Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

My Son’s First Total Party Kill

So I got my nine-year-old son a copy of Raid on Cygnosa back in May. We played several one-on-one combats in order to get the hang of the system and gradually worked up a set of four characters for the game. (Two of them has some experience points from killing my test characters.) It ended up taking a good half dozen mini-sessions before we were ready to begin.

Once everything was set up, I was in a position to take advantage of any opening we had to play. I don’t know how it is that a nine-year-old can get so over-scheduled that there’s never time for a game, but it happens. Still, even with just twenty minutes of free time, we could play through a few decision points and game out a combat. It helped that my notes were solid… but it also seemed that my son retained a great deal from session to session.

Going into the final session of the run, my son was down a character. He wandered out of the woods and stumbled back into some riffraff asking for a toll. My son thought it over and chose to pay them– they just weren’t asking enough to be worth the trouble of a fight. I expected my son to want to head back to town to replace his lost party member, but he chose to continue on.

My son’s birthday presents for this year.

Up the mountain he went and he encountered a large troll asking for money for the use of his bridge. My son chose to attack. He summoned a Dragon, shot the troll every third turn with an arbalest, and fired a crossbow at him every other turn. The troll lumbered closer and closer… and I randomly chose who he’d attack first. One to-hit roll later and the magic-user was tumbling down the mountainside! The remaining party members switched to swords and did relatively well bashing the troll. (Having a guy that could heft a two-handed sword turned out to be really valuable given the thickness of the troll’s armor.) The troll missed most all of his rolls after this, and my son finished him off.

I really expected him to head back to town after this, but he was completely clear about the fact that he’d rather continue on. (Exploring the troll’s cave was not high on his list, though.) He climbed the mountain and arrived at the main part of the adventure. Then a bunch of goblins jumped out and finished him off. I was proud, though– he seemed to take it all in stride and seemed entirely satisfied with the course of events. Indeed, the purpose of such a tightly defined resource management scenario was get him to face just such an eventuality without any heavy-handed referee-fiat type bailouts artificially handing him successes.

“You want us to pay a toll? Hold on a second….” (Okay… we SUMMON DRAGON!)

Now… my son could stand to learn a couple of tricks for improving his character builds. He could probably make some better tactical decisions– particularly about when to switch from missile weapons to melee weapons. (And also when to withdraw your magic-user when he can’t really contribute anything other than being a target.) Finally, he would get further if he was willing to do the whole “five minute workday” thing. But we got this adventure played. I feel like… with his first total party kill under his belt… there’s just this vista of gaming greatness that is now open to us.

I think, instead of coaching him on the finer points of adventure tactics, I’ll instead set this aside for a few months, try again, and then see how much better he does on his own. Getting characters killed does not phase him… and winning just for the sake of winning just doesn’t seem to have the hold on his consciousness that it once had. Not in this sort of a game, anyway. I think that he simply enjoys the experience of playing, regardless of the outcome. (Though, honestly… he’d be at least as happy building a bird house with me or climbing a hill. Probably more, actually.)

Cliff Stoll argued back in the nineties that its more important for kids to learn math from an adult via flash cards than it is to learn the exact same thing from a computer game. He said that the message of the former is more along the lines of “I think learning this is important… but mainly… I care about you.” Maybe there’s something to that. I tried to explain to my kids after this session that when I was their age, I didn’t have anyone around that would teach me about games like this. They were really taken aback… and they really couldn’t imagine how anyone could have grown up under such an impoverished existence…!

On the whole, I have to say that this is a really good introductory adventure– well worth playing and playing again. If you’re bothered by the ambiguity of old school D&D and yet unwilling to invest in modern, overwrought systems… this game provides an excellent alternative. Recommended!

For the curious, here is the exact sequence my son chose to play: 002, 003, 010, 050, 058, 052 (“A” killed), 054, 044, (sleep overnight), 050, 058, 025, 032 (“M” killed), 060 (“B” and “O” killed.)

For more posts on The Fantasy Trip and Legends of the Ancient World, see:

For more posts about gaming with my son, see:

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2 responses to “My Son’s First Total Party Kill

  1. Pingback: Review: Pyramid 3/48 Secret Magic « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

  2. Pingback: Review: Pyramid 3/44 Alternate GURPS II « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

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