Ah, the Christmas season. That magical time of year when friends and family gather together and give the D&D fans in their lives the chance to talk about what a fun game this is and to turn them into brand-new gamers.
My wife’s brother and his family are staying with us for two weeks over the holidays. My wife and I talked about D&D several times in the first few days of their visit, and they were interested in hearing more.
I received the Castle Ravenloft board game for Christmas, and my brother-in-law and I played it a couple of times . Castle Ravenloft is a pretty good introduction to the concepts of D&D 4th Edition:
- You have a standard and move action on your turn, with the option to turn the standard into a second move
- You roll a d20, adding a modifier and comparing it to an armor class
- There are D&D classes with the appropriate roles and flavors
- There are D&D monsters with reasonable approximations of their feels
My sister-in-law joined in a five-player Castle Ravenloft game on the evening of Christmas Day, and while she was a little overwhelmed, she seemed to enjoy it.
So, the day after Christmas I showed them the online Character Builder (figuring that Essentials characters would be better for beginners) and helped them roll up their very first RPG characters. My brother-in-law went with an elf hunter ranger named Homer, while my sister-in-law created a half-elf warpriest named Stasi. My wife rolled up the sister of her beloved swordmage (another swordmage named Sora), and everyone was anxious to try out their new toys.
Sunday evening, the day after Christmas, we all sat down at the gaming table to really introduce my family to D&D. I gave my in-laws a choice of three different low-level Living Forgotten Realms that I had prepared on the computer (using MapTool and my projector setup to run the game), and they chose to play a Luruar adventure in which they would be helping people at a magical college shore up some problems underground (LURU 2-3 Forgotten Crypts, Hidden Dangers, which I’ll be running at my friendly local game store this evening). While my wife finished putting her character together, I ran my in-laws through a simple encounter with some orc minions, just so they got a feel for how battle works.
And then we were off! We ran through the entire LFR adventure, with me scaling it down for 3 PCs on the fly. Apparently I did a lousy job with the scaling, as I managed to kill off my brother-in-law’s character in the first battle (only the second time I’ve killed a PC). All three of the bad guys in the battle had the ability to deal ongoing damage, and all three players had a horrible time with their saving throws.
The party decided that they wanted to take the dead character out of the catacombs and get him resurrected (rather than either give up or create a new character). I introduced a cleric at the magical college who would resurrect him in exchange for a promise that they would work off the debt for the resurrection later. The living PCs accepted the deal, but used some good diplomacy to persuade the cleric to give them a discount because the dead PC was working for the same organization as the cleric. Good stuff!
Back into the catacombs, and the party made it through a skill challenge to get to the lair of the big bad guy. They realized that the room was trapped, and they killed off the monster from the first battle that had caused them so much trouble before fleeing (a Kobold Rat Master, quickly renamed Rat Bastard). They then retreated and took a short rest before coming back for the last two bad guys. I had those characters move to a different part of the catacombs, and I’m glad I did – the original room for the final fight is pretty boring for the PCs if the trap is in effect.
They had such a good time on Sunday, that they asked what was next for the party on Monday! They made it clear that they were really interested in the setting and wanted to do some more adventuring there, so I took a half day off work on Monday to whip up a brand-new adventure for them, which we ran Monday night.
This new adventure was a much better balance for the three-PC party. They fought zombies, tracked some wraiths, bypassed a skeletal dragon (though they were sorely tempted to fight it), chased some skeletons through a series of rooms, and ultimately came to the crypt of a ghost who was using some portals to channel necrotic energy and bring more wisp wraiths into the world. I’m quite proud of this encounter – it worked out even better than I had hoped. I’ll write about it in more detail sometime – maybe I’ll write up the whole adventure as a PDF.
Anyway, I’ve created two new D&D players! Now the trick will be to figure out how to keep their gamer fires burning. We’ll probably play a little Gamma World before they head home, and maybe find time for one more D&D adventure (though I won’t have time to write a whole new one from scratch). Maybe we’ll play using MapTool after they go home – who knows? It’s been a fun experience so far, and I hope we get to play more in the future.