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Saturday, June 14, 2008

You. Never. Know.

Fresh from the intertubes comes a touching story of a father playing 4e with his son:

All in all, we had a terrific time with it as a tactical war-game. There was plenty of roleplaying, in the form of us bending the little lego-figs arms in order to swing swords and axes, and to bop opponents over the head. There was some dialogue, in the form of "Gah! Get away from me you little lizard thing! I'll kill you!" on D's part and "GGRRHRHRR! SSSSSS! Glibble-glaggle ffft! AAARGH!" on mine. Naturally, with one person playing all five PCs, there wasn't very much in-team banter ... D isn't that schizophrenic.

D was extremely interested to get to Winterhaven (which we had to put off in order to do dinner). He was very insistent ... "Daddy, we have to go there! We have to! I don't even know what those things were, and if I find out what they are then maybe I can talk to them. And what about my guys teacher? He went to Winterhaven, and we have to find out what happened to him. Daddy, can we do it now, pleeeeeeeasssssse?"

That said, when I sat down with him to play Winterhaven, he immediately said "Hey? Where's the map?" I explained that some parts you just imagine. "There's a little walled village," (I set up a shoe-box) "With some guards on the walls" (lego mini-figs) "and farmhouses here and there in the valley below the hill."

This did not satisfy him. "But daddy, WHERE are the farmhouses? I have to know. How do I know if I can move to them, if I don't even know where they are?"

"Sweetheart, this is just a village. You probably won't have to fight here, and if we do then I'll make up a map on the spot."

"No. I need to know now. It could be a monster village, daddy. You. Never. Know."

Isn't that adorable? It makes me estrogen-groggy just reading it.

I also find it highly entertaining that a lone 7 year old boy can run roughshod over an encounter that has resulted in Total Party Kills with groups of adult, experienced gamers, simply by using some imagination (spoilers ho, if you plan to play this module):

Now I will tell you, straight up, that I was worried about this encounter. I am intensely against the notion of fudging games in order to help D win, since I think it teaches terrible skills for later life. At the same time, he had so much emotionally invested in this ... and I've heard all manner of rumblings online about how Irontooth has a tendency to kill and eat entire parties.

I'd looked over the scenario, and I saw the very real possibility of this happening: The encounter is set up in three layers. If you hit the first layer outside the waterfall in a tentative fashion, they'll retreat through the water and then you're dealing with a second layer that's almost twice as powerful God help you if you let that second layer survive intact long enough for the third layer to support it. The concentration of force gives Irontooth the support to rampage unstoppably ... and PCs have no good places to retreat to, with their back against a raging torrent of water. This looked like something that could easily turn into a meatgrinder. Was I going to walk D right into heartbreak at the mercy of the lego-monsters?

As it turned out, I was worrying needlessly.

When D got to the waterfall, I started setting out figures immediately. He noted this change from previous kobold ambushes on the road. "When do I put my figures down?" he asked. "Well," I said, "This time you aren't being surprised. In fact, this time they don't even know you're coming." "Oh!" D said immediately, "I get to be SNEAKY!"

So he asked about the stealth rules, and I confirmed that he would be only as stealthy as the least stealthy person he sent in. Mogue the Rogue went in scouting. He crept around, and I filled in the rest of the units on the map. Once D was sure that he knew where everyone (at least out front of the waterfall) was, he moved his other heroes into position in a nearby grove of trees.

"Now, D," I said, "There are more kobolds, and Irontooth, behind the waterfall. These guys will probably try to go through and warn their friends." "Sure," D said without concern, "They'll try."

So he's all ensconced. What does he do? He starts looking over the situation. "That's a magic circle. Do kobolds know how to do magic like that? Hrm. I don't know. There aren't any magician kobolds out here. I bet they don't know how it works. Daddy, I'm casting Scorching Burst right on the edge of that circle, to make it look like it just exploded."

Would kobolds know whether Scorching Burst came from the bushes or from the circle? I have no rules to say one way or t'other, so I say "They're shocked! 'What that?' they cry, looking around in complete confusion."

"I want to use Ghost Sound," D says, turning over his paper to show the cantrip that Mizard the Wizard has on hand.

This, my friends, was the beginning of the end for the overmatched kobolds.

So, despite whatever flaws 4th Edition may have, it is excellent for teaching the next generation of players to learn and love our hobby. And that is a worthy endeavor.


  1. I'm weepin' like a widder woman...

  2. That little boy is simply made of awesome.

    When I have kids, I want them to play D&D just like him.

  3. That little boy is simply made of awesome.

    When I have kids, I want them to play D&D just like him.


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