(See also A basic solution, the introduction to the series)
My children have never heard of Dungeons & Dragons, nor did they understand my explanation of the game- not a word. Nevertheless, they are keen to play in my D&D campaign. Wait’ll they get a load of those funny shaped dice.
So what qualifications, if any, do my children have to play D&D?
My eleven year old son, Dan, enjoys binge-watching all six Blu-ray discs of Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition. Yep, the Peter Jackson version of Middle-Earth that has a shield surfing elf, a comic relief dwarf, a mighty wizard who hasn’t very many magic tricks, and oliphaunts the size of an Imperial AT-AT. (By Pelor! How many kilometres of forest does an Oliphaunt have to consume each day to survive?)
I’m guessing Dan was thinking Urak-hai when he insisted on playing an orc and only an orc. It’s my fault- stupid me -for using the illustrations from the 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook as a visual presentation, showing Dan the different races he could be. One look at the group shot of playable races, and Dan points to the tusk-faced, steroid abuser who looks like he could eat everyone around him for dinner and still have room for dessert.
“I want an orc.”
“No Dan, that’s a Half-orc. We’ll be playing Basic D&D. There are no rules in Basic for Half-orcs.”
“Dad, I don’t want to be half an orc. I want to be badass- like a Urak-Hai.
(Sigh) Curse you Peter Jackson; this is your fault.
I try to encourage Dan to play a Dwarf. I mean, look at them. They’re not just badass, they’re a bearded badass- like a compact version of the characters from Sons of Anarchy. But no, Dan will only be an orc. I’ll have to deal with this later as I’ve got bigger problems with my daughter, nine year old Mandy.
It’s impossible for Mandy to choose a character class to play as she has no interest in High fantasy, and therefore has had no exposure to it. But, she does consider herself an expert on elves and will explain, to anyone who listens, how elves lives in the North Pole, building toys in Santa’s workshop.
Mandy may be, like, totally clueless in regards to High fantasy, but when it comes to role-playing, my daughter is clued in. With the girl next door, Mandy loves to play make-believe, using Barbie and Bratz dolls (B&B?) to dramatize the adult world. Whether it’s Barbie chillin’ out in her three story doll house, or the Bratz cruisin’ round the city in a pink convertible, this is adult life according to two nine-year old girls. Every intense second of doll-play requires highly creative role-play.
Back to Mandy and her indecision over which character class to play. I pop open the lid of my red box set containing the Basic rules, and retrieve the slim, red Player’s Manual. As I show Mandy the illustrations for each character class, I explain to her the purpose of each class in the game. Mandy is unimpressed, finding each class unappealing, the illustrations unattractive- all of it kind of boring.
Luckily, I was saved by Larry Elmore, or rather his illustration of three demi-humans having a chat in the woods. Just one look at this illustration and Mandy’s indifference towards D&D is eclipsed by her enthusiasm. She declares that the elf maiden sitting on the log will be her character and she will name her Selena.
Problem solved, I help my daughter fill out a blank character sheet, the four dice used for attribute rolls tumble across the dining table- wait a minute! No, it can’t be! I glance back at the illustration of the three demi-humans. Oh, you can’t be serious! The one image that has enticed Mandy to choose her player character is an elf . . . that resembles a Barbie doll. Ha! Trust my daughter to be the one to drag Barbie into D&D. I wonder what the saving throw would be for a plastic doll against a Red Dragon’s breath weapon.
Meanwhile, Dan is still determined to play an orc in my campaign. To keep my boy happy, I decide to go along with it. I don’t understand the appeal of playing an orc; I guess having tusks is the new action hero. So, how do I fit a playable orc into Basic D&D? Do I bend the rules? Change the rules? Should I copy the AD&D rules on Half-orcs and paste them into the Basic rules? Or should I spend an hour reading over the Orcs of Thar Gazetteer and learn the rules for playing humanoids? You know what, stuff it. I help Dan create a level one fighter. But on the blank line above Class on the character sheet I pencil in Orc.
Good for me. I’ve made orcs a playable class in Basic D&D- a new class that just happens to share the same rules for a human fighter.
Being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, Dan names his orc Aragorn. I smile at the irony of this: my son wants to play a badass Urak-hai, yet names him after the rugged Ranger who slaughters Urak-hai by the hundreds.
Awesome! I have two players with two completed character sheets ready to play in my campaign. Tusk-face and Barbie Elf are ready to terrorize my campaign world.
Now all I need is an adventure hook.