[Shadows] Looney Tunes episode

Started by sdm, January 15, 2008, 03:18:26 AM

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I recently played Shadows, a free game by Zak Arntson http://www.harlekin-maus.com/, with three of my daughters aged 9, 7, and 5. The rules are very simple and fun for children. The game could be easily adapted for travel or camping. I suspect it could be a hoot for adults as well, but I've never had that opportunity. I won't explain the rules here since you can quickly read them at Zak's game page (It's one or two pages at the most).

We've played the game twice before.

The first time we played I had my children "be themselves", and setup a scenario in which they awoke from sleep to find flying saucers hovering over the houses of our neighborhood sucking our neighbors up into their ships. The session went well, but the two younger children were a little too frightened by the session; one's knees were shaking, and the other had a nightmare about it. (Honestly, I tried to keep it very cliché and non-intense, but I guess their imaginations are vivid.)

The second time we played I setup a scenario where our whole family was camping in the Rockies and the children awoke in the night to a noise. I made an effort in this second session to keep things less intense and definitely less mysterious. However, the session wandered kind of aimlessly and wasn't terribly fun.

In this latest session I decided to setup a Looney-Toons session. The children wanted Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales to be the protagonists. I set the stage by having Bugs and Speedy celebrating Bugs' birthday down in his hole. From the top of the hole they heard Elmer Fudd's voice, "Come out you wascally wabbit or I'll bwast ya out!"

At this point I asked one child, "What would you like to happen?"

She answered, "Bugs grabs Speedy and heads out the back entrance."

"OK. What does your Shadow want to happen?"

"My Shadow wants Elmer to shoot his gun and hit the cake splattering icing all in Bugs and Speedy's faces.

[We rolled one black die and one white die; the result was a higher value on the black die – Shadow gets her way.]

I described the cake splattering and asked the next child what she wants and what her shadow wants.

Child: Bugs says, "Eh, what's up Doc?" while he and Speedy lick the icing from their faces.
Shadow: Elmer starts packing dirt into the hole.

The Shadow wins the roll again and I narrate how Elmer starts stomping dirt into the hole, but falls in. He grabs his gun, points it at Bugs and says, "Say your pwayers wabbit."

Child: Bugs tries to start a "Yes"/"No" argument.
Shadow: Elmer shoots at Bugs – taking some hide.

The Shadow wins again. I remind the children that they can pay a token (we used buttons) to re-roll one of the die, but they decline. I describe how Bugs splits his ears apart as bulk of the blast passes over his head. Bugs scalp and ears have the hair knocked off leaving him bald.

In the interest of time and space I'll just give a few of the more creative alternatives the children came up with:

Speedy makes skates from the carrot slices of the splattered carrot cake to help Bugs escape from the hole.

Sylvester the cat is waiting at the top of the hole with mouth wide open, but Speedy runs through his mouth and bursts out the end of Sylvester's tail. The Shadow wanted Sylvester to clamp his mouth shut – trapping Speedy inside.

Bugs and Speedy end up with their backs to a long drop-off. Speedy attempts to use his quickness to "spin-out" on Sylvester's face – leaving him bald-faced. However, the Shadow gets her way and Speedy falls over the ledge with a lot of fur falling around him.

We were nearing the end of the session and one child wanted the falling fur to make a pile at the bottom of the cliff and spring Speedy back to the top. Speedy would light a stick of dynamite on the way up and throw it into Sylvester's mouth. The Shadow wanted Speedy to splat on the ground. Speedy was victorious, and the oldest of the children spoke for Sylvester (using appropriate lisp), "Mouse is off the menu!"

My youngest child said that she wanted Bugs to pull a carrot from his pocket and plug the end of Elmer's gun. She was successful and Elmer's gun exploded and he sat down and cried, "Why can't I evah win? I hate that wotten wabbit."

There were some other cool moments like Elmer trying to shoot Bugs, but instead blasting Sylvester's head – knocking Speedy from his mouth. Sylvester - with gun powdered face - said (lisp and spit), "Thanks, brother!"

The Takeaway:
I know the children enjoyed this session more than either of the first two. I think that the pre-defined, familiar characters made it really easy for them to imagine the positive and negative outcomes. Another benefit of the cartoons is that they weren't "afraid" of the consequences – a shotgun blast to the face? No big deal! An interesting note regarding this is that my 5 year old told me after the game that she hadn't used any of her tokens. That is a big change from the first two sessions where they felt they had to "win" every time.

They ended by telling me that next time they want to try Sponge Bob, Patrick, and Squidward. LOL!


This is great! Thanks for posting it.
--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters


Very nice AP report, thanks for sharing. I played Shadows Tuesday with my two daughters, 9 and 3 1/2. Their character sheets are gorgeous! I feel the need to scan them and post them online.

The game went well from the point of view that my 9-year old loved it, but unfortunately we couldn't keep the 3 1/2-year old interested long enough to finish our story. We started with the default situation where you're sleepign over at your uncle's, and it developed into them capturing a fairy, putting a sleep spell on their angry uncle, rummaging around in the basement in hot chase of a boggart... Lots of fun.

Glad to see that other people also play Shadows,



I forgot to have them draw the characters and their shadows.  It should be interesting to see whay Sponge Bob, Patrick, and Squidwards' shadows end up looking like.

I wonder if you'd have any luck with the 3 1/2 year old if you let her be a favorite character from a DVD series - Dora, Little Einstein, etc.  Maybe you could ask her "What would ______ want to happen next?"

I think 3 1/2 would be challenging, but the good news is that my 5 year old is very much into RPGs.  Hopefully, your 9 year old will still be excited to play in a year and a half.

When you play Shadows do you narrate a fair amount of story to build tension and then ask for player input? or do you let them make many choices with very little GM glue in between?

Finally, do you attempt to build the tension as the game goes along.  I've found that I usually bring the story to an end by saying, "OK, now we've got to bring the story to an end.  How do you want it to end?  How about your shadow?"


Drawing the character sheets and picking dice was a ton of fun for us and a big part of the game.

Yeah my 3 1/2-year old daughter, Ella, might be interested in playing a fictional character more than herself. She kept misunderstanding us and wanted to go act out things. Her older sister, Sofia (9) would say something like, "we sneak into the living room" and Ella wanted to actually go sneak into our living room. It was very cute.

This was our first play of Shadows, but hopefully not our last. I did some narration of the story, trying to build tension. I told them that their uncle was up watching NHL in the middle of the night, as he usually is (we live in Sweden so the games air very late over here). They were good at coming up with ways to get themselves in trouble though, that I could riff off of.

We never got to the end, as Ella wasn't into playing no more. All the tokens also ended up with Sofia due to bad luck with her dice, which meant that Ella would have to take the lead for a while instead of taking turns, but with her being bored we gave up the game. Sofia did ask to complete it another time though.