Geek Dad Report: D&D Red Box
For a couple of months now I’ve had something sitting on my desk that Wizards of the Coast had sent to us. It seems that the stigma that has been attached to D&D since it hit the mainstream and people took their sides on the line that was drawn in the sand. I had a hard time convincing my family and the couple of friends that live close enough to me to find time to play with me. I heard a lot of excuses. But I knew what it was. Not that they believed that D&D would be a path to witchcraft or some stupid cultist. No, people didn’t want to play because D&D has some weird social stigma attached to it that refuses to be shaken.
I had taken the Red Box, or the D&D essentials starter kit that Wizards of the Coast sent to us all those months ago to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought if maybe I opened it up and started reading the Players Guide and Dungeon Masters Guide pretending it was my first time (not the 3rd or 4th I’ve checked them out) someone would ask about it and interest would be piqued to the point of playing. It failed. So, you’ll have to know that I was surprised when I had put the Red Box on the table next to my wife’s purse so I didn’t forget to take it home when an unlikely source.
“Look at that Red Dragon! It’s Mean!” Said my 3 year old son Lincoln, remarking on art on the cover of the box.
“It is huh? It probably is hiding a bunch of treasure too.” I responded.
“Who is that guy?” He asked, referring to a warrior holding a sword and shield looking like he was engaged in combat with said dragon.
I paused for a second, I didn’t know that warrior had a name, or was part of some lore in the game world. Then I remembered what D&D is all about.
“Lincoln is his name. It’s you fighting that Dragon.” My son turned to me with big wide eyes, his mouth open, the look of amazement in his eyes. I could only grin.
“I can fight the Dragon?” He asked to which I responded. “Dragons, Goblins, Trolls, Skeletons, bad guys, You can fight them all.”
“I want to play, Daddy.”
Mind you, this game is for ages 12 and up, for good reason. The players guide that comes with the Red Box set is sort of a mini adventure of the old “Choose your adventure” book. You learn based on what path you took during the adventure whether you should play a fighter, wizard, rogue or cleric. As you pick your way through the mini adventure it teaches you where to put your stats on the sheet and helps you through a short combat sequence to learn how to roll and add up dice to see if you hit or miss. We skipped all of that when we played. He’s 3, he can barely sit through a Toy Story movie without trying to do something. Making a character for D&D is a little beyond him at this point. I let him pick his name for when we played the game, to which he game up with the most appropriate “Lincoln the Monsterhunter.”
Now, we had his character setup (well, the name at least) so I took out the other things the box came with which was a giant foldable map for the whole adventure for a 4 person party to play through, a whole bunch of punch out pogs that had monsters on them and characters to put on the map to act as a visual for the battles to take place, and of course, the dice. Playing D&D with a 3 year old is a heavily modified game. I’ve never actually been a Dungeon Master, or even played D&D in my life. I always wanted to, but I just knew that my family would never do it, and I didn’t want to ask my friends in high school in fear of being outcasted. So here I am at the age of 28 experiencing the game for the first time with a 3 year old. I had read the dungeon masters guide enough to know the gist of what the adventure was that came with the box set. It teaches you step by step how to run the whole adventure and how to make decisions as a dungeon master. I put it aside though and had to take a different route. A more, ‘Hands On’ approach.
As I told him that Lincoln the MonsterHunter was entering the big cave, he was sitting on my lap, so I covered his eyes to tell him it was too dark to see. I allowed him to use a flashlight instead of a torch to see in the cave. He wanted more than anything to start putting the ‘bad guys’ pods down on the map so I let him pick who he wanted to fight first, and it was 4 dragons against his one guy. I’m pretty sure this would have spelled doom for a real game, but like I said this was a modified game. He moved his guy over to where I setup the dragons and looked at me for what to do. I gave him the options of fighting, or hiding from the bad guys. He wanted to fight. So I had him take the twenty sided dice and roll it into the box, anything 10 or higher was a hit, lower, a miss. We went through the whole first encounter this way, with him taking his turn, and then the dragons theirs until all were slain.
I didn’t take hit points, he wouldn’t have gotten it anyways, during the fight I would describe the best as I could what happened during the hits and misses. Grabbing him and both of us falling to the ground grunting when we got hit , swiping my hands at him and making ‘wooshing’ sounds for the misses was my approach to dungeon mastering this adventure. Everything we did from opening doors to jumping over traps was with both of actively making those actions together. I tried my best to explain what things looked like and give him descriptions of what was going on, but really, a 3 year old only accepts the basics like this. “You walk into a room, it has a bed.” “A GOBLIN BED?” “Yes.” “Does he sleep there?” “That’s why he has a bed.” “Does his mommy sleep there?” “No” “Where is his mommy?” “A goblin jumps out of the bed with a sword.” “I HIT HIM!”
That was basically how trying to describe stuff got me. I kept it short for our first adventure, he more wanted to just fight through everything on the pogs and roll the 20 sided dice. We had a good time and I think the rest of the family did a nice job of just ignoring us as we played. D&D has taken on a new role in my house now though. Before bedtime for him, after I’ve gotten our 9 month old daughter to sleep is play time for the both of us. Usually we either play Scribblenauts on my DS to help him learn words, or his kids game on my computer, or Torchlight. Now? He wants to do another game of Lincoln the Monsterhunter. I change it up every night, sometimes he’s fighting in a castle, or on a big field. His guy has horses now, Ceaser, Bella, and Rosy (the names of the horses next to grandmas house that he adores.) they help him by knocking over bad guys with their horse tails. Usually at the end, he’ll proclaim that not one, but five Supermans come in to help him fight whatever I’m using as the “big bad guy” that he fights at the end of our 30 minute adventure before bed. Yes, he’s not learning the game the exactly correct way. I’ll get there in time, for right now though, I’m having a blast, and we’re using our imagination along with rolling some dice to confirm what happens. That is the point of D&D in the end isn’t it?