Question of the Day from My Daughter…

On the way to drop her off at school yesterday morning she asked, “What is Dungeons and Dragons?”

There is a step back in time from her last set of questions.

How do you cover that topic in the five minutes left before I drop her off?

The question came back over dinner, as my wife watched our local Sharks lose to Detroit in the NHL playoffs. (One more game to decide the series.)

I started explaining it with World of Warcraft as my initial reference point, but that wasn’t going very well, except as a minor history lesson in game design and how we cannot escape from what Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson wrought almost 40 years ago.

Then I got out my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, however that was not the best illustration either.  “Not user friendly” doesn’t even enter into it.  I’m not sure how we figured out how to play with those original books.

Actually, I recall a lot of improvising and “making it up as we went along.”  And then a good chunk of rule book lawyering when “making it up” didn’t go the way somebody liked.

While she was pondering the book (after being admonished to “Be careful! It is more than 30 years old!”) I went looking for my dice.  They are around here somewhere.  I’ll find them.

So I then handed her a copy of David Hargrave‘s The Howling Tower dungeon module, just so she could see maps and room descriptions.

My copy looks just like this!

She wanted to play “tonight!”

She was on her computer and printing out 4th edition character sheets.  Oy!

I can see patience is going to be an issue here.  I remember gaming sessions going late into the night and never leaving the Inn where we started off… or never even getting started off, there being enough rolling up and accounting to be done to get started.

Eventually I got her to let things go to the weekend, but the original AD&D might be a bit too arcane… for even me at this point.

I might have to go pick up a copy of the 4th edition Player’s Handbook, which should be interesting.  I hear the rules have been streamlined quite a bit.  I still think of 2nd edition as being “That new stuff.”  The whole d20 system came along nearly a decade after I last rolled my own saving throw.

Then again, maybe I should just get out my copy of Tunnels & Trolls.  That was always a bit easier to get your head around, and I only need to find a pile of standard, six sided dice.

16 thoughts on “Question of the Day from My Daughter…

  1. Angry Gamer

    I have a reverse story…

    My kid noticed my AD&D books in the closet and started to read them during bath time. (outside bath of course)

    Over time they kept asking and asking more about D&D (seemed fascinated by the concept of “fighting dragons”)

    Anyway fast-forward to a couple of years ago and kid sees me playing wow… then asks “hey is this like D&D?”. I say yes they ask “can I play?”… sure

    I reluctantly allow them to start a toon and play. Mage of course asking all the time “when do I get to kill a dragon?” later I say
    “when do I get to ride a dragon” later I say

    “What do I get to do now?” Kill 10 orcs!
    Back in my day we had pencil and paper and sometimes we didn’t even have paper and we killed orcs and but WE WERE HAPPY with what we had!!!!

    Sorry it was too funny not to go there sigh…


  2. Yeebo

    I was really disappointed by 4th edition. If you want streamlined DnD, 3rd edition is good. If you want really streamlined DnD, D&D Basic is still good (look for the rules cylcopedia for an all in one system).

    If you want to some a miniatures based fantasy combat game, 4th edition is fine. But if all you want is combat with miniatures, I’d point to several other games as being a heck of a lot easier to get into. For example, Warhammer Quest, if you can find a copy, is much easier to get into and is still a functional RPG. If you want a kid friendly board game that has classes and character development, any of the Talisman games will serve well.


  3. scotth

    mbp, I followed your link. The guy lost me when he called the Dungeons and Dragons movie ‘spectacular.’

    I bought one of the new rule books out of curiosity, and the new rules look a lot different than any of the old ones. I will be a big learning curve for everyone involved.

    And, Go Wings! That was quite the game last night.


  4. Richard

    If you want a very streamlined (some would argue too streamlined) game, here is a discussion of a “Kids D&D” produced by the publishers of 4th edition D&D:

    Going to the other end of the spectrum, there is a phenomenon called the “OSR” in the blogosphere (Old School Revolution). Many links, but the most prominent is Grognaria:

    The OSR has produced several free “clone” games. My personal favourite clones the basic D&D rules (i.e. the red box).
    Rules available here:

    Good luck, I am looking forward to the day that my children start asking what all the hardcover books with colorful covers are all about :)


  5. bhagpuss

    Going back must be about 15 years now, we had a very brief fling with the kids and D&D. There was a memorable session on a camping holiday in France and a flurry of interest for a short while afterwards, but it was soon over.

    Just as well, in my opinion, since I had to DM and I’ve always found it quite draining. We used the D&D box rules, which in itself was odd for me, since I’d only ever played and DMed AD&D. I was quite surprised how different they were.

    Of course, back then it wasn’t possible to retro-create a child’s interest in pen and paper RPGs from their actual experience of MMOs. Be interested to hear how this goes.


  6. Matt P

    Actually if your daughter plays MMO’s, 4th ed D & D may be the way to go. While I think the classic old school player will like 3rd ed better, 4ed has a lot of MMO like elements that may make the transition easier. Wizards has made a new intro version in the clasic old red box that has some play aids and counters in it for $20 and I’ve even seen it carried by Wal-Mart and Target.


  7. Kinzlayer

    Oh my… good ole memories. When we had so much times on our hands, the thought you spending Friday, Saturday, and Sunday camped at your local gaming store in the back room with all the chips, sodas, and stupid stories.


  8. Troy

    My heart will always lay with RPGs. To see an image of the Howling Towers bring back so many unbelievable memories.

    I own all of the Arduin & Grimoire books, as well as the Tekumel and the Melee books.

    What a great time, with such great memories. We would play Friday, Saturday, and sometimes even on Sunday — using the other days to talk strategy and even some evil player backstabbing.

    Long live Arduin & Grimoire!!


  9. Toldain

    My take on 4e D&D is: It’s a pretty good game as long as you don’t try to think of it as Dungeons and Dragons. Because it isn’t. They totally missed the “story” of D&D.

    I think it’s a much better place to start with your kid than AD&D. I did 3rd with my kids, Phritz is doing 4e with his youngest. Don’t be afraid to make stuff up…


  10. Jonathan

    I’ll second the “4th ed” meme. Especially for someone that’s seen modern MMOs, 4th is quite user-friendly. Essentials is a good choice, but the Player’s Handbook / Dungeon Master’s Guide / Monster Manual isn’t bad either.


  11. HarbingerZero

    4th Ed is easy to learn alright…right up until she has to start making tactical choices on the board that will get her killed if she goes the wrong way.

    Tunnels and Trolls was a good instinct and a great way to go. Simple, easy, uncluttered, board optional, and cheap. Plus, as someone else mentioned, great solo options abound. She will probably run ahead of you in learning and wanting to play, and you might not be ready to turn her loose at the FLGS yet. (-;


  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I think I actually have some of the T&T solo modules, which I could probably DM pretty easily.

    I have a strange array of roleplaying books. I kept buying them even after I stopped playing as I simply enjoy reading them and imagining the campaigns that might evolve.

    I was eyeing the Paranoia books, but I think the cultural references might be totally lost on her at her age and I’ve already made her commit Roy G. Biv to memory, so I might save that for a time when I am in the mood to explain what the IWW was.


  13. HarbingerZero

    My RPG collection is much the same. I don’t have a “local” gaming group any more, and yet I buy a couple of books a year (usually campgaign or setting books) just for the quality imagination at play.


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