First D&D Game

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Meh… Griff enjoyed it, but I was disappointed.
D&D Player's Handbook
The new Player’s Handbook — a top-notch rewrite of the core rules.
D&D Starter Set
The boxed intro with basic rules, dice, sample characters, and an adventure to get you started.

A week before heading up to the cabin, Griffin and I walked to our local comic shop to pick up a new graphic novel (he chose Journey to the Center of the Earth). While browsing, I noticed that the latest (fifth) edition of Dungeons and Dragons was out. I couldn’t resist picking up the Player’s Handbook and the introductory boxed set. I wanted to read over the new rules, and I rationalized that I’d use them when the D&D activity gets going again at my school this winter. (Also, the fourth edition was garbage, so I hoped the fifth would do better.) Of course I didn’t have time to read them during the week, so I tossed them into my reading bag for the cabin. It wasn’t until we got there that it occurred to me that Griffin might be old enough to get into it. Sarah was game, so after our hike on Saturday, I opened the boxed set and had them choose from the five pre-generated characters. For posterity, here’s the group for our first ever family D&D game:

  • Griffin played an elf wizard named… Griffin!
  • Sarah played a halfling rogue named Sarafina.
  • Maggie played a human fighter named Maggie. (Armed with a two-handed sword, no less.)
  • Andrew, besides being the dungeon master, played a dwarf cleric named Amber. (Those who gamed with me in ages past may recall my appreciation for dwarf clerics.)

A bunch of goblins, some wolves, and a bugbear later and everyone gained a level. Griffin’s first request when we got home was, “Can we play some more D&D today?” (The answer was no, but the request warmed my heart.)

It was neat seeing how Griffin’s five-year-old mind grappled with the complexities of the game. His favorite part was definitely rolling the dice: at one point the group rescued a kidnapped knight and he offered to tell the story of his capture; Griffin responded with, “Can I roll the 20-sided die?” But he definitely followed the story, and has a remarkable memory for detail. He instantly grasped some fairly complicated mechanics around how often he can cast his spells, and a week later he can explain the overall quest and the names of the characters and places in the story. (Including a number of details that I had forgotten!)

Maggie, naturally, had only a loose grasp of things, but also enjoyed rolling the dice and paging through the rulebooks to see the pictures.

With Sarah gone this weekend, we haven’t had a chance for a followup game, but this adds a great new activity to our family menu, especially when the snows blow in. (I always hear Ned Stark… “Winter is coming…”)

Oh, and in case any gamers stumble on this post, my first impression of 5th edition is overwhelmingly positive. The core rules are elegant with an emphasis on flexibility, role-playing, and imaginative fun. The writers captured the spirit of what made the original AD&D so compelling, while streamlining the rules and updating them for the current generation.

Escape to the Cabin

After our glorious summer, the school year feels like we’re barely hanging on to a runaway train. On Friday, we fled the crazy for another taste of summer (with a dash of autumn).

The yellow cabin delivered big time. Not only was the weather outstanding, but the kids were 100% engaged,  hiking with gusto, begging to get out on the water in the kayaks, and playing together relatively peacefully during down time. We also enjoyed some unexpected firsts: Griffin’s first time fishing, and our first family D&D game (more on that in an upcoming post). It felt like we were away for far longer than a weekend.

Enjoy the gallery below. Remember, they look best if you click on one to engage the full-screen slide show. (Also, don’t miss the postscript below for a glimpse backstage.)

PS: The last picture looks idyllic, and it was, but the picture misses a few telling details. As I floated in my kayak, taking in the stunning colors, Griffin, far behind me in the center of the lake, decided to start playing “echo” across the water. The echoes were, indeed, spectacular, so he proceeded to yell louder and louder, until his tremendous battle cries reverberated across the lake, drowning out all other sound. He was far enough away, and focused enough on his bellowing, that he couldn’t hear our fierce, whisper-shouted admonishments to cool it. As he continued ramping up, I wondered if any of our well-armed neighbors would take things into their own hands. Fortunately, and I’m not naming names, one of us channeled the voice of Thor, delivering the following carefully considered advice at 150 decibels:

“GRIFFIN . . . SHUT . . . UP!!!!”

As the echoes faded, we were aware that this sonic event was not only permanently etched into the minds of the Spring Lake community, but that scientists of the future will be able to see evidence of the interchange in tree rings and sediment cores.

Yup. That’s how it’s done at the Yellow Cabin.

Beautiful Day

Griffin woke up early this morning and intercepted me as I was finishing getting dressed. He wondered whether he had had a dream about a big “boom” that shook his bed or if it had really happened. In the darkness, in Sarah’s sewing room, we reviewed the facts. Had I had heard the boom? Was the dog next door barking? Did Maggie wake up? We determined that it was probably a dream, but it might have been a Boomba: a monster made of tires that can make really loud booming sounds. (This is the first I’ve heard of a Boomba, but Griffin knows many things that I don’t.)

Griff wanted to come downstairs and help me with breakfast. And he was a great helper—putting dishes away, starting the toaster, and asking many probing questions about my breakfast cooking technique. (Daddy, why don’t you put all the butter in the pan to watch it melt? What would happen if we turned the toaster to broil?)

Then, Daddy, can we listen to music? I put on my trusty Eels mix, and Griff sat with me while I ate, asking many questions about the songs and repeating the tracks that he liked. I explained that the lyrics had lots of inappropriate words, so he couldn’t sing them at school or at friend’s houses. He accepted this without question.

A few minutes later, someone peering in the window would have seen Griffin, in his PJs, and me, in my school clothes and backpack, pirouetting around the dining room, belting out the sublime refrain from Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues:

“Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day!”

And it is.