To launch my players into the multiple dimensions of the D&D Multiverse, I will need a launch pad. Planet Toril, made famous by Forgotten Realms, will be that launch pad. I chose Forgotten Realms for my Basic D&D campaign, not because it’s my favourite of all the published D&D settings,(it’s not) nor is it a world I wish to explore with my players, (I don’t) I chose it simply because it’s a popular brand name- like Monopoly. A quick Google search of Forgotten Realms brings up hundreds of websites, containing thousands of fun facts on Faerun. Having a campaign setting with its own Wikipedia site is a blessing, especially when you’re a family man with a full time job, with commitments that allow you only two hours a week- if you’re lucky –to prep an adventure for a game session.
In my campaign, my eleven year old son, Dan, will be playing Aragorn the orc, while my nine year old daughter, Mandy, will be playing Selena the elf. Wait-what? Orcs and elves don’t adventure together. They hate each other; will kill each other on sight. Don’t believe me? Just ask the orc god Gruumsh how he lost his left eye. The bloodshed between a tusk-face and pointy ears is D&D canon, and you never, ever mess with canon, not unless you want your campaign to implode, or a rules lawyer’s head to explode.
Most DMs would agonise over a logical explanation to how and why two enemies would become best friends forever. Nope, not me, I just went for the obvious: as babies, Aragorn and Selena were misplaced by their parents, then discovered by humans and raised in a human village.
Aragorn and Selena call Settex village their home. The village is one of a dozen, tending to the wheat fields of the Kingdom of Goldenfields. Mogda, the chieftain of Settex, is the adoptive father of the player characters. He is the first NPC to receive affection from Dan and Mandy. Yeah, I know, it’s crazy as Mogda is just a stat block written in my notes.
I am very pleased with this background for the player characters- despite it being hazy and lazy. It’s so much more than just an uneasy alliance between two enemies. It is the impossible- a game changer: an orc and an elf raised by the same adoptive father. But I wonder, what will become of Aragorn and Selena when they venture out into the wider world? What will happen when they meet people of their own race? Will they decide to live with their own kind? Renounce their upbringing and adopt the racial hatred of their people? Are brother and sister destined to destroy each other? Oh-my, such tragedy, reminding me of that Disney animated movie: The Fox & the Hound. Yes, that movie which begins with a fox cub and a hound pup frolicking through the meadow together, and ends with the same fox and hound, now adults, growling and gnashing their canine teeth at each other; a hunter with a hunting rifle, shots fired; an entire generation of children traumatised by grief and despair.
We begin our first game session, Dan and Mandy sitting across from me at the dining table, their character sheets and dice in front of them. I’m so excited; my kids are even more excited. My only complaint would be the laughably low hit points (6hp and 3hp, LOL) for Dan and Mandy’s level one characters. To prevent a Total Party Kill, I have decided to restrict combat to one combat encounter a day within the game. The first encounter will be a Dire Fox that has sneaked into Settex to raid the chicken coup. Time slows down to combat rounds as Dan and Mandy’s characters brandish their wooden clubs against the bushy tailed menace, their leather armour creaking as they spread their feet apart in a fighting stance- pardon? Why haven’t the players equipped their characters with swords and metal armour? Because Settex only has one blacksmith whose skills in forging iron is limited to horse shoes and scythe blades.
“What’s a Dire Fox?” asks Dan.
“It’s still a fox. Dire just means bigger than a normal fox.”
“Oh . . . cool. Can I kill it?”
“Sure you can, but you’ll have to make an attack roll first. Use the d20 . . . no, that’s a d12 . . . yep, that’s the one.”
Dan picks up the twenty sided dice, gives it a shake.
Aragorn’s war cry is as frightening as the tusks curving up out of his mouth. His biceps flex as he raises his club to deliver-
“I cast sleep spell at the fox,” shouts Mandy.
Selena chants a spell, magic ensnaring the Dire Fox’s mind, dragging it deeper and deeper into an enchanted sleep. Nighty night Mr. Fox. Sweet dreams.
Damn, I forgot about Selena’s one and only spell. Sleep is a potent first level spell, as no saving throw is allowed against it. Oh well . . .
Another day in the campaign world, another threat swoops into the village. A cluster of stirges dive-bomb the cattle in the paddock, attaching themselves to a cow. They fill their empty tummies with cow blood pumped up through their proboscis.
Dan shakes the d20 in his hand, hoping to shake out a high number.
Aragorn leaps over the paddock fence, charges at the blood sucking parasites.
All the stirges drop off the cow, their proboscis quivering as they snore in their sleep.
“Dad,” moans Dan, throwing the d20 across the table. He shoots me a WTF expression.
Oh c’mon. This is a disgrace. I’ve been playing D&D for over thirty years and I’m being outsmarted by a nine year old playing her first game. I should know better. A level one elf is no different to a level one magic-user: they’re both just a one trick pony.
Oh no, another day in the campaign world, another round of combat easily defeated by Mandy and her character’s elf magic. This time it’s a giant weasel that was caught eating piglets out of the pig pen.
My campaign, it’s burst into flames. It’s falling. It’s crashing. It’s crashing terrible. This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. Oh the humanity.
I can’t deal with this. I end the game. I call it a night.
My kids have had a blast. They can’t wait to play again.