Tonight, something amazing happened. Something I wasn’t expecting would even be possible for a couple years, if ever…I played an RPG with my kids.
A little preface is in order. I like role-playing games. Not all of them, and not indiscriminately, but I like them. I like the idea of working together as a group to accomplish something, even if what you’re accomplishing is just a good time. I enjoy when the person running the game drops the bomb, and you realize that everything’s changed, and that things are about to go sideways. Most of all, I enjoy being able to play in an environment as unstable as the world in the GM/DM/Storyteller’s head, because that world is a malleable clay, and if I can think of something crazy and interesting enough, it’ll probably happen. Most of all, I like running the games, acting as referee for a group of people that are in it for all kinds of different reasons, and planning a narative to catch all of them, and bring them together mentally to achieve something. These are all amazing things.
So, today I promised my kids we’d play a game. I said maybe we’d play a board game (assuming I could find one.) They thought that was a great idea, and reminded me of it incessantly on the way home from church. With Mommy sleeping due to new-mother-syndrome, that left me and three kids with a lot of time to spare on our own on a sleepy Sunday with the rain pouring outside. I poked around a little in the closets, trying to figure out where the board games had gone, hoping we had something like Chutes and Ladders that they wouldn’t need much help to figure out. Something we could just sit down and play. When I couldn’t find anything except Monopoly (my oldest is seven…no way I was going to explain Monopoly well enough for us to play), I was ready to give up. Then I rememebered that I had Descent tucked away somewhere in the garage.
Small aside: Descent is sort of what happens when game designers have a lot of money to spend, and decide to take D&D and make it simpler while maintaining the spirit of the original. So, you have the awesome board that’s completely modular so you can make it look any which way you want, you have all the figurines (it would be better if they were color, but still…), the custom dice…and the horrible custom rules. The rules…are horrible to play with. The only thing it does better than stock D&D is that the player characters are pre-made, so you don’t have to roll new ones when you have no idea what you’re doing. Everything else is much, much harder to pick up, and never stops feeling awkward and clunky. Interestingly, smart DMs will have pre-made characters ready for new players, so they can just pick one and start playing, making that one advantage pretty much moot.
I bought Descent in the first place because I wanted all the figures, and especially the modular game board. I’ve seen really ghetto boards, and this one was very nice…and I just kind of wanted it. I never pulled it out to play with anyone, because I knew how horrible it was to play, but I kept it somewhere safe, and wondered what in the world I’d do with it.
Fast forward to today. I pulled the giant tackle box I have the whole thing stored in out of the garage, and brought it into the living room. I had no idea how this was going to work out, but I figured I’d make it up as I went along, using an incredibly simplified d20 system. I pulled out my dice, and it turns out my dice addiction has paid off: I had almost four full sets of dice we could use (d20 systems use a d20 (20-sided dice), a d12, 2 d10s, d8, d6, and d4), as well as a ton of miscellaneous markers and a whole bunch of other dice. Enough to get playing, anyway.
It took about five minutes to set them up (fighter, magic-user and cleric…I’ve been in a oDnD kick recently) and sort of expain what we would be doing. I put up a hallway that they started in, and let them go at it. I didn’t plan anything at all–made it all up on the fly. But they loved it. They loved fighting the monsters and looting the corpses. They worked together, with my youngest son healing the others when they needed it, and the other two protecting him and each other. They thought it was awesome when they found armour and weapons in chests, and got to hit things harder, or get harder to hit. And while I don’t really get into miniatures myself, they loved them–rather than having to picture the situation I was describing, they could see it on the board, and could make decisions immediately. They happily took turns, and talked about what they should do. We played for three and a half hours, and they were completely captivated by it, and wanted to know if we could play again when we finished. (My voice was going hoarse, and my back/butt hurt from sitting on the floor so long, so I told them we’d play again Wednesday.)
So, why am I sharing this? I guess it’s mostly because I’m so excited about what I discovered. It seems that with a simple-enough rule system (and it was *simple*…I’m going to have to write it out at some point) my older three children, only 7, 5, and 4, were able to sit down with me and play a game for hours, and loved it. And the really scary part? I loved it, too.