really freaked him out– he had his character run into the tavern to get away from him.

At that point, I described all that was going on inside the tavern and described all the people there. (The two watchmen were there, of course, as was a dwarf that might go along with folks on adventures.) He took great pleasure picking out the Honey Mead to drink and ordering the food. But then… the blind man came into the tavern and sat down!

My son just wanted to enjoy his Honey Mead and probably would have ended up getting his character drunk, so… I described some guy standing up to lead everyone in a song. Right about then… a man-in-black walked into the tavern. I told my son that everyone was so busy singing that no one noticed him drawing his knife and stepping closer to the old blind man. My son wasn’t so sure about what to do here. The man in black got closer and closer… still my son did nothing. Then the dwarf happened to notice what was happening, got up, and tackled the man in black. They wrestled around and around. “What do you do, now…? It doesn’t look like the dwarf will win– if he gets stabbed, then he could die!” Now my son got involved with the action and helped subdue the man-in-black with the dwarf. (“What does subdue mean, daddy?”) The two off-duty watchmen drug the suspicious guy off to the dungeon.

Well the old blind man was very pleased by this turn of events. He bought my son’s halfling another Honey Mead and proceeded to tell him and the dwarf that he didn’t have much money, but he could tell them about a secret entrance to the Lizard Man mound. What’s more, the Lizard Men were set to have a big party in a couple of days– it could be your chance to slip in, get some treasure, and get back out with a minimal fuss. I rolled dice to see if the Dwarf would go along and surprisingly, he wasn’t interested. (That wasn’t what I “wanted” the result to be, but I figured… if I knew what the right result was, why would I roll the dice? So I went with it.)

The next morning, my son’s halfling was off to the Lizard Man Mound… but he found out that he couldn’t get there in a single day. It was getting dark and he was stuck in this horrible swamp. My son wanted to go back to the Keep right then, but I told him it was too late. He finally climbed up one of the larger trees and went to sleep. After making it through the night with no interruptions, he began to get close to the mound. [DM rolls dice.] “And… ah… you hear some noises in the distance. Some kind of splashing sounds. Uh… it looks like some Lizard Men are headed in your direction.” My son told me he wanted to go back to the Keep. “Are you sure? This is your one chance to sneak into the mound– these guys aren’t going to be having this party again until next year. ” He thought it over… and he said he really wished he had some of his sister’s characters backing him up. He didn’t think he could do this with just one character and he really wanted to get back to the Keep. (Again, this wasn’t the result I “wanted”, but I figured… if I knew what the right result was, why would give my son a choice in how to proceed? So I went with it.)

I described my son’s journey back to the Keep and we called it a game. Later on we were talking about the Keep and the Lizard Men and I got him to explain to his younger sister some of what happened . He talked about how he would have kept going if he’d had some of her characters along, she got very serious and concerned and told him it would be okay if he used her characters even when she wasn’t there. (This was, I think, something of a Golden Rule issue with her. I mean, would you want even your worst enemy to have to adventure without magic-user support?)

I think there’s going to be a sequel here– and I think it will involve a large group of well-outfitted characters kicking in the front door of a Lizard Mound. After all… I can take a hint.

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3 responses to “Keep on the Borderlands… with an eight year old boy!

  1. karnak December 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Awesome! My boy is 5 right now. He is interested but I don’t think he’s really ready to play yet. In a couple of years….

    • jeffro December 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

      Eight seems to be pretty good. Old School D&D is actually pretty age-appropriate due to the simplicity of the rules… especially if you just wing it with some simpler puzzles and/or Tolkien style nature-as-obstruction type stuff. Now that my son can read the spell lists and equipment lists for himself, things are getting good.

  2. Pingback: My Son’s First Total Party Kill « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

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