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Family at the Table
New Game, New Players
How do you become a published game designer? You publish games. We’re coming out of a pandemic, and I purposefully keep a very small set of very close family and partners. I can write and conceive of games even if I don’t have access to a player base. So, what do I do, I write a publish a game that hasn’t been tested at all, just threw it out there. Punk rock, baby.
Now it’s actually time to play my new game, Slasher. I have a box of 50 books, and they’re gorgeous and already sold to a distributor.
Who’s at the Table?
My girlfriend and I have been trying to convince my wife to play a ttrpg with us for years, and I’ve been trying for even longer. My wife is allergic to the very idea of these games, and we were able to convince her to play now that we had made a game together. My eight year old child also decided that they wanted to play after another player dropped out at the last minute.
So now I have two experienced game designers who do shit like play co-op Mothership, a literal child, and someone who is being a good sport. I knew that this would be interesting. Our other player was going to be a more experienced gamer, so it would have played out very differently.
We start to make characters, and my wife calls it paperwork. My child chooses a character based off of their starting inventory items. They’re already thinking about the tactical possibilities of using a can of hairspray to blow powdered makeup in the eyes of a villain.
A Rough Start
I try to start the session super open, and my wife is not having it. I’m getting nothing from her. My girlfriend starts to drop some warden hints and reassures me. I regroup, and I come up with a scenery description. I plop down the encounter for the level, Jack in a Hedge Maze. I’m on and the game actually starts to come to life. We roll for panic and make a Fear check, and we don’t Panic. I pull out some plastic cubes and line up our characters on a number line to demonstrate distance and locations. It’s on.
A Successful Encounter
Jack hurls a tennis ball at us, shooting past my wife’s character, the Camp Counselor Paula Rudd, and my child’s character, the Cheerleader Sara, catches the tennis ball with their cheerleader pom moms. My girlfriend’s character tries to shoot him with her rifle, and it jams, critical failure. Sara lines up and flings the ball at Jack, my child makes sure to remind me of their Athletics skill, so they need to roll with Advantage. They succeed with a critical success, doing double damage. Paula Rudd charged Jack and did him in with her baseball bat. Jack crumpled to the ground.
How’d it go?
We made it through the encounter. People learned how to make checks, used skills, and learned about range. We called for Speed checks to dodge things, and people remembered to check for their items. The damage levels, success levels for rolls, and encounter design meant the whole thing took about 40 minutes. The design goals for this tutorial encounter were met, the game works out how we hoped it would work. An encounter that teaches you how to play the game.
My wife told us afterwards that she really knows that ttrpgs are not for her and that she didn’t have a terrible time. By the end, she was coming up with ideas and really playing the game even if she didn’t realize it. She said that she’s uncomfortable with the level of bullshitting that is necessary to play the game, she hates coming up with shit like that.
My child was disappointed that it was over. I have never seen a person take so quickly to a game system. They saw the possibilities and were creating chaos from the moment they started. They understood inventory and stats and how to use all of their characters abilities to their fullest. I’m looking forward to playing more of the encounters of this game with them. They’re a sponge, and they’re gonna be unstoppable.
My girlfriend tells me how proud of me she is. I pulled out of what started as a disaster of a session. The game we made together works.
I’m so full of love for my whole family after this brief session, and that joy is what makes game night worth it.