The 8 Year Old GM

Iron Tavern readers have certainly noticed I have written about the Pathfinder Beginner Box a fair amount. Everything from Beginner Box Anticipation, Hero Lab for the Beginner Box, mentions in weekly reviews and just earlier this week an actual play account of playing the Beginner Box. All of this has led to a final post about the Beginner Box, my eight year old son, whom we will call X, GMing his own adventure.

X has been studying the books in the Beginner Box since he received it in December. He will ask the occasional question out of the blue “What is DR?”, “Tell me more about alignments”, “Dad, why don’t black dragons deal acid damages with their bite too?” and several more over the past weeks.

A little over a week ago he started mentioning that he wanted to try to run an adventure. I told him we could take a week off our normal weekend game and he could run what he had come up with. I showed him how the creatures had challenge ratings and gave him a rough idea of how he could use those to gauge semi-appropriate encounters. He picked up on the concept and ran with it.

So this past weekend he announced he was ready to run his adventure. I built up a quick Dwarven Barbarian and advanced him to second level. His younger sister broke out her 2nd level cleric and we took along Merisiel as a pre-gen. While I put the finishing touches on my character he took care of rolling out my battle mat, getting the wet erase markers ready and picking out his pawns he would need for the adventure.

He started us off in Sandpoint with the mayor summoning us for some assistance. Apparently various weapons and minor valuables had been taken from people’s homes over the course of the past five nights. The mayor requested our help with investigating and tracking down who was responsible for these thefts. We did some dialoging with the mayor and then headed off through town to check out the most recent house that had been burgled.

We approached cautiously and observed the house for a bit to make sure it was not being watched. Then we approached and searched around and found tracks. The tracks were not human tracks he said and after a knowledge nature check we were able to determine they were lizard, web footed like tracks. We also found some scratch marks on the door from some sort of clawed hand.

We then talked to the owners of the house and asked to see the locations where things had been taken from. X did a pretty good job of playing this out and seemed to pick right up with responding to the questioning.

Soon we found ourselves heading out of town and towards the swamps. We traveled for a bit and found a roguish looking individual whom we spoke with. We dialoged a bit with him and learned of some lizard, frog like creatures off the main trail in the woods. Sounding like someone we might be interested in we headed off that way.

We traipsed through the woods a bit and came across an enormous tree where we encountered a few goblins, several of which tried to sneak up on us after we had already engaged the first few.

With those goblins dispatched we found a hole that seemed to lead into an area near the tree roots. My dwarven barbarian promptly went in and we encountered several giant centipedes. The fight was a bit on the tough side with Merisiel getting poisoned multiple times, but we were victorious.

Unusually enough we found two boggards who had been prisoner beneath these tree roots. We quickly realized their feet could have made the prints we found in town. With information from the two we found we plunged further into the woods.

We met a trio of people that we thought could possibly be bandits but it never came to blows, so we simply used information from them to further close in on the boggard camp. As we headed that way we did encounter an abandoned building of sorts which we checked for more clues, but found little else than a series of traps!

With that we reached the final encounter. Up until this point all of the encounters had been fairly balanced. It seems X is a chip off the old block and is a firm believer in tough final encounters. Turns out these six boggards had a boss. Their boss just happened to be a young black dragon!

We fought and we fought hard, but in the end the party fell one by one, finally losing our cleric which soon led to my barbarian falling in battle as well. We actually managed to take the dragon down, but the remaining boggards made easy work of a bruised and battered party at that point. I think this encounter worked out to the ballpark of a CR7/CR8 encounter. Just a tad much for us!

All in all X did a great job running this adventure. Frankly, given the number of mock battles he likes to play through on his own, I expected it would be one encounter of random monster after another. He surprised me with opening with an investigative scenario and handling the investigation questions pretty well!

From there he dropped in some roleplaying encounters on the road (ideas he said he picked up from the Game Master’s Guide) before reaching our first actual combat encounter. He chose interesting terrain for that encounter and the dug out opening under the tree’s roots was a nice touch. His dropping some boggard prisoners in there was a great link to the actual enemy who had been causing the town’s problems.

The final encounter was a little overwhelming, which I chalk up to inexperience. We’ve all been there I think where an encounter turned out a little tougher than originally intended. The fact the boggards had a big boss orchestrating the whole thing was great though!

To me this really helps show how awesome the Pathfinder Beginner Box is. It enabled an eight year old boy with an interest in the game to learn the rules to the degree of actually being able to run a session himself. He did this with only a few questions of me as he studied the rulebooks and pieced it all together himself. I fully consider the Pathfinder Beginner Box a success in bringing the game to people new to the hobby – both young and old.

10 thoughts on “The 8 Year Old GM

  1. “Dad, why don’t black dragons deal acid damages with their bite too?” – that is a *great* question!!!! It sounds like your son is on his way to being a great DM :) Maybe he’ll be running games for my sons at Gen Con in a few years!!!

    • I neglected to mention the best part of that! I ended up explaining that in some cases house rules were an option and if he really though a black dragon should have some acid damage with its bite he could make up his own house rule. Sure enough, during the final battle when one of the characters was bit he said “I’m using the house rule for acid damage, because he just breathed acid earlier.” So he threw on another 1d4 acid damage on top of bite damage. It was great!

  2. “Dad, why don’t black dragons deal acid damages with their bite too?” Love it.

    And, who says the last encounter was due to inexperience? Sometimes, you’re not supposed to win the fight! Did it ever occur to you to run away? ;)

    • So very true! And I am even one that preaches know when to run away. That was one dwarven barbarian that should have known to run away!

    • Yes, he does read above his grade level. So I am sure that helps as to how he was able to pick up on the game relatively well.

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