Continued in Part Two...
I tried to DM the game, but I didn't have any of the source materials other than two small adventures I had downloaded from the internet. I didn't know enough about saving throws and the death mechanics and initiative and equipment. I had to dash down the hall to use the character creator to find out what a characters new AC would be if they bought a shield, for example. This really sucked the life and the fun out of our afternoon.
The game started out fine though. I had the characters meet on a snowy mountain pass. My daughters' characters knew each other, but they had yet to meet my friend's character. He arrived in somewhat spectacular fashion, being chased by both an avalanche and a goblin riding a wolf. At this point, we all agreed this was the Best Day Ever.
We didn't have enough miniatures to represent the whole party so we used an old cork and maybe some Lego's or some other little bits from around the house. The girls thought that was funny.
Maybe my younger daughter wasn't quite ready for D&D. At one point she asked if her thief could sneak up and tie some enemies shoelaces together. Alas eventually the wheels fell off. The game got a bit more complicated, more rules came up and were discussed.
Soon, a minor encounter with goblins turned the four character party to mush and we agreed to table the idea and maybe come back to it later. As the DM, I knew that I was the cause of the failure.
The whole problem, I know, was due to the fact that I didn't want to go out and buy $60 - $100 worth of materials to run a test game to find out if the kids would want to play more. I was hoping to get by on the cheap for a quick adventure. And I was learning as I went along -- a bad idea.
And then I saw the Red Box mentioned at Wired GeekDad. Well, technically it's called the "Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set." But that's a terrible name. We'll go with Red Box from here on out.
This, I thought, would be perfect! According to everything I read, the Red Box had all the bits I'd need to get started and even a "Choose your own adventure" style rule set that takes you through creating a character and a solo adventure. Perfect.
I couldn't wait to get my hand on the game and give the whole thing a second try.
I mentioned it to my buddy and he seemed enthusiastic (apparently enough time had passed since our first fiasco to warrant another attempt).
A couple of weekends later, I had my opportunity. Circumstances had aligned to create a perfect storm for family gaming. My daughters had both had exceptional weeks at school. They had done a great job with chores around the house. We were heading to the mall to buy some clothes (the kids grow so fast!) and the local game store just happened to be less than a mile away from the mall. Perfect!
I hadn't been in a game store in years. Probably a decade at least. I stopped the girls right when we got to the door. "Ok, there will be a ton of stuff you'll want to play with or look at. That's fine, but ask me first before you pick up anything."
The guy at the counter took one look at me and knew I was out of my element.
"Can I help you find something?" He asked slowly but pleasantly.
"Uh, Red Box?" I held up my hands, pantomiming a square.
"Ah! Yes, I have them in the back. Hang on."
Meanwhile my daughters had discovered miniatures. They were fascinated by the racks and racks of them. I tried to show them the dice -- the stuff that had captured their imagination in the first place -- but they were locked in on the figures. I had planned on buying each of them their own little set of dice... Alas.
They liked the cheap plastic miniatures more because they were already painted. I let them each buy a pack of official D&D figures (they were on sale) and we brought the whole stash out to the car. My wife smiled as the kids tore into the figures and I ripped the plastic off the Red Box. We drove home to calls of "What's an arbalest?" and "Oooh, a giant unicorn!"
The Red Box was all it was advertised to be: the battle grid, tokens, dice, character sheets, all of it. The girls wanted to play with the tokens. My older daughter started in on the Player's book and began to create a character as I left the room. I came back later and she had her nose buried in a Harry Potter book she'd read twelve times already.
"Well, it said 'If you want to be a mage, go to page 14,' but page 14 didn't mention magic users at all!"
Turns out that the book said to go to "number 14" not "page 14" -- oops. She swore she'd take another stab at it later in the week. Friday came and she still hadn't tried again. I was worried.
"Are you going to make a new character?"
"Sure! I call dibs on making my character first!" Her sister was not in the room, rendering her dibs null and void. But I didn't tell her that. So, hopefully character creation would take place after school. She set to work on Friday night and finished all but the last two pages. My younger daughter never did create a new character using the Red Box so we let her use the Tiefling Thief she created with the builder for the last game.
I read the rest of the Red Box's DM book on the train to and from work during the week and I listened to some podcasts of games being played (PvP, Penny Arcade, Wil Wheaton). I felt like I was ready to give the whole thing another shot.
Continued in Part Three...