Thinking of the Children

I’m going to be running a game for my friend Mac and her three children (ages 7 through 12) in the near future.  She’s been playing D&D with them for a few months now, and I’ve been a player for some of the sessions.  When I mentioned that even though I sometimes had a hankering to run the kind of dungeon-crawlish games that she runs, none of my regular players was into them,  she suggested that I should run for them sometimes.  Among other things, she’d like them to have experience with GMs other than her, so they don’t become one of “those kind” of players who insist that there’s only one right way to play, coincidentally the way their first GM ran things.

I’m not quite sure what I want to run, though.  Mac has been running what she calls D&D pretty much the same way, in the same setting, for almost 27 years now, but with house rules so extensive that it scarcely seems like D&D sometimes (e.g. rolling 3d6 lower than Dex to hit, armor doing damage reduction only, magic via a spell-point system, clerics using a different seemingly ad-hoc system, etc).  That’s what the kids and I have been playing, but I wouldn’t be able to run it even if I wanted to since so much of it seems to exist only in her head.  I gave the two elder children their own copies of one of the retro-clones for Christmas (Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game, not to be confused with the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying) and the younger of the two has actually been using it, more or less, to create dungeons and play with his friends.  He’s already added a new Body Builder class to the game though I’m not sure anybody he’s played with has yet met its rather stringent stat requirements….

So my first thought was to run that, since the rules are sort of familiar to them, and I would rather spend my time playing the game than explaining the difference between the rules they have (or their mom uses) and the rules I’m using.  My second thought, though, is to use Tunnels & Trolls, since I’d kind of like to try GMing that…. but I know that there’s some stuff about it (particularly the very abstract combat) that may be just too different from what they’re used to.  Mac basically uses a blow-by-blow accounting of combat, with turns lasting a couple of seconds, if that.  So my third thoughts have to do with either swiping a couple of things I really like from T&T and putting it into BFRPG, or vice-versa.  One thing I always get hung up on is that I don’t really like the magic system in the retro-clones.  Magic as ammo loads just doesn’t thrill me, unless you go full out Vance with it as depicted in the Dying Earth… but then you have to tweak both the spells and the MU’s combat capabilities anyway.  And Mac hates Vancean magic almost as much as she hates point-buy systems where you can design a character that’s practically a super-hero from the outset.

And finally, my fourth thoughts are to go ahead and finish the retro homebrew that I was working on, which would finally give me an old-school inspired system that really fits the way I’d like to play as well as players who will be happy to play it….  as usual with me when I start a project I ping-pong back and forth, unable to settle on any one option. I have a couple of weeks, at least, before we’d first play, so I don’t have to decide tonight, but I should decide soon and start working on a dungeon for them.

8 thoughts on “Thinking of the Children

  1. If you’re looking for something a bit different, I could lend you my Run Out the Guns stuff. It’s modified Rolemaster, so you’ve got lots of crunchy combat detail tables, but it’s also pretty deadly, so combat tends to be short, brutal and avoided if possible.

    Character creation is as easy as adding 2, 2-digit numbers together for each of your skills. (Each player gets 2 profession sheets that they combine to form their character)

    The introductory adventure is also more or less the same. Each party member is part of a (slave, prison, farming community, etc.) and lacking a ship, they then need to get one. Opportunity arises through (theft, jail-break, repulsing pirate attack/steal ship while pirates are pillaging) to get a ship, and the players take off in it to seek their fortunes. From there they can try and get letters of Marque, be pirates, etc… Yar!

    It’d be a way to expand the horizons of the kids. Where else, if you survive getting your leg blown/sawed off, can you get a peg and be stylin! 🙂

  2. I actually have Run Out the Guns somewhere around here, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. It might be a fun diversion sometime, and I bet Elyssa would like it, but I’m aiming for straight-up dungeoneering.

  3. I think the deciding factor should be how Cool it is. (Didn’t you have a post a while back about Cool.)

    I’m suddenly thinking something like 4th edition, which is all about dungeon crawls and Cool, but with a specific rulebook for each class. Take all the tons of class specific abilities and actions and put them together in a 20-40 page book so everything you need is right there, and nothing you do not need is included.

    I don’t know if such a game exists. Back to my original point, something like Feng Shui or Prose Descriptive Whatever-it-is may work. Feng Shui stands out because it is all about Cool.

    So, kill monsters, take their stuff and look badass doing it.

  4. I think you guys have misunderstood the object…it’s not to take them on a tour of the hobby, it’s to give them the experience of having the same(ish) game run by different DMs. Besides, something like Feng Shui or PDQ would put the 7 year-old at a distinct disadvantage compared to the older kids at being “cool.” 4e and stuff like it would be even worse, because you can’t really hide the complexity of the rules.

    Right now he’s on a reasonably level playing-field because it’s the dice rather than his personal sense of style that determine whether he’s performed a noteworthy action (e.g. killing a monster in a single blow), and he can just say he casts his spell or whatever and the GM can handle the rest. The older kids do more roleplaying and are more likely to come up with plans, but he kicks just as much ass as they do when it comes to combat.

    Plus, I want to run something more in the traditional mold. So I’m definitely going to be running something with strong D&D DNA (levels, classes, 3d6 attributes, and so forth), the question is really about whether I grit my teeth and run it straight or tweak it and if so, how much.

  5. There’s nothing stopping you from doing T&T combat blow by blow, you know.

    Go ahead, you’ll love it.

  6. @Andreas – you could, but I don’t think it’s really meant for it. Armor values are too high, for one thing, if you’re not going to be summing…e.g. personal adds being equal a Broadsword can’t hurt a Warrior wearing mail except through spite damage even if the warrior is unarmed, and even a Great Axe needs a better-than-average roll. On the flip side, Monster combat adds that are meant to be spread across an entire party will squish any individual member.

    My current plan is to finish my house-rules that are an unholy amalgam of the D&Dish stuff the kids are used to with the shiniest bits of T&T.

  7. Sure it’s not going to be very easy to hurt someone, but if you have decent armor it isn’t!

    But, the combat would them be just all the cool maneuvers you do to trip, bash shields in faces, hit someone in the places where armor don’t cover and throwing sand in the eyes of the opponent.

    Far more work, but also more involved and fun if you really like combat.

    Now, a serious reply would of course be that you will have to play what your players want to play. Nothing else will work.

    But, believe me, there are ways to make T&T work as a blow by blow system.

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