Hero Kids

The Hidden Laboratory, Part 2

As the rune-locked doors opened, they were faced with their first “real” dungeon.

I had them see a sign at the entrance warning them that traps abounded here. They entered a long, narrow hallway and could see kobolds at the end, guarding a shaman who was standing in a magic circle performing some kind of ritual. The kobolds had not yet spotted them. I had identified one particular square as the one that triggered the boulder, about halfway down the hallway. Unfortunately, they didn’t really think to “search for traps” (which isn’t really a Hero Kids mechanic anyway, but which I certainly would have allowed) and they also weren’t really moving as a group. Hermione (Erin) was far ahead of the group when she triggered the boulder, which I had move d3 spaces per round. Not really terrible in general since they can move 4 spaces. However, it provided an excellent counter to the pets. With a pet, you must choose to move EITHER yourself or your pet each turn, which presented serious problems. I made it so getting hit with the boulder was a damage, which eventually knocked Firebreath out and his body was right in front of the boulder. Even though Firebreath is not Lily’s (Kira’s) pet, she immediately sprung into action, saying she would carry him with her. I had this slow her movement down to 3 a turn.


The kobolds heard the sound of the boulder and spent their turns moving into position in front of the hallway, guarding their shaman. Secretly, I was ticking up a die each turn as the shaman continued to chant. The kobolds, I pointed out, seemed unwilling to move into the hallway, but weren’t afraid to attack them with projectile weapons. Herminone was out of range of the kobolds initially, but attempted a magical blast to slow the boulder. I quickly ruled that the boulder always has defense 6, but it can be slowed to d3-1 moves (minimum 1) with a successful attack once per round. Torn about that a little bit. I like the creative thinking, but realistically I feel that would be a bit ineffective.

Anyway, eventually they got further down the hallway and started picking off kobolds. As the moved into the last space of the hallway, I informed them that the entrance was surrounded on all sides by a wooden threshold. They were suspicious it could be trapped, but stepped through anyway with no ill effects. By now, all but the Shaman were dead, and he had just one more turn to complete his ritual. Nevertheless, I had him spend his action to move out of the circle and make an attack. Although this was not why I chose kobolds for the first room, the shaman’s ability was extremely relevant here, knocking them back into the hallway with the fast approaching boulder.


Five squares backward for BOTH of the heroes that had made it into the room was pretty brutal, and it gave the shaman time on the next turn to finish his summoning ritual. Turned out, he was summoning a Beholder. Not wanting to face yet ANOTHER of these nasty beasts, they made the decision to finish off the shaman. Unfortunately for them, the Beholder had an eye power of 4 spaces of pushback as well. This was a great “oh crap” moment for them, but they did manage to finish off the Beholder as well, though with everyone pretty banged up. The door frame itself was designed simply to stop the boulder from rolling into the room, which it did, sealing the door tightly shut. They made a few checks to try to push it backwards but only succeeded in budging it a little bit. They decided to proceed onward.‚Äč


In the corners of the room were a rope and a treasure chest. They went for the treasure chest right away and of course it turned out to be a mimic. More damage, no treasure. Still foolishly conspicuous, they also picked up the rope. I had Drago (Kai) make a knowledge check as he picked it up, but he failed and I said “it appears to be a normal rope”. You would think this would have tipped them off too, but no. Into his pack it went.

They opted to open the two doors to the left and right, rather than proceeding down the hallway. The layout was set, and both of these doorways were really just red herrings, but I guess there is something about the lure of the unknown. Worth keeping in mind for future reference. It seems given the choice between a closed door and an open one, people just have to see what is behind the closed one before proceeding.

They headed through the left-hand door and Lily charged forward foolheartedly, immediately falling into a pit for a damage as the floor gave way. Drago pulled out his rope and began to hoist her out, but it broke halfway up and she fell down for another damage. Only then did they notice the nearly invisible slices that had been cut into the rope. It was sabotaged! Lily made a strength check to climb halfway up the wall and Hermione handed Drago her staff to use to pull her up the rest of the way. They abandoned the idea of reaching the fountain on the other side (which would have provided a random potion effect if consumed).


Heading the other direction, again without really trying to spot any traps, Drago walked right into a poison gas trap. He took a damage and lost consciousness, though Lily thought to hook her longbow around him and use that to pull him out of the choking purple miasma. Before entering again, Lily shot an arrow onto into the hallway, and in so doing was able to determine that the trap was “out of gas” both figuratively and literally, a pun that they giggled at. They proceeded to the end of the hallway and found a spiral staircase leading down. Following it, they discovered a disused laboratory that was infested with spiders.


Another battle ensued and they managed to vanquish all of the foul beasts before moving on to inspect the table. It had three potion bottles on it, which Hermione was able to identify all of with knowledge checks. I used my d100 consumables table for this and they got an Ointment of Oration, a Clairvoyance Cream, and a Remedy of Resurrection. This final one was most of interest to them and they even discussed the possibility of leaving this dreadful dungeon, letting Milo die, and then using this to resurrect him, rather than continuing their quest to find a cure. However, Kira was insistent that they use the potion to bring back Olivia’s mother. You didn’t remember that, did you? Erin certainly didn’t. I probably only did because I’ve re-read these documentations of the previous adventures. Olivia’s mother died protecting her cub and the evil poison that killed her could not be cured with Hermione’s magic. I never even considered the possibility of such a thing happening, and indeed it was one of maybe only one or two potions (a wishing one being the other) that could have provided such a moment. Kira is honestly probably my favorite player of the three of them for reasons exactly like this. She just gets into her character so well.

You might have noticed that lever in the corner. I pointed it out to them in the description just in case they didn’t. They opted not to pull it, which was a fine decision, though it was honestly one of the least harmful things in this dungeon. I was impressed with their restraint.

Back up the stairs they went and back down the main hallway. Drago charged ahead and found himself engulfed in flames, before making a dexterity check to jump out of the way. Not out of trouble yet, this trap also revealed two flameskulls, which attacked them before blowing themselves up in a fiery immolation attack. Decapitated Ghost Rider cake toppers for the win!


Finally having learned a lesson, they reused their plan of shooting arrows and tapping the floor in front of themselves with weapons, which proved effective at uncovering yet another pit, about 15 feet deep. Having no rope or other means of crossing, they struggled through for quite a while what they should do. I thought it was very strange that no one seemed to remember that Firebreath could fly, but I kept my mouth shut. I was kind of getting the “what are we supposed to do here?” from them but I basically just reminded them that there is no “supposed to” and they can do whatever they want. Finally, they came up with the idea of ripping the wooden door frame apart and pushing the boulder into the pit. Really impressed with this idea, so I was glad I made them squirm a bit. Now they were faced with only a 5 foot deep pit, which was much more manageable to climb in and out of safely and without even a skill check.

On the other side of the pit was a room with a tiled floor and filled with several crates. Testing the tile by shooting more arrows, they quickly discovered that only the dark ones were safe to walk on, while the light ones would trigger darts from the ceiling. And of course they couldn’t resist breaking open the crates. Some were empty, some provided a gold piece, and two of them released slime monsters. Like the mimic, these are not actual Hero Kids monsters, but custom ones I had come up with for this adventure. They were able to move all about the floors without triggering the darts, which made for another tactically interesting combat. I especially enjoyed how it kept Olivia from being able to use her Cub’s Courage ability as effectively since it helps adjacent allies gain defense.


Drago was the first one to get successfully attacked by a slime and quickly discovered their terrible ability as he took no damage but found two of his gold coins disintegrated. At which point Kai was near to tears. Erin tried not to giggle and through gritted teeth told me “you know that’s worse for him than being damaged, right?” Oh yes. I know. He got over it quickly, but ran away rather than attacking. Erin asked him why and he said “it might disintegrate my sword!” Excellent observation, young lad. Lily tested this theory with an arrow shot, which did no damage and was disintegrated as well. Hermione looked over at Firebreath and said “I guess this is up to us.” A few magic attacks later and the slime monsters were destroyed, but not before they’d eaten quite a few more coins.

Into the final room they went, discovering a much larger laboratory than the one in the basement. Shelves and shelves of books and scrolls, a large table of laboratory equipment, a suit of armor in each corner of the room, and there behind the table stood a crazed looking goblin wearing safety googles, a flaming potion in each hand. “Eh, who are you?” he asked. His response to their answer was “Eh, neva hoid of ya. What are ya doing here?” They told him about trying to find a cure for Milo and he replied “Eh, neva hoid of him.” It became clear that he’d been pretty much living down here for quite some time having never heard of just about anyone.


He was surprised anyone had gotten through all his traps but it was clear he wasn’t interested in their money. He was grateful to them for clearing the spiders out of the basement, as he was afraid of spiders and hadn’t been down there for quite some time. Nevertheless, he was clearly an absentminded genius, often forgetting things he’d just been told. He agreed to help them with a cure on two conditions. First, he was running short on herbs and asked them to bring 7 herbs for him when they came back. They also needed to find out just what kind of disease Milo had, if there was any other information that might be helpful in crafting a cure. He showed them out through a hidden entrance underneath one of his suits of armor (actually golems in case of an attack by an overzealous adventurer) and we wrapped up for the day.

The Hidden Laboratory

An unfamiliar guard (dressed just like Milo) summoned the heroes to Lord Kingspirit’s throne room. He explained that Milo had taken ill with a mysterious sickness that none of the doctors could seem to cure. But there were rumors that in the Forbidden Forest, there was an abandoned laboratory which may contain the key to a cure. However, the forest is very dangerous. They agreed to help and set off.

As they journeyed through, they came across a swiftly rushing river that was too wide to jump and looked dangerous to swim. Lily (Kira) immediately noticed the log that had fallen across it, but before they could head that direction, they heard snorting in the bushes. An enormous dire boar appeared, charging them angrily. I explained that they know boars are very territorial and they’ve probably disturbed it. This gave them something of a moral quandary as they didn’t really want to kill it, but Drago’s (Kai) attempt to talk some sense into this beast was ineffective, and he took a nasty tusk wound for his trouble. Hermione (Erin) even tried a healing spell in the hopes that it was just scared and injured, but alas it was fully healthy and simply enraged.


At this point, they decided to make a run for the bridge, with Hermione getting there first. Of course as soon as she stepped on the “bridge” she was slid back onto the riverbank and an annoyed treefolk was scolding her. He spoke slowly in a deep voice and asked why she thought it was okay to just walk on him. Of course as she’s scrambling to apologize the boar is still charging them and injuring them (Lily and Olivia have climbed a tree for safety at this point). Hermione’s frantically trying to get him to lift her over to the other side, but he’s in no hurry, though he seems friendly enough. He asks why they are in such a rush and they point out the angry boar, which he appears to notice for the very first time. He sighs and says “Oh, Sophie” as another round of combat begins.


So now Erin’s realized that he knows this boar and she’s like “Um, can you help us” and so the Ent scolds Sophie the Boar and she scampers back into the forest with her tail between her legs. They thank him for his help and Drago asks what his name is. He says Limbquick, the irony of which is not lost on Kai who giggles and says “but you are slow!” They respectfully dub him “Mr. Limbquick” and ask for his help in getting across the river, which he grants, lifting all of them to the other side with ease, with the exceptions of Olivia (whom he lifts with difficulty) and Firebreath (who simply flies over).

Limbquick then goes back to sleeping stretched across the river. Drago can’t resist one more question and wakes him up to ask why he likes to sleep in the river (it keeps him cool) and how he can breathe (he sleeps face up). Leave it to a 4-year-old to require an on-the-fly explanation of Ent biology and behavior.

Lilly scouts ahead a bit and avoids detection by a group of carousing Bugbears drinking ale around a campfire. They are positioned right in front of the entrance stairs to the abandoned laboratory. Herminone makes a knowledge check to discover that Bugbears are not friendly at all and are as likely to punch you in the face as say hello. Nevertheless, a heated discussion follows about what to do next. Erin initially favors an attack so as not to sacrifice the element of surprise. Kai wants to talk to them a little further first. Kira breaks the tie, favoring an attack, but then Erin waffles a bit. As she put it “at first I wanted to attack, but now I feel bad since they are just drinking and having a good time with friends”. Yay for humanizing the bad guys a bit! Anyway, they ultimately opt for the surprise attack, so I let them take the first combat actions without an initiative roll.


More tree-climbing and a fierce battling later, Firebreath is knocked out, lots of others are wounded, but the bugbears have all fallen. Down the abandoned steps they go, only to find that the laboratory is sealed with heavy stone doors and runic inscriptions. They will be unable to get in unless they can solve at least two of the three puzzles. I present each of them with an age-appropriate printout. Kai gets tic-tac-toe, Kira gets a maze, and Erin gets a Sudoku. In retrospect, Kai’s is a little different than the others because he can actually fail by losing. The other two CAN figure it out given enough time. We wrap up for the night, and will pick up at the entrance (if they indeed can succeed at getting in). Kai lost his tic-tac-toe matches, Kira managed to complete the maze with the perfect amount of frustration and subsequent sense of achievement, and Erin will be struggling through hers all day with a sense of minor annoyance at me for “making” her do it.

Not sure if the puzzle angle was “better” but it certainly injected some variety. Now we’ll just have to see what the laboratory actually holds.

The Lost Village

Kai really wanted to play again last night, so we did. Having already stolen some of the initial encounters from The Lost Village, I decided just doing the later ones would be short enough for this school night.

I had Lord Kingspirit summon them to his throne room again to ask their assistance as brave adventurers. He said “I need your help.” Kai (Draco) immediately responded “Anything!” Looks like we’ve found a good source of quest hooks. He hadn’t even heard what the mission was! Lord Kingspirit was nervous about the bear and dragon in his throne room, so Kira (Lilly) whispered to Olivia (her bear cub) to wait outside. Kai on the other hand, had no intention of leaving Firebreath (Draco’s pet) outside and convinced Lord Kingspirit that his dragon was well-trained. Seeing this, Lilly explained that Olivia was as well, and quickly summoned her back.

Anyway, it turned out that mission was that a small village off the coast, on the Island of Wakwak, had suddenly gone silent. No one had traveled from there in weeks and no word had been sent. It was only about a day’s journey by boat. They agreed to go. I had the voyage itself be uneventful, mostly in the interest of time. Also, not every bit of travel needs an event.

They docked and crossed the bridge into town, which was strangely unguarded. The market square was eerily quiet and filled with empty market stalls. One house had a collapsed wall and they could see inside. Exploration of the other houses showed them all to be empty of all people, food, supplies, and even furnishings. Very strange indeed. Near the dock, a sewer pipe emptied into the water, a feature of the map tiles, but one I did not mention in my description. Nevertheless Lilly immediately took an interest in it and swung herself down over the dock to take a closer look. It was too dark to see further without actually journeying in. A tracking check showed them footprints, some human, which seemed to stumble and be dragged, along with several reptilian ones. They decided to go inside.

I immediately picked up all the city map tiles revealing a set of sewer tiles underneath. Of course they were intended to discover this as where the inhabitants had vanished to, but it was really exciting to have it be Kira’s idea to investigate there without any leading from me. The sewer had a river of green sludge down the middle with a small walking path on either side. Since Firebreath could fly, he told him to scout ahead. He cautioned them that one of the paths was safe and the other was not, using little coos and head movements, which they understood.

Coming to a t-junction, they chose to go to the right, and discovered four rooms. Three of the rooms had bars like a jail and could be easily seen through. One held the townsfolk, one held some food and a chest, and one held a lizardman. The fourth was a stone room with a wooden door, so they could not tell what was inside. Both the lizardman and the townsfolk begged to be freed. As they debated what to do, I told them each to make a stealth check. (This is not a Hero Kids mechanic, but it seemed important here). Erin (Hermione) and Draco both failed, causing the wooden door to swing open and three more lizardmen to burst out. They attacked the party immediately and a fierce battle followed. Olivia was knocked out and Firebreath nearly was as well, but Hermione’s healing kept them in it. One of the lizardmen was slain on the bridge over the sludge and fell into it, sinking below the slime. The lizardmen themselves had no issues with wading through the slime, though the heroes still hadn’t attempted to venture in.


The final lizardman grabbed Lilly and forced her into the room, closing the door behind him. His strength checks kept surpassing her dexterity checks to escape her grasp so he chained her to the wall, immobilizing her. By this time, Draco had burst through the door and finished off the lizardman. They couldn’t see keys for the shackles anywhere in the room as I described it to them. Erin thought to search the body of the lizardman they had just slain. I rolled to see which of the lizardmen had the key ring (considering the obstacle of them appearing on the one whose body had sunk below the sludge), but they happened to be in the possession of the lizardman they had just slain. Lilly took the keys then and lept across to the storeroom, grabbing the food and opening the chest. She found 3 coins inside and pocketed them before the others convinced her to be a team player and share the loot. She made several more leaps across with the townsfolk on her back and Draco helping to catch her if she should fall. She only fell one time and took a damage from the sludge. The townsfolk thanked them and scampered back to the surface.

Now there was the matter of that lizardman in the jail cell. They debated a long time about freeing him. He hissed to them that his brothers had falsely accused him of theft and imprisoned him. They at first wanted to leave him and he protested saying he woulds starve to death. Lilly offered him some food but he said that wouldn’t last forever. They finally agreed to free him and tried to persuade him to help them, but they failed their check and he dove below the surface of the slime, vanishing.

They either didn’t notice or didn’t care to explore the other side of the t-junction, having already freed the townsfolk. They went back to Lord Kingspirit who rewarded them with some more gold for their efforts. He asked if they had defeated all the lizardmen and Lilly insisted they had. Hermione seemed not so sure, reminding her of the one who had run away. She persisted, saying she was sure he drank some of that sewage and couldn’t have survived. To which Lord Kingspirit responded “Are you sure?”, raised an eyebrow, and I said “and that’s where we’ll have to stop”.

A Duo of Dwarves

Kai has really been patiently waiting to get his dragon trained, so even though I had nothing prepared, I agreed to a short session last night. I set up a town map and filled it with various NPC minis, trying to give them a sense of the possibilities. A few people looked a bit scared and gave them a wide berth as they walked into town with a baby dragon on their heels, but one NPC in particular approached them. He seemed very interested in the dragon and said he had experience in training them. He was a stout red-bearded dwarf who introduced himself as Axe Paradox and spoke with a voice not unlike Antonio Banderas. They agreed to leave Firebreath there at his small house for the day and paid him his coins. Erin seemed very suspicious of Axe, not sure why. She said something like “how do we know you won’t just steal our money?” which offended him so much he stomped off angrily before the kids convinced him to come back. Still suspicious, Kira decided to go check on the training and Axe answered the door and the kids could see that Firebreath was happy so they seemed satisfied.

As they sort of milled about town, another dwarf with a crossbow approached them, saying he needed their help. His name was Chaos Goldreaper and he had kind of an Al Pacino/Danny DeVito voice going on. Chaos explained that he lived outside the city walls in the forest, but the path back to his home had been blocked by an angry bear. He had come into town to seek help in killing the bear. They asked if there was a reward, but he explained that he didn’t have much money said he would like them to do this out of the goodness of their hearts. Kai offered him a coin at this point and I was trying to figure out what he was buying from him when Erin intervened and said “you just told him you didn’t have much money, he’s giving you some of his.” So I backpedaled a bit and Chaos explained “No, I HAVE money, I just need it. If you aren’t interested in helping maybe I can find someone else.” At this point they agreed to help, but again Erin seemed extremely suspicious. Lots of “oh nos” and skeptical looks. I’m really not sure why that is her initial reaction to every NPC, but maybe I need to work on that somehow. I don’t recall ever having an NPC betray them. They were certainly on good terms with Aeon Mageblood.

Anyway, I had planned for this encounter with the bear to not really be combat-focused (injured mama bear protecting a cub) but I remembered that Kai had specifically requested some fighting in addition to the dragon training, so I rolled on my homemade random encounter table for forests and it came up snakes. I intended it to be fairly easy for them, and it primarily was, (no one was in danger of getting KOd) but there were some good tense moments where the venomous bites prevented them from moving in the next round. I had Chaos Goldreaper with them still, but explained that he was very scared. He would only act on a 6. They rolled and he remained paralyzed with fear. I planned each round to lower this target number, so in the next round only a 5 was required, but he still couldn’t act. The snakes actually attacked him and ended up knocking him out. (I used the stats from an archer hero, but no special abilities/items and with lower hit points. I didn’t want him to overshadow them.) The snakes were getting cover terrain bonuses from hiding in the bushes and it was a fun, if brief, tactical little encounter. Erin ended up using her healing powers to revive Chaos and they advanced on down the path to his home. (Healing powers actually CAN be used outside of combat, which I had missed the last time I mentioned it.)

Sure enough, the bear was still there, but I them make an animal knowledge check and they were able to notice the gaping wound in the bear’s side, identify her as a female bear, and also spot the cub hiding behind her. Immediately they knew what was going on. Erin asked if she could use her healing powers on the bear and before I could even answer, she said "wait, this says ‘ally’, does this bear count as an ally?’ So I said, “Not yet, you haven’t really earned her trust that you are a friend. How can you do that?” Kai said they should give the bear some food, but none of them had food in inventory. Kira pipes up with “I think I saw some blueberry bushes back there; bears love blueberries!” So she scampered back to the bushes where the snakes had been hiding and got some berries. Meanwhile the mama bear was advancing slowly closer, so Kai got out of the way, not wanting to frighten her. Kira made a dexterity check to throw the berries to the bear, but failed to roll a 4+ on her 3 dice. The bear didn’t notice the berries (though I explained this was still a great idea) and advanced towards them, making an attack on Erin’s character. Kira scrambled back for more berries and at this point I rolled initiative and explained we were now technically in a combat. I had them roll for Chaos Goldreaper, and he was actually able to act. Of course he immediately raised his crossbow and took aim at the bear saying “she just attacked us!” In unison all three of them yelled “No!” at him and Kai tried to convince him not to, explaining the bear was just protecting her cub. I had him make a persuasion check, which he failed, and Chaos planted a crossbow bolt into the mother bear’s side. Erin muttered something like “I never should have revived this idiot” and Kira came back with more blueberries. This time it worked, and Erin was able to now use her healing powers on the bear (keeping a safe distance thanks to the ranged healing option afforded her by her Yew Staff from King Rothgar’s tomb). I explained that combat was effectively over, except for Chaos who was still going to attempt to attack the bear. Kai made another persuasion check, passing this time, and convinced him the bear was a friend.

Despite healing the bear to full health, she stumbled to the ground and breathed her last. At first they couldn’t figure out why this was, but upon closer inspection they realized the wound had been made with something poisonous, possibly even magical, which Erin’s healing powers had not been effective against. I had hoped this could be a hook into something mysterious, but I’m not sure I made it seem significant enough for them to investigate further. Besides, they were distracted by the cub, who Kira also fed some berries and of course made a new friend in the same way that Kai had. She named the cub Olivia, and they went back to town. Again, lots of nervous looks from the other villagers as they had now brought in a bear as well! Axe had completed Firebreath’s training by this time and said he didn’t know as much about bears, but would give training a shot for a higher price. They paid it gladly. Erin, I could tell, would much rather have sought other training options, finding Axe’s prices to be a bit high, but Kira was not going to shop around when she could have training begin right away. Thus ended the night.

I was pretty happy with how this went, considering it was 100% off-the-cuff. Granted, the bear encounter was kicking around in my head for a while, but no module or written stuff at all and it worked much better than the last time I attempted such a thing. It’s interesting, I had always intended to get a module written up for once we complete the last few official ones, but now I almost don’t know how. Giving the players a choice of “this way or that way” and writing up the results of the choices in advance seems much less flexible than I now like to be. I think I’m finally starting to understand why you and other advanced RPGers sort of look down on modules. I’m incredibly grateful to have had them at the start, but now… maybe not so much.

The moment with Kira and the blueberries was interesting to me. I hadn’t described blueberry bushes or anything. I didn’t really know how they were going to deal with the bear (it could have even been through fighting it). At least in D&D terms, it seems like a more proper interaction would have been Kira saying “Are there any berries growing on those bushes or anything nearby I can forage for?” and me as the good DM saying “yes, there are”. I read something recently that said if your players ask, for example, “is the bridge made of wood?” you always say yes because it means they have some really cool plan for it. It’s a bad GM who tries to foil this creativity just because he imagined (but didn’t state) that the bridge was made of stone. So ultimately, I would have said “yes there are berries” in this situation, but I kind of like that ethic of “I think I saw some back there”, it’s more participatory for the players. And yet, I’m still trying to hold them to reality. No one thought to bring food. They could have bought some in town before they left of course. After the berries failed the first time, Erin said something like “wait, Kai, don’t you have some candy in your pockets you’d forgotten about” and I didn’t allow that. I said if he had food on him, he would have had a food item in inventory. There’s a fine line here between fleshing out the details of the location together and summoning items as needed ex nihilo.

Maze of the Minotaur - Or Not?

So we played some more Hero Kids on Saturday. We picked up where we left off, with the heroes having just returned home after a night of braving the tomb of King Rothgar and acquiring some nice weapons. They agreed to head out of their house and into town to check out the shops but they were immediately accosted by a group of the local lord’s guards. They told them to halt because they were under arrest for breaking into the crypts and stealing items there. Kira briefly considered attacking them, but they were outnumbered and Erin told her that these guards were good guys. Kira said “King Rothgar gaves us these weapons!” but the guard captain responded “King Rothgar has been dead for 20 years!” and Kira tried to explain about the ghost. Kai tried to set them straight saying “We’re not bad guys, we’re the Hewos of the Wealm!” He passed a persuasion check and the guards softened a little bit, agreeing to take them before Lord Kingspirit to explain what they had been up to when they were witnessed breaking into the crypt.

Lord Kingspirit believed their story, but asked them for a favor to prove their loyalty. His gardens and hedge maze in back of his palace had been taken over by a Minotaur, and he wanted the heroes to brave the maze, and bring back some treasure to prove their worthiness. Lord Kingspirit’s guard Milo leads them to the maze and advises them that the Minotaur is a fearsome foe and it may be better to run if you see him rather than fight. At this point, I dovetailed into the module, which has me drawing from a stack of maze tiles and rolling for random encounters. They advise that if the lair with the treasure comes up too early, just re-roll and if it takes to long to come up, just force it to be the next one. They also say you can do the same for discovering the minotaur himself. Well, I rolled for their first tile and it was the minotaur. I could have re-rolled, but I figured it would be fine. It introduces their foe right away and they can run away and have the rest of the maze to still explore with him potentially tracking them down, or they could get into a big epic battle here and defeat him, still needing to find the treasure anyway. What I did not expect was the following:

Me: The minotaur raises his axe, snorting with steam coming out his nostrils, and charges you!
Kira: I shoot it with an arrow!
Erin: Wait a minute, Milo told us we might want to run away from him. Are you sure attacking is a good idea?
Kira: Hmmm…
Kai: I try to talk to him and tell him why we are there. I’m good at talking to people.
Me: Uh… okay, he’s currently charging you with an axe, so I think this is a difficulty 6. Go for it.
Kai: Rolls a 6

So the minotaur stops in his tracks and looks puzzled for a minute. Kai quickly explains that Lord Kingspirit just wants his garden back and they aren’t there to hurt him. So now I’m scrambling again and I have the Minotaur explain that he has nowhere else to live. He’s still a little grumpy and tells them to get out of his maze, and they agree to go and talk to Lord Kingspirit for him. So here we are now with my plans for the afternoon completely shot. I’ll have to turn this from the Maze of the Minotaur into the Cave of the Dragon or some such thing down the road. Way too many fun little encounters to just trash the whole thing.

Anyway, they head back to the palace and everyone is really doing a good job getting into character, more than they have in the past. A lot less of “I want to tell the king that we…” and a lot more of “Your Majesty! We…” So Lord Kingspirit agrees to hire some dwarves to build a new home for the minotaur. And Kira is giving him all these specifications like “It has to be made of hedges, he really likes hedges, it better be even nicer than the garden he’s in now.” How could he say no? Anyway, he tells them that by showing mercy to the minotaur they have proven to be true heroes and he believes their story of how they got the weapons.

But then Lord Kingspirit asks them for a bit more about their story and when he finds out that the weapons were given to them by King Rothgar, an expression of concern crosses his face. He claps twice and from the far end of the throne room, a small wooden door creaks open. Out hobbles an old man with a gray beard down to his waist. He’s leaning on a cane and just keep saying “Eeh? Eeeh?” as he shuffles painfully slowly towards them. He seems far less reverant towards Lord Kingspirit than anyone else, calling him “Sonny Boy” instead of “Your Majesty”, but it seems tolerated by the lord in a way that it would not be tolerated from anyone else. He inspects their weapons with a jeweler’s loupe, then pokes and prods them and inspects them again with a magnifying glass. He finally says “Yep! Cursed alright. Curse of anti-healing.” He explains to them that while they are in possession of these weapons, their healing potions and powers will have the opposite effect. While this CAN be useful as a weapon in some cases, they will undoubtedly want to lift the curse if they expect to heal by anything other than resting. This is especially tough on Erin’s character, who is a healer. He shuffles back off to his little wooden door and Lord Kingspirit explains further that King Rothgar was always a trickster. He probably didn’t intend them any ill will, but he probably thought it was funny. He then sends them out of his palace.

So now they are trying to figure out what to do. Erin has lore, so she decides to make a lore check to see if she knows anything about getting curses lifted. Looking through her book (and rolling well) she discovers that way out in the woods, there is an old crone named Chastity Magus who everyone just calls The Witch of the Wastes. Well, they don’t really like the sound of that, especially since all the locals seem to distrust her, but they agree to head off anyway. After avoiding an ambush from some bandits due to some good skill checks, they finally arrive at her hut. She, like King Rothgar’s ghost, seems to think the curse is hilarious even though the heroes aren’t laughing. She tells them she CAN lift their curse, but first they’ve got to do her a little favor. A giant lizard has been sneaking onto her property and scaring her livestock (which turns out to consist of 2 sheep and 1 pig in a small pen). So they follow the tracks and find the lizard, who turns out to be a baby dragon. I tell them he looks scared and that he probably was just playing, not realizing that he was scaring the sheep and pig. Then I tell Kai that since his character does look a bit like a dragon, the little baby comes over to him, snuggles up to his leg and says “Mama?” Kai is just beaming at this point, thinks it’s like the cutest thing ever and they of course the little dragon follows them as they leave. They go back to Chastity’s house, explain the situation and say that they will be taking her “giant lizard” home with them so she doesn’t need to worry anymore. She brews up a stereotypical witch’s brew in a black cauldron, tossing in eye of newt, frog’s blood, mushrooms, onions, and all kinds of other stuff they don’t recognize. She grabs three wooden mugs, dips them into the pot and hands one to each of them. “Drink it!” she says, “It tastes like hot chocolate!” Now none of them want to actually drink this concoction because as Kai said “We saw you put blood in that!” Chastity laughs, grabs an even bigger mug off the shelf, scoops it into the pot and drinks down the whole mug herself. This sets their minds at ease a bit and they drink. I tell them it absolutely does NOT taste like hot chocolate, but it’s not as bad as they might have thought and they feel warm inside. Kira says “so… how do we know if it worked?” Just then I have the little dragon nip at Kai’s hand, leaving a small bite mark. (He tells me this seems like only half of a wound, and bites one of his jellybean wound markers in half. I tell him, sure, that’s about right.) I tell him I think his dragon needs some training. But Erin tries a healing power and it does indeed fix his small bite mark immediately. The curse is lifted and of course the Heroes of the “Wealm” have had their names cleared in the eyes of the law, so we wrapped up for the day.

Next up is Kai probably needing to pay someone to help him with his dragon training a bit. This person will of course offer the others some pet training… for a price. I don’t want to dive right back into the “Cave of the Dragon” or whatever because I feel like that will be very obvious they are being railroaded, so my plan is to have them deal with their pets and then maybe jump into the Lost Village module.

Tomb of the Lost King

The new heroes were nestled all snug in their beds when a ghostly king beckoned them to prove themselves worthy and receive treasure from him. It was a very straightforward adventure, starting in a graveyard. Erin wisely listened to the fluff as King Rothgar informed them that the skeletons which popped out of the graves could not be killed while in the light of the moon. It was the first time the kids have really had to contend with an enemy that just can’t be killed, but Erin, as a veteran Descent player was well familiar with the tactical minis game mantra of “sometimes it’s better to just run”, and advised them accordingly.

I used a Pathfinder Flip Mat for the graveyard, and while it looked really good, I don’t think I will purchase any more of them. All the folds really make it difficult to lay flat, and the size of it is just not conducive to Hero Kids, which tends to have most of its encounters take place on a 12×8 square board. This was a double-sized encounter, so it worked okay, but in most cases it results in a lot of wasted space. I think the ArcKnight maps are my favorite for size, lack of fold, and the same wet-erase-ability that the Pathfinder flip mats have.


As they made some skill checks to identify the correct mausoleum (I described the beam of moonlight shining down on it), Kira asked Erin to use the flashlight on her phone to hold above it, simulating said beam of moonlight, which filled her with glee. I know you feel like I am too reliant on beautiful maps and painted minis, but my daughter is even worse for this kind of stuff. You may recall her insistence that I get a new mini for her archer character and not recycle the same one that Erin had used. As the skeletons popped up, she said “are these the same figures you used for Captain Flynn’s ghost pirates?” and I had to admit that they were. She didn’t seem to mind, thankfully, but I felt even more justified in the time and expense of making the table look really good. I mean, if it’s increasing the players’ investment and enjoyment, how could it be wrong?

I was mentally prepared for them to fail the skill check and have to explore the various mausoleums, but they went straight for the correct one. I feel that I might have, in their shoes, wanted to explore some of the other crypts, but I think they still don’t have a great sense that such a thing is even possible. I’d like to expand their understanding that they can literally go anywhere and do anything they want, but they seem sort of satisfied with me leading them along the pre-made adventures. Moreover, if they really did try to go way off script, I’m still not sure I’ve got the GM chops to handle it. In any case, I’ll continue to look for opportunities like that to challenge both me and them.

Once they entered the crypt, I took the graveyard flip-mat off the table revealing the dungeon I had prebuilt underneath it. As they entered each of the doors, I would grab another set of tiles from the floor that I had preset and place them in the appropriate place. For this, I was using my newly acquired D&D Essentials Dungeon Tiles Master Set. I am absolutely psyched with this. Really thick cardboard, double-sided. One side is just a generic gridded floor, while the other side has all kinds of interesting things. Fountains, thrones, banquet tables, laboratory equipment, statues, levers, bodies, pits, traps, coffins and on and on. The door tiles all flip between and open door and a closed door and the kids loved the tactile nature of being able to say “I’m going in there now” and flipping the door tile. Even the box itself functions as a raised grid of dungeon tiles when the slipcover is removed. Loving this thing and it was only like $18. Main drawback is no dry-erase. Some reviewers complained about the small size, which they felt required several sets to make a proper dungeon. Again though, with the size of Hero Kids maps, this was not even close to a problem. I bet I used less than 25% of the stuff in the box with the entire dungeon set up on the table.


The door to the right had them leaping over a pit to recover the a key on the other side. Wisely, they had Kira’s character who is the most dexterous make the jump, while they waited on the other side. This key opened the main locked door which let to another room from which a chain hung in three of the corners of the room. Immediately they pulled one, but nothing happened. Kai said “I am the strongest, let me try”, but still nothing happened. He was grabbing his figure and pushing it down as hard as he could on the map as if by doing so I might say that he had been strong enough. Maybe the closest thing to “acting” I’ve seen him do, and it made me laugh a bit how into it he was. Erin of course recognized the fact that “hey, three chains, three heroes” and led them a bit saying “maybe we should work as a team?” to which Kira moved all three of their figures to one chain and had them all pull on it. Still nothing. She moved the group of three to each corner of the room, trying each chain individually. Still nothing. All of a sudden, Kai had a lightbulb moment and started directing the rest of the party.“Kira, you go there, Mommy, you go there, I’ll stay here, one two three PULL!” and indeed, the chains opened up panel revealing yet another keyhole.


On to the room on the left, which involved a fierce battle with some skeletons that came to life as soon as the key there was touched. The door slammed shut so there was nowhere to run. Kai wondered aloud if these skeletons could not be killed either. I asked him if he remembered what made the skeletons not able to die in the graveyard. Of course Kira recalled it was the moonlight. I said “do you think there is any moonlight down here?” and he got a little grin and set about to slaying the skeletons, taking puerile delight in describing how he stabbed them in the butt. (Not sure a skeleton really has a butt, but anyway…)


The final battle had them dealing with the ghost of King Rothgar himself, who, once defeated, bestowed some weaponry upon them. His ghost could only be hit on 6’s making him a rather tough opponent. Kai’s fighter (Drago, the Lizardkin) had an ability to roll an extra die against a target he had missed in a previous turn, and this proved very useful. Yet another example of an ability (much like his previous ZAP!) that kind of gives you something to feel good about even when the roll doesn’t go your way. Additionally, his is the first character we’ve used who rolls two defense dice. Kira is still getting used to playing an archer (Lilly) and had to be reminded a few times that charging right at a monster is not really the best course of action, as it was for her previous melee character. Erin is playing a mage technically (Hermione), though all the powers are focused around healing. It’s interesting to note that since she can spend her action to automatically heal one wound, a battle with her involving only a single monster that can only deal 1 damage will always result in her victory. Moreover, she can effectively choose to just leave the last monster alive, and heal the entire party to full health by taking this action over and over again until the monster misses enough attacks. This heal action is available in combat only, so it’s a bit of a strange balance choice. I don’t think she’s realized how fully that can be exploited, but I certainly have. I predict a lot of “final monster flees” in my future if she starts being a munchkin about it. Nevertheless, I do like the concept as it seems to play very differently than any of the other characters we’ve seen. It also puts a pretty big target on her in my book, and she’s less likely to cry when I KO her character than the kids are, so it’s a positive thing.


Mines of Martek

We did end up doing this a while ago, sort of wrapping up the whole adventure. The details are a little fuzzy; I should have documented it sooner afterwards.

In any event, it went more or less like I planned. The ended up getting trapped in a pit with one of the miners and using the magic acorns to grow a tree to get out. Since we were underground, I had the tree grow much more slowly than usual, meaning if they wanted to wait all night for it, they would need to lose some of their food, which they did. It was really the first time I’ve made food a factor. I think it’s kind of assumed most places they can forage and whatnot and I’ve never charged them for eating at the tavern or anything. Ultimately, it’s not that much fun to manage such things. Food is generally suggested to be used as “monster bait” in the rulebook. But I think it worked pretty well here, along with a sensible narrative reason to limit the power of their magic acorns.

I used my underground cave tiles, drawing the mine cart tracks in wet erase on them. I was delighted to find that when I used a + intersection, drawing tracks on only three of the sides, they essentially ignored the other path. This allowed for a great moment where the realized that “un-tracked” path led down to the underground lake where the ship was docked. They boated across, then fought off some water beasts who tried to knock them off their boats. Eventually, they made it onto the ship, which was eerily quiet above deck but had the sounds of an organ below. A little bit of Captain Nemo/Davy Jones going on there as Captain Flynn turns from his organ playing to converse with them. He makes it clear he wants is acorns back and kind of explains that it’s all he was ever really after. Kira and Kai were all about handing them over. Erin, not so much. Partly perhaps because it was her item, but maybe it’s just that contrary element adults have of going against what the GM clearly desires to occur. In my head I found this frustrating, since this was essentially the way in which the adventures of the kids would come to an end, which was the whole point. They wanted new characters, so we needed to resolve the loose ends here (at least I thought so at the time). We did end up having a bit of combat actually because of this, but eventually they yielded the acorns, freeing Captain Flynn from his curse as he promises never to return. The heroes having saved Rivenshore from the overarching “big bad”, they excitedly picked out some new characters.

This was an obstacle I hadn’t really faced before. Yes, I was railroading them, but it was basically because they asked me to. I’d have had no problem with a combat where he again de-materializes, only to show up again later. Or even with him capturing and enslaving them on his ship. But like, the whole point was to wrap it up. It had been established he was immortal due to the cursed acorns. So, now what? We worked through it, but I felt like it wasn’t very satisfying for Erin at least.

But now we get to move on. Characters are picked, new PC minis have arrived, and we are ready to jump into something new.

Glade of the Unicorn

Finally got to do another adventure. Actually it was a longer one and we ended up splitting it over Saturday and then Wednesday evening. The kids had to help an injured unicorn who was attacked by goblins. Kai briefly considered staying by himself to guard her as the other two set off to find the healing spring and the cursed spear. I was very clear that he could do this and mentally started planning for him to be attacked by some forest denizens if he did. But the others convinced him to come along since he was better at the skill checks that they needed to guide them through the forest. And indeed, over the course of the adventure, he made three successful checks avoiding an encounter with a pack of wolves. I had them hear the howling of wolves in the forest as he expertly guided them down hidden paths. Of course since he didn’t stay, nothing attacked the unicorn. There’s probably a name for that. It’s like an anti-quantum-ogre or something. I feel like that was a good choice though.

Anyway, first they raided the ruined keep where the goblins were hiding to recover the cursed spear, which involved several rooms of combat. As they entered the final room, the dungeon, they saw a goblin scamper into the corner and pull a lever which slammed all the cell doors shut. Later during combat, I also explained one of the goblins seemed to be guarding the lever. The goblins fired arrows through the bars, but even once they had dispatched them, they couldn’t get to the spear which was locked inside. And they couldn’t really seem to figure out that they needed to pull the lever until I really hand-held them to it. They tried “jumping over the bars”, which didn’t really make sense since they went to the ceiling. They seemed really stuck and I felt like maybe I hadn’t given them enough information, but in actuality, I think they just weren’t paying enough attention. I felt like it should have been very clear. But they didn’t seem to be able to come up with any reasonable alternative either, so I kind of “reminded” them of some things I said. With adults, I would have just let them squirm, but I didn’t feel the need to be so vindictive with kids. Really, this made me kind of realize the issue with such a railroady puzzle. There’s no creativity to be had here. There’s just a lever to pull and if you don’t pull it, the bars won’t open. I suppose they could have tried prying open the bars or something, but they didn’t think about it, and that seems… implausible anyway.

After recovering the spear, they headed to the hidden spring, where there is a roleplaying moment of trying to convince the water spirit to let them get to the spring. Of course Kira really took the lead here again. She got stuck and asked to make a talking skill check, which she passed, and I had the nymph give her some more information about the spring. I asked her to prove she wasn’t a goblin and she thought to show me the spear she took from them, which was really good. I then asked them to prove to me that they really knew the unicorn and asked for her name. Kai immediately blurted it out correctly and Erin laughed and said “wow, I didn’t remember that”. So a nice team effort. They healed the unicorn and saved the day.

I added a little tag onto the end of this where as they got back into town they saw shadowy figures sneaking around the town hall. They determined they were the ghost pirates and tried to sneak by. Only Erin succeeded, and was able to head through the side door of the town hall (Yay for the map board giving them the idea. I didn’t even notice there WAS a back door.) while Kira and Kai were forced to battle the skeletons. Inside, Erin found the Ghost Captain Flynn who had lured her into a trap, but just then a bolt of fire shot down from the rafters at him and he fled through the wall. It was their old friend Bree, who Erin cut down from the rafters. She joined the fight (my first time really controlling an NPC figure) and helped them quickly dispatch the last of the ghost pirates. Bree explained she was living in a hut outside the city, but if they ever needed her, they could ask for her help. Ghost Pirate Flynn still clearly wants his Magic acorns back and they may need to address this problem sometime soon.

I tried to wrap up here with the characters going to bed after a long night but Kira said “Okay, now it’s morning again and we are sitting in the tavern eating breakfast. Then I want to go to Aeon Mageblood’s store.” Really stepping on my role as GM here, but also on my role as a dad trying to get them into bed for real. Anyway, I let them buy some stuff real quick and then we called it a night.

As I was cleaning up, Kira really wanted to look at some of the un-chosen characters. She basically asked if she could switch and I said, well, not really, you guys still have to defeat Captain Flynn, but maybe we can start a whole new campaign sometime. She’s pretty taken with that idea, which I sort of understand. She’s been a fighter this whole time, maybe she wants to try a healer or an archer or a mage, you know? I even explained that they could create their own characters as well, which really captured her imagination. I think I need to come up with a big finale for these guys in particular and then start fresh. There’s a sense in which this system doesn’t allow for tons of leveling anyway, now that they each already have an equipment (limit 1) and a decent amount of gold and items.

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.


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