This past week my youngest daughter, Little Rodan, asked me if I would run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for her. I was a little surprised, because I have been running a GURPS campaign for her on and off for a while now, but she had kind of gotten bored with it. So I dug out my old 2nd Ed AD&D books and we made up a character.
I had done the same for her older sister Gamera Rose when she had been that age. That game had been challenging because Gamera wanted to play a Magic User. That probably won’t mean anything to a non-gamer, but First-Level Mages in AD&D only get four hit points and can only use one spell — per day — and that one they have to choose in advance. The reasoning was that as they advance in levels, Mages eventually become hellaciously powerful, and so the rules have them start out relatively weak in order to balance things out. (At least, that’s how things worked in Old School D&D; I don’t know how things have changed in the current incarnation).
This is irritating enough in a regular game in which the Mage is playing with three or more other player characters of different character classes who can cover for her until she advances in rank; but in the cases of my daughters’s games, there was only one player. In Gamera’s game I introduced an NPC fighter to help keep her from getting killed by the first kobold or cranky housecat she encountered. (Yes, I know, DNPCs are the Devil, but in single-player games they are a necessary evil.
Fortunately, Rodan wanted to be a Fighter, which is a good choice for a single-player campaign. A multi-class character would be more versatile, but I figured for her first D&D game I would keep things simpler. She made her character an Elf Ranger and named him (yes, she decided her character would be a boy) Lionheart.
In her first game, she encountered a hungry wolf, but instead of fighting it gave the wolf the rabbit she had just killed for dinner and it left her alone. I hadn’t expected her to find a non-violent resolution for that encounter, but I was pleased that she did so. She also fought a small group of kobolds, (my favorite nuisance monster) and a belligerent bullywug. She wound up getting the most XP in that session for the encounter where she didn’t fight.
In the second session I let her go shopping in a village and buy some more equipment. She also bought a cat. Pets are tricky to handle in games because it’s so easy for the player (and the DM) to forget about them, but so far Rodan has been good about taking care of the cat and being aware of it.
I had her investigate an old abandoned tavern on the outside of the village reported to be haunted which was actually being used as a hideout for a group of goblins. Then, because she had asked when she’d get the chance to actually go down into the dungeon, I let her discover a secret door in the tavern’s cellar leading to a small complex of rooms with a handful of monsters. I did a quick web-search for Random Dungeon Generators, not for the dungeon itself, but to call up a pool of 1st-Level threats to populate it with.
One of the threats I pulled out of the Random Dungeon was a 1st Level Drow fighter. Building off that and the Giant Spider I also lifted, I decided that a Drow Priestess had stashed some magical stuff in this mini-dungeon some time ago and left a few guardians to protect it. Rodan successfully defeated all the guardians and took the treasure, which means that without knowing it, she has gained a deadly enemy. I love it when the plots write themselves.
The first couple sessions were a little rocky, because I had forgotten a lot of things about how AD&D plays. I’ve gotten so used to how things work in GURPS that I had to look up things like Initiative and Saving Throws. And I have to admit, I fudged some of the dice rolls. Yes, many gamers will regard that as blasphemous, but since Rodan’s character is the only one in this campaign, I feel justified in giving her a li’l plot protection.
One of the fun parts about gaming with Rodan, is that her mother often kibbitzes the game and offers her advice. My wife and I played D&D together in high school, and so she has plenty of experience to offer Rodan.
Rodan has also expressed interest in joining a Party of Adventurers. I’m a little more ambivalent about that, since it will mean more work for me: not only will I have to make up these other characters, I’ll also have to keep track of them and roll for them during combat. I know from experience running solo games with my wife that fighting myself gets boring pretty quickly. But on the other hand, joining a band of other Adventurers will allow Rodan’s character to face more formidable monsters and to advance in levels more quickly.
I’ll have to come up with something good for our next game.