Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On the Wings of Evil 2 (otherwise entitled: A Meltdown Every Game and We're Still Playing)

As some may recall, approximately a year ago me and mine started playing Dungeons and Dragons. O the adventures we've had! We've saved entire towns from invasions of the undead, freed downtrodden slaves, discovered an Elven city that had been lost for 100 years, made friends with gnomes, dragonborns and tieflings, tamed a griffon, killed tonnes o' monsters, brought loads of baddies to justice, found secret rooms, explored ruins, caves and strongholds chock full of treasure, and eaten many delicious wolf burgers, the specialty of Borgon, our dwarven rogue and camp cook. Now that's what I call family game night.

It has been fun and sometimes rather awful, but much, much more fun than awful. The "awful" has been mainly comprised of the sssssuper steep learning curve. There are a lot of rules, and lots to remember as you go. There were times when it felt more like work than play, I must admit. The other part of the "awful", is precipitated by the inherent rigidity present to varying degrees in all members of our group (who me?), and particularly in the younger two, making for some tricky times as we all got used to our individual gaming styles and how they work together. The boys really struggled with compromising on their creative visions, whether as players or DMs (dungeon masters), and since DnD is primarily and thoroughly collaborative this was a problem. They also had that good old fashioned, age old problem of getting good and mad whenever the dice would not roll their way. It feels a helluva lot more intense when you are down to your last HP (hit points), and you keep swinging at the troll with your great-axe and missing, than say, getting no card pairs in Go Fish. It is extremely challenging to keep up the facade of sportsmanship when you are ABOUT TO DIE!  For many moons we could not get through a gaming session without at least one meltdown...and yet, we all very much wanted to keep playing, and so we did.

And here we are, a little over one year later, re-immersing ourselves in the game after a summer/fall hiatus when L got stuck and stalled out as DM, and we are more into it than ever. I've been planning an adventure that will take us from level 6 to 7. (Anyone familiar with the game will notice that we really haven't progressed that far in a year. We generally had to limit our gaming to short sessions. That was all the boys could handle...mostly gracefully. And I've been purposefully stingy with the XP, not wanting us to level up too fast since the game grows even more complex with advancement!) Over the last couple of weeks, the boys and I have been doing some world building together, and this has been really satisfying. Since we share DM duties (they each "guest DM" for about half of every second level), we decided that the boys should each have their own province to weave stories in. They are very proprietary of their places and NPCs (non player characters) and we had some initial toe steppage or rather more like landmine steppage. (did I mention meltdowns? oh dear) We added these provinces to the Nentir Vale, the DnD pre-created land that we started playing in and then thoroughly and joyfully bastardized for our own nefarious purposes, and added a few more provinces for more space to explore as we reach higher levels. This is our land:

E's province is Trefrostovol in the northwest, and L's is Pyrok Valley in the mid-south.

Lookit that! Don't you just want to strap on your longbow and dagger and go exploring? We've also written histories (concerning dragons and kings!), and decided on mythology, religions, political systems, exports, climate etc. It has been really fun and really challenging (remember creative collaboration is a WiP around here), and now my brain is teeming with stories! Did you know that Silver Dale is thus named because the people there once worshipped a silver dragon named Sulvidus? Or that there is a halfling village in The Bower that makes a vintage so wondrous to even smell it is practically enchantment? Or that there is something horrible (HORRIBLE) lurking in the Southern Wastes? Right now, there is something going down in the town of Dragmiston on the Hull Coast that is about to change our land forever, to reveal secrets and plots hidden for centuries! That is if our band of adventurers make the kind of choices I think they might...

And that "if" is both the most poignant pleasure and potential biggest frustration of playing DnD. It is a collaborative story that unfolds in game, everyone's choices contribute to it, and no one knows exactly where it will take you.

I am happy to report that we've been non-melty for several sessions. The boys are maturing and more able to handle the challenges the game throws at them, especially now that we're over the worst of the learning curve, and DH and I are becoming more competent and relaxed too (because it's never just the kids is it?). We are having such a good time, and I am excited to see what and who our PC's (player characters), the emerging heroes of Harkenland, become...

E's character, Onlok, an Elven wizard with a tragic past involving dragons. E is a slayer type player, with a bit of explorer thrown in too (link to player type explanations), and so Onlok loves to rain fire and brimstone down on the battlefield!

L's character, Trestkam, a human fighter who has a great deal of thoughtfulness and gentleness for being a death-dealing, axe-wielding juggernaut, and always tries to do the right thing. L is an explorer type player, with more than a dash of storyteller too.

Our beloved dwarven rogue, and comic relief, DH's character, Borgon. DH is a "thinker" player, and can solve the hardest puzzle and/or grind the action to a squealing halt...if you let him. ;)

Moi, although I don't get to play her that often. Morgana, a lawful good human knight. She's more than a bit bossy, and a leetle bloodthirsty for being lawful good and all... I am definitely a storyteller player, with a bit of actor thrown in there too, so I guess it's a good thing that I'm usually behind the DM screen.
Character artwork by my uber talented friend Mr. CH, who whipped these drawings up with the greatest of ease. He draws straight from ink to paper. Can you believe it? No pesky pencils and erasers and rough copies for him. Talent and cohones. If he was playing DnD, I would bet he'd be an "instigator"... You can check out more of his work at http://cannibalpriest.tumblr.com/ (please note: Cannibal Priest is not meant for the kiddies)


  1. how nice of you!
    but now all i can do is criticize the drawings to smithereens.

  2. Oh you. Perfection is for mechanical parts and surgeons. I LOVE our character drawings, and so do the boys!

  3. and that is what counts (razzumfrazzum cropping...and what's with that weird foot...and how come i didn't...)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin