Hero Kids

Curse of the Shadow Walkers

Played another adventure last night, taking advantage of the week off from the usual Thursday night activities. I attached some pictures of my fancy new GM screen. I loved having it, I felt like it was easier to keep my maps and such hidden. And the kids were very impressed by how it looked too.

This adventure was called Curse of the Shadow Walkers. It opens with the heroes seeing a runaway card with a girl trying to control the horses. She calls for help as the cart speeds along the road and so the heroes try to help. Kira leaped across with ease (strength check) and Erin did too (dexterity check). Kai was a little concerned about his single die (intelligence not being much help for this) so he asked if Erin could throw him a rope. I had her make another dexterity check for this, which she passed, and then had him use the rope to swing over to the cart (requiring only a 3 instead of the 5 it would have been without her help). They pulled on the reins to get the horses to stop and then discovered that the girl’s brother was in the back of the cart, suffering from a nasty wolf bite. She was trying to take him to the doctor in town, but was very worried about her parents back at the farm house. Our heroes agreed to go help defend the farm.

There was a great moment here that was both amusing and a good reminder of the limitations of reading descriptive text. I read the whole pre-written thing (with some embellishment) about the clouds of dust kicked up by the horses, the wind in their hair, and the rattling wagon wheels. As they finally stopped the cart, Kai looked up at me a little perplexed and said “I don’t have hair”. It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but I realized the “wind in the hair thing” didn’t really apply to his mage with the shaved head, now did it. I quickly backtracked and explained “oh, right, well YOU just feel the wind on your face, everyone else feels it in their hair”. The pitfalls of playing with the literal mind of a 4-year-old.

So anyway, as they reached the farm and settled in for the night, suddenly a pack of wolves attacked the farmhouse where the animals had been sequestered, crashing through the windows and carrying off sheep, piglets, and goats. The wolves would run away with the animals in their mouths, but drop them when they took damage and turn to fight the heroes. This worked really effectively and created a nice sense of urgency to avoid the wolves running off with the animals. The climax to this encounter is that as the last wolf yelps and runs away, the door is broken down by a huge werewolf who grabs an animal and runs away before they can do anything. This had almost the feel of a videogame cutscene and I was worried about the heroes trying to take action during it, but they didn’t. The farmer’s wife tells them that there is an old lady in the forest who would know what to do.

So the heroes journey to the old woman and there’s a nice roleplaying moment. As usual, Kira does most of the talking. Hilariously though, she got a little stuck. She did a great job describing what had happened to the old woman, but when I asked “and what is it you want from me?” she couldn’t remember. Kai chimed in “we need to cure him!” She explained that the forest has wolfsbane, but it grows in shady spots, the same kind where spiders like to live. They journeyed through the forest, eventually encountering the spiders’ lair. I explained that the spiders hadn’t seen them yet, but were completely surrounding the patch of wolfsbane. The intent here is of course that they fight their way through, but Kira suddenly says “I’ll drink my invisibility potion!” And indeed, several adventures ago she had purchased an invisibility potion from Aeon Mageblood’s apothecary shoppe. It had sat unused and forgotten about for a couple adventures, or so I thought. Of course, in typical 4E/HeroKids style it gives a +2 defense boost or some such nonsense. Forget that. Invisible is invisible. She grabbed the wolfsbane and I explained the spiders seeming confused as it floated away through the air, but they just went back to doing whatever spiders do.

The final encounter is of course the big confrontation with the werewolf and a few wolves. In a twist of irony, the woodcutter who was hired to fix the broken door to the farmhouse actually turns out to be the werewolf. They come upon him in the evening, repairing the door. He says “isn’t it getting a little late for you to be out here?” and Kira immediately says “pff, no, we’re Hero Kids!” So as night falls, the heroes watch him transform, even though he doesn’t know he is cursed. They battle the wolves (who are trying to steal more farm animals) but also have to contend with the very nasty werewolf. He’s a tough monster and it should be a pretty brutal combat. The idea is that once he is knocked out, they can easily put the wolfsbane in his mouth. Erin tries shooting a wolfsbane tipped arrow at his arm, but it has no effect. So she decides to attempt to lasso him, just like she lassoed Kai over to the wagon. I make her pass a dexterity check 6 and it works, but only for the round before I have him break out. The kids run over and each try to make a dexterity check 5 to put it in his mouth, but it doesn’t work. He breaks free, the wolves grab some animals, but the heroes stay focused and attempt the same thing the next round. The lassoing check works again and this time Kira is able to stuff the wolfsbane down his throat. Despite his four health and regeneration powers, they defeated him with the only wound being the one Erin gave him on her wolfsbane arrow attempt.

They did the entire thing without using a healing potion and essentially cleverly bypassed 2 of the 3 combat encounters. These guys are getting too clever for me.

They did all say their ages and names and established that they are all cousins. Kira is KC (the barbarian brute), Erin is Clary (the archer) and Kai is Janklassin (the mage). Janklassin being a corruption of the name of his favorite author, Jon Klassen. Erin made herself 7 years younger than she is in real life. Each of the kids made themselves 1 year older than they are in real life. Which makes perfect sense.



Wizard's Tower

So we got a little more Hero Kids in over the weekend. This raven that has been following them around asking for help for his master finally got his way. They set off on their journey, and really avoided most of the pitfalls along the way. Erin was trying to get lunch ready for the kids (in real life), so I had her get possessed during their journey in the meantime. Apparently the Frogling Warriors know some kind of mind control spells because they were camping near the marsh when this occurred. Her eyes went pale white, her faced turned red and angry and she started attacking them.

I wondered if the use of a map and figures was keying them in to “you should talk your way out of this” vs. “you should fight your way out of this” so I made sure that they were using a map when this occurred. I was very impressed that they refused to attack her, dodging her arrows and running away. After a few times, I pointed out that they were probably going to need to figure out how to solve the problem with Mommy, rather than just keep dodging her attacks. Kai said he would try to cast a magic spell on her. This threw me a little bit because he’s basically only ever used his magic powers to zap bad guys and there’s really no rules for that. I said “do you know a Magic spell that will help?” And he pointed out that he has the Lore skill and he would make a check to look through his book of knowledge. Alright fine, he succeeded easily, but the spell he learned only made Mommy drop her weapons. The danger was over, but they still had a problem. They tried to figure out what was causing the problem and guessed that it was the froglings they had heard about, so I had a couple froglings come out and try to carry her away. They fought them off and as the last frogling crumpled to the ground in a sludge, she recovered and was able to rejoin the party (after serving fruits, veggies, and sandwiches OOC).

So they made it to the base of the Wizards Tower, I read the description and they decided to climb the tower. Had they simply walked up to the front door I described, it would have opened for them and we would have had two more floors of combat and puzzles. But they chose to try to skip all the way to the end. Again, this kind of had me scrambling. The adventure mentions that this is possible, but it basically just says to have them make a check to do it and doesn’t really say how to deal with the consequences of this choice. In any event, they remembered the magic acorns and grew a tree all the way up, climbing it easily (though Kai fell once and took a damage, mages not being particularly strong nor dexterous). So we just started with floor three, which is the boss. They missed a lot of the narrative, sort of discovering HOW all the objects came to life by skipping ahead like that, so the Wizard had to give a bit of exposition after his rescue. The best part came at the end though when I had him ask how they had climbed into the window. When they mentioned the magic acorns, the wizard got a very worried look on his face. He looked through his shelves and found an ancient tome which he muttered while leafing through. Then he said “You haven’t been having any trouble with pirates have you?” Kira exclaimed “Yes! The Ghost Pirate Flynn!” and I had the Wizard proceed to tell them how the acorns were cursed and the Ghost Pirate Flynn needed them to break the spell. Erin, being the one technically in possession of the acorns, murmured “well, he’s not getting them”. What a setup for another pirate conflict!

All in all, it felt a bit uneven to me, not nearly as smooth as some of the rest have gone and they really kind of threw me with some of their choices. Much as the powerful ability of the acorns provided the opportunity to really derail the story, I fear that Kai’s made-up “weapon drop” spell, as well as the ability to make a check to essentially learn how to do ANYTHING could be a little rough in the future. But he’s not wrong about the way I described his knowledge of lore. And I’m really trying not to say “that doesn’t work” to anything. But having the story tie in together was really good and it seemed to me that it gave them a really cool moment of realization at the end, kind of an open-mouthed wonder that this is all connected.

I plan to recycle some of the traps and tests they missed by skipping ahead. There’s also a really cool encounter with water beasts they missed if I can get them to sail again. The next few adventures are a werewolf attacking the farms outside the village, rescuing some trapped miners, and heading into the ghostly tomb to find treasure. I’m thinking perhaps an encounter with Ghost Pirate Flynn is in order again, some exposition explaining why he needs the acorns as well as “something else” to break his curse. Perhaps he can even send them on their next adventure, if they agree to trust him that is. Still trying to get it all worked out in my head.

Fire In Rivenshore

Got a chance to do some Labor Day Hero Kids. We did the “Fire In Rivenshore” scenario, which was a bit of a detour from some of the hooks I’ve been setting up, but I still took some time to remind them of everything that is going on, since it’s been a little while. I felt relieved at the smoothness of having the scenario there guiding me as to what happened next. It’s a very railroadey one, but organically so I think. I mean, a fire has broken out. Sure, you could let the whole town burn down, but really?

It started with various skill checks (bucket brigade, helping the injured, rescuing a Aeon Mageblood’s daughter from the burning building, etc.). After reading the intro I gave them the “what do you want to do?” and Kai suggested we call a fire truck. Good idea, but this is olden times, remember? No phones, no trucks. After I explained what a bucket brigade was, Kai immediately decided that’s what he was going to do. His description of himself, carrying buckets on both arms, both legs, his head, and one on each finger was delightful. He also gave up a healing potion immediately when presented with the “helping the wounded” skill check, and was rewarded with an automatic success as well as the injured man giving him a magic staff from his younger adventuring days that he was too old to use anymore. Looking for ways to get some weapons to the Erin and Kira in the future as well. The staff lets him re-roll 1s in combat. This actually made him very excited when he rolled a 1, which is mechanically a good thing I think. And afterwards he recounted the story of “how he got this staff” as well, so I think that was a success.

Kira saw the girl in the top window of the burning building and immediately charged in up the stairs, getting burned in the process, but effecting a valiant rescue. It was only after the rescue that Kira found out that the girl Aeon Mageblood was trying to convince to jump and be caught was actually his daughter. She wanted to know what happened to the girl’s Mom and I said she’d have to ask Aeon Mageblood that question. By then they had already moved on, but I hope she comes back to that. It’s a good question that shows some interest in the world we’re creating as a whole and might also provide the opportunity for another adventure hook. (Killed by goblins? Kidnapped by pirates?)

They next realized that the tavern was on fire and Roger was trapped under a fallen chandelier. Kai was still in “bucket brigade mode” and kept running outside getting water to douse the labyrinth of flames I had wet-erase-markered all over the tavern map. This worked pretty well, though he didn’t seem nearly as concerned about actually rescuing Roger as he should have. The girls, on the other hand, bravely ventured in. Erin shot a barrel with her arrows in the hopes that it would contain water to put out the fire, and it did. (Look, I know not every idea needs to work, but since she somehow missed the barrel with her arrows the first two rounds due to some really poor rolls, I threw her a bone.) They combined their strength to lift the chandelier and started dragging Roger towards the exit. Each round, I’d been describing how bad the smoke was getting, and eventually the two of them collapsed, leaving Kai outside as their only chance. Despite having moved through the door every other time he entered the tavern, he just moved his figure right in through the wall next to them. I said “how did you get through there?” He said, through the window. I said okay, that’s fine, how did you break the window? He yelled “I PUNCHED IT!” and I was going to give him a nasty cut for this except that Erin and Kira both said “wait buddy, that seems like a really bad idea!” He ended up deciding to use his newfound staff to break the window instead (see, how very not 4th edition of us!). He had brought his bucket of water along (of course) and Erin explained that if he drenched their clothes or some rags with water, they could use it to breathe through and avoid smoke inhalation. This worked great and they were able to rescue Roger yet again. On the bad side, I broke a cardinal rule of GMing. They asked if they could jump over the fires and I said “no, they go all the way to the ceiling”. I later realized I had missed that the adventure itself explicitly provides a skill check for doing exactly that. At the time, I felt like I was just describing the fire and setting the goal for them, but a “yes, but” instead of a “no” would have gone a long way there. Live and learn.

The sheriff tasked the kids with finding out what was causing these fires, since they seemed to be magical in some way, springing back up even once put out with water. I felt like everyone was enjoying the adventure, though Kai did keep saying “are there any bad guys in this one?” Apparently the roleplaying and skill checks weren’t as exciting to him as combat is. Fortunately, there is one combat encounter here with some brigands trying to rob the store. I made it Aeon Mageblood’s store and had the robbers be pirates from the ghost ship (who seem to keep popping up in every adventure… dun dun dun!). They dispatched them without much difficulty and Kai got to joyously yell “ZAP!” as the leader wounded him.

The final vignette has them discovering the source of the fire. A little street urchin named Bree who is mad that the bullies keep making fun of her dirty clothes and having no parents. When she gets angry, the fire just comes out of her. This is a very roleplay-ish moment, with Bree asking the kids not to turn her into the sheriff and conditions for what happens based on what they choose. I was impressed that they chose not to attack her immediately (good restraint Kai!) and he even offered to buy her some new clothes. Anyway, Kira pointed out that she had the talking skill and so she took the lead in talking to Bree. I made her do it in character with really only one actual skill check at the very beginning of the conversation. When this failed, I told her she needed to tell Bree something different, so she did. By the time Bree asked them to let her go and promise not to tell the sheriff, Kira shouted “I promise! You can go!” and then immediately turned to Erin and Kai and said “Now you guys promise too!” And they just went with it. Funny in a way, as I think it was supposed to present kind of a moral dilemma, but for Kira the “right thing to do” had never been clearer in her mind. The follow-up of course is that they now had to face the sheriff. I asked if she was going to tell him that they let Bree go and she said no way. I said so you are going to lie to him? She said yep. A quick skill check later and they were in the clear.

Pretty amusing. It really seems to me like Kai loves the combat stuff, Kira loves the interactions of the characters, and Erin is a total min-maxer, a vestige of having played plenty of tactical minis games and exactly zero RPGs. She complained that I wasn’t rolling dice where she could see the results. I explained that’s part of the deal (though I’ve never actually fudged a roll yet). She didn’t think much of that haha! Truth be known, I kind of like rolling openly, at least some of the time, because there can be a lot of drama when my monster needs to roll a 6 to survive the attack and does it. Based on this, I later changed and make all combat rolls openly now.

Escape from the Ghost Pirates

Last night we played again (by flashlights and candles for a good bit of it since the power was out). They decided they wanted to walk down to the beach and fill their canteens at the river. I gave them the option of walking through the dark forest (which Kai’s knowledge check told him was infested with bats) or walking the other path, which their friend Aeon Mageblood, who owns the shop, told them had a nasty cobra guarding it. They opted for the woods and I did a brief bat encounter in a clearing that had a mysterious pool. They opted not to drink from it and journeyed on to the river. (I had hoped to have it make them unconscious so they could start locked up on the pirate ship). They headed to the shore and filled their canteens before noticing the large pirate ship in the harbor. They could hear the cries for help from people in the hold. Kira decided to try dragging a log to the shore to float out to the boat, but she failed her strength check and it was too heavy to move. Scrambling a little bit here trying to figure out how to get them locked up in the ship and as they stood there thinking of what to try next to get to the ship, I had a pirate on shore sneak up behind them and knock them out, awakening in the cells in the bottom of the ship, starting the actual written adventure from that point. I know, I haven’t done a great job so far, but I feel like I got better at this as the night went on.

They squeezed through the bars and realized that Roger, Maeve (Roger’s Mom), and their new friend Aeon Mageblood were all locked up. They are very excited to go to Aeon’s store sometime, but obviously now isn’t really the time. They fight their way through the hordes of pirates. Kai decides to hide in one of the barrels, which I tell him means the pirates can’t see him, but he can only attack with one die because it smells like fish in there and he can’t see very well. They head to the top of the ship and encounter the skeleton/ghost pirates, fighting their way through there as well. Kira smacks one with her axe and I remind her of her knockback ability. I say “okay, you can move that skeleton four spaces”. She moves it three spaces towards the railing of the ship, pauses, moves it one more over the railing, then looks up at me and says “I almost knocked him into the water!” and I say, “um, you did knock him into the water, that’s the ship railing there”. Her eyes lit up and she proceeded to knock many more skeletons over the railing in future turns. I’ve been impressed with the game itself to handle situations like that with a VERY simple rule structure. Kai getting to autokill the 1-health rats in the last scenario with his zap attack and Kira getting to knock the skeletons into the water were some really great memorable moments for them.

Kai was a little scared of the skeletons and opted to hop into a barrel again immediately. He chose one directly adjacent to a skeleton and he has no sneaking or dexterity skills. I told him to roll a single die and see if he got a 6. He did! I told him somehow the skeleton didn’t see him hop into the barrel right next to him. Also, these barrels are holding treasure, unlike the ones below deck which just smelled like fish, and I gave him a coin. Kira immediately picks up on what is happening and starts searching the other barrels, leaving Erin to hold off the skeletons by herself. She gets pounded pretty hard and eventually the kids have to spend some healing potions reviving her. It was a learning moment for them and they decided next time they would wait to look for treasure until AFTER the bad guys are defeated.

Erin figures out she can throw the cannonballs for an extra die on her ranged attacks and starts doing that. They all enjoyed the visual I gave them of the cannonball knocking the skeleton’s head off over the railing and splashing it into the water. They eventually met the pirate captain whom they defeated, but of course he immediately respawned as a ghost pirate captain. At which point Erin gave me the “you know it’s 20 minutes past bedtime, right?” Look, it happens. I ended up not having the ghost pirate be able to raise the dead skeletons like he was supposed to, both for time’s sake and because it would have resulted in a TPK. Letting skeletons get free attacks on you while you search for treasure is not a great plan. In the end, both Kira and Erin were knocked out and it was down to just Kai and the Ghost Captain who had one health left. Kai had 2 health, and I could have attacked from range, but opted for the melee attack so he could finish me off with his zap power, and him only at 1 health remaining. It worked great and was an exciting epic finish. They (even Erin) haven’t really been asking what all my abilities are, so it wasn’t very obvious that I had played sub-optimally. They freed everyone and wanted to immediately go back to town and go shopping and start adventuring again, but it was very much bedtime.

Basement O Rats

We played our first game on Saturday and they loved it. Actually Erin loved it too. She did end up playing a character.

Kai isn’t quite 4 yet, but he did a really good job anyway. He had a skill that let him deal a wound to anyone who damaged him with a melee attack, which was super-useful against the swarms of 1-health rats. The first few times I wounded him he got really sad and started to pout until I reminded him of this ability and then he would get a sly grin and say “I zap him! HAHAHA!”

About midway through attacking the rats, Kira tried to talk to one. I did my best to sort of encourage that behavior, but these rats weren’t really sapient, plus they had just been beating on them for the last couple rooms, so I just had it hiss at her and not understand. Hopefully not too railroadey of me.

They did not end up going the optional way. They discussed it, but they passed their check showing them where the rat tracks led. They talked about splitting up even, but eventually decided to keep after the rats. Kira did talk about heading back down in to the caverns at some point though, so they may end up there again, who knows?

My favorite moment was actually at the very end, where they rescued Roger from the stinking rat hole and I described his dirty clothes and terrible smell and said the thing about him giving them a hug. Kai immediately responded with “I give him my gold!” I said “what? you want to give him your gold?” He said “yeah, because he needs to buy some new clothes. I was thinking about others before myself.” So I told him Roger was so grateful that his mom refilled all the healing potions for the whole party. That kid has a kind heart.


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