While I’ve been doing Interactive stories with my son since I came back from Gen Con, not all of them were worthy of being blogged about. As my creative surge of last summer ebbed in the gray doldrums of Autumn, my drive for these stories abated somewhat and I mostly went through the motions. The stories became less interactive and often less inspiring.
Nico is also a somewhat conservative player who likes to stay within well defined bounds after the initial discovery of something he likes. Thus, many of our stories revolved around ‘fetch this’ or ‘help so and so’ with the same cast of characters.
We did have a Indiana Jones period where the stories were entertaining, but we ended up mostly retelling the movies and changing Indy for Nico.
Although i must confess that having Nico’s plane crash whenever he took one (and having the character survive unscathed) was hilarious.
Anyhoo, all this just to say that last night, when Nico asked for an interactive story, I decided to push the enveloppe and try to get my brain out of its DMing funk. Play acting with my son is the perfect occasion!
So here’s how this experiment turned out:
A friend’s Dream
Chatty: All right, what are you doing now?
Nico: Daaad! You know I don’t like when it starts like that!
(Yeah I noticed, I was just confirming… Adult players hate that too.)
Chatty: All right, I was just kidding. You are playing in your castle’s courtyard when a friend of yours comes to you. Who do you think that is?
Nico: That’s probably Sandshrew!
Chatty: Right you are! He’s got something to tell you. He had a dream he wants to tell you about, Interested?
Well, he tells you that last night he had a dream where was told by a strange voice that he had to find a friend and go to the Highest Place, the Lowest Place and the Wettest Place to get 3 pieces of a secret. Only when brought together would the secret be uncovered.
Nico the Dream Reader
Chatty: What do you think that dream means?
Nico: Hmmm. I guess I’m the friend!
That would make sense. What about the 3 places Sandshrew was told to visit?
(Notice here how I try to find a way to give Nico narrative control without him going defensive? That was the breakthrough I was seeking… )
Nico: I think the highest place is the Palace’s roof.
Chatty: Sure, that works.
Nico: And the lowest place is definitively the Castle’s Basement, its one kilometer deep (yeah, my kid has gone metric… I’m so proud!)
Chatty: Whoa! That’s deep and by the way, a Castle’s basement is called a dungeon!
Nico: Oh and for the wettest place… (Pause as he thinks), its the Mountain of Weight!
Chatty: The Mountain of Weight?
Nico: Yeah, the mountain is so heavy that huge, heavy clouds gather around it, like it was a cloud magnet!
(Hey, who told my 6 year old son about gravity? I’m gonna have to start going scientific soon it seems)
Chatty: And its wet because?
Nico: Well the clouds are so heavy that when birds fly through them, it creates a hole and water gushes out of it and pours on the mountain, creating a huge lake around it!
(I’m so making this little man my writing protegé later! Hey did I tell you that he’s almost French literate now? He’s even reading a few English words! )
Chatty: That’s just a great idea!
The High Place
Chatty: So, do you want to help Sandshrew explore what his dream means?
Nico (Getting excited): Yeah!
All right! So you start by…?
Okay, so you start climbing the roof and it’s very slippery…
No its not, it’s got pieces of wood all over the place and we can climb those easily!
(I guess he meant shingles, and I guess he really wants narrative control today… “hey let’s roll with this” I told myself)
Chatty: Sure, okay so you see one of those metal birds that indicate the direction where the wind blows, its called a Weather Vane (Girouette in French) and on top of it you see a shining piece of metal… it looks to be a piece of a blade.
Nico: I take it and then i go in the Castle’s basement!
The Low Place
Okay, well, you spend a long time climbing down the stairs…
Well, I take out my sword and I melt the stairs with my fire Gem!
(Yeah, for those new to the series, Nico has a Laser sword that also shoots fire…)
You what? Why do you want to break the stairs?
I don’t want to break them. I just want to melt them a little.
Why? (I was completely baffled but I tried to resist the urge to go paternal and let him follow his idea through… Say “Yes” and all that stuff.)
Because when its melted, Sandshrew and I can slide to the bottom like it was snow! We’ll get down there real fast!
(My jaw dropped! That guy is amazing!)
Chatty: Okay so you grab a shield that hangs on a wall and you guys start sliding down the spiraling stairs down to the bottom.
Nico: Yay! What do I see?
(He was really into it, more than I have seen him in weeks! This is what drives a GM to keep coming back at the table!)
Chatty: You see an ancient suit of armour standing alone in a round room. It has another piece of the sword in his hands.
Nico: I take it!
Before you can grab it, the suit animates and says in an empty voice “WHO DARES TAKE WHAT BELONGS TO THE OWNERS OF THIS CASTLE! ONLY THE OWNER CAN TAKE IT”
I’m the Owner’s son!
Well, my father is the King and I yield the laser sword, I have power Diamonds and I wear the Magic Armour of Weather Control!
VERY WELL, TAKE IT!
All right, Nico, time for bed!
Come on Daddy, we’re almost done…
Oh no, the mountain will take a long time to explore!
(I love it when he does that!)
Chatty: He He! Okay, one last scene!
Getting to the Mountain of Weight
Chatty: The mountain is far away, many many days by foot.
Nico: Do we have a vehicle at the castle?
Sure, your father has a Royal Coach (French: Carosse).
It’s a fancy word for a Horse-Drawn Car.
Okay, let’s go!
Sure thing! Sometime later, while traveling down a road crossing a big forest, you see a fallen tree across the road with a man standing behind it, signaling you to stop.
Okay. (Sounding unsure)
As you look outside the Coach, you see 2 more men pop out from behind the tree and wearing Red Bandannas to hide their features. They’re Bandits and they want to steal from you!
I get out and I draw my sword.
The Bandits aren’t as brave as they initially were but they stand their ground.
I tell them “Do you want me to do this with you?” and I use my lasers to chop the whole tree in pieces and use my wind power to sweep the firewood back in the forest!
(Nico has Badass blood I swear! Must be from his mom because I’m a total wuss)
The bandits scream in panic and run away, promising never to do this again!
Okay boy, sleep time!
You had your extension, we’ll finish this one another night! Good night kiddo!
As I write these lines, I realize that in my 25 years of gaming, all my great games were the ones where I shared narrative control with the players. I want to reconnect with that and make this like a second nature to me.
Not as easy as it sounds for this old Crunch Overlord.
Stay Tuned for part 2.
Credit: Nicolas Ménard (Story), Costume Kingdom (Picture)