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Monday, October 22, 2012

Old School D&D with my wife and kids

And a few other women and children. Now, to be fair, my kids and most of the kids I am talking about are at least in their teens. My oldest daughter turned twenty this month, so I am not talking about little kids, just the next generation, with a couple of exceptions. My kids and their friends have made up the majority of my D&D groups for the last decade. I introduced them to old school gaming both B/X D&D and 1st & 2nd edition AD&D. My oldest daughter Ashli led the gaming charge at about 14, so most of the gamers that came to the table were her friends and her younger siblings. Mom came along for the ride as a den mother for the pack of newbie adventurers and helped to keep them on task, a leadership role she never really liked or really felt comfortable with, but performed admirably.

Aside from my wife and kids and Ashli's friends, the other main player in the group for the past few years has been Lee Ann. Lee started out as an SCA fighting buddy of mine* and, since she lives close to where I live, and she was training my daughter Ashli to fight, we started gaming together too. She's fun to play with, but we've all learned the lesson about letting her DM when you are sick or tired- DON'T DO IT. She knows this, we know this, it's all good now. Her characters tend to be an incarnate force of chaos in the party, but it keeps the game interesting and moving along. She's funny too, and that brings my youngest back to the game- if Lee doesn't play, neither does Em.

So, I don't know where I am really headed with this ramble, but I just feel that there is some observable difference in play style between the kids I introduced to Old School D&D, the grown women that are my own age-ish that play the game with me and the guys that I played the game with back in the day, that I still play with every now and again; and it drives Lance a little nuts. Worse, he brings his new-to-D&D girlfriend Audra with him and she is slightly confused because his other gaming group is "all business" and ours is way more social. I get this, my other gaming group plays a lot more "old school", "all business" style. That group is almost all male, it was all male until Big Darryl convinced his wife to play Legend of the Five Rings with us, then Lady Blackbird. We'll be playing D&D next probably, I don't know if she'll stick.

Now, I don't know if gaming with women and gaming with kids should have been different topics; it's hard for me to separate the two. Two of my kids are young women after all. Maybe if I could play a game with just the young men and see how that goes? That'd be like my late 1990's crew I'd imagine, but Mona ran with them too, again as a den mother/older sister, and there were more of the old men like me still around to teach the younger guys how we played. That, and we were all playing the then current edition of D&D, so it hadn't evolved away from it's roots so much. No real competition from MMOs either.

My son's other D&D group just went on an "indefinite hiatus", the DM canceled the game for the foreseeable future. I told him I'd be happy to step up and DM for the group, he's still weighing the pros and cons, to figure out whether or not the group would be willing to play some Old School D&D or not before he even asks them. Angsty. That group played 4th edition D&D and Pathfinder, I'd love to start them out on B/X D&D so they could experience the less-is-more, Zen purity that D&D can be; when players are freed from the bondage of all the excess rules they can experience the game anyway they want- it can be an interactive, storytelling experience or it can be a tactical room-clearing exercise or anything in between, or something else altogether; the choice is yours.

Anyway, I kind of went off on a tangent there, but it's my blog and you were warned by the title of the blog that it'd be ramblings, some days it's worse than others. My original point, if there was one that could be gleaned here, was that the women and kids tend to be a lot less mission focused and goal oriented in their gaming than the adult male dominated groups I have DMed for and instead they tend to be more social with each other, we enjoy a lot of comforts at my house when we play D&D. There are always copious amounts of snacks, usually cheese, crackers and summer sausage, and usually a meal break; sometimes the meal is themed to the adventure- we've done Viking foods twice now for our Norse campaign, we regularly had Japanese or Korean food for our Oriental Adventures games, etcetera. Mona takes time from playing to prepare stuff and we all appreciate it greatly.

At the guys games, we have chips and pretzels and beer and soda and when we take our meal break we eat quick, talk about the game and have whatever we could either not have to fuss over too much to cook there, or was easy to make elsewhere and reheat at the game site. Don't get me wrong, we all love food, so the food is good, but it's secondary to the game; at my house it's about as important as the game, so is the conversation, which isn't limited to the game at hand or even gaming in general.

I have been DMing for my wife and kids for so long now that the "social" style of play doesn't bother me, I kind of expect it. I lapse into it when I am DMing for the "guys group" without thinking sometimes. I don't care if people aren't exactly on time, or if we finish an adventure in one sitting, or if the game stalls for a bit to talk about current events. Most people are OK with this to a limited extent, some people hate one thing about it more than others. Lance was made crazy by Lee knitting a scarf during a D&D game.

Another weird quirk- the group with my wife and kids will pretty much only play old school D&D, 1st Edition AD&D is their preference, but they'll play B/X D&D or 2nd Edition AD&D. The young men in the group are always game to try something new, that's how I managed to push them into a brief foray into L5R, but D&D is their thing. The other group is always looking for a non-D&D game to play. They leapt into 43 AD, L5R and Lady Blackbird, but only reluctantly agree to play D&D because of it's "problems". One member thinks D&D is too rules heavy, although, to be fair, his last D&D experience was with 3.x; another thinks that D&D is too rules lite- but he is cool with 43 AD, L5R and Lady Blackbird? L5R specifically had armor make you harder to hit, rather than reduce damage, which is his biggest complaint about D&D.

Anyone else playing with a mostly female group? A group heavy on teenagers? How about men aged 40+, what are your experiences? Are your experiences similar to mine or different? How social is your gaming group? Is your group all business at the game table? Do you hang out with them outside of gaming? How long have you known them? Are you related to them? Anything else noteworthy?


I know this entire post is off topic for my Mongol Month theme, but at least I am writing again, that's something, right? I still need submissions for my Mongol Themed Adventure Contest see here and here for details and here and here for prizes so far. We're running out of October people, and I hate to be a downer, but if I don't get at least three submissions I am going to either have to extend the deadline or cancel the contest. I don't want to cancel the contest. On a happier note, I might have another announcement about the contest soon, stayed tuned!

*There are some gender politics still in SCA heavy fighting, I don't play that game. There is no gender on the field to me, everyone out there deserves my best performance, to give them less because they are a woman would dishonor us both. Besides, nearly everyone is smaller and weaker than me- I don't cut short men any particular slack, if I did I'd just be a moving pell on the field.  


  1. Insight from gaming with the kids recently: My son (age 9) will continually dive straight into a challenge and allow himself to be ground down to nothing. He's bold and direct... but not yet effective. My daughter (age 7) is always on the lookout for ways to get other people to do her dirty work for her-- using men-at-arms as meat shields for instance and even going so far as to convincing her brother's characters to taste potions for her! (They play multiple characters... and I just noticed recently that one character in particular is my daughter's in-game persona. My son does not seem to have made that sort of connection, yet.)

  2. glad to see you back to in game reporting. The food sounds sounds good too. I hope your Mongol contest works
    out. Keep the post coming.

    Kevin in MD

  3. I'll need the rest of October for my submission, and all I have to do is "just" write it up now... <_<°

    Ok, maps and scans are done. And I have the complete thing in my head, even with twists and turns and possibilities...

  4. You said:
    " I'd love to start them out on B/X D&D so they could experience the less-is-more, Zen purity that D&D can be; when players are freed from the bondage of all the excess rules they can experience the game anyway they want- it can be an interactive, storytelling experience or it can be a tactical room-clearing exercise or anything in between, or something else altogether; the choice is yours."
    My sentiments exactly! My step-daughter and her posse of college age nerds play 4th Ed sometimes, I'm working on a rules lite version of B/X and am hoping to get some of them to play. I mostly play solo these days...

  5. Rules Lite B/X?

    My suggestions:

    Searchers of the Unknown