Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Pits of the Spare!

After having tea with my daughter last night, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to do in our “special daddy time.” She chose Labyrinth Lord, and she made it clear that nothing else would suffice. I still marvel that my kids seem to think busting out the old Moldvay box is no different than getting out Sorry or UNO. I tend to think of all the prep, all the organizing it takes to get people together, all the subtle consensus building the game requires when it’s all adults…. But my kids think all you have to do is get it out and play it.

My daughter insists on using maps and figures even when I don’t feel like dragging them out. I got out her Christmas Big Box D&D Set and pulled out character sheets for her second level fighter and two second level magic-users. I started her off at the Keep on the Borderlands, but when she found out it was a civilized locale, she got pretty miffed. She wanted monsters… adventures… excitement! Not some lame tavern! So I started running through all the things that are going on: caravan from the east is two weeks overdue, an elf went on a hunting trip to the north and never came back, there’s a crazy old man that lives in the swamp, there’s a red dragon that is expected to fly in a few weeks and raid the livestock, and… there is a group of three men-at-arms that want to go to… the Pit of Despair! No, it’s not a torture chamber… but it’s a crater from a meteor impact that happened a hundred years ago. Monsters have come out of that place ever since. My daughter chose “the pits of the spare,” so the party set off for a journey of several days.

Well, there was dangerous climbing, impassable bottomless pits, and the foul stench of giant worms. One man-at-arms was eaten by the worm monster, another was taken by the tentacle thing in the underground lake, and the last fell into the bottomless pit. Thanks to a Detect Magic spell, the party found a magic Wand of Unknown Power. I was pretty pleased with my improvised scenario, and my daughter often had to ask me to dial back the fright levels… but her characters finally went back to civilization when they couldn’t figure out how to get past the bottomless pit.

Later on, I asked her if she had fun with the game, but she said she really didn’t like it. She sure seemed to be having fun to me, though, so I’m not sure what she was looking for. I think… a nice density of rooms to map and explore with lots of stuff to interact with would be more up her alley– all those sessions spent with the Palace of the Silver Princess have left a mark. Also… if player characters aren’t getting killed in the combats, I don’t think she feels any suspense. (The lizard man mound game was totally epic to her, and my giant worm fight just paled in comparison.) So she wants bigger combat challenges and… more rooms and stuff.

When reviewing the game’s events with her brother, he seemed pretty intrigued by all the action and said he wanted to take his characters to the Pit of Despair, so maybe I’ll get a chance to take another stab at this for my daughter. I think the game is more fun for her when she gets to discuss what to do with a fellow gamer, so maybe that will help, too. One last thing: she got very upset when questioned this morning about leaving an innocent man-at-arms in the tentacles of the lake monster. Her brother thought he could have been saved, but I pointed out that trying to save him could have gotten the entire party killed. Friday morning adventure ethics at the Jeffro homestead!

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