Long post here. Can’t help it. I’m a proud geek papa, and I have to share.
Tonight I ran my first mini-session of Faery's Tale with my two daughters. I’d been talking with them for years about roleplaying, but though they expressed interest, they weren’t really motivated, and I didn’t want to push. We’d even made characters a couple of times, but nothing ever came of it because their enthusiasm was lukewarm.
Then this last weekend, out of the blue, my youngest moppet asked if we could play Faery’s Tale. It had been awhile, years really, and both girls wanted to make new characters. My outward reaction is cautious enthusiasm. Inward reaction: glee!
A bit of background for the demographically-inclined: Elder Moppet is 11 years old, in sixth grade, and has been into Gothy stuff lately. She is a terrific writer and highly imaginative, a huge fan of Raven from the Teen Titans Go! cartoon. She laughed in disbelief at her previous Faery’s Tale character, a Disney pixie type. Junior Moppet is 7, in second grade, a natural actor and comedian who narrates the dialogue and exposition of her stuffies and action figures when she plays with them. Both are huge comic book fans (DC), readers and fans of fantasy and steampunk. As a Geek Dad, I feel I’ve been doing my job right, thank you very much.
Character generation turned out to be a snap. They both went straight into their concepts, and before I knew it, I was sketching their gear and clothing. The mechanics of Faery’s Tale are pretty light, so chargen went quickly, mostly a question of choosing Gifts (essentially Feats or Advantages). They really did just spin their character concepts out of thin air, fully fleshed out.
I started off by reading the different kinds of Faeries they could play. To my surprise, they went right over magical flying pixies and chose sprites, the warrior breed of faeries in this game.
Junior Moppet said, “Daddy, I want to a sprite with a silver needle sword and a bottle cap shield who rides a mouse friend like a horse. She’s tough and acrobatic, like Batman. Her shield is all scratched up from lots of fighting.” She likes the idea of being grim.
Elder Moppet wanted to play someone with something to do with ravens and dark Gothy cool, so she selected a “shadow sprite” who could sculpt shadows and shapeshift into a raven. Her main props were a white thorn dagger that had a bit of red sea glass as a pommel, and a old bronze faerie key she wears as a pendant. She’s the only shadow sprite in the forest, maybe the world.
After some nosing around in the SG Names book and bouncing ideas off each other, they picked Thistle and Shadowlock, respectively.
Thistle (Junior Moppet)
Body 4 Mind 2 Spirit 3 Essence 6
Edges: Hardy, Empathy, Acrobat
Shadowlock (Elder Moppet)
Body 4 Mind 3 Spirit 2 Essence 4
Edges: Brave, Lore, Sneaky
Tonight we embarked on their first adventure. I completely winged it, and focused on asking a lot of leading questions to help them come up with specific ideas. I wanted to get past, "What do you do?" because that can be intimidating for beginning players, not to mention ones who were kids. I also remained mindful of giving out Essence to reward constructive behavior.
Thistle comes to meet Mouse at the creek, but Mouse isn’t there! She hears an angry squeak, and after a die roll or two to illustrate the mechanics, she locates Mouse on the other side of the creek, being roped and dragged off by a pair of mean goblins!
Here’s where it goes to the awesome for me.
Junior Moppet narrates that Thistle sees a willow branch stretching almost across the creek, so she makes her way across it. As she does so, it’s bending closer and closer to the fast-moving water. Before she reaches the other bank, it bends sharply and dumps Thistle into the creek! Thistle is hardy, so she holds her breath and struggles to get her hands on a rock, and then she’s able to haul herself out of the creek onto the shore. But...Mouse and the goblins are gone. She sees light tracks in the sandy dirt, but before she can follow them, a breeze blows them away.
I haven’t said anything yet. But I’m already dealing out the glass beads we’re using for Essence like they’re cheap Halloween candy.
At this point, Elder Moppet, who has been watching and thinking about not playing tonight, decides she wants to play. So in drops Shadowlock in raven form, and a detailed introduction scene unfolds. This did not go without problems. All very cool on the one hand, but inter-sisterly dynamics complicated the exchange. Elder Moppet tends toward being controlling and critical, and Junior Moppet has a temper. Both characters are, on the surface, conceived as loners. Some disagreement ensued as EM tried to make statements about how Thistle perceived Shadowlock, and JM naturally resisted this intrusion and blew a fuse.
I smoothed things over by pointing out that this was an origin story, and that they would become friends eventually, and further that they needed to respect the idea that only the player got to decide how her character reacted to something, unless dice were involved. That explanation seemed to mollify them, and so we continued.
Shadowlock used Lore to declare (under questioning from me) that the goblins were likely taking Mouse to a hideyhole that led to the underground Goblin Kingdom, where the goblins took woodland animals to labor as slaves. And as luck would have it, Shadowlock had seen the direction the goblins had taken when she was aloft in raven form. Essence to her for being helpful. In future, I'll probably use Essence to reward her when she doesn't criticize her sister's choices. Just as I'll award Essence to Junior Moppet for keeping calm when she's feeling frustrated.
Right. So the grand pursuit commenced. Each of them wanted to describe how cool their characters were as they ran through the forest. I prompted them to use their Edges as inspiration for style and added some sample description myself. Thistle ran more like parkour, with acrobatic moves and flips. Shadowlock ran silently and gracefully beneath the shadows of the trees. They were both happy with this and embellished with Shadowlock fading into shadows and Thistle using her needle sword sort of like a springboard (and snatching it up at the last instant after going airborne).
By now, it’s almost bedtime, so I started looking for a beat on which to end this “chapter.” I described a pair of standing stones in a glen, weathered and carved with ancient spirals. Through the tall blades of grass, the two faeries glimpse the goblins hauling Mouse to the base of one of the stones.
Elder Moppet then narrates that the opening to the tunnel to the Goblin Kingdom lies hidden at the base of the stone, and Junior Moppet chimes in, “And then, just as we see Mouse, the goblins drag him into the tunnel, and they vanish!”
I nod. “End of chapter.”
Moppets: “Awww...” But they’re excited. I’m excited too, not to mention happy and proud at how much adversity they introduced. I literally did nothing but set the initial scene and add some environmental description.
I should note Thistle doesn’t have her shield or her fish scale armor, just her needle sword. And next session? Assuming they venture into the tunnels to fight goblins...
Moppets’ first dungeon crawl.
So happy I’m gonna ‘splode.