I have alluded to the fact that my sons and I have taken up Dungeons & Dragons on a fairly regular basis. As I am ever on the hunt for ways to engage my kids in creative thinking, problem solving, and analog entertainment (as a so-called Xennial, I do get that that may seem anachronistic, or at least a little ironic), rediscovering D&D as a vehicle for family game time has been a win-win-win: the boys get to experience a world of monsters and heroes and avarice and heroism, I get to hang out with them while I discover more about their priorities and values and strategic thinking, and my wife gets a break from juggling three kids for a couple hours and can focus on resting or caring for our infant third child.
In an effort to avoid The Cliche, “So you are all gathered at a tavern,” and to avoid also describing a tavern to my 7 and 4 year old children, the adventure began in the barracks of Castle Baron, where Lexton Firebomb (knight and Captain of the Red Wings of Baron) and Nilon Samtor (sorcerer and member of the King’s council) were summoned to the throne room for a special assignment by His Majesty:
“Lexton Firebomb, Captain of the Royal Red Wings, I command you to take the armada to the treacherous land of Mysidia, and, by any means necessary, secure the magic crystal from which the evil Mysidians draw the power to corrupt the common folk of Baron and send monsters into our lands.”
Nilon, adviser to His Highness, was surprised by this announcement and asked, “How do we know the Mysidians are the ones sending monsters into the kingdom?”
The King said, “Young Nilon, as long as you have been alive, have you ever seen so frequent attacks on the people of Our Kingdom? Have you not noticed the steady flow of monsters from the East?” His brow furrowed, “And have you not known us to be at war with the Mysidians in all these years?”
Lexton asked, “Do they hate us?”
Gravely, the King nodded. “Indeed, young Lexton, they do. They hate us and our way of life. They only want us to be destroyed. But there will be peace when they can no longer send monsters and poison the hearts of our countrymen. And you and Nilon will be the ones to bring that peace!” He drew in a breath breath, paused, and then announced, “Then go forth, brave warriors of Baron! Fight well and return victorious!”
As the two left the throne room, they encountered Rose, a cleric student of both magic and war, and a friend. Anxiously, she asked after where they were going, and once aware, imposed herself. “I shall go with you! His Highness surely will allow it.” And so he did. The three intrepids collected gear from their rooms, checked over their armor and weapons, and headed into the great castle courtyard.
There, hovering but feet from the ground were three enormous airships, held aloft by powerful propellers atop their masts, and with billowing sails drawn down along their sides. The Red Wings, the great military and technological achievement of Baron, awaited their captain. Throngs of gathered Baronish nobles and merchants cheered at the sight of Lexton, their brave champion, and his companions, as the three boarded The Highwing, the flagship. With a word and a gesture, Lexton commanded that the ships draw high into the air, and the rabid hopeful cheers of the people gathered faded below them.
Close readers of this blog and fellow 90s nerds will appreciate the similarities to the beginning of Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II) originally released on the SNES. Yes, I shamelessly ripped off the first mission, many of the place names, and indeed, the underlying intrigues, of that game. But my reason was pure – I was about 7 or 8 years old when I rented FFII from the local video store, dropped it in the ol’ Super Nintendo, and after bathing in the swelling emotion of the Final Fantasy title screen (arpeggios of C9, Am9, F9, G9, Ab9, and Bb9, I would later discover), pressed NEW GAME to be welcomed by the sight of a 16-bit sprite armada racing over a world map with the thrumming imperialist march of “The Red Wings” cranking out of my 13″ TV’s mono speaker. It was my introduction to roleplaying games, and the beginning of a fascination that would shepherd me through college, into marriage, and through the early years of parenthood.
Little did I know how different this adventure would be…