Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Post: Wesley Chu (THE LIVES OF TAO) on Playing Games with Kids

[Editor's Note] A couple of months ago, Shawna and I discussed Wesley Chu's new book THE LIVES OF TAO on our Geekerati Podcast. In addition to asking Wesley to join us on the podcast, I asked him if he would be willing to write a guest post for my Advanced Dungeons and Parenting blog and he agreed. Below is the article he wrote for the site. Before you read, I'd like to point out that reading his ADP guest article gave me a great deal of pleasure. It isn't often that I meet a fellow Mystara fan. So read on and enjoy.[End Editor's Note]

In honor of Advanced Dungeons & Parenting, I wanted to get on my soapbox and tell parents to force their kids to learn to become responsible adults by leveling characters in Dungeons and Dragons and/or Pathfinder.

My main poison from grades one through eight was Dungeons and Dragons, the non-advanced version. This is back in the eighties and nineties back to those old school TSR days when we had those red, blue, teal, and finally gold manuals. Back then, rules weren’t nearly as complicated and there weren’t a bazillion books to have to buy.



I have fond memories of the land of Mystara. My old stomping grounds were the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the mage kingdom of Glantri, and the merchants Republic of Darokin. Sometimes, we’d venture as far out as the Ethengar Khanate. Now, Mystara, or The Known World, at the time was a fantastic sandbox. I had leveled my mage Kraven (before I knew what that name meant) up to the point he became a baron in Karameikos. What does this have anything to do with being a responsible adult? Well, I decided to build my first keep. Now, my memory of all this is a little fuzzy, but I distinctly remember thinking to my fourth grade self that “damn, I need a big frigging castle with a moat! And a huge stable! And a very high tower!”

I didn’t take into consideration for materials, defenses, garrison size…etc. I just wanted a big castle. I remember begging my parents for grid paper so I could map the entire thing out. I believe I had a dozen blue prints before I settled on a design. And boy, was it a beautiful, poorly conceived, audacious castle. Note to self: not becoming an architect was a good thing. In my defense, I had enough gold to build the damn thing. Sure I basically had to hire myself out as a high level mercenary and do some rather unpleasant things (that’s what happens when you have a mean older brother DM) and basically taxed my poor peasants to near death. But at the end of the day, the castle was built with all its needless additional towers and silly additions only a kid with too many legos could imagine.

However, I was so poor and in so much debt that I couldn’t maintain my garrison and ended up losing the castle to a marauding Dwarven army. Actually, it wasn’t even very marauding, just like 50 dwarves who snuck in from a really ill-conceived part of my defenses. I had hardly garrison and it seems my amateur architectural planning had more than a few fatal flaws. In the end, poor Kraven was left broke and destitute, and had to spend the rest of his days guarding caravans in Darokin. But, like those wise lessons learned by watching Monty Python:

"That [castle] burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.” 

I had learned some lessons that I carry with me to this day:  

1.       Don’t spend more gold than you got. 
2.       Hire a proper architect or someone who is an expert on what you need done. 
3.       Never be house poor. 
4.       Castles are expensive as hell to build, and even more expensive to maintain. 
5.       Wizards should just get a nice tower in downtown Glantri.

So parents, do your kids a favor. Play games with them, and sneak in those life lessons that will help them when they get older. After all, if you don’t, a bunch of rampaging dwarves might end up sacking their castle.


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