The lantern held aloft in the hand of the dwarf cast its wavering yellow light on the age worn stones of the dungeon cell. It left too much of the room in deep shadows though. The thickly armored warrior eyed those shadows with hard flinty eyes. He looked to his companions—a lithe pit fighter, a bow armed elf and staff wielding human wizard. They nodded to him. He hefted his treasured runic ax and stalked into the dank dungeon cell.
The cry came from the wizard but the dwarf was already aware of the threat by the time the word flew from the mage’s lips.
A screaming rat man had burst from the shadows with a rusty, chipped sword raised high. The red eyes of the rat man were focused on the dwarf.
The stocky dwarf warrior was ready for him though. He let out his own shout of battle glee and swung his weapon. The blow was true. The rat man’s life was forfeit.
But a stern female voice pierced the gloom of the dungeon and stayed the scene.
“Wait”, it said. “Remember. You’re using the runic ax.”
The curved edge of the dwarf’s ax had stalled less than an inch from the rat man’s skin.
The rat man looked down at the weapon poised to end his life.
The lamplight gleamed on the runes on that curved edge.
The dwarf looked at them and then in a surprisingly child-like voice said, “Oh yeah! Two dice, right? A three and a five. That’s five damage, right?”
“Don’t forget your strength”, replied the woman’s voice.
“That’s a three”, said the dwarf in his far too young voice. “So….eight, eight damage!”
The ax shot back into motion, slicing into the shaven’s fur and flesh. The rat man screeched and died a bleeding death at the booted feet of stout dwarf warrior. That hearty warrior raised his ax and his lantern and snapped into a dab.
The disembodied woman’s voice sighed.
The dwarf broke his moment of dancing celebration and hurried to engage the rest of the ravening horde of rat men that had attacked his party mates.
And so, the oldest of my grandsons joined us at the gaming table, bringing his own sense of style to family game night.
Like his mother, my Generic Universal Role Playing Daughter, he started his collection of stories with Warhammerquest after some time playing more standard fare like memory games, age appropriate board games and Pokemon cards. Now though, his young life has changed. He has a Scooby Doo lunch box filled with his gaming supplies: dice bag full of colorful polyhedral dice, his copy of Monster Fluxx, one dwarf miniature and miscellaneous character sheets.
The downside for him though is that he has to read his own cards, do his own math when adding dice rolls and remember his own rules. Joining the adult game table also means playing like an adult: waiting his turn, cooperating with others, thinking ahead and being considerate even while kidding each other over bad dice rolls and questionable moves.
He has taken to all this well though, learning without realizing that he is learning, learning by applying the necessary life skills of literacy, cooperation and critical thinking while having fun and enjoying those extra game table snacks.
The little sandbagger actually pulled off a come from behind victory in a game of Zombies!!! last weekend by quietly stockpiling bullet and heart tokens and sprinting across the map to mop up the last few zombies on the helipad and flying away to safety.
His Uncle Mutt wasn’t there for that game but he heard about it at a family supper soon after. And if you want to know that story all you to do is ask my grandson. He’ll tell it to you, that or the time that his dwarf Rory caught pustulant fungosity while digging through some rotted rags in a long forgotten tomb of the Old World Mountains. He may want to tell you about exploring the giant spider infested ruins of a guard tower in the crumbling city of Budvarich. Or some other story that I may have forgotten but he has not.
He has garnered his own collection of stories since taking up the lantern from his mother and adds to them with every game session; and like the rest of us, he is more than happy to share them with anyone who will listen.