Sunday, March 15, 2020

Addendum to "Staycation"

As I wrote yesterday, my son's friend Caro enjoyed her time playing D&D and expressed serious interest in becoming a dungeon master (much like Diego's other friend, Nicholas, she almost immediately attempted to add to the narrative when we started playing. The kids call this "improving"). This time, I decided to actively encourage this desire by offering to let her borrow my extra copy of Moldvay's basic rules.

I should probably note that nine year old Caro is, like my son, a voracious reader. In fact, from what I understand she is the best reader in their class (my son, never one for modesty, offers himself as the clear #2). Not only that, she is a writer: she finished her first novella (more like three short stories, joined by theme) just recently, and gave a printed copy (about 30 pages) to my son which we (Diego, myself, and my daughter Sofia) took the time to read (it was fun). The POINT is, Caro is certainly of an age and skill level to absorb the material of the 64 page Moldvay rules and...given that the kids are going to be out of school for the next eight weeks...she certainly has the time to do so.

Her reaction: "I have to read all THAT?" Even after explaining (and showing) that much of the book was illustrations, or charts, or spell/monster/treasure entries that she could peruse at leisure (i.e. not actual instructions for play), she still balked. She kept her character sheets when she left our house...because she still wants to play...but she didn't take the book.

I didn't have the heart to tell her about 5E.

I suppose, in retrospect, that I could have offered her a copy of the 40 page Holmes Basic (I happen to own two copies) and perhaps that, coupled with her experience playing the game, would have been enough. But I'm a slave to inertia and I still consider Moldvay the finest book for learning the D&D game that I've ever read (too many weird discrepancies in Holmes for my taste). I can't quite bring myself to suggest any edition but B/X as a gateway to understanding The Game.

Gateway drug.
My boy is currently reading Moldvay. He started it...mmm, yesterday, I believe (our session with Caro was Friday). He is currently up to Part 5: Encounters.  A couple times, I've had him pause so that I could quiz him on the material. I've offered additional insights and info for him to consider alongside the rules as written. It's been a bit of a slog for him: he enjoys reading but he prefers biographies and historical texts to instruction manuals (this is the first game text I think he's ever read...most games, he has me read the instructions and then teach him the rules). But I think it's important that he has a grasp of the text as a tool...if he really wants to be a dungeon master, he's going to need to know how to use the book. 

Until he no longer needs it.
; )


  1. Excellent post.
    I share your thoughts on not mentioning 5E to her.
    I miss the simple pleasure of Moldvay and what seemed to be a simpler more evocative game (and time).
    I really don;t see how 5e improves that mush on 4e. It's all about the combos and dicefests. The roleplaying is still absent for me.

  2. Yeah, if you want to start someone on 5e show them the starter set or essentials, or my favorite, Dungeonesque (the 5e srd formatted like BX). Even with those simplifications I still think the 5e rules focus too much on combat and not enough on other aspects of play, even for a simple dungeon hack n slash game.

  3. Also just wanted to say these games sound great. Young kids can be really fun to DM.

  4. Very cool, JB. I like that you are gaming with the kids and that Caro shared her writing.

    Stay safe and game on!

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