My oldest son Gabe is about to turn thirteen and already I can feel him emitting powerful teenager angst rays. One of the things he wanted for this momentous birthday was for me to run a D&D game for his group of friends. Well I ran it on Friday and I have to say that running D&D for twelve year olds is the absolute best thing ever. Especially when it’s everyone's first game and they have no fucking idea what to expect.
I let them pick from some pre-generated characters and made them pick names. I know in Tycho’s game the kids are roleplaying as kids but at my table they are all typical D&D archetypes. I ran them through a version of “The Changeling Baby” which is an adventure Tycho wrote a few years ago and left my wife and I in tears at the table. A woman stumbles into a tavern holding a baby and collapses on the groups table, a dagger in her back. I lay it all out for these kids and then the barkeep looks at them and angrily shouts “what’s all this then?” and I do shout it, and I stare at them and I am the fucking barkeep and they aren't kids anymore.
Of course the bandits that show up an instant later are after the baby but why? It’s time to fight but someone has to hold this baby! They are in the thick of it now. They understand the roll to hit and the damage dice. They even drew a little blood from one of the bandits which got a cheer from the table. Then holy shit the bandits are werewolves! Now they are getting sliced up and all of a sudden 12 hit points isn’t a lot. Then, “I rolled a 20!” and a werewolf gets his head sliced clean off. “Dad, can I use mage hand to pick up one of the mugs and slam it into his head?” I fight back tears. “Never call me Dad when I’m behind this screen...and make me an arcana roll.”
They decided to knock out one of the werewolves instead of killing him. They wanted some answers and the rogue has a “+4” to intimidation. They drag the unconscious werewolf into the cellar of the tavern and lock the door behind them. “I have a bell with me and I ring it right in his face to wake him up.” the rouge says. I smile for too long and start rolling dice . “You take 11 damage.” I tell him and it nearly kills Azmaran the half elf who likes to do card tricks. The fighter looks at me stunned and asks “Should we have tied him up?” then to his friends “We should have tied him up!” They start making plans but it’s too late. It’s time to roll for initiative.
They learn by passing the baby around to keep it safe that it takes on the features of whoever is holding it. When they finally knock him out again and tie him up they find themselves trying to get information out of a werewolf who has no reason to answer any of their questions. Nothing is working and then I hear my own son say “I’ll let you have the baby if you tell me why you want it so bad.” I ask him to roll to deceive the werewolf and he tells me it’s not a lie. Now the table talk starts and I’m loving it. The fighter ends up just beating the crap out of the wolf and only manages to get that they like to eat changelings. They barely survive the fight with this monster and stumble back upstairs where they investigate the dead woman. She has a map that shows the town and a spot in the woods nearby is circled. The cleric recognizes that clearing as housing a temple to Bahamut.
The rogue spots more werewolves sneaking towards the tavern and it’s time to go. They race out the back door and in the alley behind the tavern they scrap with another werewolf after their cleric doesn’t spot the sentry and trips into a pile of discarded fishing nets. This fight it brutal but the rogue manages to steal a horse and wagon after asking me “Can we split the party?”. They all nearly die but the rogue shows up with the wagon just in time and they take off into the woods. They find the temple and the priest who lives there. He explains that he and the other priests of Bahamut operate a sort of network that helps those in need and a group of adventurers able to take on a pack of werewolves would be most helpful to their cause. They agree to help him with a job. He produces a wooden box, “It’s just a simple delivery but the journey will not be easy. There are many who seek the contents of this box and they will do unspeakable things to get their hands on it.”
“Can we see what’s inside” they ask almost in unison.
I shrug, “The old man lifts the lid and nestled in a bed of straw is a perfect black dragon egg.” I give them a second to share wide eyed looks with huge grins and then I say “I think that’s where we’ll stop for tonight.”
And the crowd goes wild.