Archive for October, 2018

Bitten by a Different Kind of Bug

October 9, 2018 1 comment

My kids are like anybody’s kids – if they don’t have something to do they get bored. Bored kids don’t like being bored and it seems like a flip of coin between doing something constructive versus something undesirable. My kids like the pets too much to shave them and they’ve been brought up with a respect of sharp objects, explosive, and things that burn. Mostly because they’ve seen what happened to me when I stabbed, burned, or tried to blow myself up. Experience, it turns out, is a great teacher.

So that leaves being obnoxious and fighting with one another. Well, in my desire to put a stop to that I pulled them aside one day and gave them some paper and their dice bags. It’s been a while since we broke out Dungeons and Dragons but my son had told me he felt he was older now and could handle it better. In an effort to make them feel a little more invested I made them into their characters. The familiar trope of you fall asleep in your bed and wake up in a pile of straw kind of thing. You and I know it’s overdone but they’re young, they didn’t know any better.

I don’t have the time to plot of elaborate adventures and campaigns these days, unfortunately, so I went with stuff right out of the box. The adventure is called The Lost Mine of Phandelver, or LMOP by anyone who knows it. We tried it once before, briefly, but they’d pretty much forgotten all about it. This time things are different.

For example, we’ve got my daughter, the 12 year old human girl swinging around a great axe (hey, it’s fantasy). Instead of reacting to her brother she can now channel her barbarian rage into slaughtering evil monsters. Then there’s the almost 10 year old boy wearing a chain shirt, shield, and a magical long sword he recovered after they struck a deal with the scary one-eyed monster beneath the manor house. (what deal? Well, they agreed to feed him all the bodies they found in the rest of the cellars beneath the manor)

My daughter’s at the wonderful pre-teen age where she’s not allowed to show excitement about anything, yet she asks about when we can play next every time. Likewise my son, after we finished this weekend, was eagerly looking forward to playing next Saturday. I had to remind him we had plans that night, so he was quick to offer up Friday night instead. That might not work either, but I promised him we’d get something in.

One of my initial concerns when we started this process with only two players was that they’d get steamrolled unless I really pulled my punches. Well… they found a way around that. I did introduce two powerful NPCs that showed them the ropes and helped them survive a goblin ambush. They turned that around quickly though – one captured goblin soon became their unwilling guide. By the time they cleared out the goblin hideout the goblin became their new scout / servant. They’re even paying him as a henchman! I’m not sure if it helps that he’s only a little shorter than they are, or if they just like the voice I use for him.

With Bokbok’s help (he’s the goblin) they’ve gone on to defeat the Redbrands (thugs and bandits that controlled the town of Phandalin) and accomplish a few other minor tasks. Nobody can believe these kids are accomplishing this, but they’re rising to local heroes quickly. Just as unlikely are the goblin servants (they’ve got 2 now, the second being a rather cowardly goblin named Droop who sounds a little like Dobbie from Harry Potter and has devoted himself to being their cook, cleaner, and helping them in any non-combat role he can).

Last night they even struck out for the run down castle that the goblins came from. Bokbok helped again by mentioning he’d heard of a secret way into the castle. Some searching uncovered the way in and they managed to dispatch the goblin king’s guards before taking a wrong turn into a tower that had been turned into a pen for a hungry and enraged owlbear. What’s an owlbear? Glad you asked! Imagine a full size grizzly bear and give him the face of an owl. Yes, it’s a magically inspired creation and very vicious, especially when hungry and abused.

Well, with the door thrown open the owlbear rose up and screeched at them before charging. My son leapt out of the way. My daughter…well, she’s an animal lover. She spread her arms wide, blocking the door fully, and invited it in for cuddles. The scars from its beak and claws won’t be fading any time soon as she was dropped to the floor in a puddle of her own blood.

My son rallied and tried to smack the owlbear on the back of the head with the flat of his sword. His reasoning was that they could knock it out and take it prisoner to tame it. When I pointed out how ferocious and savage it was he countered with, “Is it a girl? She’ll look cute with a pink ribbon in her hair.”

Bokbok knew better and the goblin dragged my daughter out of the way. Free at last, the owlbear charged out of the castle into parts unknown and they then had to stablize and nurse my daughter back to health.

A few rooms later they discovered the goblin king (a Bugbear – kind of sasquatch like for the non-fantasy crowd). He had a pet wolf and evil elf working with him. They boy charged the king and Bokbok had to fight the elf. That left the wolf against my daughter. Her heart melted when she heard he had a name (Snarls). The wolf attacked and she tried to calm him while she herself was covered in her own blood from her prior injuries. On the second round the wolf lunged for her throat but she slipped to the side and wrapped her arms around him. She held tight and found the magical spot behind his ear, scratching it just so. In seconds his rear leg was kicking and he mellowed into her. Yes, she rolled a 20 on her animal handling. The wolf was now her pet.

When Klarg, the goblin king, later smacked the wolf with his mighty morning star on the side and made him yip she went into her fiercest barbarian rage yet! The kids, goblin, and wolf survived the day with no fudging of rolls from me. They’d taken their weakness of only having 2 members for their adventuring group and recruited others to help – a goblin and a feral wolf. I’m a little scared to see what they do next!

My son wants a pet now too. He’s trying to talk me into a giant war turtle. When I laughed at the thought he reminded me, “Hey, this is fantasy!”

I’d ask what have I done, but I have to admit, I’m impressed.



Oh, and by the way, yes I’m still writing. Just so damn busy with work and life it’s hard to keep up my pace. Put out a couple more chapters last week / weekend for my next Dark Universe novel though! I’m thinking of titling it Confliction. It’s over 25,000 words in already, but there’s no quick and easy end in sight. Good for a quality book, bad for me wanting to get it into your hands sooner!


To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Categories: dungeons and dragons