…With my daughter.
…With her playing as my daughter.
…using a character with easily-compelled "I can take care of myself!" aspect.
Life imitates art imitates life imitates game session.
We picked up the action from Session Two the following day. Hooray for weekends and little brother’s naptime.
Matthew Cuthbert drives a beautifully preserved old pickup that purrs down the highway like a sleeping lion. Inside the cab of the pickup, the old man and young girl are quiet: Matthew seems a bit uncomfortable with small talk, now that he’s on his own, and the Nataly has always been comfortable entertaining herself — she pulls out several of her comic books once it’s clear Matthew isn’t going to spend the drive quizzing her, and dives in.
After a half-hour or so, he clears his throat and asks what she’s reading.
“Just… my comic books,” she says, looking at the covers as though she wasn’t sure the covers matched the contents.
“Ahh, I see…” he mulls that over. “Which, ah… which ones are those about?”
She shrugs. “Superman. Captain Spectacular. The Clue. War Witch. The Inspectre.”
“Well, now…” he says, smiling a bit, “I’ve even heard of some of those.” He frowns. “You know… it’s a puzzle. There’re superheroes out there, and there’s superhero comics, but a lot of the comics you mentioned are made-up people, instead of the real ones. I wonder why that is.”
[Note: I had not talked this idea over with Kaylee beforehand — we were just roleplaying through the car ride and I lobbed this at her to see what she’d do.]
Nataly considered for a few seconds, then shrugged. “People read the comics to have fun. If they read something that happened to a real superhero, that’s just… news. Nobody likes news.”
Matthew pondered that, then nodded. “I reckon that’s so.”
[The next day, I asked Kaylee which of the superheroes she mentioned were ‘real’ and which were ‘just comics’ in Nataly’s version of the world. The answer she gave told me that we’re in somewhere in the DC multiverse (I’ll call it Earth-23), albeit with a few unfamiliar names in the headlines. I suspect this is at least partly because she’d rather Nataly meet Robin than read about him.]
The drive was a long one — her new home wasn’t anywhere near Clearwater Campus, and Nataly wondered how her new family had even heard of it, let alone her. She asked about her new home, but Matthew didn’t know much.
“We just moved in a few days ago,” he said. “Marilla – my sister – picked it out, while I was coming to get you. Have you ever lived on a farm?”
Nataly shook her head.
“Me neither,” he confided. “I guess we’ll all figure it out together.”
“What did you do before you moved?” Nataly asked.
“Well, now…” he thought it over. “I suppose we were just… looking around for the right thing.”
Nataly dozed for awhile, and Matthew woke her when they got close to their destination.
“Now, Marilla is… really excited to meet you,” he said, “but she gets stern when she’s nervous, so don’t hold her first impression against her. She warms up over time.”
Nataly nodded. A veteran of uncounted “family interviews”, she had no fear of meeting new people.
The farm house looked as though it hadn’t been lived in for quite awhile. It was nice, just a bit run-down.
“We’ll have lots to work on,” thought Nataly.
A woman about Matthew’s age was waiting in the yard, and Nataly got out and walked over right away to shake her hand.
“So,” said Marilla, “you’re the girl.” She tried on a smile, though it didn’t look especially comfortable. “Good.”
Marilla and Matthew give Nataly a tour of the rambling old farmhouse, and she’s encouraged to unpack, but that really doesn’t take very long. The two suggest she ‘do a bit of exploring around the place’, which she does, though she purposely does not do any experimentation with her bracelet at this time, her reluctance explained as a desire to have at least one day go by at the farm with nothing going wrong. Supper and bedtime are pleasantly uneventful, and Nataly dozes off while (re)reading comic books.
The next morning, after helping with breakfast, Nataly is directed back outside for more ‘exploring’, and her own meandering and boredom eventually get the best of her and lead her to more messing around with her bracelet. This goes quite a bit better than the previous morning’s misadventure with Kendra, and after a few hours she finds she’s able to fly reliably and even get up a kind of ‘force bubble’ semi-reliably — it seems to be more of a flinch reaction when she’s about to smash into something hard.
She’s surprised to realize that flying is hard work: something that leaves her quite as winded as she would be from a long run or a series of sprints — it’ll be in her best interests to continue to ‘exercise’ her new abilities.
She returns to the house at lunchtime, washes up, helps lay food out, eats enough for three grown adults, chattering the whole time, and then actually falls asleep sitting in her chair. Matthew carries her up to her room and she naps for almost three hours, then helps her new family unpack and organize the house. Marilla doesn’t think much of her comic books, but does have a surprisingly broad selection of science fiction novels that Nataly has never heard of and which Marilla seems eager for the girl to read.
Nataly wakes in the middle of the night unsure what’s jolted her from sleep, but doesn’t have to wait long — the strange skittering across both the roof of the house and the floor of her room answers that question quickly enough.
She’s still trying to decide if she should go and explore or call for someone when a large, clicking, metallic spider-creature-thing jumps onto the foot of her bed.
Nataly, never a big fan of spiders in general, much less big robo-spiders the size of dobermans, lets out a shriek, shoves at the thing and… blasts it back off her bed and right through the wall, leaving a gaping hole between her room and Marilla’s.
There’s a moment of stunned silence, then Nataly shouts:
Just as Marilla shouts:
“Matthew! They’re here!”
“Who’s here?” Nataly hollers, and jumps out of bed.
“Get downstairs!” is her only reply, and she does so, stopping only long enough to grab her backpack.
The outside of the house is crawling with spiderbots.
Metal Shell, Spindly Legs
+2 to Creepy Spider Stuff
-2 to everything else.
No stress boxes.
Four of the ‘bots leap down, a silvery web spread out between them like a net. Nataly throws a force field up that’s too big for the web to surround, the spiders themselves hit it and bounce away. Matthew tries to grab one and smash it, but it crawls up/wraps around his arm and grapples with him.
Marilla emerges from the house carrying a bag that would intimidate Mary Poppins and snaps at Nataly to get to the barn, but the girl isn’t going to leave her new friends… family. Whatever. She drops her own force field and creates shields around Marilla and Matthew instead, which give them more than enough of an edge against the spiders to do some damage. Matthew peels his loose and smashes it against a second one, destroying both, while Marilla’s arm seems to… fold apart, revealing a very large gun barrel that spews bright blasts of energy that make short work of several spiders (though they also damage the house and start several small fires).
Matthew, at least, is willing to listen to Marilla, and heads to the barn to get his pickup out so they can get away.
Nataly’s a bit traumatized by her brand new home being on fire, but Marilla’s grim determination helps her stay focused. Marilla’s unexpected offensive has the spiderbots reeling. [Rather than going for damage, she created an Advantage for Nataly to exploit, and the dice were very kind, giving Nataly two free +2 aspect invocation bonuses to use against the enemy.]
Nataly takes advantage of Marilla ‘grouping’ the stunned spiderbots into several large clusters and tries to repeat the trick she did to the bot that jumped on her bed, hurling several ‘balls’ of force energy at the clusters of spiders.
[[Between the two free invokes, the +2 bonus she gets from one of her stunts, Kaylee’s insistence on using a Fate Point to invoke her ‘bracelet’ aspect, a good dice roll on her part and a bad dice roll on my part, she ended up with something like fourteen (!) shifts worth of damage to dole out amongst the ‘bots. Not enough to take them all out, but more than enough to cut their numbers by half and give her and her family plenty of time to drive away.]]
It’s quiet in the cab of the truck. Nataly is looking out the back window at her first real home, burning, dwindling in the distance.
“Well…” Matthew finally says. “I’d guess you did a bit of something or other with your bracelet today?”
Nataly doesn’t know what to say, or how he knew, so she simply nods. He nods in return, glancing at Marilla, who’s mouth gets tight.
“It’s our own fault,” she says, “this foolishness about living out in the country. There’s no other anomalous energy signatures out here — anything the girl does will stand out like a spotlight.” She shakes her head.
“I’m sorry,” Nataly’s voice is small, sure that this is all her fault.
“Oh, girl, don’t be silly. We should have known better.”
“I could… just…” she swallows “…not use the bracelet?”
“Well, now…” Matthew drawls. “That won’t do, I don’t think.” (Which is a great relief to Nataly.)
“No it will not,” Marilla agrees, primly. “The problem is being out here in the open.” She considers. “What a body needs is camouflage — the more strange things going on around us, the less likely anyone’s going to notice the girl.” She looks at Matthew.
“City it is, then,” he replies, and spares a smile for Nataly. “Best you get some sleep. It’s a long drive to Mercury Bay.”
I didn’t get a chance to really see it, though. Kaylee snapped it up (and the accompanying bookmark+rules summary).
Then she tried to talk me into running another session before bed.
Nataly wakes up in her room at the Clearwater Campus, her head foggy and filled with that nagging feeling you get when you can’t remember a dream you’re sure you really want to remember. Something about flying?…
[Amusing note: Kaylee has never felt, so far as she knows, that “can’t quite remember a dream” or the “I can’t remember what I was going to tell you” sensation, so explaining what Nataly’s head felt like took a lot longer than expected, and wandered off into an interesting discussion about memory.]
Nataly frowns at the ceiling, trying to remember why she feels so odd (and why she’s laying on top of the covers, fully dressed) when there’s a knock on the door. Nataly hops up to answer it, and notices the bracelet on her wrist. Her adventure from the night before comes back all at once – at least up to the part where she found her treasures box and opened it. She hides the bracelet in her bedclothes and opens the door.
It’s Kendra, literally hopping up and down with impatience. She slips inside as soon as the door opens more than a crack. The girls exchange notes, with Kendra doing most of the back-filling. Nataly put the bracelet on, started glowing and floating, and didn’t answer Kendra at all. The guard was patrolling past Mrs. McHevy’s desk, so Kendra closed the storage room all the way and doused Nataly’s glow by throwing a quilt from one of her treasures boxes over her — pretty good ghost costume, apparently.
Once the guard had moved on, Kendra tried to wake Nataly up, then gave that up and just pulled her through the air back to her room, “like a big party balloon.” She’d moved Nataly over her bed and, with nothing else to try, left her there.
Nataly finds this whole idea of floating very interesting. She retrieves the bracelet from her bed, slips it on, and tries jumping off the bed as high as she can and flying. No joy. A few more attempts (with Kendra providing commentary and suggestions) do not improve the situation.
There’s another knock on the door. Kids aren’t supposed to have anyone but them in their rooms, so Nataly hides both Kendra and the bracelet under the bed, and answers the door.
It’s Mrs. McHevy, who first asks if she heard “someone” jumping on “someone’s” bed, which is strictly against the rules. Nataly looks hangdog, but Mrs. McHevy can’t keep her stern expression on, because she’s excited: it seems a new adoptive parent just showed up at the Campus, just this morning, with all paperwork in order and asking specifically for Nataly! Interviews are normally on Saturdays, never on Sundays, but with this parent’s fine references – really quite remarkable references – exceptions were made, and Nataly should really get dressed up right now to go meet him.
Him? Why yes. His name is Mr. Cuthbert, and he’s filled out adoption (not foster, adoption!) papers on behalf of himself and his sister. A bit of an unorthodox family arrangement for an adoptive family, but their references were very good. Now get dressed!
Nataly moves quickly, just to get Mrs. McHevy out of the room before she notices Kendra, and they go to meet Mr. Cuthbert, who is waiting with the Principle.
Mr. Cuthbert, who insists (well, quietly and politely requests) that Nataly call him Matthew, seems like a very nice man — a bit older than people in most interviews, but still not old old. He doesn’t seem put off at all at Nataly’s rather hesitant answers during their chat, and they agree that Nataly should go pack and “take some time to say goodbye to all your friends.”
Nataly rushed back to her room to tell Kendra the news, but Kendra isn’t there, and neither is the bracelet!
Nataly rushes around, looking for Kendra, but finds Jolene instead, who first snarks about not seeing “your so called friend” and then shows shocked disbelief that Nataly is being adopted, before her, and not even on a Saturday.
Nataly finds a quiet spot to try to think through the problem. (Time to roll Clever.) She thinks of Kendra giving her frustrated instructions on how try to fly, and thinks her friend probably went to try it herself. She thinks of places she would go to do that, and checked the gym and playground before rushing to the roof, through a door that Kendra herself had once showed her didn’t lock properly.
Sure enough, there’s Kendra, on the edge of the room, trying to screw up her courage to the point where she’s ready to jump off a four-story building. Nataly tries to get her to come down, but Kendra is determined, and prepares to jump. Nataly rushes to her and manages to grab her arm before she goes over. She grabs her by the wrist/bracelet, and in her struggle to pull her friend back from the fall, the two shoot up into the air.
Nataly knows several moments of stunned wonder as she soars out over the lawns around the campus… and then she and her friend start falling in a long arc.
Nataly tries to (Carefully) think about what she had been trying to do when she flew off into the sky, but she can’t (too many distractions from her friend screaming and clawing at her arms). The ground rushes at them, Nataly flinches —
And they bounce, the two of them inside some kind of bubble force field. One massive bounce takes them into the woods, where they ricochet off the trees like a pinball until the bubble ‘bursts’ and they crash into a big bush.
[Another weird disconnect: Kaylee has no idea what a pinball machine is. This must be rectified.]
The girls limp home (Kendra ended up with a very tender ankle), and Nataly arrives back at her room grass-stained, scuffed, dirty, with twigs and leaves caught in her hair.
The principle and Matthew Cuthbert are waiting. The principle actually facepalms, expecting the Trouble Magnet to ruin her best chance at adoption.
Nataly sheepishly explains she was “just saying goodbye to my friend.”
Matthew looks the girl over, his eyes lingering for more than a few seconds on her bracelet, and says “Well, now, it seems the best thing for you is lots of open space and room to explore.” He turns to the surprised principle. “If everything’s all square with you, Nataly and I should probably be going.”
Observations: The game is going well! The only real challenge is the fact that Kaylee really likes to grab narration and just say whether various things are successful or not, or what others-besides-nataly are doing/saying/thinking. I’m generally fine with the input on setting and color stuff, because it tells me what kind of story she’s interested in, but I did remind her that (a) I’m playing too, and pretty much all I get to do is make stuff up, so she should try to leave something for me to do 🙂 and (b) when there’s some kind of conflict, the dice decide whether something works, not us. This second point was much easier for her to get when I compared it to the MMOs we play together (Wizard or Pirate 101, frex) where she decides what she’s going to do, but the game decides if it works.
It’s Saturday afternoon, just after lunch, and Nataly Smith is lying on the bed in her small room at Clearwater Campus (a combination orphanage and elementary) reading one of the few donated comic books she hasn’t worn the covers off of already. Her eyes are wide, drinking in the four-color heroics — she’s a million miles away.
She’s also late.
A loud knocking jolts her upright, and the door opens before she can answer. Mrs. McIntyre, Principle’s Assistant, bustles in, demanding to know why Nataly isn’t dressed for her interview yet — why she isn’t in fact at her interview, as the appointment was scheduled to start five minutes ago. It seems the girl forgot that she was supposed to meet with a potential foster parent today, and she rushes around under Mrs. McIntyre’s frazzled glare, pulling on her best jumper (“just a little bit frayed along the hem”) and rushing out the door.
Another child might have rushed into the classroom where Principle Sanchez was waiting, or lurked outside, trying to eavesdrop on his conversation with the potential foster parent, but Nataly simply knocked and waited. The principle called her in, and she — a veteran of many, many interviews, walked quietly over to the heavyset older woman sitting primly in an undersized chair and came to a sort of schoolyard-grade attention, hands clasped behind her.
The woman was not impressed.
“Skinny little thing,” she said through pinched lips. “And I thought you said she was older. I need a strong, reliable girl.”
Principle Sanchez’s mouth twitched. “Nataly is one of the oldest girls currently living on-campus. I believe she’s ten.” He stroked his mustache. “In any case, while our girls have a fine sense of responsibility, we don’t normally rate them by their lifting capacity.”
The older woman gave him a sharp look, but his expression made it impossible to take offense. “You know I take care of anyone I foster, Mister Sanchez.” She turned back to Nataly. “Ten, then?”
Nataly nodded. “Yes…” She waited, then. “Ma’am.”
The woman sniffed. “You seem pleasant enough for some barren little suburban couple to’ve snapped you up — how is it you’re still here?”
“I… haven’t been very lucky,” Nataly said, eyes downcast. Which was true, though it didn’t really tell the whole story. Nataly had been taken home with – literally – dozens of families on a trial basis, but something always went wrong.
The woman seemed to sense the evasion. “Not lucky?” Her eyes narrowed. “Are you some kind of trouble maker?”
No, I’m a trouble magnet. Nataly thought — a phrase she’d heard the principle, Mrs. McIntyre, and most of her teachers use at one time or another — but she clamped her jaw shut to keep from saying it out loud.
The woman scowled. “Well? Speak up? Are you a trouble maker?” The principle started to say something, but she held up her hand to him, palm out. “I want to hear what the girl has to say.”
But Nataly froze. Trouble magnet echoed around her head, driving out any other possible reply she could have come up with and, knowing she couldn’t say that, she said nothing.
The silence dragged on, until the woman sniffed, sat back, and shook her head. “No.”
Principle Sanchez cleared his throat. “Perhaps –”
“No,” she snapped. “Two minutes into the conversation, and she’s already gone obstinate and locked her heels? I won’t have it. I’m too old and there are plenty of other girls.” She nodded her chin at Nataly. “You can go, girl, and good luck finding a family that will put up with a little bullheaded creature like you.”
Nataly’s lower lip moved just a bit, but she locked that down as well, managed a brief, automatic curtsy, and walked back the way she’d come.
It hardly surprised her anymore, when an interview went poorly. But it still hurt.
A hour later, Nataly was still sitting on the bed in her good jumper. She’d tried moping for a while, but she couldn’t really get her heart into it, and her eyes had fallen on the comic book she’d left behind. She was just picking it up when a shadow darkened her doorway.
It was Jolene.
“I just wanted to stop by,” said Jolene “and tell you how sorry I am that your interview foster parent thought you were terrible.”
Nataly glared. “That isn’t what happened.”
Jolene, only nine, raised an eyebrow in a way you normally only saw on bored adults. “Well, she didn’t take you home, did she? Something went wrong.” She tipped her head. “But something always does go wrong with you, doesn’t it?”
“Away?” Jolene frowned. “But I’m in the hallway, not your room. There’s no rules against being in the hallway.”
“What. Do you want?”
“I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am,” replied Jolene. “I mean, I’m moving in with a real adoptive family next week, and you can’t even find a foster family to take you. I feel terrible.” She sighed. “At this rate, you’ll be eighteen and kicked out of here as completely hopeless before you even see your treasures box.”
“I won’t –” Nataly’s eyes narrowed. “Treasure box?”
“Treasures box.” Jolene’s eyes lit up, sensing a new weak spot. “Oh, I suppose you don’t know about those, since you came here as a little abandoned baby no one wanted. It’s the box where they put all the valuables you had when you came here, that you might lose.” She tilted your head. “Then again, since came here as an unwanted baby, you probably don’t even have –”
Nataly slammed the door.
“I’m never going to get adopted,” Nataly pushed at her food with a fork, her chin resting on her fist. “Everyone says I’m too skinny.”
Kendra, her one friend at Clearwater, gave her look. “Is that why you punched Jolene?”
Nataly’s head snapped up in surprise. “What? I didn’t punch her. I just slammed the door in her face.”
“Oh.” Kendra glanced across the cafeteria at a distance table full of giggling girls. “That’s too bad. She needs a good smack.”
Nataly grinned, but thinking of Jolene reminded her of something else. “She said something about a Treasures Box. Was she making that up or –”
“Nope, we all have those — all the stuff they don’t trust kids with.” She squinted into the middle distance. “Mine’s actually three boxes I think, and a key for a storage garage — all the stuff my grams left behind when she died, I think. They keep em all in a big storage room behind Mrs. McIntyre’s desk.” She looked at Nataly. “You didn’t know?”
“I never get to help in the office,” Nataly said. “And I’ve always been here. I probably don’t even have a box.”
“I bet you do,” Kendra said. Then she got the smile that was why she and Nataly had always been friend. “In fact…”
Nataly caught the grin and felt it spread to her own lips. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Fifteen minutes after lights out, Kendra knocked on Nataly’s door, and the two of them scurried through the campus, eyes peeled for the security guard that walked the hallways at night, tapping his stick on the radiators. Kendra claimed to know his wandering pattern, and she must have been right, because the girls didn’t see him all the way to the storage room door in the hallway behind Mrs. McIntyre’s desk.
The door was locked.
“How…” Nataly stared at the handle. “Can you pick locks?”
“No.” Kendra shook her head as through Nataly had just asked if she could breathe water. “Who knows how to pick locks?”
“Lots of people,” Nataly said.
“Lots of people in comic books, maybe,” Kendra muttered. “We need the key.”
“Well who –” Nataly’s eyes widened. “The janitor! He’s got every key to the whole building!”
“But they’re either in his closet, which is locked,” Kendra said, “or he took them home.”
“Maybe…” Nataly shook her head, thinking, but Kendra grinned and snuck back toward Mrs. McIntyre’s desk. “What are you doing?!?”
“I bet she’s got the keys in her desk.”
Nataly hurried after. “That’s private!”
Kendra stared back at her. “We’re breaking into a whole private room.”
She had a good point. Nataly joined the search, and found a ring of keys in a coffee cup full of loose change. Nataly went back to the door and started trying keys when Kendra stopped her.
“I just heard the security man hit a radiator!” she whispered.
The girls rushed back to Mrs. McIntyre’s desk and hid underneath. The guard walked slowly up and actually SAT on the desk for awhile, muttering to himself, sniffing loudly, clearing his throat, and generally just taking a load off in that way people who think they’re alone do. He even farted a couple times, but the girls bit their lips and stayed silent — probably the greatest test of their will in their short lives.
Finally, he stood up and wandered off. The girls hurried back and kept trying keys until the door opened and they slipped inside.
Only then did the giggles take them.
There were a lot of shelves and a LOT of boxes. It didn’t take Nataly long to figure out how they were organized, but when she went to where her box should be, there was nothing there, so she was forced to go shelf by shelf, reading each box label, one at a time. They did find Kendra’s boxes (there were four), at which point Nataly had to search by herself while Kendra went through them, holding up one small treasure after another.
Finally, Nataly came to a pile of boxes near the back of the room, each one labeled with names she didn’t recognize. She started moving them to the side and spotted hers near the bottom of the stack.
“Nataly,” Kendra hissed. “I think he’s coming back!”
Nataly kept moving boxes, finally pulling out hers — no bigger than a shoebox, dusty, and taped shut.
The young girl pulled at the tape, barely hearing her friend. Something inside the box had shifted and thumped when she’d picked it up. She did have a treasure!
“Nataly, he’s coming!”
The tape came away, the lid flipped to the side, and Nataly stared down at… a bracelet. A beautiful silver bracelet set with blue gems each the size of her thumbnail.
Hers. She knew it, somewhere deep inside. Always meant to be hers. She put it on.
“Nataly!” Kendra whispered as loudly as she could. “We need to–” She turned away from the door, and her eyes went wide. “…Nataly?”
Nataly floated in mid-air, arms hanging at her side, eyes wide open and glowing – glowing – blue.
And that’s where we stopped. (Amidst cries of “Wait!” “No!” and “Really, Daddy? Really?!?”)
Can’t wait to play again.
So my daughter’s back from grandparent camp, she’s been briefed on the Fate dice mechanic, and we’ve been talking about games to play. Tinkerbell has been mentioned. Also: pirates, wizards, ninjas, Mouse Guard, and Skylanders. (This conversation went on for a couple days on car rides.) We finally settle on superheroes for the first game of the summer, mostly because that’s the topic she kept asking to go back to, once it came up.
I steered things away from game-talk for awhile and asked the classic “if you could have any super power…” question. Good discussion. She hits me with “force fields” as an answer, which I thought was interesting and unexpected. We talk some about what being able to make force fields would let her do, and she comes up with the obvious protective benefits, plus making little “force field balls” to throw at people, and “it would be cool if, like, I could go invisible because of the force field, if I wanted.”
To my knowledge, she’s never heard of the Fantastic Four. 🙂 She does have some unexpected DC Universe knowledge, because her friend is a Teen Titans fangirl. So while munching dinner tonight, I give her a list of the six FAE approaches and we talk about them in terms of which you’d want to use for different types of gymnastics, or bowling, or soccer, or math homework; all of this is just so I know we’re clear on what they each do.Then I ask her to rank them with a 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 0 scheme for her force field girl. She goes for Forceful, Sneaky, and Clever for the top three. “I’m really not very careful”, she opines.
Dinner’s over, and we sit down and talk about aspects. I give her an example of an Aspect, and she says “oh, they just describe something”, and I allow that that’s true, except they usually have an upside and downside, so they’re more interesting, and we start working out her girl’s backstory and from that what the Aspects would be.
The result: an orphaned alien princess, hiding on Earth in an orphanage. She never finds a good family, because trouble always seems to find her and mess things up. She’s in fifth grade now, but appeared on earth when she was a baby. Her powers mostly come from a Sky Sapphire Bracelet (her: “Because I don’t want it to be like the Green Lantern ring.”), although she knows she CAN fly without the bracelet, which makes GM-me suspect that the bracelet is more of a focus than the source of power.
Finally, we get to the sheet. I filled out the first Aspect, just so it would fit in the box, and I wrote out the first Stunt, but after that she figured out the rubric and wrote out the second two stunts on her own.
“I can fly,” she says, “but I’m not good enough to get a bonus. I’m so-so.” I feel like she understands Stunts.
End result: sort of a Superman/Green Lantern/Invisible Girl/Megan Morse thing. Pretty cool.
I’m looking forward to playing. So is she, though she doesn’t think we’re ready until she’s written out a proper description and done a drawing.
The sheet so far.
I know I said I was going to write my next post about games that use “pushing” and “sacrifice” a big part of getting what you want, but not yet. Today I’m going to talk real quickly about Wizard101.
This game has been on my radar pretty much since it came out in 2008, and I’ve poked at it a very little bit before, but my experience with it can pretty much be boiled down to “I know some people who play it” and “I put it on my nephew’s laptop, and he really likes it.”
That was, until yesterday.
Yesterday morning, Kaylee and I were thumping around the house, looking out at the rainy day, and I figured “eh, why not?” So I downloaded the Wizard101 install and set it in motion.
(I guess I should stop here and explain that Wizard101 is a charming, free-to-play, multiplayer online game in which you play a young apprentice wizard in a magical school in Wizard City. Combat is turn-based, and you cast spells based on the cards in your deck, most of which summon magical critters to fight for you (there’s some generic wand-shooting cards too). On the whole, it’s sort of combination of early Harry Potter, Pokemon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and the old, much-loved PS2 game, Legend of Legaia.)
Kaylee’s been riding along with me while I play MMOs since… oh, I dunno. Infancy, let’s say. She listened to the sound of City of Heroes in the womb. She’s been providing input on the games for the last couple years, and on several occasions I’ve logged a higher-level guy into Lord of the Rings and let her ride my horse around the Shire where she can’t get into any real difficulty.
Anyway, we got set up and made up her girl. (An ingenious process where you answer some personal questions and the game suggests a good match for you from the various schools — it’s not wholly unlike those online quizzes where you can find out if you’re be Slytherin or Ravenclaw.) We ran around a bit, with her doing about half of the steering and most of the combat and stuff like that. We got up to level 2. There was some celebrating.
Then Kaylee and Kate took off for a couple hours and I was left looking at this shiny, colorful game. Sooo shiny.
So I made up an account for myself and, because I’m a big fucking pushover for my daughter, poked around in the “real money” online store and bought both of us a very small cushion of in-game currency to buy cool stuff.
By the time the girls got home, “Dylan Bearheart” was level 5 and had a pet magma spider named Mister Dexter, and Kaylee’s “Melissa Tale” was waiting for her with a collie-sized baby unicorn pet named Sassy… and a pony to ride around on.
Yeah, I bought my daughter a pony. Sue me.
After lunch and a nap, Kaylee pretty much hit the ground at full-speed “I want to play my girl again pleeeeease?” mode. I had anticipated this, and had installed the game on her clunky old laptop. She sat down with a grin and got going.
I watched for a bit. I gave her a few pointers. I reminded her to just go where the Big Yellow Quest Arrow was telling her to go. And then, because I couldn’t take it anymore, I logged in my guy, got us into the same ‘world instance’ of the game (Wu, in case anyone’s curious), made “friends” and teamed up with her to help her with her quests.
We fought ghosts and skeletons and dark fairies turned evil through the power of necromancy. We did some victory dances. I kept the bigger critters busy while she healed us both.
We teamed up on an MMO.
Those of you who don’t know me super well will probably be like “huh, that’s cool”. Those of you who know me a little better will guess how cool this was for me.
Those of you who’ve known me since I played on The Forest’s Edge MUD back in college… you know. Yeah.
We didn’t play for too long before “follow where the arrow tells you” got to be too much to deal with and we packed the laptop up for the day, but it was a good time. A really good time.
Before I’m accused of painting my daughter as some kind of genius, I want to make it clear that there’s a LOT of stuff she doesn’t get about the game. The storyline is, at best, sort of a rough sketch in her head. Obviously, she’s not reading the chat windows or the quest dialogue — she’s only reading the short words at this point, and all out of order. But the combat system she TOTALLY GETS. And she can steer around and follow the quest arrows.
And (I say with a big dopey grin) she loves playing alongside her daddy. It was a pretty good day.
 – Ingenious little direction-to-your-goal indicator that doesn’t just point as-the-crow-flies, but steers through through doors and around buildings and the like. Genius. All MMO quest guiders should work that well.)
 – Not just for that reason — there was a podcast interview and playtime down at the Y with Kate, and a trip to “Old McDonalds” and a photo shoot with Kate — but I’m being honest: the highlight of the day was my daughter shouting “Let’s get that dark fairy queen, Daddy! We can DO it!”