Tag Archives: children

Taking Root

Thinking of my kids as we move, and the advice I’d rather not give them but I know applies:

Push those roots down
But not too deep
Widespread roots come up easy
Ripping away some clods of dirt
Leaving a scar on the surface
Which quickly covers over
With new grass

Deep roots don’t come up
Without violent force
Strong hands grasping,
Crushing, straining
Until everything breaks free
Deep roots leave a hole
And a damaged plant

Found a new place for you
A familiar spot to settle in
The ground is soft and moist
The air warm and damp
You’ll grow well here
So push those roots down
But not too deep.

They See Me Rollin’, They Hatin’

A good friend of mine (who sometimes — occasionally — posts things on the internets) proposed a joint venture:

How would you feel about a role playing group that plays once a month for about four hours, records the sessions, and posts the highlights as a podcast?

I love the idea, because I greatly miss having an RPG group. But this has been done before, so what’s the hook?

We can try using D&D Next as a way to introduce it and test it out.

Fantastic. I only know a little of what I’ve heard or read in forums online, so a hands-on D&D Next experience would give me perspective and potentially be useful for readers/listeners. Certainly more than “check out the stupid antics of our RPG group” would.

I’m looking forward to the idea, but there are a few technical tests to run and we need a fourth member, so this isn’t happening tomorrow, just sometime in the Future ™. That’s assuming we don’t all lose our motivation and get sucked into some other distraction.

Then I was chatting with my wife today, and she mentioned how she lost a friend on Facebook over D&D. How do you lose a friend you barely know over D&D?

The source of all evil!
The source of all evil!

People fear the unknown, and if all they’re given is misinformation or worst-case examples, it’s easy to villify “that thing those people do” without ever giving it a chance or at least some rational thought. A lot of our friends are Christians, and sometimes we can be the worst at getting good information on a subject. Harry Potter is a tool of Satan in the “culture war” to introduce kids to witchcraft, right? And Star Wars is a tool of Satan to get kids hooked on New Age ideas. And Twilight is a tool of Satan to make kids stupid…

Well, maybe there’s something there.

But all too often we go off half-cocked on whatever the new cultural phenomenon is, and in the 80s, D&D got the same mistreatment from the Christian community. “People sit around in the darkness with candles casting spells!” and “Kids kill themselves when their characters die in the game!”

Hardly. More like “Friends sit around a table and interact in person telling stories, instead of acting like zombies staring at a TV screen or the light of a smartphone.”

But myths are hard to dispel. (Dispel… like dispelling MAGIC! Now my words are starting to incorporate witchcraft terminology! See how easily the evil creeps in?)

Spreading warts since... never.
Spreading warts since… never.

My family and I were at a park the other day, and in the course of playing around, we found a toad. After some effort, including a hilarious moment when the frisbee we tossed onto the toad started hopping around the sandbox, we successfully captured the beast.

We released it, and moments later, a little girl was watching it closely with wide eyes. Her parents stood close by, and the mom said, “Did you pick that toad up? That’s a horrible idea! That’s how you get warts!”

No, it’s not. But that’s been said so long, many of us believe it’s true.

To my Christian friends, is it possible we are all too willing to believe the scary news about whatever the next thing is, rather than investigate for ourselves and find the truth? My first-hand experiences with D&D and other RPGs have been nothing but positive. You can find some of those accounts in the Gaming category on this blog.

And to any RPG friends, maybe you’re curious what D&D Next will look like. Or maybe you’ve had a bad experience and can use a second opinion. Or maybe our group will discover that it really sucks, and we’ll post rants complaining about the dumbing down of the traditional game. In any event, I expect it will be a fun ride.

So stay tuned for updates, and keep an open mind.

D&D Next is not the Devil.

…or is it?

Always Growing

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 NASB

You can’t stop it from happening… or can you?

Not surprisingly, I picture my own children when reading this. I have a daughter who is very much a “Daddy’s Girl” and has adopted a lot of my sense of humor (along with some other less desirable traits). I have an 11 year old son who is picking up many of the same interests in hobbies. I have a 7 year old who is probably as frenetic and crazy as I was at his age. And I have an almost-2 year old who lights up with joy every time his mother and I play music. My keyboard is one of his favorite toys.

You don’t have to be a parent to get the picture of the mother duck followed closely by her ducklings. Children naturally watch and then follow the example of their parents.

Growing is something else children naturally do.

I recall holding my daughter as a newborn. She fit between my elbow and my hand. Now she’s almost as tall as me. Try as I might, I haven’t found a way to stop time and keep her or my other children in that seemingly perfect sweet innocent state of childhood.

Healthy children will grow.

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB

The writer of Hebrews implies something here. It’s possible for us as Christians and children of God to stop growing, to stay in that infant state. If we do not exercise what God has put in us, if we do not work it out and put it into practice, we’ll remain little children, needing to be fed instead of feeding, needing to be helped instead of helping.

Though the parent in me would love to stop my kids from growing up, I know they must grow. And so must I.

Wherever I am right now, however “tall” I am by God’s measuring stick, I can’t let myself remain there. I want to keep growing, keep reaching for more. I know I don’t want to come back next year and find the mark has not moved higher on the wall.

+1 Sling of Angry Birds

We’ve been playing a tabletop role-playing game for Family Game Night.

Tonight we took a break to level up the characters.

I also took some time to level up my son’s interest in the game.

Justin (7 years old) has a rogue character named Clayface, and he seems to be enjoying himself. The problem is, all Clayface ever really has to do is shoot his crossbow at everyone’s face.

When I ask, “Justin, what do you want to do?” that’s always the answer.

“I shoot the goblin in the face.”

“I shoot my crossbow at the spider. In the face.”

“I want to shoot my crossbow RIGHT IN HIS FACE!”

So I thought, how am I going to get Justin to think more about what different things he might want to do?

That’s when I thought of these guys:

Justin is an absolute nut about Angry Birds.

And this is a silly family game where anything can be allowed.

So why not give Clayface the rogue a slingshot and a sack of birds to use as ammunition?

For the next session, I get to hand Justin the sheet below. It may not get him sneaking around and role-playing a rogue, but it will get him thinking about what he wants to do in the game, even if it turns into, “I fire Little Red into the goblin’s face!”

Angry Birds in D&D 4E form

Paizo is Still Eevil

Some of the best parts of tabletop role-playing are the creative ways players solve or avoid (or outright ignore) the problems and troubles the DM/GM/Storyteller sends their way.

One of the other best parts is coming up with those surprises to stump your players.

This afternoon, I sat down with the wife and kids to continue our D&D campaign. They’ve been steered (mostly by their characters’ needs and not by railroad tracks) toward tracking down a manipulative vampire clan. Members of the clan operate behind the scenes all over the realm, and it’s the heroes’ job to root these villains out.

They’re starting to travel all around the region, which gives me the chance to use a variety of settings.

Tabletop version of plug-and-play.

I was going to use my copy of Dungeon Delve, with its pre-made adventures. But that would require getting tiles together, and I was looking for something with less prep required.

Good thing I had an unopened pack of GameMastery map tiles: Mines.

It’s 18 tiles that are made to mix and match, so that you can create a variety of tunnels to explore.

Events in the game led the wife’s and kids’ characters to a nearby mine overrun by goblins somehow connected to the clan. There are surviving miners… probably. Rescue is the main goal… as far as they know.

The intrepid heroes are ready to move in, and since it’s a dark mine, I lay out one Mines map tile at a time as they advance through the mine. I fanned out the tiles, blank backs up, and let the kids and Jami pick which one would be next. Then I came up with a brief answer for why that section of tunnel mattered. Sometimes it was tracks in the dungeon. Sometimes it was signs of battle to hint at what they might soon face. Once it was a vein of gleaming ore.

But even before all of that, right off the bat, their creative juices are flowing. I start off with a Dungeoneering check, as Beastly Tiger notices something amiss in the entrance of the tunnel. The goblins have prepared a rock-fall trap for unwanted guests. The kids discuss how best to deal with this, when I tell them their characters hear goblins chatting ahead in the tunnel.

The children gave me a pleasant surprise by remembering the idea of “holding action.” Basically, that means a character is ready to do a certain action if something specific happens. “I hold my axe up, ready to chop at the first goblin that walks through the door,” for example.

Deborah decides Beastly Tiger would make some noise to get the goblins’ attention, then she prepares to chuck a rock at the cords that will trigger the trap. Justin likes this plan, and declares that Clayface has his crossbow ready to shoot the cords at the other side of the tunnel, once the goblins are in position. Jonathan finishes up by “holding” a magic missile to hit any of the goblins who survive the rock-fall trap.

Needless to say, the battle went poorly for the goblins. It also went poorly for Jami’s new monk character, Lily-Ann, a halfling who is unfortunately about goblin sized. That explains why Beastly Tiger may have accidentally swung his hammer to smash Lily-Ann in the side of the head:

Deborah rolled a 1. We picked a fumble card, and it said “You attack your ally instead. This attack is a critical threat.” So Deborah rolled for her attack against Lily-Ann, and the die went off the table. She tried again, and rolled a 20. Murphy’s Law, I guess.

Even so, the heroes had little difficulty dealing with the goblins and some creepy-crawlies in the tunnels.

I needed a good hook to end with, and as we took a quick break, it came to me.

Not yours. Mines.
So maybe I took mix-and-match too far…

I’d been removing the old map tiles behind their characters in the mine, partly to save space, but more importantly, to set up the surprise.

They hit an intersection, determined a direction, and quickly came to a dead end with the section that has ore. They fought more beasties, then turned around to back-track…

And eventually they found themselves right back at the ore, even though they’d gone the opposite direction.

Deborah and Jonathan look at me funny. Jami asks, “Wait, what?” And then it starts to dawn on their faces…

Time and space are being shifted around in the mine. The path they took is now completely different. There is a monstrous creature in the cavern whose powerful twisted magic creates this effect, and they must find it and slay it in order to find their way out.

Jonathan’s eyes go wide, and he declares, “I like where this is going.”

Removing the tiles saved space and created a fun challenge.

The kids took off to play outside, since there was only a couple hours before sunset. But they made sure to ask, “Can we keep playing once we come back inside?”

I’ll chalk that up as a win.

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.

Kung Fu Hobbit

Real life has been hectic and complicated, forcing me to adjust priorities and pay time and attention to some important things…

…Like family game night!

(Not really, but we did make time Monday night to get our game on for a bit.)

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I discussed her character. Jami likes the idea of Bethrynivere the military leader, but the character bores her. Likewise, Deborah loves Beastly Tiger, the dim-witted wall of muscle. But she doesn’t care so much about the panther companion that comes with a beastmaster ranger.

He’s crying because Beastly Tiger doesn’t want him tagging along anymore.

We looked into some other options while leveling up the kids’ characters.

Deborah selected a marauder ranger, which basically means combining various actions in order to capture a sense of “You’re the fastest character out there, rushing around the battlefield, charging into your enemies.” She plays to Beastly Tiger’s strengths (namely, his Strength stat) by chucking throwing hammers and then running up to smash faces with her larger war hammer.

We finished the character, and I couldn’t help but hear, “Stop! Hammer time!”

Meanwhile, Jami is trying to choose a class and race for a new character. She doesn’t want to duplicate any of the roles in the party, so a magic user is out. A rogue is out. A burly up-close fighter is out, because that’s basically what Beastly Tiger is no matter what the class says. On top of that, the party has no healer. Jami is convinced she should make a healer just because they need one, but that’s not what she wants to do.

I assure her not to worry about healing. I have a plan for an NPC of sorts, an angelic being that grants healing to the characters (in a limited fashion) when they get their butts handed to them in combat.

I don’t know how exactly I’d explain its presence yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of something! I just don’t want Jami feeling forced to play something she’s not interested in. So she ignores the healing classes and looks at a few options.

And maybe it was excitement about the upcoming Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria… or maybe it was inspiration from Gollum’s total rage assault on Frodo at the end of Return of the King… or maybe none of the above. But Jami settled on the idea of a Monk, and she decided her monk had to be a Halfling.

Yeah. You heard of Frodo, now meet his cousin Judo.

One does not simply walk into Mordor…
But you can Soaring Crane Kick your way in.

I kid, I kid. The monk’s name is Lily-Ann. The heroes met her in a session a while back where they fought that Dire Bear.

Once the bear was vanquished, the team gathered all available clues and figured that the thieving merchant they needed to find was probably holed up in the abandoned cathedral near the town. They set off to chase him down, and encountered an assassin who also sought him for reasons known only to her.

There was a brief tense moment–Beastly Tiger threatened to eat the assassin for dinner, and she responded coolly, “I think you’ll find my meat too tough for your tastes.” (I was proud of my off-the-cuff cheesy retort!)

Then the heroes realized the assassin shared the same short-term goal–stop the merchant, recover the gem–so they agreed to work together. They stepped into the cathedral and found the merchant holding the gemstone, protected by a large bubble of energy. Goblins surrounded the bubble, clawing and scraping to no effect. The merchant raised the gem, revealed his true demonic form, and exerted control over the goblins, turning them against the heroes.

That’s where we left off about two weeks ago.

While plotting the big fight, I thought about incorporating vampires into the plot line. I liked the idea of this merchant-devil guy gaining power from the blood that is drawn on the pre-made map. (Eevil Paizo, including little hooks and plot ideas in your simple map drawing!) But then he’d have to be a merchant-devil-vampire guy.

Devil vampires? Yessss… 

Come to think of it, I had a campaign that was headed toward an arc about toppling a vampire clan. We had to stop due to various military deployments and such, and we never got to realize that portion of the story. Maybe these devil vampires could be a similar arc for family game night.

And the need to stop their evil would certainly explain the angelic being’s presence and interest in the heroes. Bonus!

So, with all this in mind, I set up the fight. I throw in a heap of goblin minions. In game terms, they’re the cannon fodder, the scrawny little losers that die as soon as they take damage. Minions give the players a sense that their characters are really powerful heroes, crushing all opposition.

They serve my purpose as well; the devil vampire has a healing buff that grows with the blood of each goblin slain.

On top of that, Lily-Ann and the assassin NPC both take bleed damage early in the fight. Bleeding sounds like something else that might give the devil vampire strength, so I describe the power he gains. Now they really want him to die.

Of course, with all the bleeding, they need a healer. So I tell them there is a flash of radiance at the back of the sanctuary, and an angelic being appears, hovering above the ground. She starts shooting beams of warm light at the heroes, and their wounds are healed. They want to know what her deal is, why she’s there, but they’re content to let that wait until after the fight.

The heroes smash their way through many goblins, while the assassin tries to distract the devilish merchant. The kids and Jami focus exclusively on the goblins, but the devil vampire remains completely protected behind a powerful shield. I set about 13 black token stones in an arc inside the cathedral, marking the boundary of the shield.

Deborah describes the various ways she wants Beastly Tiger to attack goblins… usually something like playing Leap Frog over a friend and then landing a crushing shot with the hammer. At some point, Jonathan decides that his not-sneaky-at-all Dragonborn Wizard is going to try to slip around the goblins by creeping through the shadows behind the pillars of the cathedral sanctuary. I can’t believe he wants to do this, but that’s the beauty of the game.

They can do whatever they want, or at least try.

As the kids and Jami beat up the goblins, Justin misses his attack by a very narrow margin. I describe how his crossbow bolt flies through a goblin wizard’s robe instead of hitting the goblin. And I think, “Well, if it flies through his robe, it’ll hit whatever is behind it… namely the shield.”

I describe the impact on the shield, and I replace a black token with a red one. This piques Jonathan’s interest.

On his next turn, he abandons his sneaking plan and decides to start attacking the shield directly. I end up replacing another token or two with red, and I explain how the shield flickers or wavers with each hit.

Suddenly no one cares about the goblins.

Like, not at all.

All of them are focused on the shield, to the extent that they’re ignoring the attacks of little goblins standing right next to them.

Justin has Clayface firing one crossbow bolt after another into the shield, trying to bring it down. The heroes are close to breaking through. One of the little pesky goblins runs up to harass or attack Clayface, and rolls a 1. I pick a card from the Critical Fumble deck.

The goblin ends up with something like, “Return to Sender.” It means the attack failed so bad that the opponent grabs and keeps the weapon the attacker just used. The goblin essentially runs up and hands Clayface his knife in the middle of the fight, while Clayface remains focused on the shield.

Can't Touch This
This is essentially what I picture and describe Clayface doing… no look, no distraction, just reaching up and blocking, grabbing the knife out of the goblin’s hand.    (I also need to watch The Matrix again sometime soon.)

The goblins didn’t last long. And once the shield was brought down, the heroes were quick to pile on the devil vampire. Jami’s monk has a powerful move she can do once per fight, called Open the Gates of Battle. It does extra damage when you attack a target that has full health. Throughout the fight, we were discussing when she could or should use “Open the Gates.” She really really wanted to use it on the big devil vampire, and the moment finally arrived.

She says, “I wanna OPEN THE GATES!” Deborah and Jonathan cheer with her, “Yeah! Open the Gates! Open the Gates!”

Justin yells, “AND THEN CLOSE IT ON HIM!”

The heroes surround the devil vampire and beat on him with everything they’ve got. My assassin NPC manages to snatch the gemstone from the monster’s hands, and jumps away. (I’ve been trying to get her to grab it the whole time, but unfortunately I’ve been rolling a string of 3s and 4s.)

He responds by spraying acid and bile all around him a la Exorcist, pushing the heroes back. Then he rushes at the assassin and tries to get the gemstone back.

With everyone unloading their best attacks, the devil vampire is in a bad way. I get my turn, and he takes the gemstone back, raising it up into the air triumphantly, calling on its power to aid him and cackling in a mustache-twirling villain sort of way.

Justin declares, “I want to shoot him IN THE FACE!” and attacks with a crossbow shot that I know will kill the vampire. And it’s really late at this point, and we need to finish.

Always finish with a hook, if you can get away with it.

The devil vampire’s grin turns to open-mouthed confusion and he looks from the gem to the assassin at his feet. Something has gone wrong. “NOOOOO!” He screams at her. “WHAT HAVE YOU DO–”

I tell Jami and the kids, “The crossbow bolt flies into the creature’s mouth, killing him and triggering the explosive power of Clayface’s weapon. The devil vampire explodes, sending the assassin sliding across the ground. The goblins under the vampire’s control fall dead. Aaaaaand… we’re done. Time to get ready for bed.”

Deborah and Jonathan shout, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I smile.

And the next day, Jonathan is already asking, “Can we play more tonight?”

They can’t wait to see what happens. Thinking of the silliness they come up with, I can’t wait to see what happens either.

This Game Bites

It’s almost weekly game night with my wife and kids. Maybe I better post last week’s silliness.
 
Last week my wife and kids had their heroes continue a desperate attack against the goblins who took over their town. They had just finished clearing out the Town Hall when the last living goblin cried out, “Wait! I’ll tell you everything!”
 
So we began with that conversation.
 
I love Pathfinder’s goblins.
They look totally nuts.

The fearful goblin explains the mysterious jewel the goblins are seeking: it’s a magical artifact that can exert control over the goblins in some way. The band of goblins are part of a larger organization led by the enigmatic Kal, who no one has ever seen and lived to describe. Kal has allowed the goblins to keep the jewel as a sign of trust in their relationship, and the goblins have pledged their support to Kal’s unknown goals.

 
Further details are all well above the head of the pathetic goblin captive, so the party stops questioning him.
However, if his story is true, the goblins aren’t motivated to ransack or destroy. The heroes begin wondering if it’s possible for them to help the goblins find the jewel and thus end the invasion on the town.
 
They bring the goblin captive into the next underground tunnel and head for the smithy to attempt diplomacy.
 
The goblin is sent up the stairs with the offer of coordinated effort.
 
His corpse is dropped down the stairs a moment later, followed by a fireball.
 
Burak, the half-orc sorceror I control, takes a crit and gets knocked 15 feet down the tunnel. I’m fine with this. As I’ve said before, I like finding ways to get him out of the way. That way, we can focus on my wife’s character and especially my kids’ characters as heroes.
 
Justin’s rogue, Clayface, is the first up the stairs. The party already knows there are four goblins near the stairs. But I whisper to Justin, informing him that there are four more goblins at the far end of the room. One of them is the purple goblin the heroes have been looking for.
 
I don’t put down any pieces because I don’t want the rest of the party to know yet. They’re downstairs. They can’t see these extra goblins.
 
But I do tell Justin, “Would Clayface want to tell his friends anything about what’s up here?”
 
Justin thinks a moment, and ‘Clayface’ informs his allies, “Guys, there are goblins up here.”
 
Deborah looks at me with eyes and a smirk that say, “Duh… we knew that.”
 
Jonathan calls out, “Uh… okay! Thanks…” in a sing-song response.
 
Jami’s character is next up the stairs and finds out about the added goblins. She laughs about Justin’s well-meaning attempt at a warning.
 
Soon everyone is upstairs from the underground tunnel into the smithy (well, everyone but Burak). The fight is pretty intense, and almost all the heroes are bloodied, D&D 4th Edition’s term for “half-dead.”
 
On his turn, Jonathan decides that Killbot is mad about this.
 
He starts asking about rules for biting.
 
“I want to walk up and bite the goblin on the nose.”
 
GOBLINS!
OM NOM NOM

I try not to laugh. “Your character is pretty big and these guys are small. Look at that picture of your character. If you bite a goblin, you’re probably biting on his whole head.”

 
“Okay, even better.”
 
We roll for grappling, as Killbot tries to catch and hang onto a goblin. Then we roll an attack for the bite itself. It hits but doesn’t do too much damage. Jonathan doesn’t care. He just wants the goblins to know that the Dragonborn wizard is MAD.
 
Then it’s Justin’s turn.
 
 
He has a habit of getting excited that it’s his turn and immediately rolling dice to see “how well I do.” He knows most things in D&D require the roll of a 20-sided die.
 
He rolls a 20, a critical hit or automatic success.
 
As usual, I have to ask him, “But what are you trying to do?”
 
“Shoot my crossbow at something that’s not dead that’s not one of my friends in the game.”
 
Fair enough.
 
Killbot continues his toothy rampage. He grabs and bites the purple goblin on the head.
 
But the goblins score a lot of hits. Jonathan looks around and says, “I’m the only one in the party not bloodied yet.”
 
He says this as I calculate damage for an arrow that hits him and bloodies him.
 
 
The purple goblin and another goblin die in a scorching burst cast by Jonathan’s wizard.
 
The three remaining goblins get mad and start chanting, “Bursh nakh!”
 
Two of the three fall dead from Clayface’s crossbow bolts.
 
But then the wall shakes, splinters fly, and the last goblin rejoices.
 
Killbot grabs hold of the third goblin, and bites him. The goblin tries to break free but is held fast.
 
Then Justin decides he wants to shoot at it.
 
“Justin, your friend is holding the goblin… the goblin who is about to die.”
“Yup.”
“You remember, your magic crossbow causes explosions when it kills enemies.”
“Yup.”
“You might hit Killbot with your crossbow, or you might hit the goblin and make it explode. Are you sure about this?”
“Hmm…”
I try to throw him some rope.
 
“Let’s talk about delaying actions or holding actions. You can choose something you want to do, and say ‘if this or that happens, I will do this.’ So, maybe Beastly Tiger could stand next to a door and declare, ‘If an enemy comes through, I’m going to smash it in the face with my hammer and call it a hobo.’ Your character picks an action and waits for the right moment to do it. Does that make sense?”
“Yup.”
“And you guys are in the same room. So you can talk about this. You can tell Killbot, ‘Throw that goblin toward me.’ Then when he does, you can shoot it and make it explode.”
“Ok.”
“So… do you want to do that?”
“Nope.”
“…”
“I want to shoot it.”
“Right now?”
“Yup.”
 
I give Killbot a break and allow him a saving throw to see if he can react in time. You roll a d20, and on 10 or better, you succeed… so you have just over a 50-50 shot at whatever it is. He saves, and throws the goblin away just as the crossbow bolt hits it.
 
With the goblins defeated, the heroes have a moment to catch their breath.
 
Then they learn what “Bursh nakh” means, as the Dire Bear the goblins summoned bursts into the room like the Kool-Aid man.
 
I think the bear might do some biting too.
OHHH YEAH!!

Blood Bubbles: D&D with kids

It’s D&D time with the kids again!

We quickly recapped our ongoing story:

There’s a merchant who has a magical gem he took from goblins. There are goblins who have taken over the town in order to find him and get it back. There are townsfolk in need of heroes to free their homes from the goblin invaders. And in the last session, there are a bunch of dead goblins in the street after the initial assault breaches the gate and gets the heroes into the town.

The kids’ characters have done some research, and they know about secret tunnels between buildings. They hope to use these to surprise the goblins. I remind them which buildings have tunnels and where they lead. Jonathan declares, “I have a plan!”

So they plan to bust into the nearest buildings (a collection of small stores), take out the goblins, move through the tunnel to Town Hall, wipe out the goblins, and then move to the Blacksmith’s forge to find and eliminate a purple goblin for a reward from the dead blacksmith’s mourning apprentice.

They figure if they do this, they will benefit and they will break the goblin invasion.

Deborah also suggests listening in on the goblins’ conversations to see what they can learn.

But first, they have to get into the building. And at this point, I remind them that they’re all standing outside a tailor’s shop, right next to the window where the goblins inside can surely see them.

Roll for initiative!

Beastly Tiger (Deborah’s hunter with a newly acquired magic hammer) launches himself through the window, executing a tuck-and-roll across the table on the other side to land with a crushing blow on the first goblin. The total damage of the hit is more than half of the goblin’s life, and we follow the suggested house rule that such a hit is an instant-kill on a monster. So this goblin gets pulped.

I place a little red glass marker and remove the goblin. “It’s a blood bubble!” Deborah cheers. Queasy Mom is not enthused. Blood bubbles are super gross.

Jami’s character Bethrynivere is up next. We’re playing a lot more by ear than by rules, so we both remember a different version of Bethrynivere had an ability that “commands” another player to make an attack — hence the “leader” role of the warlord. Bethrynivere does this (because we forget that this version doesn’t have that power), commanding Beastly Tiger to “Strike left!”

Deborah rolls a  20. The critical hit card we draw says “crushed knee” and gives a rough idea of how this affects the monster. But once again, the damage is enough to instant-kill the goblin. We decide that Beastly Tiger’s hit smashes the knee, spinning the goblin into the air, and it lands upon its head, incapacitated.

Another blood bubble is placed.

My goblins are up next. One of them, having seen two of his allies exploded in brutal fashion, dives out the other window of the store and finds the rest of the heroes. He takes a shot at Bethrynivere but misses.

A goblin sapper sets a bomb in the building, hoping to eliminate Beastly Tiger. Then he makes a break for it. Now there’s only one other goblin in the room with Deborah’s character.

Deborah declares she wants to grab the goblin, throw him toward the bomb, and then dive out the window to escape the explosion. We discuss ways to make this happen, and Jami finds one of her warlord’s powers is to draw attention to herself, essentially allowing her to move a monster toward her.

“I’m the one you want! Face me!”

The goblin moves forward a few squares, ready to hurl a spear at the warlord. Then Beastly Tiger grabs him.

Beastly is an athletic and acrobatic nightmare for monsters, and this is no different. I require a few rolls–one attack roll to grab the goblin, one for the acrobatic feat of flipping the goblin behind Beastly, one for the acrobatic attempt to dive through the window.  I give the goblin a chance to avoid falling flat on his face (he fails).

A moment later, half the building (and the goblin) disappears in the blast.

The goblins outside have been eliminated, except for one: the sapper who set the bomb. He is hurt, but he’s running. Killbot, Jonathan’s dragonborn wizard, decides to wait until the sapper gets to the Town Hall. Jonathan asks what his character can see of the Town Hall: are there windows? There’s a window right by the double-door where the goblin is standing. The goblin pounds on the door, calling for his friends to let him in. That’s when Killbot strikes, with a magic missile blast of force followed by a bolt of lightning.

“The goblins inside can’t miss the flash of lightning and the thunder that follows, and they certainly realize that they no longer hear their friend’s cries for help. They’re going to come out and look for who did this.”

So Jonathan suggests that the heroes rush into the secret tunnel in the now-destroyed merchant shops, and sneak into the Town Hall while the goblins are outside, in order to set an ambush for them when they return.

Deborah still wants to eavesdrop on goblin conversations.

In the end, a compromise is reached. The heroes sneak into the basement of the Town Hall, and creep to the stairs that lead up to the main floor. From there, they can listen to the goblins.

Justin’s character, Clayface, is the consummate rogue–or “sneaky guy” as he would say. I have him roll a Perception check, and he rolls high. So I tell him that Clayface does some kind of Hawkeye-Avengers stuff where he listens closely with his ridiculously-high-for-level-1 Perception skill, and maps out roughly where all the goblins are by the sounds of their voices. He’s very satisfied with this.

Jonathan’s wizard is smart enough that he possibly knows some of the goblin language, so he interprets for the others. The goblins are concerned because this gem has a secret power that will allow whoever holds it to control the goblins somehow. They aren’t really out to attack the town. They’re running scared, trying to find and stop the merchant who has the gem before he figures this out. I tell Jonathan that there are some other complicated and unfamiliar words about “undead” in there, for foreshadowing.

I also tell them that the conversation dies down. They know a fight should start soon, with goblin guards at the top of the stairs. Deborah loves playing Beastly Tiger as a dimwit, so she has him say, “I can’t hear you. Keep talking!” Jonathan laughs and “rolls” for Beastly Tiger’s bluff attempt.

Appropriately, he rolls a 1. Deborah accepts this.

One guard gets smashed instantly by Beastly Tiger; the other escapes a near death when the string of Clayface’s crossbow breaks. (Justin also rolls a 1 when trying to attack the fleeing guard.)

Now the goblins know there are intruders, and they take up hidden positions. The heroes creep up the stairs and try to figure out where the goblins could be.  I ask Justin to try another Perception check. He rolls a 19, and adds his high skill.

“You can hear their panicked breathing.”

The kids love it. I point out a couple of goblin positions, lurking under tables or around corners. But clearly there are fewer known locations now than there were before.

Beastly Tiger still has initiative (because I’d rather not reroll all of that), so he rushes in, with another acrobatic leap onto a table followed by a smashing attack with the hammer. I keep letting Deborah do this because 1) that’s how she pictures her character, and 2) since she ends up rolling twice for every attack, sooner or later, one of those maneuvers will end in spectacular failure. Last session, she tried to leap onto a rooftop and rolled a 1. I told her Beastly Tiger smashed his face into the overhanging beam as he tried to pull himself up. It was delightful.

Another goblin gets insta-smashed.

Another blood bubble is placed on the map.

Meanwhile, Jonathan puts out a treasure chest in a back room. He’s the one that wants to be a DM. He convinces Jami to send Bethrynivere that way, and she finds the chest along with a goblin mage. Those two trade shots, and then Killbot comes to Bethrynivere’s aid, blasting the mage with lightning.

Along comes Clayface, sneaking into a hidden position to strike with his Dragonfire Crossbow.

Early in the session, Justin remembered very clearly that sometimes the magic crossbow he got from the townsfolk will make a target explode. I remind him that it only happens when a monster gets killed by the crossbow. Sure enough, the goblin mage is almost dead, when Clayface hits it with a sneak attack that does bonus damage. I roll attacks against Bethrynivere, and it’s not enough to hit. She raises her shield just in time to avoid being hurt by the shower of fire, bone, and meat.

Another blood bubble is placed on the map.

Jonathan rushes his character to the chest, attempting to fling it wide open. I take advantage of his greed and attack him with a trap. I roll pretty high, and now his wizard is bloodied–half dead. And poisoned.

He expresses shock. “Killbot has never been bloodied before!”

That’s what you get for going after the treasure while enemies are still around!

Beastly Tiger picks up one of the two goblins left, and tries to slam it into the other. The attack fails, but my goblin also fails his attempt to keep his footing, and he lands on his face. Bethrynivere starts healing Killbot and Beastly Tiger, who has taken a few hits and is also bloodied.

The goblin on the ground crawls under a table and hides, and the other goblin takes another crossbow bolt from Clayface. Once again, the damage is more than half the monster’s total life, so this goblin explodes as the Dragonfire Crossbow’s magic kicks in.

Another blood bubble is placed on the map.

Jonathan has Killbot open the chest and claim treasure. I take out the deck of Wonderous Items or whatever it is (another Paizo is Eevil topic in the works), and I tell him to draw three cards. He gets a card of coins, a messenger ring (with a secret compartment to place a note), and a “helm pendant.”

I promise to tell him what each of these do, but I don’t get to it in time. (More suspense for the next session, perhaps!)

At this point, Jami has been quietly talking to a friend who tells us that this year’s last showing of Shakespeare on the Green – Julius Caesar – is tonight at 8 PM. We need to go very soon if we’re going to get there on time. I glance down at the map, looking for a quick end with a hook for the next session.

“As you approach the cowering goblin under the table, he cries out in Common, ‘WAIT!! I’ll tell you everything!’ “

No Recipe

“If you two don’t stop making all this noise, I swear I’m going to get my broom and beat you with it.”

I’m thinking of my mother, the day after her birthday.

That’s a horrible quote to start with, perhaps, but it did happen. My brother and I were wrestling around on the living room floor during some TV show that Mom wanted to watch, and we would not be quiet after repeated warnings. So she went to the hall closet, brought back the broom, and started whapping us with it.

We both froze, looked up at the sight of our kindly mother beating us, and burst out laughing.

I think that prompted more beatings with the broom.

We were teenagers at that point (maybe I was only 12, but close enough). Gentle hits with a broom weren’t going to make us cry.

And my Mom is the sort of sweet person who you’d never expect to hurt anyone. I want to say, “She’d never hurt a fly.”

But that’s not true at all. Bugs are definitely on her target list.

Sure, she freaks out when she sees one. But after about five seconds of fear, she becomes violent. She’ll grab a newspaper or shoe or flyswatter (or a broom) and beating the poor insect invader into pulp.

Telemarketers also feel the sting of her wrath. For a while when I was younger, we had a rash of crank calls and telemarketers around dinner time. Mom had a whistle placed near the phone just for these occasions. She’d pick up the phone, say “Hello… oh, it’s YOU again.”

FWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!

My wife knows this from firsthand experience, the accidental victim of a whistle-blower.

Be careful when you call my Mom.

I share those memories not because they are typical, but because they’re so unlike everything else I remember. Mom was always supportive of me while I was growing up, and she remains so today.

She would sit for hours as I practiced or played piano, and she would always tell me how “One day God is going to use that talent of yours, I know it.”

She was generally soft-spoken and slow to anger, and she patiently worked to help her husband and two boys get it all together.

I’m not saying my Dad didn’t do anything. One of his favorite things to do (or so it seemed to me) was to cook for us. Sometimes he’d use recipes to make various family favorites, like “tunnpannkakor” (Swedish pancakes) or cinnamon sugar cookies. (There’s a link to a recipe there… it’s close to what I remember. I might need to make these soon!)

But most of the time, Dad just winged it, cooking whatever he felt like, however he wanted. He’d grill up chicken and hot dogs and burgers. He always made delicious combinations of spices and vegetables, usually some kind of hearty chicken soup. It seemed like his recipe was, “What do we have to choose from? Hmm… I’ll use this, and this, and that, and… that. Done.”

My mom always used recipes, measuring everything out precisely. If the recipe says 1/8 tsp, then you better use 1/8 tsp and not accidentally 1/4. Everything had to be exact, because that’s how you made that particular dish. That’s just how it was. Follow the recipe, and you won’t mess up.

She’d make “mostaccioli,” which is actually just the name of the pasta she used, something I only learned after growing up, moving out, and shopping for myself. It’s ground beef with tomato sauce (“you need the 29 oz can”) and tomato paste (“just one 15 oz can to thicken it up”) mixed together and spooned over a bed of the aforementioned pasta. Sometimes she’d make italian sausage for my Dad and brother. Looking back, it’s remarkably simple, but to me, it was an Italian masterpiece.

There was the famed “tomato soup casserole,” egg noodles and ground beef with a couple cans of Campbell’s soup poured in and stirred up. Her pizza-burgers are one of my brother’s favorites: saucy meat covered in mozzarella and piled on a half of an English muffin, then baked to perfection.

Raspberry Poke Cake was also a delight. It’s just a normal yellow or white cake cooked up according to the directions, then poked with a fork repeatedly. Then you spoon raspberry Jell-O across the top and put it in the refrigerator to cool.

She possessed some culinary magic–at least so it seemed to 10-year-old me.

No matter how complex or simple the dish, she had a recipe and she followed it.

For years, she would make chicken ramen soup for my brother and me to share.  While we ate, she would read us a nighttime story before bed. I had forgotten all about it for several years until we had some again, and I realized “This is the soup you always used to make!” Imagine, being delighted at the discovery of 20 cent packs of ramen noodles, with their 1g of sodium.

By then, I was starting to earn money here and there, and I was often accompanying my parents to the grocery store. So I was able to either get my own ramen or beg them to buy some. I made cheap ramen all the time–always cooked in a pot with boiling water, never just microwaved, in order to get the flavor and texture just right. It got to the point that I knew exactly where to fill the pot to make the ramen, so I didn’t measure out the water.

My mom would ask me, “Why don’t you measure out the 2 cups of water? You need 2 cups. We have a measuring cup right on the shelf in the cabinet, you know.” After all, that was the recipe.

As all parents know, there’s no recipe for raising children. Certainly, we benefit from the experience and advice of others who have gone before, but every kid is different and it’s all guesswork until you find what’s best for your child and you.

My parents struggled with how best to raise my brother, and then once they thought they had something figured out, they discovered that my personality was completely different from his. Similar problems needed different solutions. So they struggled all over again, doing the best they could to help me out.

I’m sure my mom would have been very happy back then to find a “recipe” of some kind.

I’m also sure she didn’t need one. Her mothering magic–unconditional love–was enough.

Happy birthday to an amazing woman that I am proud to call “Mom.”