Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming household.
This month I won’t be talking about my experiences with my own child. I am going to share my first experience playing a role-playing game with the children of friends. Dylan is 14 and Spencer is 10. They are both avid gamers, mostly into miniatures, but like their parents, also enjoy role playing games. This wasn’t their first role playing game, but it was their first time at the adult table and my first time playing a role playing game with younger players.
We played Call of Cthulhu Dark Ages. Like Yog, Dylan and Spencer have been exposed to the Cthulhu mythos in a child appropriate manner since they were born. I met their parents because we all played Cthulhu Live. And if you don’t know how Cthulhu can be child appropriate look at this. I mean, seriously, insanely cute! Yes, Yog has one, of course.
The evening started out with some catching up as we haven’t seen each other in a long time. When it was time to sit at the table the final parental decision that had been put off had to be made. Would the boys be allowed to join the game? We had three adult players, plus our Game Master (the father of the two boys). The other two players were the mother of the boys and another friend, who also has a child. After a quick debate (this was the end of a conversation that had started earlier in the day) it was decided that the boys would be allowed to play, but as soon as “sibling one-upmanship” became the focus of their playing decisions their characters would be killed off and they would be asked to leave the table. The expectations and consequences were made clear before the game started and both boys given the opportunity to back out prior to starting the game. Neither did.
We started by choosing characters. I chose to play a lady of the court, Melissa (they boys’ mom) chose to play my lady in waiting, Kurt was a butcher, Dylan was a hunter, and Spencer was a woodsman. We were called upon by the lord of the manner (my character’s cousin) to deliver a message to one of the local villages under his domain. We arrived at the town to find it looking abandoned and wound up being attacked by what seem to be rabid wolves. I hid. What? I was playing a lady. Combat skills were not on my sheet. Lucky for me Spencer decided at that moment that protecting the lady was his job. We all survived the fight, mostly. While the role-playing was going on, some real life sibling rivalry and debate with the GM over rules came up. Our GM gently narrated that the two boys, and only the two boys, noticed a comet in the sky. The warning had been given.
Our party made a fortress for ourselves out of what had been the wolf den and spent the night, planning on trying to make it to the second village the next morning. Various plans of action were made over the course of the evening and the comet had another siting.
We made it to the second village only to be attacked again, this time by crazed villagers. Despite Spencer’s best efforts I died. Melissa’s character wasn’t too far behind me. And then went our hunter, played by Dylan. Kurt and Spencer made it to the end – almost. They separately made their ways back to the castle where we started and GM’s discretion needed to be employed. I don’t know what was written in the adventure book, however it was “bad”. Our GM explained in general terms that people were in a very advanced stage of insanity and debauchery and gave a knowing look to the adults at the table to indicate that what was written was too intense for our younger players. This worked because all of the adult players are able role players who have played games in the Cthulhu mythos for years and know how to fill in the blanks for ourselves. Kurt didn’t make it too far in the castle. Spencer on the other hand managed to use political tactics to beat the King in Yellow. It was pretty awesome. He still went insane, but he wasn’t killed.
This is all very general as far as the game is concerned because I don’t want to write a summary of the game plot. I want to focus on the experience being at the table with two younger players. And honestly, the experience with these two young men is what remains with me more than the plot of the game scenario.
In short I found it to be a very positive experience. I hope it felt the same way for Dylan, Spencer and their parents. While both boys on occasion would snipe at each other, it was usually related to rules or play style and not a random “you’re my brother, so I need to pick on you” situation. However, it took only a look or brief word from one of their parents to redirect their attention to the game. Both parents were in agreement at letting the boys play, but it was obvious they both also had reservations. The expectations and consequences were laid out before the game started.
There were a few occasions when Spencer would try to drive the story by narrating everything he did through to success. His dad would gently explain that he got to choose a course of action and the dice would decide if he succeeded or not. At times Dylan would try to help reinforce the game rules and it would start some bickering, however their father was always quick to jump in with a gentle reminder.
Some of the descriptive content had to be tamed down, but I was all right with that. Again, I have an active imagination, so I don’t mind filling in the blanks as needed.
Spencer was the most active person at the table, and would from time to time get up to take a few paces from his chair, but never in a distracting manner. Honestly I feel that I get more distracting when I need to get up from my chair. During a two-hour game session I will probably only sit for maybe half of that in total. I was really impressed with his ability to deal with his need to move during the game.
In the end I was really glad that the boys were given the opportunity to prove themselves and that we were given the opportunity to play with them. I don’t think we would have done as well in the adventure with fewer players and they both made solid character decisions that helped the group. I had a good time and would definitely play with these two young men again.
What experiences have you had with younger role players? Share what you have learned in the comments!
Until next month – Happy Gaming!