Inside Pulse 12

Tabletop Review: There Was a Dark, Dark House (FirstFable)

FirstFable: There Was a Dark, Dark House
Publisher: Flames Rising
Cost: $2.99
Page Count: 28
Release Date: 10/27/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

It’s Halloween time and usually that would mean reviews for games like Call of Cthulhu, Cryptworld, Ravenloft, Chill, World of Darkness and other horror oriented games. The truth is, I already do that all year long, so instead of touching on the usual horror games we all know and love I thought I’d cover this adventure for FirstFable with its light hearted kid friendly Halloween themes.

FirstFable came out in 2012 and was designed to get young children into tabletop RPGs. The game is designed for kids ages six and up. Now I started gaming at age 8 with TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, so FirstFable does feel a bit…less nuanced that what I learned to game with, but it’s a different time and a different generation and I can’t deny that FF is a lot easier to learn and play that going back and constantly using the cross reference tables for FASERIP on the back of the MSH books for every single roll I made. It’s a very cute, rules-lite game that parents can play with their kids and help them to learn why daddy and mommy love rolling up 5th Level Elven Mages or getting eaten by Deep Ones. Best of all, you can currently pick it up at DriveThruRPG.com for whatever price tag you want to place on it. It’s currently a “Pay What You Want” product and so if this review piques your interest, you can go back and purchase the core rulebook for however much you feel it is worth.

Now there, There Was a Dark, Dark House is a Halloween adventure for your FirstFable gamers. It’s not inherently scary and is actually kind of cute/sweet, but then so was A Garfield Halloween up until the ghost pirates showed up and scared the poop out of many a child who watched it. So you can make There Was a Dark, Dark House spookier and creepier if you want, but remember, it is geared for children first and foremost and most kids don’t like to be scared. Making the monsters less Chaotic Evil and more misunderstood or simply lacking in common sense gets the point across just as well and still lets the kids triumph over the situation. The adventure is written to be more lighthearted ala Mermaid Adventures, so please don’t try and take this adventure and turn it into Silent Hill if you’re running it with tykes and tots. That’s just being a jerk.

In this adventure, a little girl named Jackie has been kidnapped by a wicked witch and trapped within the town’s haunted house. The PCs are monsters who are friends with the children for whatever reason (it’s up to the player!) and set out to save the girl from her intended fate – being turned into a Jack O’Lantern! Once inside the haunted house, the characters must overcome four challenges which will then lead them to a showdown with the Witch Eliza. None of the encounters are especially troublesome (This was written for young children after all) and there certainly isn’t a threat of PC death or a TPK (Total Party Kill). If you’re looking for that sort of game, you probably shouldn’t be playing FirstFable in the first place! The encounters can occur in any order the GM wants, making it a very non-linear experience and none of them really feature combat. There is some goblin catching though. In the end, the PCs should be able to save their friend and perhaps even show the witch the error of her ways. It’s a very cute, short adventure than can be played in a single session over an hour or three. As long as you have kids that don’t need props maps or visuals to have a good time, they should have fun with this Halloween oriented FirstFable adventure. Of course, most kids are pretty good at using their imaginations, so a tabletop RPG should something almost instinctual to them.

Besides the adventure, you also get four new characters classes for FirstFable: Werewolf, Zombie, Vampire and Ghost. Of course these are all sanitized versions for children, so the vampires won’t be sucking blood, zombies won’t be eating brains and werewolves won’t be disemboweling anyone. You don’t even HAVE to play the monster character classes suggested here. The PCs could just be regular kids saving one of their own if that’s what they would before. You get blank character sheets/templates for the kids to fill out along with four pre-generated example characters. Character creation is pretty cut and dry but really young children might need help with some of the concepts or specific jargon for the game. You also get a worksheet at the end for the kids to fill out as a bit of memorabilia for the adventure they finished. That’s a really cool touch and with this, kids can remember their adventure in the Dark, Dark House.

For only $2.99, There Was a Dark, Dark House is a fine adventure for what it is. Little kids should enjoy it while seasoned veteran gamers might roll their eyes at the story and encounters – because they’re not the target audience. As a long time horror gamer myself I love the idea of an adventure in this gaming genre being written specifically for kids. They might not like scares and gore like some adults, but kids do love monsters, Halloween and costumes, so this should really make their day if they’re already starting to showing interesting in role-playing or acting. If you do have single aged children who you’d like to game with in some fashion, picking up FirstFable and There Was a Dark, Dark House might be an excellent way to get the ball rolling. To be fair though, this would have been to simple or condescending for me when I was eight, but again I was playing TSR games and reading Victorian ghost stories at that age. Most tykes will enjoy There Was a Dark, Dark House for what it is and so will the parents that run it for them.