Kids tell the best stories. Mostly because, for a kid, there are no hard and fast rules.
They’re unaffected by market demands and always show, never tell. They keep things boiled down to the most simplistic things in terms of plot, motivation, and story. They have a boundless imagination and we’re often left reeling by the directions they want the story to go. Telling them they’re doing it wrong always gets you the stink eye (and rightly so.)
Over the past couple of years, I’ve run a few DnD games for my son and his friends. I’m usually in the role of DM or “storyteller” but only because I know the rules. Rules which we often have to trim down or ignore entirely. So what my job really boils down to is making suggestions and seeing how they react.
Like when an enormous dragon-eel attacks the boat they’ve chartered.
This is, after all, Dungeons and Dragons and the the whole point is to adventure, slay monsters, and loot the bodies, right?
Well, not if you are part of this particular adventuring crew, the most reluctant adventurers to ever grace the realms of fantasy.
Since they had a kobold (one of the players – think of this as a little goblin but with dragon-like features) and a gnoll (another player – this one a large humanoid with a vicious hyena head), they figured they could reason with the dragon-beast. The only trick was the gnoll, who also happens to be a bard, was the best negotiator in the party and the kobold was the only one who could speak the dragon tongue.
“I climb on top of the gnoll’s head,” says the kobold’s player.
From here, the gnoll proceeds to negotiate through the kobold which has the dragon very confused by the large, hairy, and decidedly canine growth on the kobold’s butt. By the end, they’ve agreed to toss all some shiny stuff into the water if the dragon eel agrees not to eat them. Oh, and if they wouldn’t mind, they’ll leave the boar in the water that fell overboard on the monster’s first pass. A little snack.
The druid in the party took great offense to this suggestion and decided first to cast spells on the boar to give it a chance in a fight with the dragon. This did not go as planned (dragons being dragons and all) so he commenced with firing arrows.
His friends? The scrappy kobold, the lyrical gnoll, the oddly lukewarm paladin, and the melee-averse dwarf all decided to wait. Below decks. You know, they made a deal and all.
So the druid and the druid’s tiger commenced with fighting the terrible dragon-eel and eventually, through some miracle, started to gain the upperhand.
“Ummm, I go check outside,” says the not-at-all fervent paladin.
“Why?” I ask, trying to get him to come up with a reason other than things his character wouldn’t necessarily know. “There are sounds of a terrible fight on deck. Things are SCARY.”
“You’re not gonna kill-steal my dragon!” responds the druid. Because, despite the story telling and the real-life friendship, they are still 14 year old boys.
Eventually, they head out on deck to help the druid scare off their former business partner who then flees to a nearby island.
Afterwards, they slowly built up their courage. They confronted the wounded dragon-eel in his lair. When their treasure and supplies ran short, they reluctantly took on an undead king and his cultists . And they finally found victory in the end when they all decided to work together and not against one another.
A perfectly natural ending to a perfectly told story. Redemption, character growth, a plot thread tied and tucked neatly away – it doesn’t get much better than that.