27 October 2016

Polyhedrals and Parenting

Because they're not at school this week, today I did the following with my boys - some maths, handwriting, reading aloud, basic economics, problem-solving, use of adjectives, probability, imaginative writing, spelling new words through phonics knowledge, science (wild animals, habitats and behaviour), and geography.

That's right, I introduced them to D&D, and it was awesome.

Ok, if you want to be picky, it was Basic Fantasy RPG that I introduced them to, but as it's one of the better and more faithful retroclones (that I just happened to pick up a shelf-load of materials for), I don't think there's a meaningful difference. In fact, the brand and nostalgia factor of D&D is so strong that I would probably say that I "play D&D using the BFRPG books".

Whatever. Back to the game.

It started because they couldn't decide whether they wanted to play Knights' Quest or the old boardgame Key to the Kingdom, so I chose something that wouldn't mean clearing the gaming table or lots of prep. It was time.

They both rolled up characters, 3d6 in order with a seventh "wild card" roll to swap out for their lowest score just as I do normally. They chose dwarf characters (Emrin, a thief, and Gremdullin, a fighter) and miniRab#1 came up with the following backstory.

Sorry, couldn't find the artist of this picture.

Emrin and Gremdullin live in the Iron Hills where there are lots of dwarves who work in the mines and make armour and jewellery. A horde of goblins attacked and so all the able-bodied dwarves were called together to fight the goblins off. Emrin and Gremdullin ended up fighting alongside each other, were victorious, and got a taste for adventure. They've just set off on their travels to see the world, male their fortunes, and deal with any goblins they find.

Not bad, eh? Totally unprompted, and a lot better than "you meet in a tavern"!

What to do and where to go, however?

Morgansfort! This is a great supplement for BFRPG with a central fortified town (Morgansfort itself) and three adventure locations with a building narrative that includes a host of favourite humanoid adversaries, double-dealing, combat, parlaying, and treasure.

It has "boxed text" suggestions, which I know some don't like, but to just pick off the shelf and run with is really useful. Our two heroes dutifully set out in need of cash because their meagre starting gold rolls were soon depleted with little to show for it. The action started at the ruins of an old castle on an island in the river which they reached using a "borrowed" boat moored to the bank, shuffling through the ruins until they found a dark and forbidding stairwell spiralling down underground.

Gremdullin wasn't at all keen to head down without knowing what was down there, so Emrin snuck down, relying on his darkvision to check for ambushes. None found by the bottom of the stairs, he went and fetched Gremdullin who lit his lantern and down they went together. The first room was octagonal, with a clear path through the debris that had blown down from above (leaves, twigs, dirt) heading off to their right. Off in the darkness came the muted but echoing cry of a wolf...

The two followed the path until it came to a crossroads, when they noticed that it kept to the corners and didn't pass across the central opening. "A trap!" cried Emrin, who knelt down, put his ear to the floor and tapped it with his mace, rewarded by an echoing sound as he did so. "Definitely a trap," he said smugly. They skirted it, heading left this time.

The passage led into a room littered with gnawed bones, tufts of fur, piles of sticks and straw, and filled with the stench of wet dog. Otherwise, it seemed empty. "There's no-one here," decided Gremdullin. "You poke around for treasure, and I'll guard the doorway." And so the pattern of this pairing was set. Emrim got to work, checking first for loose coins in amongst the filth strewn across the chamber, and then for cubby-holes or secret stores. Eventually he found a loose stone and, easing up one corner with a jemmy from his thief's toolkit, he revealed a small hollow filled with a sack of silver coins, hundreds of them!

"Yes!" the avaricious pair cheered, and retraced their steps to the crossroads to tale what would have been the straight ahead path from their original entry point (i.e. left again). "Let's find some more treasure - I want some better armour." "And I wan't a crossbow."

The next turning on the left led through into what had been a gaol or dungeon, with three cells on either side of a central passage. Some were empty save for mouldering straw. One had a large pouch just sitting there, gold spilling from it. "Gold! But why is it just sitting there. D'you think it's a trap?" "I'll have a look."

Emrin approached carefully, looking all around for tripwires. Nothing. The pouch was in the middle of a patch of what looked like bright yellow mould or tiny mushrooms of some sort. "I bet they're poisonous," came the cheerful suggestion from Gremdullin. "Don't worry," said the confident thief, "I'll use my lockpicks to ease the top of the pouch open and flick out any coins that I can reach but I'll stop as soon as I'd need to touch the fungus or knock the pouch onto the fungus."

[Good thinking, that dwarf! Cue a "remove trap" roll, success, get gold. Nice.]

Soon the two dwarves were chuckling in a miserly fashion over their newfound wealth of 65gp. They split 31/34 so the thief was rewarded for his risk taking. "Next cell!" they decided. This one was full of bones and, when they started to poke around, they found it was the lair of a gigantic, bone-white spider crab!

Their first test of combat! They weren't found wanting - memories of standing back-to-back as they faced the goblins back home came flooding back - and they waded in with mace and sword, hacking and stabbing until the creature lay dead before them. [They described their actions really well, focusing on a crack they caused in the shell etc.]

Further investigations found a barrel of stagnant water, a swirl through the slime at the bottom turned up a golden ring which the thief pocketed but didn't put on, just in case it was an evil ring. Also, a case of four potions which they took with plans to get them identified back at Morgansfort.

Then, as happens with all dungeon-delves, they pushed their luck just one step too far. Continuing into the torture-chamber associated with the cells [They're 6 and 8, they don't need the details, so I went with "A table they handcuffed prisoners to and treated them roughly until they told the guards what they wanted to know."], they had another poke around. This time they disturbed a huge snake, easily twelve feet long and too fat for a man to join his hands round. It darted its head back and forth, hissing and spitting poison, striking at them and taking them by surprise!

The fangs skittered harmlessly across Gremdullin's shiny leather armour, leaving a thin trail of venom across its surface. Emrin lunged in and whacked it with its mace, sending one of its coils straight into the path of Gremdullin's blade which cut deep into its flank. Rearing back and hissing in rage, it spat venom straight into the eyes of Emrin before it turned tail and fled back into the crack in the wall from whence it had come.

Poor Emrin. His eyes burned from the venom, swelling and reddening until his eyelids were sealed tight over his scorched eyeballs. He was blinded! "Help me, Gremdullin, I can't see!" It was time to leave. Emrin leaned on his comrade who carefully led him back past the pit trap, up the stairs, across the river, and stumbling back up the road to Morgansfort.

Once they'd paid their "treasure tax", they headed to the chapel dedicated to Tah and, after making a "purely voluntary donation" towards the good works of the chapel, Emrin's eyes were healed. Now, richer, re-outfitted, and determined to strip more wealth from dark places on another day, they headed to the inn and grudgingly handed over a silver coin apiece for a comfortable bed for the night.


Didn't they do well? I know I'm biased, but I thought they showed just the right blend of paranoia, careful investigation (all the rooting through the straw was done with the end of a blade or mace to avoid being bitten), acquisitiveness, and roleplay ("You come up with a plan, then, you're the clever one!" "Yes, yes I am." in an exchange between INT6 and INT13).

I may risk doing an audio-record of a future session, both for amusement and to identify areas for my improvement.


  1. Cracking effort.

    My over earnest, middle class, wife nearly lost her shit when she realised all the maths that I was teaching my boy through tabletop gaming ;0)

    1. Hahaha - it definitely is an eye-opener for the non-geek, isn't it?

  2. Fabulous. I can't wait until mine are old enough. Where can this BRP be acquired?

    1. Thanks, Herbert. BFRPG and all its supplements are free to download, but I'm a sucker for the dead-tree versions as well.

      Download link

    2. Thank you. Downloaded and currently eying up print costs....