When I was younger, I was a very regular player of roleplaying games. This is something that fell by the wayside as I moved but I have never completely given up on re-entering the hobby. Moreover, as the kids have grown older I have often wondered how they would take to tabletop roleplaying.
With Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure Begins I have a chance to find out.
This is a co-operative board game, set in the world of D&D, in which the players select from one of four characters: a dwarf fighter, a dragonborn rogue, a human wizard or an elven bard, along with a choice of two combat types and one of four personalities.
The party then moves through four zones, fighting monsters and roleplaying encounters until they meet the final boss monster at the end of their quest.
Obviously, in a proper roleplaying game, you would have a DM to narrate the events and manage the outcome of encounters. In this simplified version, however, we have a deck of cards (four decks, in fact — one for each of the four zones) and a rotating DM. On each space, the DM for that turn draws a card which can be either a monster or an event. At the end of the turn, the deck is passed to the next player who becomes the DM for the next turn.
If the card drawn is a monster, everyone gets to fight the monster, which involves rolling dice until the monster (or party) is killed. Then everyone takes a reward and moves on to the next location.
The fun begins, however, when the DM draws an event card. Event cards can be anything including coming up with a creative solution to a problem, simple yes/no decisions or helping some character we encounter. It’s the event cards that really encourage the storytelling aspect of roleplaying games and the kids all engaged with this brilliantly, with solutions getting madder and the laughter getting louder as the game wore on.
Adventure Begins is a highly simplified version of Dungeons & Dragons, and one that works remarkably well for what it is. For kids who are familiar with the idea of co-operative games but not ready to be bogged down with D&D proper, this game provides a wonderfully accessible way to DM without too much work, fight battles and roleplay simple scenarios.
Watching the unleashing of unbridled creativity as the boys figured out how to cross a sudden chasm, or described how they defeated a dark dwarf really was a joy to behold.
While there are a lot of cards and four boss monsters to provide variation, all of the quests are essentially the same and necessarily episodic. There is a possibility, therefore, that this will start to feel a bit repetitive after a while. Then again, we still play Forbidden Island, so it will probably turn out to be a long while before anyone has had enough of Adventure Begins.