Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Young Grognards

Maybe that should say, Young Groglings?

Yesterday, my son ran his first AD&D game for his friends (also aged 10) via a Zoom meeting. He had exactly two players (Evan and Caroline) who played a human ranger and a half-elf assassin, respectively.

[I later asked him about the potential alignment conflicts from such a pair to which he replied that he wasn't using alignment in his game...]

Per my suggestion, he is running the Tower of Zenopus from the back of the Holmes Basic book. For a first time adventure, Zenopus makes an excellent introduction to the game, offers multiple types of interaction with the game mechanics, and is easily converted to the AD&D system. 

[it is also an adventure my son has experienced first-hand (as a player) and is fairly short to read and prep]

Besides the suggestion (and providing the books), I did nothing but set-up the Zoom meeting for the kids...that is to say, I did not interfere with the experience. Diego has already been running his Star Wars game at school for the last few weeks (he's up to 7 or 8 players), so there's no reason for me to butt in and undermine his authority. It's his game, not mine. 

And they all had fun (of course), and want to meet on Thursday (tomorrow) rather than waiting till next Tuesday (of course)...because it's D&D and it's awesome (duh).

[some notes about their game: they encountered the ghouls and were able to survive. Only the ranger was hit, but he managed to make his save versus paralysis. Treasure was discovered, tunnels explored, and I believe they just finished (or are in the middle of combatting) a skeleton. They spent the first part of the session rolling characters; all the children have their own dice (provided by my son). He's using all the AD&D rules he can remember...yes, including weapon length and speed factor, etc...and is keeping careful track of time and light sources and wandering monsters and all that jazz. The main difference...besides dropping that he is using Alexis Smolensk's experience system, which has been standard in our house since May 2019. It necessitates tracking damage inflicted and received, but that's still a lot easier than it sounds (as even a ten year old Dungeon Master can manage it)]

My kid's rulebook.
Prior to the appointed game time I did take the time to reach out to the kids' parents (via email) to explain a bit about what was going on and assuage any concerns they might have...there is still, to this day, left over impressions of negativity surrounding Dungeons & Dragons among folks who grew up in the 1980s. never played, and yet heard rumors the game was "Satanic." And, of course, our kids go to a Catholic school (though, of course, so did I and all my friends and our teachers/parents never had an issue). There were, it turned out, no worries at all, though both child's parents thanked me for taking the time to reach out to them.

Evan's mom wrote this to me as well (after the kids' game):
Thanks for giving Evan dice and letting him borrow your books too! He actually received a D&D starter kit for Xmas but Chris was overwhelmed and I didn't even try to learn, so it's great that Diego is teaching him how to play.
This...this is so much of what is wrong with the hobby as it is being marketed by its current Keepers of the Flame. Hey, does anyone remember that old red book, penned by Tom Moldvay that said "Ages 10 and Up" right on the cover? I was able to teach myself AND my ten year old friends how to play D&D just using that book. Hell, the thing even came in a box with dice and an adventure to boot!

But now, even the "Starter" set is too much for adults (let alone kids) to be bothered to learn. And the damned thing doesn't even come with dice.

And I've written about this before...multiple least since 2015. These are not stupid people; they are actually very smart, educated professionals. Creative professionals even. Ones with fairly open minds...

*sigh* I will stop beating this dead horse. son ran a game of AD&D for his friends, without supervision. They enjoyed it, they want to do it again. The culmination of a decade of waiting for my child to take his first step into his father's world.

I am proud.

Not as proud, perhaps, of the kids' athletic accomplishments - scoring goals, hitting fastballs, recording strikeouts - as these are things I was never able to do in my youth (still not sure where he gets it from). And, also, it is pride tempered with knowledge that the journey is long and he has only just begun. But still...I feel proud. 

And content in a way also. Even should he turn away from D&D or transition to a different form of the game (6th edition? 7th?) or even a different game least, at least he has the knowledge now. The acquired experience of knowing "Hey, I can do this. It's fun, people enjoy it, and I can even teach it if necessary." I have passed on what I know...he, in turn, can develop it further (delving deep into the game even as I have), or even pass it on to his friends or his own children some day. I have assured that my love of gaming will not die with me.

Legacy. I think I've written about that before, too. 

Happy Wednesday, y'all. I have some dishes to clean up from last night and then I'm going to start combing through these Dragonlance modules to make my notes. Busy-busy!
: )


  1. Very cool!
    My oldest has played quite a bit of AD&D 1st ed over the years and he likes it.
    Right now my current campaign is a B/X based one and so far my normally 5e playing players love it.
    No "I love this more than 5e!" or even "can we go back to 5e now?" just appreciation that both styles are fun and valid. It's been kinda great really.

    And yes it is nice the new generation can appreciate these older things.

  2. Having looked at the 5th Edition Books, one thing I must admit is that I can't figure out, for the most part, what the heck is going on. Apart from rolling up the character, the choice-aspect of what character class to be, or what any of the abilities of said character class do, is so hopelessly confusing I have no interest in "getting up to speed" on how the new game works. It presents itself as this miasma of "Hey look, cool right?" stuff, with no signposts or practical steps towards coming around to a process of actually running the game.

    Had I never played D&D, and found myself met with the fifth edition book, the internet would unquestionably be missing my voice in discussing the game.

    1. I wonder what you would have done without D&D in your life?

    2. I would have become the Prime Minister of Canada.

    3. : D

      You’d have definitely received my vote...if I was Canadian.

  3. I kind of wonder if they bought something other than the official 5th Edition Starter Set, which was perhaps marketed as a "starter kit" by some third-party seller. I know someone who bought the Starter Set a couple of years ago, and it absolutely did include dice and a beginner adventure. A cursory glance at the Wizards website shows that these things are still included in the 2019 "Essentials Kit," albeit with a different adventure module.

    1. @ Dan:

      I really don't have more info. I picked up the Essentials Kit myself back in 2019 ($12 at Target) and it *did* include dice, according to my blog post from September of that year.

      As I said, these aren't stupid people, so I doubt they would have used the term "starter kit" if it hadn't been marketed as such. Per WotC's web site, even the "Stranger Things" starter includes dice.

      Perhaps, being intelligent 21st century folks, they only ordered an electronic version of the game to read on their tablets? That would explain the lack of physical dice I suppose. But a downloaded digital book seems like a strange Xmas present to this old man, who prefers the visceral feel of opening presents with the bare hands.

    2. That's why I was guessing maybe some marketing shenanigans by a non-official seller. As for digital vs. physical, I assumed it was the physical product since it was described as a gift - whereas Wizards gives away the PDF version of the Essentials rulebook for free. The only digital purchases that I see are the plugins for Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.

      Although, if what they actually bought was a VTT plugin, that could potentially explain why they couldn't make heads or tails of it...

  4. I'm pretty sure I heard Mike Mearls say in an interview that they, as designers and book writers, *assume* all new players to the hobby are brought in and taught the game by someone else, and no one is purchasing the game in a vacuum and teaching themselves to play using only the PHB.

    1. Hmm. Not a great marketing plan.

    2. Agree 100%. With how ponderous the game has become in recent editions, I can't help but wonder if that is evidence of a sort of resigned acceptance that things are out of control...

    3. Wasn't it an American president who said something like "We don't do things because they're easy, we do them because they are HARD!" Last I checked, WotC/Hasbro was still an American company...

      Resigned acceptance? Come on.

  5. I think the 5e Starter Sets are decent (and they do include dice) but I think the Essentials Kit is a lot better. It's a complete game including character generation up to level 6 with all of the standard/basic D&D races, classes, and spells. Plus the included adventure is more sandboxy than the one in the Starter Set. Highly recommended.

    It's not the hand-holding red Mentzer Basic teaching tool, but I think it makes a great D&D starting point. Even with guided intros, I have always believed the best way to learn is by playing with someone who already knows how.

    There were plenty of people in the 1980s who couldn't figure out D&D, also. It would be interesting to see if people who can't figure out 5e could figure out B/X or AD&D on their own...I would suspect that often it's more a case of not being willing/motivated enough to put in the effort than an inability to understand.

    1. @ Lord K:

      I suppose that’s possible.

      I learned with Moldvay not Mentzer. The rules were clear and concise, well organized, and presented excellent examples of play. It didn’t require much “motivation” (beyond a love of fantasy) for my nine year old mind to devour the rules. And the examples were entertaining enough that I’d read and re-read them.