I ran my first session of Wyzards for the boys last night, and they seemed to have a good time. We started a bit late for a variety of reasons, which is par for the course in my experience. Best the boys get used to that now. They had already been giving some thought to what characters they wanted to play. N created Kodo Sanslasher, Brass Mage, and C created Slando Klindoran, Red Mage. They seemed to enjoy describing details about their characters' personalities, appearance and assorted quirks, though there was some initial disappointment that I wasn't allowing anyone to play a werewolf or a wolf beastman (which had been the plan for the original game I was going to run, in a different gameworld). I explained a bit of background about the Order of the Ivory Citadel - having pictures helped immensely, as I suspected it would - but once again I was reminded of the fact that, while the boys may have been more interested in the background information than I believe my sister's kids would have been, it's still tough to get across all of the information I'm used to trying to convey. And the fact of the matter is, it's better to convey those details through gameplay rather than giving an infodump before anyone gets to do anything. I need to bear that in mind for future games, and not just the ones I run for the kids.
Anyway, once stats were rolled up (3d6, assigned by choice) and important details written down, we finally got underway. Our 1st-level Magi began a brief adventure within the walls of the Ivory Citadel, being fetched by a Green Robe apprentice they knew - named Sarai - who breathlessly asked them for help. She and her friend Ardil had been exploring the Lower Catacombs of the Citadel, a place clearly marked as off-limits, when the floor gave way and Ardil fell into a chamber beneath. The boys dutifully ran off to help. Dad created a Boggart character (more about this in my next post), but had to put his daughter to bed so he didn't play for long. After some time spent running up and down the massive Spiraling Stair (which I decided on the spur of the moment was the central connecting structure of the Citadel), visiting the laboratories and workshops of their respective masters, the Magi hammered an iron rod into the floor, tied a rope around it, and descended into the pitch-dark tunnels beneath. Finding that Ardil was nowhere to be seen, they explored further into the darkness. They spotted kobolds, avoided confronting any of them, and then discovered a giant fungal forest, lit by luminescent growths. By the end of the session, they had found that the missing apprentice had been somehow abducted by mushroom men (Myconids), who had him in some kind of hypnotic trance. Through use of their magic and stealth, they freed Ardil from his trance, but the myconids released spores of alarm, and bats began to descend from the darkness between the stalactites. "...And that's where we'll stop for tonight!"
The boys were eager to use their spells, of course, and there were many moments where they thought to use spells to aid them only to discover that their spells didn't quite work the way they were hoping. For example, N wanted to use his message spell to tell Ardil they were looking for him, but unfortunately this would have required them to know where Ardil was. But N used his magic creatively and often; the next big challenge for him is going to be when he runs out of Mana Points in the next session, as he'd spent over half by this session's end. I don't recall whether C cast any spells at all this session, and for a guy playing what was basically a combat mage, he was always the first to suggest turning back and avoiding trouble. But perhaps it might make sense for a combat mage to realize the best way to win a fight is not to get in one at all...?
Two things cropped up that I wanted to note here because I've encountered them in all of the games I've run for kids.
First, the boys have a tendency to describe not only what their character does, but what happens after that. They've been made aware of the distinction between the role of Player and the role of GM, but they still slip every now and then and begin narrating results. This was something that my sister's kids did, too, and I had to keep reminding them that this wasn't how the game was played. There's a little indy gamer voice in the back of my head that tells me I shouldn't come down too hard on that desire, and to be honest I've tried to remain open-minded about that sort of thing. Once or twice I've taken some narration that they "suggested" and said, "Yeah, in fact, that's exactly what happens." But as Mr. Slusser pointed out to me a while ago, the boys are used to just narrating themselves out of story complications, and so playing in the traditional RPG mode should give them a bit of problem-solving discipline.
The other thing that came up - more with the Slusser boys than my sister's kids, though I've encountered it with other children as well - was a desire to roll on a stat for the sake of rolling on a stat, rather than just doing so when the GM called for it. I think what was happening was that, because I had called for them to make stat-based rolls in order to accomplish certain tasks, they got it into their heads that the key to dealing with failure was simply to roll again and hope for a better result, as opposed to trying something different. I don't mean that they weren't willing to try something more than once; I mean that they were slipping into metagame thinking, right down to the terms they used in describing what their characters would do: "I'm going to Dex-roll to get across the forest of mushrooms." Perhaps if I were to resort to die-rolling less often, it would encourage them to think in problem-solving terms? Yet everybody likes rolling dice, and I don't think I'm being excessive about it. I'm not certain, but it's a tendency I am curious about.