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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.


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Organizing a D&D Game for Boys

Calfgrit10 has shown interest in a lot of my D&D paraphernalia laying and hanging about my home office. I’ve given him some vague descriptions of D&D, but I’ve never played it with him nor given him a rulebook to read about it. Not that I haven’t wanted to, I’ve just been waiting for an appropriate level of maturity. I think he’s reached that maturity, now. So I told him to think of who he’d like to invite over for an afternoon introduction to the wonderful world of Dungeons & Dragons adventure.

He immediately had one particular friend in mind, so I noted him. Then he thought for a minute and gave me another friend’s name, and I noted him. Then he thought for another minute, and this time I suggested a friend’s name, which he agreed to, and I noted him. That would be four boys in total — a good number that maybe I could handle. I’ve run a D&D game many times through the years, but it’s been since never that I’ve done it for a group of 10 year olds. Especially a group of 10 year olds who have never been exposed to a table-top role playing game.

The boy whom I suggested, I know his father is/used to be a gamer similar to me, (we’ve briefly talked about it when our boys were hanging out together). I knew before I asked Calfgrit10, that I wanted to invite that dad and boy to join us. Not only would another classic gamer be sharing in a little nostalgia with our sons, but maybe having another dad present would make it easier for me to control the game. And I was glad that CG10 immediately agreed.

Once I got Calfgrit’s list of friends to invite, I gave thought to what edition of D&D did I want to run for them. Third edition is my personal preference for D&D gaming, but it’s too complicated for what is essentially a simple pick-up game. D&D3 is great for campaign-length gaming, but Basic D&D (1981 edition) is probably better for simple, introductory one-shot games. So I decided to run Basic D&D. And I’ll use the classic adventure module, In Search of the Unknown — the adventure module that served as my own personal first introduction to the game. The more I thought about this whole thing over the next several days, the more excited I got about it.

Maybe it could salve my disappointment over the last time I tried this with my adult game group:

I sent emails to the three boys’ parents, explaining my plans, and waited for the responses.

I’m in the planning stage of having a game day where I’ll introduce [Calfgrit10] and some of his friends to a classic game of Dungeons & Dragons. (Basic D&D, 1981 edition, if you are familiar with the game.) We want to invite [boy] to join us, if he’s interested. It’s looking like the best date would be July 23, for about 4 hours in the afternoon.

Please let me know if [boy] would be interested, and if that date is workable.

The first reply was an immediate and positive response from the dad whom I was hoping would join us. The second reply didn’t come until I had sent a follow up email several days later.

I got a phone call from the boy’s mother. She was “concerned” about the concept, as she didn’t have positive knowledge of D&D. “From what I remember about it, it was something that studious kids avoided,” she said.

Her husband had played D&D some time in the past, but she had no firsthand experience with it, herself. She said her son tended to get somewhat obsessed with video games he played, so she wanted to think about it and talk with her husband about whether D&D would be appropriate for their son. I supported her wanting to talk it out, and made no defense of the game other than to point out it is more social than most video games — he’d be playing with three or four other boys at the table.

The idea that some of the parents might have memories of the old 80’s urban myths about D&D being related to the occult, and players going insane, did cross my mind before I sent out the emails. So I had already given thought to whether to, and how to, defend it if I needed to. My decision was that I would not defend the game in an effort to get some parent’s permission for their son to play. I didn’t want to talk anyone into letting their child do something they weren’t sure about, even if their concern was based on completely untrue old scary myths. I figured the most defense I would give would be to invite the parents to join the game day if they wanted, even if they just hung out in the room with us and watched.

But even as I considered how to handle mythical worries, I thought, (read: hoped), that such silly ideas had already been sufficiently debunked just by the number of modern dads, (and maybe moms), who probably played the game in their younger, (or even current), years. But then, I should have realized that people who have not experienced D&D in any way, directly or indirectly, really have no basis on which to personally debunk any of the myths. I mean, unless you’ve swallowed Pop Rocks and Pepsi at the same time, how would you know the mixture wouldn’t kill you?

So, anyway, a few days later, the mom called back and explained that, although her husband backed up the fact that D&D is just a game, and nothing sinister in any way, their son won’t be participating in our game. They don’t want him obsessing over it like he has shown a propensity to do with video games. Fair enough. I have no problem with their decision.

The third boy we invited, I’ve had a hard time connecting with his mother. Her email bounced, and she hasn’t returned our phone call, yet. So we’ve got just one boy and dad so far planning to join our adventure afternoon. Calfgrit10 has given me another friend to invite, and I’ll be sending his parents an email tonight. I hope we can get some more takers. D&D is much more fun with a group of friends. Without the group dynamic, it looses a major enjoyment factor.


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Old Books

I love my game books. Especially my old game books. Not only are they great games, but many also have some great fiction as part of the game setup. Plus I and my friends of the times created our own great stories by using these books and playing the games.

Take the below book, for example. The 3025 Technical Readout for the Battletech game is one of the best game books I have ever owned. Hell, it’s one of the best books of any kind I’ve ever owned. It is, of course, first and foremost a collection of game rules for playing Battletech, but literally half the text is pure fiction short-short stories about the world(s), technology, and people of the game universe.

I’ve used and read this book so much in the 25 years I’ve owned it, that the spine has broken, and the pages are falling out. This is the very illustration of a “well loved” book. Even though it’s falling apart, I manage to keep it together, and at least moderately protected.

Another great game book that I’ve treasured for many years, is Shadowrun.

This book is almost 20 years old, and it has stood the test of playing and rereading all through those years. I still so love reading the game mechanics and the world fiction in the book. In fact, I just recently had it out on the nightstand beside my bed so I could read it in the evenings while lying in bed.

It’s a thrill to read, and it’s fun to remember back to all the exciting adventures I and my friends created for and with this game. And like the above Battletech book, and in fact, most of my game books, it is old and very, truly dear to me.

So imagine my feelings when I came home the other day and learned about this:

Trooper the dog found it, pulled it down off the table, and ate on it at his leisure.

This dog chewed the corner of my home office desk when it was still just weeks new. Now he’s chewed up an old, sentimental book.

The local SPCA phone number is 772-2326. I’m just sayin’.


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Iron Ninja Burger Monkey

I found this at my local comic book shop. Odd.

I didn’t have time, (or the inclination), to really read any of it, so I don’t even know what to say about it.


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