I mentioned the other day that I ran a 6-hour Dungeons and Dragons session for my son's 12th Birthday party. Here is a photo of that gaming session.
One of the important responsibilities of the Dungeon Master is to know his/her audience, and tailor the adventure to the interests of the participants. In preparation for the DnD session, I was coursing around for a suitable adventure to use. I struck upon the idea of mining some of the Disney and other animated movies, as source material for the adventure, but work and household responsibilities left me with little preparation time. As the day of the birthday party loomed, I had about 40 pages of notes and no prepared adventure.
Pre-packaged adventures to the rescue!
I decided to run an adventure that had been calling to me, ever since I bought it several months ago: Tower of the Stargazer, by James Raggi. I find that adventure attractive because it appeals to my particular style of game-play. I like exploration and tricks/traps, and generally distain combat-oriented adventures.
I ran Tower of the Stargazer for 7 participants: my son, eldest daughter, and five of my sons tweeny friends. All but two of his friends had played DnD before, and after rolling up characters (a ghost, baby dragon, three fighters, a wizard and a na`vi) we got down to the adventure. That is where things went sideways. While I presumed the tweens would like an exploration and problem-solving game, most quickly got bored, one throwing himself down a set of stairs to kill himself, another wandering off to the food table, and three others engaging in some in-game hi-jinks. Only two were interested in the exploration, having a great time playing with the equipment at the top of the Stargazer`s tower. After two TPK`s, we took a 15-minute break to sing Happy Birthday and eat some cake.
Back to the table, we rolled up some new characters, and played The Dark Vale adventure instead. The Dark Vale is published by Dark City Games, and is designed for the Legends of the Ancient World game, a The Fantasy Trip (TFT) clone. It is combat-heavy (at least half of the events are combat-only), which gave the tweens lots of opportunities to roll dice, experiencing the highs of timely hits, and the agony of misses. It`s also a straight-up scavenger hunt, with the players given explicit instructions at the beginning of the adventure about the four items that must be gathered to complete it. This seemed to work better for the tweenies, rather that the open-ended, non-explicit goals of the Tower of the Stargazer adventure.
I`m still very fond of the Tower of the Stargazer adventure, but i`m going to have to find a different audience for that adventure, one that has more focus and inquisitiveness, and is less enamoured with dice-rolling.
I was happy to hear, from the parents of several of the attendees, that the kids had a great time, and the two tweens who never played DnD before have been begging their parents to buy them more DnD game materials. While we sent all the kids home with a miniature, a Swords & Wizardry whitebox players handbook, Mike's awesome S&W reference sheets, a set of dice, a deck of Piazo item cards, pencil, eraser and character sheets, they want more materials.
The tweens left the party on a high-note, as they had located one of the four items needed to complete the adventure. All of them expressed interest in continuing the game, so hopefully we can gather those kids up again and finish it.