Welcome to Wellspring

Around a month ago I wrote an article titled Dungeons, Dragons, and Daughter where I discussed running a D&D game for my seven year-old step-daughter. Since then she’s asked about playing D&D almost every weekend. After giving it more thought, I was finally ready to continue our adventures in gaming. Here’s what happened.

Last time we played, the game was little more than roll dice and killing monsters. I decided I wanted to step things up a little and have her create a character and start developing a plot. To do that I dug out a couple resources I’ve had laying around. The first is a supplmement from AEG called the Ultimate Toolbox.

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Description:
Based on the award-winning RPG book Toolbox, the Ultimate Toolbox starts off where the original stopped. Focusing on inspiration, the Ultimate Toolbox is 400 pages of the best charts, tables, and seeds of gaming adventure. From character backgrounds and world building to pirate lore and magical portals, every page is the key to adventure.

Covering seven distinct and ever-important topics, the Ultimate Toolbox is a must for any GM. Whether your games take place in the city, dungeon, wilds, or even at sea, there’s a chapter dedicated to it. Even PCs, NPCs, and magical creations get their fair share of attention, as well as advice and charts for building an adventure or campaign from scratch.

Begin your journey now.

This book can be used with any fantasy game system. There are no rules, no powers, no stats of any kind-merely page after page of charts, tables, advice and good solid gaming inspiration. With over 1,000 never-before-seen tables and a fully-loaded index, what else could you ever need?

This book was one of the few review items I received during my time running the Bear Swarm! Podcast. I have no idea who decided to send us a copy, but I’m sure glad they did. The book is a trove of quick ideas perfect to help anyone come up with basic ideas for a character.

The three of us, my wife, my step-daughter, and myself, sat down and rolled dice to decide very basic character elements. Not stats, just descriptive details. We learned that her character, Esmeralda Studiocheese – a name she picked out on her own, was raised by a wealthy family, that she had six siblings, that one of her ancestors died heroically in a great battle, and that she has a sweet-tooth. These few facts were quickly generated off a few dice rolls and a little time reading from tables but I also wanted her to make some decisions. For that, I turned to Dungeon World

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Description:
Combining high-action dungeon crawling with cutting-edge rules, Dungeon World is a roleplaying game of fantasy adventure. You and your friends will explore a land of magic and danger in the roles of adventurers searching for fame, gold, and glory.

Dungeon World’s rules are easy to learn and always drive the action forward in unexpected ways. A missed roll is never a dead end—failure introduces new complexities and complications. Life as an adventurer is hard and dangerous but it’s never boring!

Designed to be ready for you to hack, remix, and build new content, Dungeon World includes systems for changing everything to suit your group including creating new races, classes, and monsters.

I flipped open the book and began to show her art for various classes. I answered a few questions but for the most part I let the visuals describe the class. She nodded seriously at each class until she saw the picture of the Wizard. She looked at me and asked, “Girls can be wizards?” When I told her of course they could be, her eyes lit up, and her decision was made. It had never occurred to me that she would think certain classes were gender exclusive but thanks to the art direction in Dungeon World we got to have that conversation. I told her, in no uncertain terms, that girls could be anything they wanted. Even Wizards.

With the idea of her being a Wizard in place we used the character descriptions to help her decide what her character looked like. While I would have loved to use more stuff from Dungeon World we had already started down the D&D road I didn’t want to confuse her by changing the rules. Instead, we stuck to her picking out her Haunted Eyes, Styled Hair, Strange Robes, and a Creepy Body.

We set aside Dungeon World and returned to the realms of D&D next. I introduced her to the standard attribute line; Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma and had her rank the stats from 1 to 6. I quickly translated those into a standard array so we could use them in a more traditional way later. Flying in the face of Wizards everywhere she decided that Strength was her most important attribute and Intelligence didn’t matter.

She was getting antsy at this point, which is understandable. While character creation is a ton of fun to adult nerds like me for the seven year-old brain it’s just wasting time. She was eager to start fighting giant cat monsters and marshmallow blobs.

To wrap character creation up I had her pick out a weapon (a magic wand) and a defense (a magical shield) to which I assigned basic stats to (1d6 damage, +2 Attack Bonus and +2 Armor Bonus respectively) and we started to get our adventure in order. She added her Strength to her Attacks as well and her Dexterity to her defense. I’ll get into more details when I talk about our little combat encounter later.

It’s worth mentioning that my wife also created a character along with us. She helped suggest ideas and keep things on track. This was a role I talked to my wife about before we played. I wanted ideas to come from the players while I ran the game. I was afraid that if I made too many suggestions it wouldn’t feel like my step-daughter’s game. I feel that too much suggestion from the GM starts to feel rail-roady.

Before we started I had decided that I needed a world for her adventures to happen in. I’m a fan of the Wicked Fantasy setting and have a really nice giant map that I can use to point to things out for her.

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Description:
A brand new PATHFINDER setting book that puts a twist on the “classic” fantasy races from the award-winning designer John Wick.

Wicked Fantasy is a brand new setting book focusing on ten races. It has been a year-long project for myself and Gillian Fraser, re-creating the “generic” races found in most fantasy roleplaying games. We re-designed humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings, and then turned our attention to orks, gnolls, ratmen, goblins and kobolds. Ten races, all with a wicked twist.

Our re-envisioning effort met with much critical applause with reviews calling the new races “brilliant,” “sometimes near genius,” and containing “lessons every gazetteer should look at.”

I settled on the town of Wellspring (Near Ashcolmb) and told her a bit about the little town. From my wife’s character we knew they had some sort of Martial college and I decided that was going to be the main feature of the town. In my game Wellspring is a sleepy little town with a clean fresh water spring that a retired adventure started a private school near. My step-daughter and wife’s characters are the local adventures for the town. I might write up more details about the town in the future, so keep an eye out for that.

Our game started with the Mayor asking them to go take care of the Evil Wizard from the Black Citadel, located just South of Millford and named Colbath’s Tower on the map. Let’s face it, Colbath’s Tower wasn’t the name of an Evil Wizard tower. This means that the adventure will span across the Reign and I’ll be able to introduce some of the other elements I love in Wicked Fantasy.

With that basic framing in place I asked my step-daughter about various dangers that her character might face on her way to the wizard. She came up with some great ideas, like dealing with a stampede and tornado, along with a handful of monsters to fight, like Terror Dogs from Ghostbusters,a Money Monster, and a Marshmallow Blobs. My wife helped keep her on track and we worked at translating some of the more outlandish ideas into traditional fantasy tropes. The Money Monster would be an Iron Golem constructed of various coins and the Marshmallow Blob would be like a Gelatinous Cube.

With the basic ideas in place we ran our first encounter. On their way out of town the heroes were confronted by the Evil Wizard’s Daughter, Aurianna. She said that she would never let them kill her father, then teleported away to leave the heroes to fight her minions. The foreshadowing of this appearance was played up by my wife and soon my step-daughter was declaring “I bet we’ll see her again!” over and over again.

If these names sound familiar it’s because I’m using some actual friends of mine for inspiration. It’s totally intentional.

It was time to fight some bandits now and instead of dealing with spell lists and casting rules I decided to stick to the basics. I described her attacks with her magic wand as throwing around fireballs and since she decided that Strength was important I stuck with the same basic attack rules. She would roll her d20 plus Weapon Attack plus Strength for her attacks. Eventually I might introduce more spells and such, at which time we’ll re-do her Abilities, but for now I’m trying to keep things simple.

Once they had dispatched the minions I awarded some basic Experience Points and explained how she could spend the points. For a number of points equal to the next die size she could increase her weapon damage and for five points times the next modifier size she could increase her attack and defense values. Again, instead of trying to explain Classes and Leveling up, I opted for the straight forward “get points – spend points” method.

The encounter was a success and my step-daughter seemed to be really enjoying the game. Later that weekend my wife asked her what her favorite thing we did was and, after serious consideration, she declared that Dungeons and Dragons was the best. She couldn’t wait to play again. I’m not sure if I’m doing things the right way, but I’ve got a seven year-old girl talking about how much fun she has playing D&D so it’s a victory in my book.

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