GAME-FAM: 1 – Looking into Dungeons & Dragons as a Family Building Exercise

ENCOUNTER

As you enter the clearing you notice that a large furrowed path extends around the whole area in a rough circle. As you stand, considering the purpose of this ancient and much worn track, a distant form approaches your party, jogging down the path. As the figure comes into focus you see that it is an old, mostly naked and quite filthy man. Pausing to cram a handful of berries into his whiskered and semi-toothless mouth he locks eyes with you and an unusual look comes into his eyes. “Time is a flat circle!”, he says, in a surprisingly measured tone and carries on jogging. 

So? Madman or sage? Do you grip your weapons tighter and carry on with your quest more cautiously than before after this unusual event…or do you see the wisdom in his words and minimalist presentation and get behind your new life coach in the endless loop? Only you can decide!

About a month ago I was approached by my nine year old daughter who wanted to know if we could play some Dungeons and Dragons. Since then, a flurry of activity has occurred around said game, drawing in all members of our household from age 4 through 45. 

My first purchases were two books written expressly for children. The ABC’s and The 123’s of D and D are great entry points, unveiling the characters, creatures and worlds of the Dungeons and Dragons setting. Both kids were into these books instantly and as a parent it is nice to be able to see exactly what excites your children about a new toy.

If you show these to kids, expect explosive results!

We are a fairly geeky family consisting of two kids (Minky age 9 and Ziggy age 4) and two parentals (of indeterminate age…) and I suspect we will make an amazing adventure party. As the guy who gets to be the Dungeon Master I do have my concerns though. Mainly that I haven’t played (or DMed..) a game of D and D in a couple of decades. Ouch.

Having no idea what has gone on in the Dungeons and Dragons world in the last 25ish years is where we begin. Instantly I was struck with the quality and amount of licensed stuff. I remember the days of graph paper and colouring in your own dice pips with crayon…this would take some processing.

While I was off gathering our starting adventure supplies the daughter was hard at work, already drawing up potential characters. This only increased on my return with the Player’s Handbook. The artwork throughout is evocative and inclusive and without much time at all the family had chosen their future characters…and Minky had produced colour art depicting each. 

It is always great if you have an artist in your group…but, if you can get a nine year old as well, you will never want for art. 

Kids can be fickle and things cost money. I like to proceed with caution as much as possible…I am fairly excited as well though, and I expect rampant purchasing once we get into the miniatures side of things.

Bare minimum; dice, character sheets and Player’s Handbook will be required for character creation and the first few games. The first several adventure sessions will be all of us learning just what exactly constitutes a role playing session, and that is fine. Dungeons and Dragons Is a fantastic gaming engine for taking things at your own pace and the new edition is well more streamlined than what I was playing in the ‘80s. I remain hopeful.

If you show this to Dads, expect explosive results!!!

Everyone wants something different out of a role playing experience and I advise parents to listen to their kids as much as possible when beginning to think of a narrative. Character creation and the choices of your players being a good indicator of where your future sessions could lead.

Minky, the nine year old (and real driver of the D and D excitement around our house…) has chosen an Elf Ranger. The four year old, Ziggy will be playing a Dragonborn Fighter. My wife, in not much of a departure from current reality, will be playing a Gnome Bard.

Character creation was a breeze and the character creation pack I had purchased made it even easier. The layout of the Player’s Handbook is very intuitive and we were ready to go waaaaaaay before the DM had any real idea of what was going to happen.

The quality of the extra materials is great and will make a fun and easy first time tool kit for my gaming group.

Not wanting to lose momentum (while Dad was muddling through the rules…) I hastily scrawled out a basic map on a sticky note and handed it to the girl for a redraw. I was just trying to keep everyone busy but this project also ended up being an excellent indicator of what sort of adventure the kids were into.

Everyone had chosen a forest dwelling character, so I have decided to set our story in a magical forest called Edgewood. The daughter added a bunch of things to my original drawing, most noticeably the large tree. This tree will also feature heavily in our narrative. I love how ideas play off each other and I’m already 100% sold on getting our party out adventuring as soon as possible.

Note the original in the corner…with fun rounded off hills and  no blood or skulls of any kind. Dads are so lame.

As we play more we can break out of the confines of the forest into the wider world (whichever world that ends up being…) but for now a simple map and story will help properly ferment all the basic concepts in my first time player’s minds.

Much of the starting gaming session will be an introduction to the setting and characters. While that is nicely thought out and also a good starting place narratively, it does not contain any fighting. Fighting will be essential, I have a four year old playing as a giant dragonman. He has also intimated to me that some sort of He-Man type action will be necessary for full cooperation.

While the Player’s Handbook is an excellent resource which does include quite a few options for starting foes, I headed back to the store and grabbed the card deck of Monsters of level 1-5. These cards are not as information laden as the Monster Manual but should be sufficient for quite some time.

Was it all just an excuse to get me some new models to paint? I better get started. That nine year old is demanding to paint her character and I feel it won’t be her last!

As I was shopping it occurred to me that imaginary violence is fine for now but miniatures would be needed for MY full enjoyment. I checked the model line, I bought stuff. Another article about that will be written. For now we have all we need to get started adventuring. 

The basic concept of the story is coming to me now. I’ve got a whiteboard for scrawling down the larger ideas and organizing them into some sort of playable mass. Once I have enough concepts on the board, I rewrite them into a scribbler for tabletop use. 

The anticipation is killing the kids and I need to get everything ready in a timely fashion. The first adventure will be just on paper, with no miniatures and needs to be engaging for everyone. I’ll try and plan for about an hour of actual gaming time and structure the story around that. See you next time with news of high adventure!

-Uncle Mike

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