I’m a pretty solid noob when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons, but I’m proud of the characters I’ve created and the campaigns I’ve participated in so far. These D&D campaigns didn’t last long due to adult responsibilities and commitments, but they gave me a solid feel for the game, and let me cross something else off of my geek bucket list.
The problem is that having my D&D Player’s Handbook around meant my kids got interested too, and demanded I teach them how to play (and maybe even be their dungeon master). Knowing what kind of shit my DMs had to put up with between my friends and me, I was not about that DM life. I hoped that buying the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide and Starter Set would convince my socially awkward 12-year-old that this was her calling. I mean, she’s really excited about the D&D club at the new school she’ll be going to. When I was growing up, my geeky hobbies made me the unusual girl. Here are my kids, handing out D&D character sheets and having character creation sessions on their breaks.
But of course, my kids weren’t going to let me off the hook by just handing over my books and going about my business. They still think I’m cool, and mostly believe I’m competent at everything I do, so they demanded that I become their DM. Next thing I know, four of their friends have been invited to join this campaign.
Fortunately, only two of them made it, leaving only four 10- to 13-year-olds to deal with. I got this.
Today I am DMing a D&D game for my daughters and their two friends, aged 10 to 13. I really don't know what I'm doing because I haven't had a chance to do my DM homework, but I will try not to let them see my fear. I am the DM. I am in control. I am the DM. I am in control…
— Wendy B (@nightxade) July 28, 2018
Their companions arrived promptly at noon on Saturday, and I instructed them to begin working on their characters for the first hour of our six-hour (I am crazy) gathering. During this time, I could have been studying up on DM stuff, but instead I paid bills and repeatedly refreshed my Twitter timeline because procrastination is a fine art.
I was very proud of how my 12-year-old was passing on D&D instructions but, an hour later, I discovered that a lot less had been achieved than I thought, though several Pokémon had been captured, and many snacks had been eaten. So I stepped in, and we went through classes and races and some basic instructions.
I was impressed that, despite the continued Pokémon capturing, they all paid attention and showed interest in this tedious process. In other words, I was bored, but they, surprisingly, weren’t. My 10-year-old only fell off the spinny chair once.
After a late lunch, we got down to business with The Mines of Phandelver. Yiri, the human fighter, Tiffy, the wood elf rogue (my youngest), Madolyn, the half-elf ranger (my eldest), and Cara, the hill dwarf druid, were on their way to Phandalin to deliver Gundren Rockseeker’s goods. I’d briefly played this campaign with my daughters before; they had defeated the goblin ambush and befriended one of their attackers. Knowing that my youngest is the queen of spoilers, I had to be pretty crafty about keeping her from giving everything away. I didn’t have to worry too much, though. Her crappy rolls were on my side.
In fact, crappy rolls were the order of the day! Yiri charged in, battleaxe a’swingin’, only to miss spectacularly. The goblins didn’t fare much better, but their little hits ate away at Yiri’s HP, while Cara and Tiffy’s ranged attacks went wild. Attempting to uphold her vow not to harm sentient creatures, Madolyn’s warning shot ended up annihilating one of the goblins. Yiri recovered and managed to decapitate another goblin. Its severed head flew into the air and landed at poor Madolyn’s feet.
Desperately trying to keep the others from killing all the goblins, my daughter upped her table talk game with wide eyes and flailing, but, practicing good roleplaying, Cara confirmed that her dwarf did not give one shit about goblins and managed to kill another while the last one conveniently ran away.
Tiffy refused to let this slide. She raced after the escaping goblin, determined to follow it through the woods along the blood strewn path. But a few failed perception checks later, she was dangling upside down from a tree, glaring death at me.
[DM note: Don’t mess with me, kid.]
Back at the ambush site, the other three companions briefly considered leaving Tiffy behind, but eventually came to her rescue just as she managed to cut herself down. Still intent on following the goblin, she and Madolyn pressed on. Good thing Madolyn’s keen eyes caught the pit trap that Tiffy almost dropped into. For the time being, Tiffy gave up.
After inspecting the dead horses that had led them into the ambush, they discovered what secrets they could, and proceeded on to the village. There, they met Barthen and dropped off their supplies at the old man’s provisions shop. Perpetually suspicious, Yiri opted to wait outside, brandishing the goblin head she’d picked up earlier, which she tried to sell to the shopkeeper.
[DM note: I’m not entirely surprised that this particular kid decided keeping a goblin head was a good idea.]
Barthen took these fine adventurers for the kind of heroes that might save the village from the goblin harassers, or maybe even—his voice dropped to a whisper—from the Red Brands that rule the town. The adventurers had noticed the scarlet-caped thugs eyeing them when they came into town, but they didn’t seem all that interested in earning any extra gold for helping out around town.
They headed off to the smithy across the way, seeking new weapons.
They met the blacksmith, as well as the trading post owner, Linene Graywind. When Yiri tried to sell them the goblin head, they too asked if these adventurers would be willing to take on the goblins. Graywind offered them a sizable reward to retrieve her stolen supplies from the goblin caves. The blacksmith offered a discount on his weapons if they would help out, but Yiri turned him down, paying full price for a new dagger. The others were more interested in the prospect and stepped out of the smithy to discuss their plans.
[DM note: Yes! I have successfully manipulated them into doing what I want! DM points for me!]
But four Red Brands were waiting for them outside. “We don’t like newcomers around here,” said one of them, menacingly. “Pack up your stuff and get out.”
Tossing her severed goblin head up and down seductively, Yiri got her flirt on.
[DM note: Oh, this kid.]
Eyeing her and the fresh goblin kill appreciatively, the lead Red Brand said they were always looking for a few more good folks to add to their ranks, but when he sneered at her nonhuman companions and told her they were not welcome, Yiri’s attitude changed.
Charging the thugs with a mighty warcry, Yiri’s battleaxe utterly missed hitting anything but fresh air. Tiffy dashed forward, but tripped over her own two feet. Fortunately, her catlike reflexes allowed her a recovery that she almost played off as intentional. Madolyn, hoping to fire off a warning shot, instead slammed an arrow into one of the Red Brands’ shoulders. Stricken by her unintended harm of a person, Madolyn spent the rest of the battle apologizing profusely and trying to heal the bad guys.
[DM note: Canadian half-elf.]
One of the Red Brands saw an opportunity and grabbed at the precious goblin skull, enraging Yiri, who continued to flail and miss wildly while Madolyn cured the thugs. Cara’s hands burst into flame, but…
[DM note: Our first critical fail of the night!]
…her attack hit Barthen’s store, igniting the building.
By now, many of the villagers had come out to watch the goings-on from a careful distance. When the fire broke out, they rushed to get water to put it out. Barthen and his two assistants screamed from inside the building, but the Red Brands wouldn’t let anyone come near.
With a laugh, the one who had stolen the goblin head ran off down the road. Yiri tore after him, leaving the others to deal with the remaining ruffians. Madolyn, in desperate tears, tried to shove her way to the door to save Barthen and his companions, but her lithe frame was not enough to move the Red Brands out of the way.
[DM note: At this point, a dad arrived early and, ignoring my pleading look, decided to wait in the car while I worked this out.]
Barthen managed to get himself out when one of the Red Brands was distracted. He returned with water, but still could not get to the rapidly spreading fire until the Red Brands, with laughter and shakes of their heads, decided to leave the pathetic adventurers to their struggles.
Yiri is long gone, hunting down the thief of her goblin head. Cara, Tiffy, and Madolyn are left to deal with the fire and the growing disappointment of the villagers who thought these adventures were the heroes they needed…
And so comes to a close my first true DM experience. I’d like to thank shitty dice rolls for giving me this opportunity to feel like I still hold some power over my children.
Mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.