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.