I started playing a new game with my daughter this week and I’m pretty excited to see where it goes. She and I have played a lot of D&D together, both one-on-one and with other people. But one of our biggest struggles is the same as with nearly every D&D group: scheduling. The problem isn’t so much finding a time we are both available to play, but finding time when we both want to play.
This can make it to prepare game sessions for her. I’ll stay up hours after her bedtime preparing a session for the next day. But then suddenly she’s busy or not at all in the mood to play. Days or maybe even weeks later, she will spring on me that she wants to play, and she wants to play now. I may have had a session prepped a week ago, but I don’t remember all my prep and it takes time to find my notes and set up the game table. By then she has been distracted by something else or invited out to play by her friend next door.
What am I going to do, tell her on a Saturday morning that she can’t go outside and play with her friends? That she has to stay inside and play a game with me instead? Playing with her is most fun when we both want to be there and are both invested in the game. I never want her to feel forced to play. I feel like that would only push her away from the game. I want playing D&D to be something that she will want to do with me for years to come.
A New Questing Endeavor
I saw a TikTock the other day about a two player journaling game called Tether. Two people play as characters in a small town, separated by time but connected through a journal they alternate writing entries to each other in. It sounds a bit like that Sandra Bullock movie, The Lake House, but it got me thinking. How could I do this with my daughter and D&D?
I came up with the rough idea and then stayed up too late the next few nights working on it. I ended up with a simple fantasy adventure story writing game. There is a notice board where I post different jobs that she can choose from and she writes a short report of how she completes the quest using her character’s skills. This allows us each to play at our own pace in our respective free time.
Of course, we can still talk together about the quests and collaborate to develop the game world, but I can make quests and other props for the board when I want and she can fill out quest reports when she feels like playing. To start with, I created three quests. I didn’t have a free bulletin board at the time, so I taped the quest notices along with a blank character sheet to the hallway closet door.
And then I waited.
I didn’t want to be in her face with it. Instead I waited for her to notice the quests and ask about me it. When She did, I explained that she could pick any of the quests and it was completely up to her to describe how her character completes it. No dice rolling that could fail. No pesky game mechanics (like mage hand’s silly 10 pound carrying wight limit) to hold her back.
This more than peeked her interest. Before too long she had gone through my simple character creation rules and had a Dwarf Wizard ready for quest taking!
The Character Sheet
Her character sheet is super simple. It has a place at the top to write the character’s name, heritage, and class. Then just three sections: skills, equipment, and treasure.
I wanted the skills to be immediately familiar to her so she wouldn’t have to ask me what they were or how to use them. So I took the list of skills straight out of 5th edition D&D. Each is has an empty circle next to it for her to write a number indicating how many skill points her character has for that skill. She started with four skills, one from her heritage and three from her class, each with one or two points assigned to it.
The equipment section is a place to list the weapons, tools, and other gear her character has. Equipment has quality points that work the same way as skill points. As a wizard she started with a magic staff and a spellbook. Each with a quality rating of one.
The last section of the character sheet is just a space for her to list the gold and other treasure she collect as quest rewards. She has completed a few quests and so far has collected a bit of gold and an apricot pie.
Each quest I post has a short description of the job to be complete and lists the quest giver’s name, the quest difficulty, and the promised reward. I also include a few prompting questions to get her thinking of how she might complete the quest.
I made up a simple quest report form that she uses to write a description of how she completed the quest and lists the skills and equipment used to do so. The amount of skill and equipment points used must be equal to or greater than the quest difficulty number and the description has to be sufficiently long and detailed to justify the number of points used.
Example: Wolves Attack
One of her first quests was posted to the board by a local farmer who was having trouble with a pack of wolves that were kill his chickens at night. This quest had a difficulty of 3 and promised a reward of 5 gold. The post’s writing prompts including, “how did you find the wolves?”, “why are the wolves killing the chickens?”, and “how did you stop the wolves”. But ultimately, it was up to her to decide how to deal with the problem based on her character’s skills.
She wrote a brief description of how she tracked the wolves using one investigation skill point and found that they were attacking the farmer’s chickens because a fire had burnt up their hunting grounds in the forest. She then used magic (one arcana skill point and one magic staff equipment point) to speak with the wolves and lead them to “fresher lands” where they would have plenty to eat.
She can spend her time between adventures and gold earned form quest rewards to gain additional training, improving her skills, as well as purchase new equipment and upgrade existing gear. I also suggested to her that she could write letters to NPCs she met during quests. She has already written a letter to a little girl who’s lost cat she rescue. As her reputation grows, she may start receiving letters from people in town looking to employ her directly.
So far she has burned through the quests I’ve posted pretty quickly. I’m hoping that getting her to write journal entries of her character’s downtime activities will allow me to keep up with creating new quests, writing letters to her character from NPCs, and come up with other ways for her to engage with the game world.
And That’s It
That is the entire mechanics of the game. At least so far. I want to flesh out some of the rules for downtime and character advancement. Otherwise, the rest is just role play, story telling, and creating fun props to embellish the quest board and flesh out the world we are creating together.
We’ve put together a binder for her to keep all of the quest reports and other notes. I’d like to create additional journal page templates. Like a page for her to write about her character’s heritage, childhood, and time training to become a wizard. I’d also like to get a proper bulletin board and keep it filled with quest postings, a map, a calendar, and much more to really make the world come alive.
We are just a few days into playing, but so far she is hooked and I’m having a ball. It’s so much fun to create customized quests for her wizard and I’m excited to see what creative ways she thinks up to complete them. She may burn out and decide she doesn’t like all the writing involved with this game, but for now we are having a blast.