Where the Dogs go

Where the Dogs go

I ran a session with two young kids, 6 and 8 years old and their mother. I used the scenario from Gallant & Bold adventures named "Là où vont les Chiens" (Where the Dogs go). I had my travel kit with me and the kids were wondering what it was about.

The character creation went smoothly. The kids were a bit intrigued by traditional dice (dots instead of arabic numbers), but that was quickly assimilated. They were fascinated with the many colors and shapes of the dice and the awesomeness of the d20.

I had forgotten to take blank character sheets, so I simply went with blank sheets of grid paper from a notebook and wrote the name of the players and the columns FOR, DEX, CON, INT, SAG, CHA (yes, it was played in French). The kids were looking carefully and I think that turning a blank sheet of paper into a character sheet in front of their eyes factored into the magic of the game.

The oldest of the kids had brought his pirate sword at the table, he was very happy to receive yet another sword, but an imaginary one. The little brother was happy too and both were appointed "fighters" by me, the referee. They cheerfully decided that they were both "chevaliers".

We drew their names on the random table and the dice came (after some re-rolls) on Decimus and Cassius (they preferred roman names to germanic names, and their mother convinced them that it sounded great).

I used my Stars Without Number based ruleset, I granted them the quick skills of their background, added their DEX or STR bonuses to their class attack bonuses and we went on the road. We didn't draw a character for their mother in order to speed things up (she was betting on them getting hooked for 5 minutes and then drifting away).

(well, a mix of French and English)

« You are three friends, wandering fighters and as the sun is climbing down, you reach a village, hoping for shelter. Something is weird, the people of the village seem to be all about the fields, calling the names of three kids, "Hrodo ! Morven ! Arnald !" »

I drew the village, the river, the hill behind the village on one of the A3 battlemats. After a little more exposition, I asked "What do you do?".

At that point, I think I lost them for a few seconds. Their mother intervened and asked more pointed questions, "If the dogs and the cats of the village vanished and then tree kids went on to search for them, and didn't come back, what would you do". And the oldest exclaimed: "We go look for them!", with the youngest, standing on his chair: "Yes, we go!".

I gave them each a meeple of different colour (keeping the red ones for the opposition) and they immediately positioned them on the map. There was a tie about splitting the party or not, but their mother tilted the balance towards "we stay together".

There was no X card, but the mother used it nonetheless when I had introduced a goblin in one of the rooms and had said "and he is eating a cat...". There are absolutely zero goblins in that scenario, but I added a single lonely one to have a quick first fight and get them to roll the mighty d20. So my "cat eating goblin" was rolled back into a "stray goblin" laughing madly at them, their mother said "you won't be here to help me tonight if they have nightmares about it...".

That first fight was, of course, a success for the three players. The youngest kid went crazy describing a crafty attack on the beast, but unfortunately missed.

The next encounter did not require swords. The characters met a wandering magical being and engaged him politely and respectfully. At that point, their mother encouraged them to role-play. They were initially concerting and going third person, but she encouraged them to consider me as the wanderer, play their roles and ask me the questions directly. (I was very happy it came back naturally to her after twenty years, but she is a teacher, and that's in her toolbox). From that point on, the two kids easily engaged me, looked at me right into the eyes and the role-playing was on.

We had one more fight and two traps to deal with until we closed the session approximately mid-dungeon. Their mother told me "I thought it would only last five minutes before they would drift away, but one hour and half later and we had a great time".

I only used a skill roll once and forgot about SWN's 2d6 skill rolls and simply asked for a d20 roll. The kids were excited about rolling to make things happen. I immediately had to backtrack a bit and explain that a) rolling repeatedly until success was not possible b) it was better to talk through a solution than to roll for a pre-packaged outcome. Again, at that point, I was very pleasantly surprised by their mother chiming in and supporting the "player skills" approach.

By now, the kids wanted to show me Pokemon cards. That was great fun, and as a referee, I found it very rewarding.

No nightmares reported.