Monday, May 28, 2012, 6:42 PM
I have decided to attempt my original intention in this campaign, which was to build the mechanics of the characters behind the scenes using the rules of the Fourth Edition. The children will play their characters with only their notes and sketches. When they want to do something, I will adjudicate it using their powers and statistics and sometimes page 42 from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This will allow considerable reflavouring of the rules to better match their conceits, and this will prevent the children from becoming distracted by rules and needless details.
Handsword will be an Eladrin Assault Swordmage. This will allow him to "fly" using teleportation, use his sword like a gun with occasional ranged attacks. He will also have the Sidh Lord Theme to allow him to turn his sword into a soldier (summon a fey guard).
Panny will be a Razorclaw Shifter Druid to change into a panda and throw her bamboo spears.
Luna will be a Pixie Bard to fly and to reflect her love of music. Unfortunately the new Character Builder is too awkward and crash-prone to make convenient pdfs, otherwise I would make her a reflavoured Pixie.
Phantom will be an Eladrin Wizard. Once again the children love flying, and teleportation is the easiest way to mechanically represent that at the first level, especially since the boy who is playing this character will not want to play a Pixie.
Sunny will be a Psion: this class seems to fit her anime conceit, and it relies on both Intelligence and Charisma.
Sharon the fox robot girl will use the mechanics of a Drow Monk. We can say that the four hour trance is when she recharges her robotic batteries. She can use the unarmed strike to kick things.
Eberron, and especially Sharn, seems like a good setting for such an eclectic and techno-magical group of characters. Perhaps I shall throw the party together as a band of travelers on the dangerous road, much like in the Canterbury Tales. At any rate before we begin rolling dice, I will use the computer and the beam projector in the classroom to show the children some pictures of Sharn and its various inhabitants and wonders.
Sunday, May 13, 2012, 1:51 AM
Here are four more children’s characters. Next week I hope to scan and upload a couple of the portraits drawn by the children.
One girl wrote, “My character’s name is Panny. She is a panda. She wears a panda hairband, shorts and a watch. She also has long hair. Her personality is strange. When she is happy, she is very nice and cute, but she becomes angry, she is very strong and hits other people. She is a little bit fat. Her abilities are strong, and she throws pieces of bamboo at her enemies.
“Her friends are all the animals in the forest. Panny’s best friend is a bear. Then her enemies are everyone except animals. Usually pandas do not like humans.”
Here is her best friend's character: “My character’s name is Sharon. She is a robot with a computer for brain, but she looks like a half-human and half-fox. Sharon likes music like K-pop. She has one big tail and cute ears. Sharon looks like a human, and she has long black hair. She has cute black ears. She wears an orange shirt and a black skirt.
“She always smiles and likes to joke and sing. Her abilities are singing and kicking. Sharon is very dexterous, but she is not strong.
“Her enemies are people and wolves. Her friends are other foxes and animals. Sharon is pretty, but she is sometimes wild.”
A boy wrote, “First I will talk about my character’s name. My character’s name is Phantom. His name is Phantom, because he can do magic well. Also he is very strong and fast. He can fly without any wings.
“Next I will talk about my character’s appearance. He has blond hair and has an expensive hat. He always smiles. He also looks smart.
“Finally I will talk about his weapons. He has a magic wand to cast spells. Also he has cards to make him stronger. This is all the information about my character.”
Here is that boy’s friend wrote: “My character’s name is Luke. He is thirteen years old. He carries a big cannon and carries two pistols. He was a prince, but all of his family died, so only he is left an orphan.
“He cannot fly, but he can ride on his cannon which propels him upward. He can throw his enemy into the air. He is very strong. He is covered in shining white armour which he can take off.”
Thursday, May 10, 2012, 10:14 PM
Here are some of the promised journals which the children wrote to introduce their characters. The first one is the work of one of the shier boys.
“My character’s name is Handsword. One of his hands is a sword. He can change it into anything he wants. The sword can change into a soldier. When his enemies are far away, his sword can change into a gun and hit them. He is very strong. He can fly very fast. He can fly faster than an airplane, so he is very agile.”
The second one is by the cleverest girl: “I will tell many things about my character now. Her name is Luna. Her origin is the moon. She is very pretty and skinny, and she has long hair and wings. She is cold, but she likes to sing very much. She can fly, sing and attack with moonlight and stars.
"Her enemies are the sun and bad songs. She can only act at night, so she hates the sun. She loves and is good at singing, so she hates bad songs. Her friends are stars.
"She has some special things. First, she has a star bracelet. She can put it around someone’s neck, and then she can manage that person. Second, she has a moonstick. She can attack and do magic with it. Lastly, she has a headset and a microphone. She loves to sing, so she has those. She can move in three ways. First she can move by the stars. Second, she can fly. Third, she can ride a broom.
"Her enemies are the sun and bad songs. She can only act at night, so she hates the sun. She loves and is good at singing, so she hates bad songs. Her friends are stars. Her dream is to kill the sun and be active all day long.”
The third one is by one of the other girls. I sense some rivalry here. “I want to introduce my character. My character’s name is Sunny. The origin of Sunny is the sun. She has long hair and a wagon that shines like the sun. She wears a long dress and glass shoes. She is kind and patient, but when she gets angry, she shoots laser beams from her royal staff.
"She is famous among the planets. She is a friend of all the planets and stars, but she is an enemy of the moon.
"She is very strong and her body is warm. She never gets sick and she can fly without her wagon or wings. She is not very wise, but she is very intelligent and charismatic. She is very popular with boys.”
Saturday, May 5, 2012, 3:52 AM
It is even harder to fit Dungeons & Dragons into a regular school curriculum than it is to organize a game among friends. Thus I have had no real news for the past month. This is not to say that the idea was left entirely fallow. On two different recent occasions I allowed the children to freely discuss their ideas, doodle some portraits and joke around.
I also explained to them the concept of Ability Scores (although I did not call them that). Strength and Intelligence were easy to understand. Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma cover so many different (and sometimes contradictory) things that the children had a harder time comprehending. An authoritative and frankly scary person is charismatic; a cute and lovable person is charismatic; a persuasive and eloquent person can be charismatic. Dexterity can mean fast like a runner, agile like a dancer or nimble like a martial artist. Constitution can mean rugged like a bear, or long-lasting like a swimmer or a marathon runner. Wisdom is an item of vocabulary which they have encountered in various stories, so lest I confuse them, I have avoided defining in D&D terms, letting them continue to understand Wisdom as the knowledge of right and wrong and cautious action coming from the experience of a long life.
I then taught them how to purchase Ability Scores according to the system laid out in the Fourth Edition. Although the complexities of the Fourth Edition should make me look elsewhere for a children’s game, I think I can gloss over the difficulties. Besides which, these are very bright children.
Next week I hope to have some samples from their journals about their characters for you to read!
Monday, April 2, 2012, 6:16 AM
These days I am contemplating exactly how I will run seven children in a game of Dungeons & Dragons. They are none of them committed fanatics of fantasy or history, so I am reluctant to restrict their imagination and enjoyment to a standard fantastic world, be that one of high fantasy, pulp fiction, steampunk or anime. This means that I might have to eschew most structured, published games like Pathfinder, the Fourth Edition or Old Dungeons & Dragons, because the classes and powers reflect fantastic worlds more consistent than the disparate visions of seven thirteen year-olds can ever be.
My good friend J. H. loves to tinker with rule sets, especially with various versions of Microlite, boiling down hundreds of pages of rules into a couple of pages of crunch and formulae. His Old School stuff still relies on access to the hundreds of spells from the System Reference Document, but his approach to the Fourth Edition is to condense all the powers into some formulae by which a player can build any attack power. He is relatively unfamiliar with the Fourth Edition, so I promised to help him to create rules for building utility powers, feats and rituals.
When I am dungeon master for my children, I intend to run the overall game as influenced by the idea of page forty two in the Dungeon Master’s Guide of the Fourth Edition: “What is your character and what does he do?” “What can he do and what are his talents?” “What do you want to do now?” I want as much of their creative input as possible to make this experience entirely suitable and enjoyable for such a different sort of players.
Friday, March 30, 2012, 4:56 AM
I was cutting out tiles (from www.dungeoneering.net/ ) for a game today, and it inspired me to introduce roleplaying to one of my English classes which I teach in South Korea.
I knew that they all like comic books, cartoons, video games and various characters, so I asked them each to think of a character, any character which they would like to play in a game, in any game. I also showed them a couple of binders form the Fourth Edition which featured plenty of character portraits illustrating various races and classes.
The children (seven in number, three boys and four girls, in the sixth grade of elementary school) were very excited and spent the next twenty minutes drawing and talking about different characters and either praising or mocking their classmates’ taste, ideas and artwork. Ideas started out with “I want to shoot things with a gun” and “I want to do magic.” Two of the girls were initially intrigued by devils, changelings, witches and fox-women. One of the boys doodled several very cartoonish characters, one with an exploding mushroom head, before settling on a smiling sun with arms and legs. Another girl decided upon a very cute and chubby bee.
The next step is to have them write a short essay about their character, what we gamers would call a background. They need to describe their appearance, skills and talents, peculiarities and personality. They can assign it a job or role or stereotype.
I explained to them that they never have to learn any rules. I told them that in the olden days when I was a child, there were no computer games, so the dungeon master ran the game just like a computer does now. That made sense to them. (One boy did however keep asking about how to get a hold of a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. As much as I love the Fourth Edition, I had to recommend the Pathfinder Beginner Box for its layout and completeness: five levels are much better than two.)
I look forward to the continuing adventures of seven enthusiastic and imaginative children.