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Author Topic: [The Pool] First Time -- Family Fairy Tale  (Read 5984 times)

Posts: 4

« on: November 13, 2009, 11:11:00 PM »

I ran my first session of The Pool, this evening.  This was also my first session of any game with a large degree of player narrative control over the story and the world.  (My main game is "white box" original D&D, run "sandbox style," so it's player-driven in that the players have full control over where they go and what they do, and the story comes from that, but the DM still has complete control over what is there to be found in the first place.)  I ran the game for my family: my wife, eldest daughter (10), younger daughter (7), and youngest son (5).  My youngest son played about half the time; the other half of the time he was so excited that he had to get up and act out the story on his own.  I invited my eldest son (13) to play, but he declined (he likes playing D&D, but wasn't so sure about playing a "Fairy Tale" game, which was the setting/theme I had selected).  However, after listening to us play he started offering advice about half way through the session, and ended up creating a PC and joining in for the last part of the game.  :)

Anyway, the session was a *HUGE* hit.  I've involved the girls in other RPGs, before, but their interest has been hit-and-miss.  This time, they were totally involved.  Everyone picked up on the "narrative control" thing very quickly, and they took to it like fish to water.  (Instead of "Monologue of Victory," I just called it "Direct the Story.")  Actually, I think seeing the MOV element in action is what hooked my eldest son; like I said, he's used to D&D-style RPGs, so that was a novel element, for him.

The setting was "classic fairy tale world," and I borrowed heavily from Faery's Tale Deluxe for creating fairy PC concepts and for the introductory adventure (a spin on Jack and the Beanstalk).  However, I didn't use the FTD rules/stats/mechanics.  I considered it, but decided to go with The Pool, instead.  The PCs, which were made in this order with minimal input from me:

(My wife's PC)  Jewel is a pixie from the Misty Woods.  She is a famous jewelsmith, crafting jewelry fit for royalty. Jewel is the fairy godmother of Lily, a girl whose evil stepmother beguiled and married Lily's father.  Jewel seeks to unmask the witch and free Lily from this situation.
-  Pixie of the Misty Wood (flies, uses magic pixie dust) +1
-  Famous fairy jeweler, even known at court +2
-  Fairy godmother of Lily, a young girl +1
-  Searching for a way to unmask Lily's evil stepmother +2
Dice Pool = 5 dice

(Youngest daughter's PC)  Nicky is a pixie from the Misty Wood.  She loves puzzles and riddles, and is good at solving them.  Nicky loves animals, and is friends with Penny the Field-Mouse, who was bitten by a magical fly that made her ill.  Nicky wants to find a way to cure Penny.
-  Pixie of the Misty Wood (flies, uses magic pixie dust) +1
-  Good at solving puzzles and riddles +1
-  Looking for a way to heal her friend, Penny the Field-Mouse +2
-  Loves animals +1
Dice Pool = 8 dice

(Eldest daughter's PC)  Rosella is a brownie who lives in the Reed family cottage.  Mrs. Reed has two daughters, but their father disappeared completely two years ago.  Rosella lives with her best friend, Kelly the House-Mouse.  Rosella loves to travel and explore; she makes friends easily, and likes meeting new people.
- Brownie of the Reed Household (turns invisible, uses household magic) +2
- Wants to find out what happened to Mr. Reed +1
- Best friends with Kelly the House-Mouse +1
- Loves to meet new people and see new places +2
Dice Pool = 5 dice

(Youngest son's PC)  Bandit is a pooka who loves to take raccoon form.  He likes to climb trees and eat nuts, but loves to sneak into houses and take shiny things to play with.  A goblin named Brokenfang picks on him.  He tries to avoid goblins.
-  Pooka (change form into animals, travel magic) +1
-  Loves to sneak into houses +1
-  Loves to take shiny stuff +2
-  Favorite animal form is a racoon +1
-  Picked on by Brokenfang and tries to avoid goblins +1
Dice Pool = 7 dice

(Eldest son's PC)  Flint is a sprite with a hummingbird steed name Steelwings.  Flint is brave to the point of foolhardiness, but he inspires those around him.  His blood-brother, Javen, is held captive by the Goblin King, who demands ransom for his release.  Flint was recently captured by the giant, Burblegut.
-  Sprite with a hummingbird steed (speaks to animals, battle magic) +2
-  Brave to the point of being foolhardy +1
-  Wants to free his blood-brother from the Goblin King +1
-  Likes to make fools of giants (especially Burblegut) +1
Dice Pool = 8 dice

Play began with the PCs waking up one morning to see a giant beanstalk stretching up to the clouds.  The pixies were some distance away, but could see that the beanstalk appeared to be rising out of the nearby human village.  The brownie was close: the beanstalk was growing from the garden of a house down the street.  She recognized the house as the one where a boy named Jack lived (Jack often played with the Reed daughters).  The pooka said he didn't wake up; he wanted to sleep in.  We decided he was in racoon form, curled up asleep in a human home's attic.  The pixies started flying towards the village, but first Nicky the Pixie tried to use some pixie dust on her sick mouse friend [hoping to heal her right off the bat, I guess].  I called for a roll and let her try.  She got a success and took a bonus die, so I narrated that the pixie dust made her friend feel better, but that it would only last until the next moonrise.  The brownie watched out the window of her house, seeing people start to gather around the beanstalk.  She also saw Jack's mother rushing around frantically, looking in bushes, behind barrels, and up and down the street.

Rosella the brownie turned invisible and headed to Jack's house.  She found the door wide open, and Jack was nowhere to be found.  Rosella snuck over to listen to the humans talking.  About this time the pixies arrived.  Nicky flew into some rose bushes to hide and listen to the humans, too.  Jewel flew to the house where Lily (her fairy goddaughter) lived to check on her.  She found the roof thatch disturbed, with a small tunnel burrowed through it.  She cautiously entered the hole and discovered a racoon curled up, fast alseep and snoring gently.  She was amused to see the dreaming raccoon had donkey ears, and recognized that it was a pooka: probably Bandit.  She woke him up.  Nose twitching in embarrassment, he got rid of his donkey ears (which sometimes come out when he sleeps).  The pair snuck through the attic, looking for Lily through the cracks.  They saw her sweeping the hearth under the direction of her stepmother, who was ordering her to keep away from the windows and to stick to her chores.  Lily looked worried, and kept glancing toward the window.

Outside, the fairies listening to the humans heard Jack's mother asking if anyone had seen her son.  Onlookers asked her about the beanstalk, and she paled and almost fainted.  She said she had sent Jack to the market to sell the family cow, but he had returned after trading her for a handful of beans he said were magic.  She didn't believe him, had thrown the bean out the window into the garden, and had sent him to bed with no supper.  This morning he was gone.  She just knew he had climbed the beanstalk which must have grown from the beans.  She tried to convince some of the other villagers to help her look for him.  Everyone claimed to have other things to do, and started backing away and looking away, leaving her alone.  The fairies took that opportunity to talk to her, telling her they would help her if she would come back into her house and calm down.  She was shocked, but grasped at the offer of assistance and did as they asked.

In the meantime, Jewel flew down to Lily and whispered in her ear, asking her what was going on.  Lily told her she had seen the giant beanstalk and was worried about her friend, Jack, but that she didn't dare do anything because of her stepmother.  Jewel and Bandit decided on a plan to get Lily out of the house.  Bandit became an owl and waited for Jewel to get the front door open.  Once that was done, he flew in and knocked over the fresh pitcher of milk that Lily had milked earlier that morning, then he flew back outside.  Lily's stepmother, frightened by the sudden intrusion, slipped in the milk and was so shook up she had to go lie down.  She also angrily told Lily to clean up the milk, and to go see if she could buy or trade for some more milk.  [There were a couple of rolls involved in all this, and my wife took narrative control.]  So Lily ended up joining her fairy friends outside.  They converged on Jack's house.

With everyone together, the fairies quickly decided to follow Jack up the beanstalk.  The pooka, in owl form, carried the brownie.  The two pixies flew.  After a brief misadventure with the winds at altitude, everyone made it to the clouds at the top, where they discovered they could walk on the springy surface, and could see a giant's castle not far away.  On the way to the castle, they found Jack's jacket, the buttons popped and loose as if it had been ripped loose.  In his jacket pocket they found some string and a penknife.  They also found some giant footprints in the area.  They followed these to the castle doors, which were huge and heavy: made of stout wood. 

Nicky the Pixie flew off to look for another way into the castle.  In the meantime, the pooka turned into a dog and tried to dig a hole in the cloud-stuff, under the doors.  (This was my youngest son's idea.  I decided that sounded reasonable in a fairy tale and let him roll for it.  He succeeded.)  While Bandit was digging, Nicky looked in several windows.  In one, she saw a giantess hard a work at a spinning wheel.  In another, she found the kitchen.  A cauldron bubbled over the fire, and near it hung a cage containing a forlorn-looking Jack.  Nicky tried to get his attention by banging on the glass, but he couldn't hear her.  She found a stone, but it was too heavy for her, so she sprinkled pixie dust on it to make it lighter, then she backed up and flung it at the window.  The stone broke the glass!  The giantess came rushing into the room to see what happened.  Nicky hid, and the giantess ended up shuttering and locking the window.  [My daughter was upset at this outcome, but she bounced right back after a few minutes.]  Nicky flew back to tell the others what she had found, and got to them just as they were crawling through the hole into the castle.

Once inside, they looked for the kitchen.  They snuck past the room where the giantess was spinning and found their way to the kitchen.  One pixie flew up to make sure Jack was okay.  He was upset, but unhurt; the cage was locked.  Jack reported that the giantess had the key in her apron pocket.  Rosella the brownie used her magic to make Nicky temporarily invisible, and Nicky flew off to try and steal the key.  The fairies also added copious amounts of pepper to the soup.  About this time, the fairies noticed a dark green bottle on the hearth which was rocking back and forth: something shadowy moved inside it.  The pooka, back in raccoon form, investigated and found that the bottle contained a captive sprite!  [My eldest son's PC, joining the game at last.]  Bandit uncorked the bottle, freeing the grateful sprite.

Nicky flew into the spinning room and hovered over the apron pocket.  She could see the key, but it was large and heavy.  She used her pixie dust again, making it light as a feather, stole it and rushed back to the kitchen.  A sneezing fit distracted the giantess, and she didn't notice a thing.  [My youngest daughter was thrilled at some good rolls, and took narrative control.]

Back in the kitchen, Nicky flew up and tried to use the key to free Jack, but dropped the key in the soup. [She called for a roll, trying to earn some dice, I think, but failed this time.  She was upset, again…]  Right about this time the fairies heard a yell from the giantess, who had just discovered the key was missing.  The giantess was calling for her husband, too!

The fairies hid as the giants rushed in to make sure Jack was still in his cage.  At this point, my wife used her pixie dust to create a phony key which she place on the floor.  [She succeeded and took narrative control.]  The giants were relieved and the giantess picked up the (phony) key and put it in her pocket.  They decided to have some soup.  She ladled the soup into bowls…and the real key ended up the giant's bowl!  But just then there was a great banging on the door to the castle.  The giant, annoyed, put down his spoon and went to answer the door.  The giantess took a bite of soup and had a coughing fit from all the pepper.  When her husband returned, he said that a messenger had delivered an invitation to a costume party in just a few hours.  Everyone would be there, and they had no costumes.  The giantess said the soup was terrible, anyway, and they should hurry to come up with costumes.  Both giants left the kitchen.

The fairies immediately went after the key.  They made it light, again, and cooled it in a water glass before flying it up to open the cage.  With Jack freed, the fairies opened the shutters and the window, gave Jack the ability to fly with pixie dust, and everyone returned to the village and to Jack's house.  Jack's mother was so grateful and relieved that she granted each fairy a boon, promising to help them if they needed anything and there was anything she could do.


This session went a lot longer than I expected.  As I mentioned, everyone got very involved.  I cut from player to player frequently, which I think helped keep everyone interested, but I think I could probably do better next time.  I was surprised at how little prodding and "help" my kids needed.  It was a huge success and we'll definitely be playing this again.  Next time I'll be doing my own adventure prep, and will incorporate some more of the PCs' traits in the plot.

I didn't keep track of how many times we rolled, but I'd guess around a dozen times or so.  Almost nobody took dice: everyone wanted narrative control.  (The exception being my youngest daughter, who made several bad rolls and lost all her dice, so for all her later successes she took dice, instead.)

This was something of an experiment, for me.  I had a great time with the game, and I'm definitely interested in trying out this approach to playing with a group of adult players.

Posts: 133

« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2009, 05:17:33 AM »

What a great write-up of what sounds like a fantastic game session.

This is awesome, and sounds just like the kind of game my daughter would have loved to play in. I ran her through a Fairy scenario using Amber Dicless rules and it went well.

Interesting that your son thought it wouldn't be his style, then reversed his opinion once he got a chance to see it in action. Seems like that's a common response to "story" style games.

Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * Dresden Files RPG * Amber Diceless
Forge Member since 2004
OD&D Player since 1975

Posts: 4

« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2009, 10:34:08 AM »

What a great write-up of what sounds like a fantastic game session…This is awesome, and sounds just like the kind of game my daughter would have loved to play in. I ran her through a Fairy scenario using Amber Dicless rules and it went well.
It really did go well.  (The biggest problem wasn't anything to do with the game, itself, but some friction between my daughters when things didn't go well or when they both wanted to do very similar things at the same time.  But we resolved that.)  This morning the kids were still talking about the session, and showing me pictures they drew of the action. 

Interesting that your son thought it wouldn't be his style, then reversed his opinion once he got a chance to see it in action. Seems like that's a common response to "story" style games.
I got a chuckle out of it.  We all enjoy playing family games, and he loves RPGs, so I was disappointed that he turned down the game, despite several invitations.  I don't think it was so much the idea of a "story" game that turned him off, I think it was the "fairy" theme.  But after seeing how this particular game worked, it was definitely the "storytelling" aspect that reeled him in.

I'm reading up on the variants to The Pool rules, and I'm a big rules tweaker, but things went so well that I'm not sure that I need to change anything.  I'm going to resist the temptation for a few more sessions, to see if things continue to go well or if I see places where rules tweaks would work well, for us.

Posts: 4

« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2009, 01:35:01 PM »

I'm considering the trait bonuses.  At first blush, I thought that a higher bonus equates to being better at conflicts involving those traits, but that's not necessarily the case.  A single +1 is sufficient: the player can always add dice from his pool.  A trait above +1 isn't so much about being better during the conflict, it's more about less risk of losing pool dice during the conflict.  (That is, a +1 trait will give you 1 die you don't have to risk plus pool dice you do have to risk; a +2 trait will give you 2 dice you don't have to risk plus pool dice you do have to risk.)

I think I'll point this out to players (although it will go over the heads of my younger children -- I think I'll just suggest that they just use +1 traits and show them it will give them larger pools, which they'll like).
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