December 20, 2005

Playing with Dogs

"Roll 4d6, drop the lowest number."

You know what I'm talking've probably done it a few times. It's the Easy Way.

Until you're trying to explain it to children, even (maybe especially) bright ones.

("You roll one of these... well, four of these, no, not four times, you roll four of these little box ones. No, you can't roll the diamond ones. Not yet. The ones from one to six. Yes, the pips. Yes. No, there's only six there. I promise. Go ahead and count. I appreciate the fact that you guys don't accept my word simply on authority and need to check these things out yourself. It'll do you well in your future life but it's driving me crazy right now. Satisfied? Six. Yeah, like I said. Now you roll four of these. All at once. OK, if they bounce off the table you can reroll. No, I'm not going to tell you if you should 'roll high' or low. You probably want high, but most people don't believe they can influence it so just let it go. Four. Are you even listening? Yes, you can go to the bathroom. We'll roll yours later. I'll get you a glass of water in a minute. Now you drop the lowest one. Not literally. See these? Two fives, a six, and a three. The three is the lowest, right? I'm glad we can agree on that. Move the three to the side. Count what's left. Yes, sixteen. Write a sixteen down on the sheet of paper. Now we get to do this five more times. Whee!")

(They weren't QUITE that bad.)

Now, we're going to teach these children "Dogs in the Vineyard."

Yeah, go ahead and laugh. You weren't there.

("You have seventeen d6 in...look, just think of them as points, OK? You have seventeen points to split up in the four attributes...OK, now you have special points... We'll call these, um, d4, d8, and d10 points... Oh, and you still have regular points...")

Now, here's a fun thing. My husband (long-time gamer) had the hardest time coming up with traits, while the youngest knew exactly what she wanted. It seemed to be a ratio based off of experience and expectations. My sister Rainbow K had a middlin' difficulty.

The scenario was of course that they were Jedi, because that fit into their personal mythos a little better (and honestly, I was trying to get PLAYING, as opposed to giving them a theological lesson.) Chatterbox wanted to be the only Jedi in a family of Sith (except for her older brother) and most of her traits revolved around that and how she wasn't trusted. (Her Challenge was against her father's attempt to contact her to Join the Family.) Rainbow K wanted to have a mysterious past. The LintKing, well, he wanted to play a city girl and had a hilarious challenge against saddling a bantha.

Other things I noticed: Rainbow K was happy because one of the things about Dogs that's different from a lot of other games is even if you don't have a "skill" at something, you can certainly try various challenges with various opportunities to succeed. In some ways, I think having the dice bolstered that (where she might not have tried in Amber.) We had a little struggle with the fallout rules, but I think she and the LintKing both liked that even if you "failed" you learned something from the experience. Chatterbox was mostly involved for the dice rolling; the parts that didn't require it seemed to lose her interest.

I'll try to get some of Rainbow K's thoughts here, too.

Posted by Meera at December 20, 2005 04:25 PM