Thursday, February 6, 2020


The last few days have been markedly bad for my mood...although, I imagine regular readers must be wondering how much grumpier I can actually get.

Lots. And for multiple reasons...NONE of which are "D&D related."

But I am going to cut myself off right now from talking about those things. In fact, the original post I'd planned (and started writing a couple days ago) has been indefinitely shelved in the "draft" files rather than burden folks with...well, with all that. There's enough stuff to be depressed about in the world without me piling on.

Instead, I'll simply announce that I ran my two children through their first, real B/X adventure Tuesday afternoon (February 4th...happy birthday, Alice Cooper!). Well, kind of. While I used the B/X system, I decided to use the tower of Zenopus dungeon found in the back of the Holmes Basic rulebook (though converted for B/X). It's incredibly lightweight, and yet mostly sensible in design (at least as far as D&D's basic premise goes). Also, Holmes doesn't have the same "save or die" mentality that Moldvay does with regard to low-level traps and such.

Characters were rolled up via 4D6 in order (best three of six) and the kids rolled incredibly much so that I was checking their dice to make sure they were actual D6s. My son didn't get a single score under 14, while my daughter rolled 15+ in every ability but CON and DEX. Unfortunately, both were light on gold (70gp and 80gp, respectively, to start) and had to settle for less than optimal gear: Daniel the Brave entered the dungeon wearing chainmail and carrying a battleaxe, while Maddee the Elf was likewise armored but sporting a sword, shield, and hand axe (she also had the torches).

Maddee wanted to hire some "helpers" (at my suggestion and despite her brother's protest that they reduce the shares of any treasure found). With an excellent hiring roll (helped by her 16 charisma), they picked up two grizzled mercenaries named Flint and Match, both of whom were enthusiastically the elf anyway.

[Maddee chose charm person as her starting spell, by the way; however, she did not perform any magic in the dungeon, for reasons that will become readily apparent]


The party entered the ruins and descended the cracked staircase into the depths of the tower's cellar/excavation, almost immediately encountering a crossroads. This being the players' first foray into any type of fantasy trope (and, thus, having absolutely zero experience with dungeoneering) they decided to take the right hand path rather than following the standard "alway go left" advice. Neither were they interested in taking notes or making maps.

Eventually encountering an old and swollen crypt door, they decided to break it down and look for plunder. What they found was an ancient crypt of broken sarcophagi and two flesh-starved ghouls (#5 on my top ten list of most dangerous B/X monsters) pawing through the remains. Neither group was surprised and the PCs won initiative...unfortunately, two-handed weapons always strike last in combat and the claw-claw-bite of the smaller ghoul managed to hit and paralyze Daniel the Brave before he could make a single attack roll. The larger ghoul, while wounded, still managed to rip the throat out of Flint and immediately began feasting on his flesh.

The smaller ghoul turned its attention to last two warm-blooded creatures yelling at it, and launched a devastating attack at the eyepatch-wearing Match, paralyzing him as he had poor Daniel. However, Maddee's great strength served her well as she struck a terrific blow that killed the creature. Rather than take the easy way out and attempt to escape, she turned to the remaining monster and slew it with a strong blow from behind.

She then sat there for an hour waiting for her companions to regain their mobility. Fortunately, no wandering monsters appeared.

After ransacking the tomb for loot (and finding some ancient platinum pieces and several small gems), the remaining three adventurers continued their exploration, deleting torches and taking no note of their circuitous direction. They encountered a room piled high with garbage, rubbish, and broken furniture, and thought there might be some treasure worth the search. Instead they were assailed by four giant rats, one of which immediately killed poor Match. The beasts proved no match for Maddee and Daniel, however, and despite their ferocity (they made their morale roll) all died beneath the blows of the adventurers. Many old electrum coins were discovered in the refuse, as well as a silver dagger.

Continuing on the pair entered a dark and foreboding chamber, filled with dust and ancient cobwebs. Daniel immediately considered the ceiling, but found no lurking giant spiders, and the pair decided to pass through, weapons in hand. It was only after taking such bold action that a clattering was heard from the hidden side alcoves as four animated skeletons lurched into the torchlight. As luck would have it, the children's dice were hot, and they dispatched all four in a clatter of bones with only Maddee taking a wound...though the blow reduced her to one hit point remaining.

[for the record, this was not a "fudging" on my part; all dice rolls were made in the open]

No treasure was discovered in the chamber and the wounded and weary pair continued on, coming to yet another intersection. Feeling a breeze from the righthand passage, they chose that route and were rewarded by discovering they had somehow managed to find their way back to the entrance stair...still with a torch and a half remaining!

So deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Daniel and Maddee removed themselves from the ruined tower of Zenopus and made their way back to the Green Dragon Inn (whence they started), paying a piece of platinum for a private room in which to recover their health. The dice revealed that they would be fully rested and healed after three days, and they are already making plans to return to the ruins.

[if I had let them, they would have happily played more that night...and every night since; however, I put my foot down due to our rather busy family schedule; still they continue to talk about the game and want to play it again, and soon]

I am using straight B/X rules at this point, as they are the easiest entry point for the game (my son just turned nine; my daughter turns six in April). I have adapted Alexis's system for combat XP, as I like the way it models the experience gained from battle, even battles that end in defeat or stalemate. I intend that the players encounter Brubo the Hooded the next time they venture into the ruins, and I am already beginning to adapt the another adventure for the PCs, should they survive Zenopus and wish to explore a new site.

The kids are very excited about their newfound wealth. I'm curious to see what new equipment they'll procure.
: )


  1. This is great and very timely for me, as I'm getting ready to start refereeing a game for my daughter and her friends (once Girl Scout cookie season is over) and I've been toying with using B/X with some modifications instead of the current 5E system.

    I appreciate your recap of how your game went and how your kids reacted - it helps me think about what my daughter and her friends are likely to try or react.

    And thanks also for linking to that post on Alexis' site - I had completely forgotten about that one, but I really like it!


    1. Cool...I'm glad it was helpful.

      I'd like to post more tips about playing with the kids, but I want to get at least one more session under my belt first, just to solidify some reflections.

      Good luck with your kids!
      : )

    2. Thanks very much! It'll be a few months before we get started but I'll try to remember to come back and post our progress.

  2. Very jealous. I can't get my 11 & 13 YO boys to sit for more than an hour to play.They are addicted to (yech) video games.

    1. Sorry about that, Matthew.

      On the other hand, my child had a bit of a meltdown the other day because none of his peers like the things he does: “they only want to play Minecraft and Roadblox, etc!” At least your kids might be able to relate to others...I sometimes feel like I’m ruining mine.

      [and that was largely the subject of my last (unpublished) blog post]

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  4. Thanks for the writeup! I started a kids campaign of three a few years in a similar fashion (including a mercenary for each as you did) and it's still going although we only get a chance to play once or twice a year. I started again a few months ago with a different younger set of kids and they loved it even though we only got through a few rooms.

    Will reblog this when I get a chance!