Bedtime Campaign: Brother and Sister in the Car Edition

Three weeks ago I was on a fairly long car trip with both my children.  I decided to test freeform storytelling with both of them to see how well young siblings could cooperate.

After quite a rocky start we managed to agree on some rules so we could avoid fighting and move our story forward.

Which comes to show that game rules probably stem from the fact that 3 people can’t agree all the time on how a game should be played.

The following text is an edited account of that experiment, suffice it to say that Rory and Nico have vastly different play styles and motivations but show great promise as a Roleplaying team!


Nico: 6 year old boy.  Very pragmatic.  Likes robots, Knights and solving problems. Dislikes Princesses and sharing narrative control.

Rory: 5 year old girl.  Has a strong artistic sense. Loves princesses, ponies and kicking butts!  Dislikes being cut mid-sentence. 

Dramatis Personae

Chatty: Okay, We’ll try the story game. I want you both to tell me who you are?

Nico: Like always, I’m Super Nico the knight (Nico is conservative and likes to stay within pre-defined bounds)

Chatty: That’s fine, except let’s give him new powers.  We’ll do this in just a bit. Rory?

Rory: I’m Cartain the Superhero!

Proud father aside: Those who have been reading this series have seen how clever my son is.  Rory is also something else. She idolizes Rogue in the X-Men and created an English sounding name for her character.  While both my kids are on the way to being fully French/English bilingual, Rory actually speaks some words of Spanish and Mandarin too.

Chatty: That’s a nice name.  Okay so I want you each to tell me, in turn, one power or object your character has in this story.   Rory?

Rory: I can shoot Lava from my fingertips!

Chatty: Ouch. Nico?

Nico (Spending some time making and unmaking choices, not wanting to take the same powers as his other story but still steering toward them): I’ll have a metal Armour!

Rory: I have poison darts!

Chatty (Worried): Poison? What kind of poison?

Rory: A poison that puts people to sleep for 20 minutes (Wow that’s precise!)

Chatty (Relieved): That’s a great idea!

Nico: I have this big big hammer!

Chatty: Oh yeah! I’d hate to get hit on the Noggin’ with that!

Rory: My eyes shoots rocks!

Chatty (Weirded out after only 3 minutes): Rocks? Like big rocks or small ones?

Rory: Lots and lots and lots of small ones really fast!

Chatty: Sure, that’s cool too!

Nico (Wanting to borrow Rory’s dart idea): I have this power where I can repeatedly bonk someone on the head with my hammer and stun them for 20 seconds!

Chatty: Awesome!

All super heroes need an Origins story

Chatty: Okay so let’s start with the first adventure…

Rory: Do we have our powers yet?

Nico: Yes we do, let’s start!

Rory: I want to start the story before we got them (Ack, a Storyteller!!!!)

Nico (Annoyed): No I want to start the adventure right away!

(Snipped out parental intervention and negotiations.  All parties agreed to make a short ‘origins’ story)

Chatty: So you’re each playing in your rooms in the castle when Yuki, the house servant, bangs on both your doors. She says it’s time to get dressed and go the the old Wizard’s shop?

Rory: Why? What’s there?

Nico: We can get our powers!

Chatty: That’s right, he promised to give you a gift when you were old enough, which is now.  So do you go?

Both: Yes!

Chatty: So you arrive at the store and this old wizard looks you up and down and says ‘So you’re the young ones living at the Castle, yes?  Since you are now old enough, I have gifts for you”

Rory: What is it?

Old Wizard: For you young Cartain, I have these enchanted gloves infused with the power of volcanos,  I also have a Tiara made of countless gems with a magic Visor

Rory: Yay!

Nico: What about me?

Old Wizard: Patience dear one, I have one last item for Cartain.  Here’s a Crossbow with special blots

Rory: They’re poisoned right?

Old Wizard: Of Course, they are guaranteed to put someone to sleep for exactly 20 minutes

Nico: My turn now!

Old Wizard: For you I have the finest armour of steel plates, An Iron Hammer and this manual of Knight Secrets

Nico: What’s that?

Chatty: It’s a book that can teach you all kinds of cool tricks you can do with your powers

Nico: Cool!

Rory: Is that how we got our powers, with these gifts?

Nico: No, we have got to learn how to use them with my book

Rory : (Raising her voice) But I don’t want to learn them in your book, I want to discover them myself!

Second pause where I mentioned that maybe it was not a good idea to play this game with two heroes if they could not work together.  Some arguing ensued…

We then drove in silence for about 5 minutes, until Nico asked if we could continue playing provided we made sure we didn’t fight.  I proposed the following new rule:

I will present a situation.  Rory and Nico would then discuss it among themselves, agree to a course of action and tell me what they did.  Then I’d continue the story based on the common decision.

We all agreed to try it.

The case of the Thieving Dragon

Chatty: Okay, so you’re coming back toward the castle when you hear a horrible roar pierce the night somewhere near the Castle, what do you do?

(Ushered discussions) Nico: We run to the Castle!

Rory: Yeah!

Chatty: As you approach the Castle, you see a Huge Dragon ripping the Castle off the ground and taking it with him.  When you see him approach, it laughs and says: ‘Ur Ur Ur, I’m stealing your home and your parents and there’s nothing you can do to Smaug the Dragon!’  What do you do?

(Another longish secret conference)

Rory: I summon my Fey sisters to me who all have the same powers I do and come when I call them! (Yup, she makes powers on the spot… why not?)

Chatty (Not missing a beat): Okay, so a great group of Cartains are running toward the dragon.

Nico: I sneak up on the Dragon and raise my hammer (he then waits for Rory to finish her part)

Rory: We start shooting rocks from our eyes to create a great pile under the castle!

Chatty: Okay ???

Nico: When there’s a lot of rocks, I hit the dragon really hard on it’s foot with my hammer!

Chatty (Finally catching on): Ha ha ha!  Awesome!  As you hit the dragon really hard, it drops the Castle on the pig pile of rocks, preventing it from falling from too high.  The dragon leaves, crying that you broke his foot!  You saved your home!

Both kids: Yay!

Chatty: That was a nice game, we’ll play some other time, our exit is coming up.

First group storytelling experience a success!


  1. Ha ha. Chatty, you and yours continue to amaze and delight!

    We a baying at the gates for more stories!

  2. That is awesome. Wow.

    I should try that with some of my buds when we don’t have dice around. Minus The Hobbit plagiarizing of course 😉

  3. I’m actually quite interested to hear about the internal conflicts between both party members. 😉

    Questing GMs last blog post..Word of Wizards – Minor Updates

  4. It was all about Narrative Control.

    Both kids wanted to control where the story went and were not interested in listening to what the other sibling wanted (typical sibling fighting for the same resources).

    So when I declared a stop to the game for both, they agreed to work more cooperatively.

    Letting them discuss in hushed tones in the backseat made it more interesting to them as they were taking their actions outside my influence and had full control.

  5. Hmm…I’ll have to try something more like this on car rides. My son makes me improvise Simpsons episodes for him on car rides, with him playing either goblins or robots I have to introduce into the story. Trouble is, I find it highly distracting and I frequently miss my turns. I can’t imagine how you roleplayed with TWO children and didn’t get lost!

  6. I was on a Highway, traveling more than 60 miles to my folks place in the country.

  7. Malazarti says:

    Lovely story. Makes me wish I had munchkins of my own seriously 🙂

    they shound like wonderful and delightful kids.

  8. Chatty, man, you must be one of the best dads in the world! (Your progeny doesn’t sound half bad either :P)

    That little experience sounds so cool!

    Can’t wait for me to try this kind of stuff with my own kids…

    Eric Maziades last blog post..DM for kids in 4.0, part 2

  9. Now it is an entire roleplaying game: There is character generation and rules for narrative control.

    Tommis last blog post..Efemeros

  10. @Malazarti: They are truly astounding kids… and that’s not just because I’m their father. I can’t wait to play some more RPGs with them.

    @Eric: Merci for the kudos! I don’t know how well my kids will turn out but I will damn well be there to see it. Actually doing some free form storytelling might be a good practice to introduce them to 4e as you talk about on your blog.

    @Tommi: Gee, you’re right. Chatty Kids: the RPG is born!

  11. That’s great. I love these posts!

    When do you think they’ll be ready for ‘real’ RPGing? 5-more years? Lol.