Saturday, June 18, 2016
Seven Voyages of Zylarthen/The Haunted Tower Play Report, Part 1
So this is the first game of Zylarthen/OD&D that my kids have played.
I didn't impose it on them. They asked to play after becoming fascinated with the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual. They don't even really know its name--"Seven Voyages of Zylarthen" or "Dungeons & Dragons" They simply call it "Daddy's game" or "the game with the figures."
Oliver and Lydia are almost five.
The module is The Haunted Tower by multiple authors, edited by Chris Gonnerman of Basic Fantasy fame. It's designed as an introductory adventure for children. There are all sorts of neat treasures, some fun "kid" monsters such as a Candy Cane Golem, and it is not very lethal--although it is certainly possible to die (and as we'll see, my son almost did). It's designed as a solo module, though one can play with two or three characters and just multiply the monsters (or not).
I like the module a lot and I had played it before, five or so years ago, with my nephew. It is available for free download here. If I am occasionally flippant about it, no criticism is intended.
The game system is Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, my OD&D neo-clone.
The figures are unpainted Ral Parthas from thirty years ago, plus some odds and ends such as some painted and unpainted Call of Cthulhu figures and a few printable paper minis from Arion Games. My daughter said the paper minis looked "really valuable."
In Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, you roll 3d6 in order with no mulligans, but ability scores are themselves less determinative or restrictive. If you want to play a Fighting-Man with a strength score of 5, you easily can. So, in a sense, it works for kids who have their own ideas of what might be fun to play.
But it's uncanny how often high scores seem to come up by rolling 3d6s. I knew my son wanted to play a "knight." On his very first roll (strength) he got an 18. And no, he didn't cheat.
They all rolled up characters. Here's what resulted:
Player: Oliver (Ollie)
Character Name: Ollie
Level: 1st (Fighter)
Distinguishing Characteristics: Very strong, wears leather armor, uses a sword and shield and carries a mace for backup, speaks Bugbear (determined randomly) as an additional language.
Character Name: Zinda
Class: Hobbit (Thief)
Level: 1st (Borrower)
Distinguishing Characteristics: Very dexterous (17--again, rolled with 3d6), wears leather armor, uses a sword and buckler and carries a sling, also carries paint & brushes.
Now we also had a third character. Lydia asked whether her doll Betsy could have one. I said, why not?
Player: Betsy (Lydia's doll)
Character Name: Linda
Level: 1st (Famulus)
Distinguishing Characteristics: Has a dexterity of 4 and a constitution of 6, knows Read Magic, Pyrotechnics and Speak with Animals, speaks Hill Giant (again, determined randomly).
Buying equipment went quickly--much more quickly than it usually does with adults.
Without prompting, Lydia drew a picture of her character on her character sheet. Ollie followed. And Lydia drew Linda with a Wizard's hat containing a star. I'm not saying my kids are necessarily any cleverer than the average. But there's an intuitive aspect to the play of the game that children seem to pick up on.
They were ready to go. The Haunted Tower has a backstory--something about an alchemist being attacked by a werewolf and thus abandoning (?) his tower. But I found the backstory somewhat confusing (no offense to Chris--I often think that of backstories) and so I ditched it.
They were ready to go explore The Haunted Tower, for no other reason than the sheer adventure of it.
In Part Two, Ollie is hit by a planet...