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Good Night, Knights

Posted August 3rd, 2017 at 01:46 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus
For some reason I have avoided writing about this. i usually write about the medieval fighting camp we have in July. I was even excited for this one.

My eldest son had taken a job far away for the summer. He came back early, unexpectedly, and full of ideas about new things we could do.

We have a quest every afternoon- the pages and squires hunt creepy enemies in the big old building. It can be terrifying. But I’d always wanted to add something else- personal quests, I called them in my mind. I dreamt of one person struggling against the unknown, solving puzzles, fighting monsters.

My sons and I brainstormed a little and then I sat down to plan. Brainstorming is fine but really it’s just pie in the sky until you figure out exactly what you need and how you’re going to do it.

I dreamt up four big boss fights- a dragon, an etin, a tomb of undead, and a ghost. There would be five pieces, sort of mini-quests that you had to complete to get to the boss fight. At least that was my starting plan.

I began to design the mini quests. I wanted them to relate specifically to things we were doing. We do a little first aid class, so I wanted some of these mini quests to require the application of information from the class. We do a talk on meeting stray aggressive dogs, so i planned a conflict against dogmen. If the pages were smart, they’d use the non-aggressive tactics from the class to get what they needed from the dogmen. Or maybe they’d try to overpower their enemies. There would be weapons.

It evolved to the point where a dragon quester found a sash, and that meant he or she qualified for the special quest. Instead of just one person, we made many sashes available and the pages picked whomever they wished.

That was different for us- one of our aims has always been to dismantle natural leadership situations and instead empower everyone. This was the first time we were going to let them chose participants on their own.

We had a dozen this year, and 11 of them were repeaters. The twelfth came from a neighbour group- when the camp is down these kids don’t lay down their swords. They fight at home, every day. I know of at least two neighbourhood groups and this twelfth paged had been trained by one of them.

So it turned out to be good that I’d prepared the dragon quests, because these pages had already been through all of our usual activities. Some had been six times.

I told them about the dragon quest on the first day. I didn’t know how it was going to go, or how far we were going to get. They found the first sash easily enough, but they were afraid of it. No one wanted to accept the quest. Finally a clever fellow named Excalibur took it.

The first mini quest was a puzzle. They received no instructions. Accordingly, they did nothing. We sat in a room and looked at a bunch of Lego bricks on the floor. The task was simple- pick up the bricks and assemble them into a tiny tower identical to the one in the center of the room. It was timed. No one moved.

I don’t blame them. They’d learned to expect anything. Was someone with a weapon going to jump out at them? It was just the first one. They did better in the next, and the next. They were all simple puzzles. They succeeded- there were some clever kids in attendance- and received more sashes as rewards.

I am sad to say that the next mini quest involved a puzzle which was actually a distraction from the poison gas scenario that we had talked about in First Aid. The questers ignored the people as they fell unconscious and were ruled to have died themselves. I felt like quite the meany as the turned their sashes in. The fact that they did it voluntarily made it worse. I recognized the held in tears in those glassy eyes.

We did not get to the dragon boss on the first day. That night at home I pared it down to just two bosses. But even that was too many. Throughout the week they struggled and died in their quests and we never even got to the dragon. On the last day they sat in our keep and I had them look out the door as the squires in dragon costumes danced by.

These pages were all experienced and knew how to fight. Combat is more than just waving a sword; it’s looking for openings, knowing how to exploit them and know when to turn tail and run. Our afternoon quests were easily resolved- they knew how to beat opponents. I fought in one of them and they quickly cornered me. None would risk my sword though- and then they all came in at once, aiming low. They’re much shorter than I am. My lower legs are definitely one of my weak points. They killed me quickly.

A highlight was the similar men mini-quest. The questers- seven of them – were faced with two men standing, just standing, in an alley. There were swords on the ground. The questers were unarmed. The two standing men had more questers sashes with them. The similar men were imitators- whatever you did to them, they did back. If they’d given them gifts- stones or sticks- they’d have given up the questors sashes. But the pages couldn’t decide. An exchange was suggested three times, but they wouldn’t try it. And then two of the pages made a quick grab for the swords. The men moved even faster and killed them both. The other pages retreated. It was harsh.

This all sounds very interesting I suppose, but for some reason my heart was not in it. I struggled each day. There was a kid with anger issues, the same one as last year but he was better behaved. I only tore his head off once. I didn’t enjoy that. I had to set the boundary. Each day I regretted doing the camp. I don’t want to do it anymore.

I thought I could handle it. In the beginning I did it because my kids were into it. Then I did it for the money. Then I did it for the kids who were so passionate about it. I couldn’t find any of these things this time.

There were some good times. Our lunch time capture the flag fights changed as we introduced new weapons. Lifting a little guy named Voldemort up on to the roof so he could retrieve his misthrown spear was a highlight. At that moment we were so united, so on top of the world.

Every day I swore it was the last one and struggled through to the end.

Of course they were all sad that the week was done. They always are. One mother came and told me how much it meant to her son. “He thrives here,” she said. “He doesn’t do well in school, but he’s crazy about this program. He can’t wait for next year.” Her son is one of our superstars.

A couple of other pages were obsessed with puzzles and this had been their dream come true.

Maybe I need a year off or maybe this is the last one. This was the thirteenth. It’s stunning to see all of the banners from each year displayed on the wall, and all the shields lined up at the front. Together, we have certainly built something. But all things end. Good night, Knights.
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Tornado's Avatar
I wish you better times.
I look forward to these tales, I am sad that it did not go well.

As a long time GM sometimes all your planning goes for naught and the party gets stuck or goes astray.

It happens. I would not lose hope.

Give it some time. Reflect. Modify where needed.

Best of luck.
Posted August 3rd, 2017 at 03:47 PM by Tornado Tornado is offline
 
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