Monday, 12 September 2016

The Mysterious Castle. Family Gaming pt1

It was a bit of a rainy Saturday at the weekend, so I gathered my kids together, brought out some of my scenery and models and quickly forged a simple scenario for them to play with me GMing.

They controlled two characters each - a model of themselves plus either mum, dad, grandparents or the cat (I just about made the cut, my daughters chose mum and the cat, my son, slightly reluctantly, chose me over grandad!)

The scenario was very simple: this band of adventurers had heard that the nearby villagers of North Campian had been harried out of their homes due to some Orcs who had started raiding the village. It seems they were based in the old, abandoned castle which perched on a hill overlooking the village. A reward of gold coins was offered by the town mayor if these Orcs could be "persuaded" to leave the area.

In terms of rules, I kept it very simple. For movement a stick was used that was divided into 3 lengths. The entire length of the stick meant that a character could sprint that distance but not perform any other actions. The second measurement on the stick (about halfway) was a brisk walk and the character could perform one other action. The shortest measurement was a cautious slow walk but two other actions could be performed. Finally the character could not move but perform 3 actions.

Possible actions included, but were not restricted too:
  • searching
  • fighting
  • leaping
  • throwing
  • spellcasting
  • hiding
Obviously I wanted my kids to explore their imaginations so as GM I guided them if they wanted to try a different type of action and I modified the dice roll needed on 2d6 depending on the difficulty of the task.

My oldest daughter was a mage and so could cast spells, but for them to be successful she had to make them rhyme. I would then ask her to roll two die and modify the roll according to difficulty.
My middle daughter could have one spell, which she chose to be "steal mind" (her idea!) which she could cast on any other character (but again modified by me depending on the difficulty ie. a troll would be easier, say 4+, than a orc shaman, say 9+). She was also able to throw knives from a distance.

My youngest. the son, was a fighter and had improved chances to hit in combat and could use a slingshot from a distance.


Here's the lineup of possible adventurers, from left to right: Tom the Cat, Mum, Grandad, oldest daughter the spellcaster, son the fighter, dad, middle daughter the steal mind specialist and grandma.





The enemy come out of the castle goading the adventurers


And release a captive, Harvey, who runs about squealing and waving his hands in the air "help me, brave adventurers, help me"! My middle daughter asks him some questions about what has been going on and he gives them a bit of advice "their chief keeps them together, get him and they'll run away - oh and beware of the stupid troll". My son asks if Harvey will join and fight with them (I was so impressed with this question!), but alas he is not a fighter. He does give my son the promise of new equipment if they succeed in their quest...

Sizing up the enemy. The castle was his birthday present back in June, so it's good that we both got to play with it together.

My middle daughter runs close enough to the two orcs who are furthest forward and recognises one as weaker than the other. She successfully casts steal mind on the weaker one who promptly attacks the tough guy! The tougher orc parries the attack and puts the upstart back into the earth with a swing of his flail. One down!

The fighters quickly close in on the enemy (as does the cat). The cat has some special rules: can sneak up on a character, can hide, can pounce for an additional attack with claws and teeth, or can use a spray attack. The real Tom the Cat has just been snipped!


My oldest, the spellcaster successfully casts a flight spell first on herself and then on Tom the Cat ("I know I'm Flying in the sky, but give my cat wings to fly") so that he could attack some of the orcs.

Combat ensures between our intrepid adventurers and the nasty orcs. Obviously I stack the odds in my kids favour, but encourage the youngest two to add up the numbers on the dice using mental arithmetic.

As the fighting ensues, the sorceress casts a new spell whilst flying: "Give me the power to swim in that swamp, to fight the fat monster with a kick and a stomp". It was successfully cast on the second time of asking and the troll starts taking a bit of a magical beating, much to his bemusement.

Father and son and pet cat, make short work of the stinky orcs.

Tom the cat sprays in the Orc chieftan's face, making him blind for a turn and holding up all the other orcs on the drawbridge.

Mum joins her daughter in the fetid moat to try and finish off the hulking troll.

The sorceress decides to not attack the troll, leaving that to mum, so that she can cast a spell at the orcs on the drawbridge: "I want to kill those monsters all, so pull up the drawbridge so I can watch them fall". Inventive magic, but unfortunately she failed to cast it thrice on a 7+! So father and son decide to take matters into their own hands, pick up the large boulder and fling it at the squabbling orcs on the drawbridge. A skilful throw sees a load of them skittled over!

Tom the Cat tries to finish off the few remaining orcs, including the leader with another spray, at which point Harvey the villager re-appears to offer some help (trying to gain some glory as the fight is almost done!)


A combined effort from all the family finally see the orc chief and the troll defeated and all the other orcs scarper down the hill and away from the triumphant adventurers. They cannot resist the temptation to explore the now empty castle and discover a secret trapdoor in the floor - will they investigate further...? To be continued!

It was a really fun game that lasted for almost two hours, until tea was ready and the conclusion sets up another game, for another rainy day, in the near future. The kids also want to do some painting with me, so I'll fish out a couple of old plastics for them to start on with the idea of using them in a future game. I think my oldest especially is old enough to have a go at some proper rules, so I may trial a game of Dragon Rampart, Frostgrave of Songs of Blades and Heroes with her..

My wife was slightly intrigued by what we were up to and observed parts of the game - we both realised that gaming such as this can help the kids personal development:

  1. Quality time with dad!
  2. Using and exploring their imaginations
  3. Following rules and instructions (but also challenging them!)
  4. Verbal reasoning when interacting with other characters and each other
  5. Literacy for the eldest (she had to write down the spells in advance, ensuring they rhymed and made sense)
  6. Showing an understanding of measurement
  7. Numeracy for the youngest two, mental arithmetic and understanding a bit of probability.
  8. Fun!