Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Big Game

Our friends have gone home and the dust has settled, and I can finally report on how our Pathfinder RPG session went.

Marra, played by a seven-year-old girl, seemed to have a great time. She was thoughtful, attentive, and enthusiastic. She understood everything that was going on and seemed to have a fairly solid grasp of the mechanics of the game, given her age and that it was her first RPG experience. She has a tendency to roll high on a d20; I don't think she missed or failed a roll for any skill check all night. Marra is welcome at our table any time.

Her parents had interesting playing styles (the wife was a first-timer) which brought something new to our table, and they seemed to have a good time, but I don't think it was necessarily the game. Whether they'll join us for future sessions will depend in large part, I suspect, on how badly Marra wants to return. They are always welcome, of course. Regardless, we will see them again because they are such dear friends, but I suspect we're more likely to engage in a rousing game of Qwirkle than D&D or any of its offshoots when next we meet.

My wife played her half-orc monk true to character, which made for an interesting dynamic between her and my oldest daughter during the opening scene at the Mean Bean, a coffee house. Now, I hate to be the kind of dad who throws his kids under the bus, but they don't read this blog, and what I'm about to say is relevant to the topic of using RPG's in homeschool and teaching to virtues, so here it goes: my kids were in rare form last night, and not in a good way.

Elerisa can be a bit of a control freak, and it was annoying the other players at the table. My wife and I both found ourselves correcting her as she tried to tell her sisters - especially Fiona, our youngest - what to do. At one point when Fiona said what she was going to do, Elerisa basically told her something to the effect of that's stupid, don't do that, do this instead. Elerisa wanted something and my wife wasn't letting her character just have her way, because questioning Elerisa's actions was the right thing for the half-orc to do under the circumstances. Elerisa became obnoxious and badgered my wife as she tried to get her way and it became a parenting situation. We prevented it from getting too ugly, but I was embarrassed and I think my wife was too.

My oldest was not the only offender. Fiona became a wall flower and decided she was too embarrassed to play with first-timers (her explanation to me later), even though Marra is her best friend. With all the commotion and with her tiny, increasingly bashful voice vanishing beneath the threshold of normal human hearing, it was hard to figure out what she was trying to do in game (which, as it turns out, was to run into the Mean Bean's kitchen to hide from the fight that was breaking out, and to look for marshmallows to throw into the fray). Meanwhile Norma, my "middlest" child, couldn't be troubled to pay attention to the game and spent much of the evening on the floor of the dining room with her feet sticking up in the air. She said she was restless, a claim that was supported by her constantly asking me for an update with regards to the time. This from a child who is always asking when our next game is going to be.

So I'm left wondering what the lessons learned are, and I think my wife has hit the nail on the head. Sadly, I won't be able to articulate it as succinctly as she did, but I'll valiantly make the attempt. She is a fan of Cesar Milan, a.k.a. The Dog Whisperer. From Cesar's show we learn that dogs feed on the energy of the people and animals around them. When there is a lot of nervous excitement, dogs will get riled up. Is there a reason to think it wouldn't be any different with kids? She points out that I put a lot of stress on myself in the last few weeks to prepare for this game. I wanted my friends' first gaming experience to be a positive one, and I think Elerisa wanted the same thing. It was our big chance to show our stuff, to share this awesome experience we've been having, and there was excitement in the air. My wife says I was handled the GM duties calmly and smoothly, but I can tell you I broke out in a sweat almost right away, so chances are there was at least some aura of anxiety about me, however subtle or subconsciously detectable. Clearly Elerisa didn't handle it well at all, and that's something we're addressing with her. There are behaviors to address with the other two as well, and we're doing that.

So today we sat down with the kids and talked about our experience last night and the kinds of virtues and soft skills we're going to work on in the future. Things like diplomacy, tact, compromise, and respect. Staying focused and channeling our energies toward accomplishing shared goals. Confidence and courage to strut our stuff in front of our peers. And finally, for me, finding that inner calm and peace of mind that comes from knowing that everything's going to be alright, and to just let the chips fall where they may.

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