Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anvils and Martians

We had some friends visiting this weekend for a rebel-rousing weekend of games, books, movies, and drinks. It was a great weekend, even though my wife was too busy to fully enjoy it.

She found out two weeks ago that she needs another class in order to get her permanent teaching license...and she has to have the class completed by June. It seems that the Virginia Department of Education revised the requirements last September, but didn't tell anyone about it. After moving heaven and earth, she found a class that fulfills the requirement, but it's a graduate-level semester-long class condensed into six weeks. So she won't see the light of day for another 5 weeks. But that's another post...

After our friends left on Sunday afternoon, I decided to spend some time with our sons, to make up for them not getting much attention while all the adults were having fun. On Friday, one of them asked if we could play D&D this weekend. I went over to my gaming shelf to find something less structured than a miniatures battle game. I pulled out and dusted off my copy of Toon: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game. What a good call that turned out to be.

I cornered my youngest in the living room and asked if he wanted to play a new game. I described as a roleplaying game like D&D, but you play a CARTOON character like Bugs Bunny or the Animaniacs. Intrigued, he flipped through the rule books with me. He saw that the game is published by Steve Jackson Games, and made the connection with his favorite game, Munchkin. I thought that was a cool detail for a 7-year old to catch, and we went on from there. He settled on a cool-looking character from one of the supplements named Pook Skywriter, a light-saber wielding humanoid squirrel in search of adventure.

Just about then, his older brother, the 9-year old, wandered in to see what we were getting excited about and I hit him with my sales pitch. Here's where it gets scary. He wasn't sure until he too saw the publisher listed on the cover of the rule book. "This is made by Steve Jackson Games? Well that's all you had to tell me!" And he dived right in. If there was ever any doubt that my kids are gamers, it's gone now.

We played an adventure from the rule book where their characters are sent to the moon "to investigate some strange activities." They didn't like that the military gave their characters pink spacesuits, so they quickly found a paint-ball gun in the armory and ended up with pink suits spattered with lots of yellow and blue paint. Much happier, they continued with the adventure.

The "strange activities" turned out to be a little Martian and his dog constructing a giant ray cannon because "the Earth is obstructing my view of Venus, so I'm going to blow it up. Isn't that exciting?!" Hilarity ensued as they fought the dog, the Martian, and the Martian's clones. They saved the day when the giant ray gun exploded because one of them put a cork in the gun barrel. The problem was that their rocket got destroyed in the fight when a whale fell on it from space (hey, stuff like that happens all the time in Toon), so they commandeered the Martian's spaceship and headed home. But...

The younger son said: "This won't do any good."

I said: "What do you mean? You destroyed his cannon. Earth is safe."

Son: "But that won't matter. Another Martian will come to the moon and build another one. Earth is still blocking their view of Venus."

Me: "Do what? Oh yeah, I guess that's true." (I'd all but forgotten that detail I made up to focus their attention earlier)

Son: "Can we switch them? Can we switch the Earth and Venus so it won't block their view?"

Me: "Umm...sure! Why not?! How do you think you can do that?" (it's a cartoon game after all)

Son: "Well, we could fly close to Earth and lasso it with our rope." (rope had figured heavily in their plans to stop the Martian)

Me: (running with it) "If you make your Throw roll to lasso it, then you can use the spaceship to drag Earth over to Venus' orbit."

Other son: "And use Earth to hit Venus and knock it back into Earth's orbit!"

Son: "Exactly!"

A couple dice rolls later, the plan is executed and the Earth and Venus have switched places. But then the older son looks troubled and speaks up.

Older son: "But won't that cause a drastic increase in temperature? It'll be too hot for life to survive on Earth!" (he's in 4th grade, you know)

Me: "Nah, it's just a cartoon, remember?"

Older son: "Oh yeah. Okay!"

And that's how I spent my afternoon with my sons. Shooting ray guns, dodging thrown anvils, getting Boggled, and Falling Down. Steve Jackson, if you're listening, I owe you a big thanks. And I also wish I'd thought to pull the game out Friday night when the grown ups were playing games!

Playing on XM: Hank Williams III covering The Boss's "Atlantic City"

Reading: "Hollow Earth" by Rudy Rucker

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