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Boys Delve into the Dungeon

Game TableSaturday, I introduced half a dozen boys, (five 10-year-olds, one 7-year-old), and a couple of dads to the adventure of Dungeons & Dragons. (The dads had played D&D 20+ years ago, but none of the boys had any experience with the game.) I was the Dungeon Master, and afterwards, I was completely exhausted, physically and mentally — in a good way. Everyone, boys and men, said they had a good time and that the game day was a great idea. The excited talk and big grins on every face after the game showed the sincerity of the thanks. Every boy came to me and asked if we would continue the game another weekend — a couple asking for next weekend — and both dads said they’d be happy to participate again if I did it.

Basic D&DWe used the Basic D&D rules (1981, Moldvay edition), and the Players explored the dungeon of the module In Search of the Unknown. Here’s how everything went down:

Each of the six boys had a 1st-level fighter, one dad had a 3rd-level magic-user (wizard), and the other dad had a 3rd-level cleric. The premise of the adventure was that the wizard and cleric were wanting to explore the dungeon to find a lost magic stone, and they needed the fighters as bodyguards. The dungeon was an old, abandoned fortress built into and under a hill in the wilderness. The original owners were long gone, and what might be left in the place was unknown. Monsters, treasure, magic, traps? All to be expected.

The party arrived at the location with a caravan of wagons, (for supplies and fighter replacements if necessary), but the wagons, drovers, and extra guards were left out at a camp while the core team of adventurers went inside the dungeon. The core team bravely entered the old underground fortress via a ten-feet wide and high corridor carved into the stone hill.

Sixty feet into the hillside, they came to the entrance door of strong wood with metal bindings. The group had their marching order: a double column with four of the fighters up front, followed by the wizard and cleric pair, and the last two fighters as rear guard. The lead fighters opened the door to find the corridor continuing deeper into the hill.

The party went forward down the hall, in a cacophony of excitement, sending echoes of their movement and talking and laughter far ahead of them. Immediately after the front door, they passed a pair of alcoves to either side of the hallway. They moved on. When they found another set of alcoves about fifty feet further in, they decided to search them in detail. A couple of the fighters searched each alcove while the other couple stood guard. One pair of searchers found a secret door in the back of the right-side alcove. But they hadn’t figured out how to open the door yet when they received their first combat challenge.

The party’s loud talking and laughing had attracted the attention of a pair of patrolling hobgoblins, who charged right at the guarding pair of fighters. The struggle was quick and painless for the party, as the hobgoblins fell easily to spear thrusts and throws.

Shortly after that, the alcove searchers discovered how to open the secret door, and they found a crossroads of corridors beyond. The group moved, still loudly, through the secret door and into the crossroads where they debated which direction they should go. The boisterously loud discussion attracted more attention from nearby creatures, and a group of goblins charged into their torchlight from both the south and east corridors. The party had to defend on two fronts, but the small goblins were well dealt with. A couple of fighters and the cleric took some minor wounding, but no one was seriously injured in the battle.

The party decided to explore down the east corridor. They moved down the hall, still loud and incautious. They came to a pair of doors on either side of the hallway, (which itself continued on further east). The fighter at the head of the party banged on the right-side door for some unstated reason — not that any creature in the dungeon didn’t already know the loud group was approaching. When everyone in the group finally got quiet, he listened at the door, and heard movement and voices somewhere on the other side. When another fighter tried listening to the door on the left side of the corridor, the party got noisy again with excitement over what grand battle might await them behind the first, right-side door. The lead fighter opened the door and the group charged through it.

Dungeon Explored 1The moderately large chamber they charged into was a throne room with tall columns reaching up to the ceiling twenty feet overhead. Half a dozen hobgoblins were staged about the area in a defensive stance, ready for attack. No leaders sat upon the thrones at the far end of the room. The party continued their charge and spread out to each take on a hobgoblin opponent. After a couple rounds of battle, and a few hobgoblin deaths, (with no adventurer death), a group goblins sprang out from behind the thrones to join the battle. The goblin surprise didn’t help the defense, and soon all goblinoid creatures were slain — even those mortally wounded goblins who had dropped their weapons and were trying to crawl away. A few of the fighters and the wizard were moderately wounded, but the cleric managed to heal everyone to at least near full health. (The cleric had a magic item that he could use to cure light wounds once per day for each person.)

After the battle, the party went about giving the throne room a cursory scan. There were three new corridors and a door leading from this room, and the group began another loud debate about what to do next. Then the wizard thought to cast detect magic. The yet unopened door began to glow, revealing a magic spell on it, and from the seat of one of the thrones, a small glow peaked out revealing something magical hidden under the seat.

Two fighters tested the door, and when it wouldn’t open, they set about smashing at it with shield and spear and sword. Another pair of fighters began searching the throne. They determined there was a secret compartment under the seat, and they also set about destructing their way into it. The door-workers made no way, but the throne-abusers managed to break the seat, and found the bottom filled with a jeweled crown, a pile of gold, and a glowing magical ring. One fighter grabbed the crown and gold while the other took up the magic ring.

Several ideas were suggested for using the ring to open the door, and eventually they had the fighter put on the ring and simply open the door. That worked. The group then lined up to move through the magical door into the next room.

The room was a worship area, with religious symbols covering the side walls, a large stone demon face on the far wall, a five-foot wide pit in the center of the floor, and four armored and armed skeletons standing at attention. The fighters continued into the room, stopping only when the armored skeletons animated and attacked. One of the fighters was badly injured pretty quickly, and he had to pull back from the front line. Another fighter took his place, and the cleric healed him. The other fighters handily defeated the undead.

The party began searching the room closely, taking time and attention to examine everything. The pit in the center of the room was three feet deep, blacked by fire and soot, with a pile of ash at the bottom. The demon face was carved directly from the stone wall, with a small concealed area down inside its mouth.

The group discussed methods of testing the room, and one fighter dropped a lit torch down into the ash at the bottom of the pit. Quickly, the ash started glowing and relit. In a puff of flame and smoke, a giant burning snake rose from the pit. The excitement was short-lived as one-two-three, the fighters around the pit destroyed the firey creature in seconds. After the fight, a fighter hopped down into the pit of ash and searched around. The dirty work turned out worthwhile, as he found a very large ruby concealed under the ash.

Then the group put their attention to the stone demon face. One fighter used a dagger to feel around in the demon’s mouth, and felt his blade bump and moved something within it. Another fighter incautiously put his hand into the mouth to feel around, and he snagged his hand on a sharp needle. A sharp needle coated with poison. Fortunately he resisted the poison’s effects. He then reached back into the mouth, again, but avoided getting stuck by the needle, and he pulled out a leather tube pouch. Opening the tube, he found three sheets of parchment with religious prayers written on them. The party cleric looked the papers over and found them to be magic spells: remove poison, continual light, and detect magic.

When the group was satisfied that there was nothing else to discover in the worship room*, they left to take a new corridor out of the throne room. The cleric used one of the just found magic scrolls to cast continual light on the spear tip of the lead fighter. This was useful, as having enough torch light for the party had gotten complicated.

Continued here.

* Note: The boys tried a lot of other activities and searches and ideas in this room, (and in other areas), that I’m not relating. The whole game session was four hours long, and I’m assuming you don’t want to take four hours to read the story in exacting detail, so I’m only writing about the activities and searches and ideas that actually accomplished something.

Bullgrit

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5 Responses to Boys Delve into the Dungeon

  1. RedSimpson says:

    How long did it take to teach the boys the rules of the game? Did they start searching for secret doors on their own or did the dads tell them to search? How m8uch time did it take to play this far? When are you going to blog the rest of the game?

  2. Zelligar says:

    I have DM’ed In Search of the Unknown in recent years, with 3rd ed. D&D. I have never written out a D&D game session so I dont know how much text it would take for my experiences but this blog is a lot for only 2 rooms in the dungeon. I think it would only take a few paragraphs to tell about my players getting this far. Just walking down the hall and opening 2 doors.

  3. Bullgrit says:

    RedSimpson: I explained the combat rules in maybe five minutes. The boys understood it once they went through a battle, but they sometimes still forgot to add their attack and damage bonuses to the die rolls. I’m not completely sure if the search for secret doors was the boys’ idea or if a dad mentioned it. The whole game session was 4 hours, and this blog post takes the tale to about half-way. I’ll post the second half on Wednesday.

    Zelligar: I’ve written out a few game sessions through the years, and this length is about normal. When playing the game, so much happens essentially simultaneously but it has to be explained separately in text.

  4. Grant Niemeyer says:

    i offten have thought about setting a up a video or tapping sessions for just such a battle report. I don’t know why but love reading these things a friend of mine does it with WW2 click mini’s. love reading them since i know all the players and can imagine their reactions to the dice rolls and such. just curious are the Dads kinda taking the boys in hand and moving them along if they get stuck or is it the other way around do they have to slow them down?

  5. Bullgrit says:

    Grant: Back in the 80s, I audio tape recorded a couple of game sessions. (I still have one of the tapes.) Hearing a game session — hearing myself DM a game session — is enlightening.

    I huddled with the dads before starting the adventure and asked them to let the boys make decisions and carry the progress. If things got bogged down or the boys got too distracted or lost, they should nudge things along. Having the dads there was a BIG help, but the boys were surprisingly good at dungeon delving with their own ideas. They decided on what to do, (direction to go next, where to search, etc.), diplomatically among themselves with little help needed.

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