So last week I introduced my son to Dungeons and Dragons. We started out with something simple: I explained to him that we would make him a character, and we would talk our way through a story where his character got to be the hero. I gave him the option of either a warrior, wizard, or thief, and he immediately chose the thief. We talked about the thief’s abilities to sneak around, move silently, pick locks, etc., and had to come up with a name.
If you haven’t already guessed, the name he selected was Kirby Shadowsack.
We haven’t gotten into any dice chucking yet, and that’s been tricky. Usually, when someone wants to do something outlandish, the DM can set a fairly high standard for the dice and make them roll it. If they roll and fail (which they likely will), then they simply couldn’t do it; if they roll and win, then it’s an epic win and they have a memorable moment.
Instead, I’ve just allowed his character to succeed with anything that he wants to do. This has made the DMing experience very interesting for me because I haven’t been able to place any constraints on the game through dice rolls. It’s been great for him, though, as his imagination has been able to run free during this first experience.
After we worked out the things that Kirby would need (clothes, a bag, etc), the adventure started.
We began in a Tavern. I had initially planned to give him the cliched quest of cleaning vermin out of the barmaid’s basement, but I never got to it. The moment he entered the tavern he started sneaking around. After a short discussion as to why it might not be a good idea to try stealing everything from everyone in the tavern, he decided to sneak over to the table of goblins. Just before he was going to pick everything from their pockets, he overheard their plot to attack the leader of the Thieves’ Guild that evening. From that point, it was on like Donkey Kong.
As the game progressed, I had the chance to witness a few “firsts” for him:
- I saw the first time he tried to BS the DM with some ability or piece of equipment that clearly wasn’t on the character sheet. While I loved his imagination, we had to have just a little bit of a constraint on what he could just make up. Some of the things that he suggested were really neat, though, such as a magical trap-disarming device that “learns” the traps and can replicate them. As we move along, I may give him an opportunity to commission such a device.
- I saw the torment of him almost losing his first character after making a bad mistake. He didn’t look at the map when trying to find a place to hide, and he ended up jumping into the water. Of course, since the person he was hiding from heard the “splash,” he was able to send someone in to get Kirby. When I said “that’s the end of the story,” I could see the tears starting to form. This was a good teaching moment, and I felt the lesson had been learned. I let him “rewind” to a certain point, just once, and he’s much more careful now.
- I saw the first time he had a question for the DM outside of the game. Watching him make that distinction and sort through explaining it to me was wonderful. “I’m asking you, not in the game, but here.”
- Most of all, I witnessed him breaking away from the video game mentality and really getting into the story. As he crept away from the goblins in the tavern (something he actually acted out in the doctor’s office where we were playing) to report the news to the leader, he started to appreciate that not all stories of this kind involve stealing and fighting. I saw his face light up as he moved along, and he had a great time.
We’re going to continue the story of Kirby Shadowsack, and I am going to try to document everything that he does. It might be good material for a web-comic, if I ever decide to do one. Either way, I hope every geeky parent experiences the joy of passing on D&D to the next generation. It’s like giving them a piece of my childhood.
And that is why games matter!