Thursday night, at around 7h30 (shortly before he was supposed to go to bed), my 8 year old son Nico (how fast they grow!) climbs down the stairs to my gameroom/office and asks me to play something. Our cable, internet and phone line were down (the joys of a single provider) and my son was looking for entertainment. Rory (My 6-and-more-than-a-half year old daughter) was baking cakes with Alex (my awesomely hot and ageless wife) upstairs.
Here we are now, entertain us!
Chatty: Wanna play Jungle Speed?
Nico (hesitant): I guess…
Chatty: Oh, I know exactly what we can play. Want to play an adventure game?
Nico (still hesitant): … I wanna play Talisman!
Chatty: We don’t have time to set it up before bedtime, but we can start the adventure game and continue it later.
Nico: Oh… all right!
Nico has a strong barrier to entry for anything new or unexpected (he gets that from me). But once he starts something he doesn’t want to stop.
Character Generation, Old School Style
Chatty (eyeing the Sword and Wizardry character sheets lying on the table): What adventurer do you want to play?
Nico: I want to play a Magician this time
Chatty: Awesome! Here, sit here and start rolling these 3 dice.
Nico (curious): What for?
Chatty: We’ll see how strong, agile, intelligent and so on… your new character is.
Nico, rolling 3d6 in order, rolls up a Magic User with low STR, WIS and CHA, average DEX and INT and high CON.
Nico: Oh, he can’t do much.
Chatty: Those abilities aren’t that important, they help us know who he is. But since he has a high constitution, he starts with 6 HP, that’s a lot for a magician
I insta-houseruled that his PC would have max HP. I have no intention of teaching my son the ‘joy’ of dying often in retro-games since I never found it ‘fun’ to begin with, my kids have shown to be more story oriented.
In hindsight, I should have gone with a statless approach like I did for all NPCs (and Rory’s PC, see below), sticking to HP, AC, Saving Throws and such.
Nico: I want to start with some magical objects and find lots more when we explore.
Chatty: That works for me. How about you start with this wand that shoots missiles…
Chatty: Ha! Not quite those you’re thinking, they’re magic missiles that are like more like bullets than bazookas. But you can shoot as many as you want in a day. To shoot them, you roll to see if they hit and they deal 1d4+1 damage.
Nico: Ok, that’s cool. Can I have something else?
Chatty (Getting up to recover his stack of Paizo Gamemastery Treasure cards from the game cabinet): Sure. Here pick one at random.
Nico (Picking a card): What are those?
Chatty: They are a pair of horseshoes.
Nico: Oh yeah, I’ve seen those. What do they do?
Chatty (Basking in the freedom of full ad-lib): Well, usually we use them on horses. But in this game, they have enchantments that affect movement of adventurers and you can use them once.
Nico: Once each right?
Chatty (Smiling): Of course.
Nico: So could they either make me run real fast or fly?
Chatty: That’s so cool! All right, each will last a short period of time. Okay, so now we just need to give you your spell.
Nico: What’s that?
Chatty: Magicians have one magical power they can use every day, we determine it by rolling a d10 on (flip flip flip) this chart here.
Nico: Hey! Where’s the 10 on that dice?
Chatty: It’s the 0.
Nico: Your dice are weird dad. I rolled a 6
Chatty: Yeah, tell me about it. You get the spell called Protection from Evil that help you avoid attacks from evil creatures.
Nico (Not impressed, neither was I): Okay.
Chatty: We just need to give your character a name now.
Nico: How about Magi-Nico.
Chatty: How about we explore names that don’t have Nico in them.
Chatty: It’s a good start. Magico the Magician it is! So, now we need to form a party, because a lone wizard will not be able to survive in adventures much.
Nico (itching to start playing): Okay.
Chatty (Opening his D&D minis box): Here start looking for your character and we’ll also chose your 2 helpers.
Nico (Dives into the box): Cool!
Nico eventually picked a Blue-robed wizard with a staff and a knife for Magioco. We also picked an elven mage with a fireball in his hand and a dwarven warrior with full battle regalia. I put an elven swordman and a torch bearer to the side for NPCs.
I made their stats on index cards, bare minimum. The Elf, named named Boulias (Boo-lee-aws) had Burning Hands as a prepared spell (I didn’t check if it existed in S&W, I have the 1e Players Handbook if need be), a wand of eternal Shields and a bandoleer full of darts (possibly my favourite lame D&D weapons ever). The dwarf was the basic axe and shield retro-dwarf called Axtur (ha ha).
Nico (picking dungeon tiles from my box and building an underground river dungeon): Okay lets start…
Chatty (Taking out a yet unwrapped set of Harrowing Halls, graciously offered to me by Wizards of the Coast): Wait, I got a new set of tiles from my friends. We’ll build the place where you get your quest first and then we’ll explore the river dungeon you just built.
We built a hall and Nico chose my Ice and Earth Titan minis and placed them in there. He had fun building the set.
Nico: Okay, so these 2 statues will give the quests. The Ice guy is a good guy and gives good quests and the Earth guy gives evil quests.
Chatty (More than happy to let Nico take narrative control) : Excellent! Now set up your party at the entrance of the hall. There, you see your bard friend Gynax and a quiet man waiting for you.You know what a bard is right?
Nico: Yeah dad, like the guy they always tie up in Asterix.
Chatty: You got it! In the great wooden hall behind them are 2 fearsome statues that stand at least 20′ high each.
At that point, Rory came down. While she had been asked by Alex to fetch us both for bed, my sneaky daughter instead asked to join the game. It was my kids’ bedtime but I was just oblivious to it all, in that parental bliss of sharing one’s passion with one’s progeny.
Chatty: Do you want to play the elf Rory?
Rory: Yes, but I want her to be a girl and change her name.
Nico: Noooo! That’s my story! She’s changing my story.
Ahhh, the joys of forming new groups.
Chatty: Okay, why don’t we make Rory another character? What do you want?
Rory digs in the box and gets a cool female Knife and Staff druid in the leather Britney Spears outfit (Warden of the Wood).
(Father memo: watch her closely and help her build a solid self image)
Rory: I want that one, a magician.
Nico: Hey! Cool, just like me! You’ll get a free object!
Chatty: Yes, here it is (Pick card… doh!). A magical torch! It always stays lit and maybe it has other powers. Also, how about we give you an animal companion that can attack for you?
Rory (Curious): What kind?
Chatty: Look in the box and choose.
Rory: Ewww, they’re all bugs and lizards.
Chatty (Digging deeper in the ‘animal and critter’ section): How about this? This is a “Blaireau” or a Badger in English (yeah, work with me here, my kids are French and translating this part makes it weird).
Made of Win if you ask me.
Chatty: Okay Rory, How is your Badger called?
Rory: Hmmm. Blueberry Red!
Chatty: Perfect! And you have this one power per day that makes Blue bigger and stronger if he gets into a fight (+1 attack and Dmg). Okay let’s start our story.
I picked 2 cards at random from the Paizo deck and slipped them under each Titan.
Act I: They Meet
Chatty: Okay, so Gynax tells you that he summoned you here, where he works as the resident bard. This morning, the Statues spoke and asked to see the realms most promising heroes for a very special quest. This happens once per decade.
Gynax: Since you’re my best friends, I thought about calling you first. Also, I hired this guy to hold your light and carry treasure for you.
A short discussion ensued, dispelling the remaining sibling tension with one last power struggle before cooperation set in and both agreed to call him Lightning Torch. (I’m soooo going to milk this later, an out of work super hero acting as a S&W hireling)
Nico: Okay, what do we need to do?
Gynax: Just go talk to the statues and they’ll tell you. Oh and guys?
Gynax (Getting a very glitzy mandoline out): If you find cool gems, can you bring one back to me so I can finish decorating my instrument?
Chatty: Okay guys, move your party inside the house.
Rory and Nico spread the minis around the Ice Titan.
Chatty: You see the eyes of the statue light up in colours of
Rory: Green, Red and Yellow!
Chatty: Exactly, you guys are good!
Rory: Of course we’re good!
Titan: I sense adventurers. Speak your questions!
Nico: What is our quest?
Titan: You must explore the Whispering Cave nearby and recover an egg from the dragon hidden in it. Bring the egg back to me. Next question?
Rory: What happens if we die?
I was a bit taken aback by that question. She was obviously worried about that and that forced me to address how I would play it out according to my personal views of the game.
Titan: My magic will save you and you will wake up in the beds you see behind me.
Rory (Seemingly satisfied): Okay.
Nico: Can I ask the other Evil statue a question?
Nico: What is your quest?
Earth Titan (Using a low, menacing voice): You must explore the cemetery, find a passage underneath it, and seek a vampire hiding in it.
Rory: Daaad! You’re going to give me nightmares! Let’s not do that quest.
Chatty: Oops, so sorry pumpkin, daddy got carried away. Hey I know, what kind of dragon do you think will be in the Whispering Cave? A good one or an evil one? (Roll bluff check to fast talk her out of evil vampire mode)
Rory: A Good one! (Success!)
Nico: Yeah, don’t take a red one, pick a cool one.
Chatty (Choosing the Platinum Dragon mini from the cabinet): This one?
Alex: Hey down there, it’s almost 8h20!
Chatty: Wha? Really? Awww! We’ll start the next adventure tomorrow okay?
I so love doing this!