The Story of the Haunted Guard Post

On Sunday, I ran a roleplaying game for 4 kids, aged 6-8 years. And it rocked the house.

I've been planning this for a while - we started scheduling this in the summer. I was looking for a lightweight ruleset and toyed with a few systems before settling on Warrior, Rogue & Mage. Truth be told, I hacked WyRM a bit, but I think the rules came together. If you're interested, download my Excel 2007 WyRM reference sheet (I printed it landscape 2-up and 2-sided so it fits on one piece of Letter-sized paper), the blank character sheet I made (you'll need the Hingham Text font), and the pre-generated characters (10 of them). I chickened out and didn't offer the Hairfoot Summoner, but I had visions of that magic system being very cool and flexible.

Their version was nowhere near this.
Theirs was cooler, hacked from the
Lego Ramses Return game.
Starting Up
My daughter and her friends are very independent, so they started hacking together their own version of Lego D&D before we even started. I let them go until they were good and ready to sit down and play. I set out 9 minis and gave a brief overview of each, then let them choose one to play. We had a Human Monk, a Human Druid, an Elf Wizard, a Dwarf Warrior, and a Human Archer. No disputes; so far, so good.

I handed out the character sheets based on their choices and gave a 5-minute crash course of the rules and where to find things on the sheet. Even five minutes was too long, so I dove in to getting a sketch of party history. Everyone shrugged when I asked how the characters knew each other, though "Because the players are friends" made me laugh. We eventually decided that they had just finished an adventure defeating a dragon in a cave, which was very similar to an impromptu game of Hero Quest I ran a couple of weeks back.

I wanted their input on the town, so we spent some time coming up with ideas. Since the party had just defeated a dragon and saved the town, we decided on Dragonville. The party was staying in town because the townsfolk were holding a feast in their honor.

If you're interested,
grab your own copy.
Introducing the System
Since the quick overview didn't really take, I thought I'd give them a quick taste of what a roll looked like. I decided that contests of skill were part of the feast, so there was an archery contest, a wrestling contest, and a spellcasting contest. I had everyone choose their strong suit to compete in, and give me a roll. The 1d6+stat+skill system worked fairly well. I made it as easy as I could by recording the stat+skill as a single bonus, but doing the math took some kids longer than others. When the Dwarf Warrior (Warrior 6) and the Monk (Warrior 5 +2 Unarmed) wrestled each other and the Dwarf's die exploded, it took a minute to verify the 12 vs. 15 result.

Setting the Hook
The day after the feast, the characters were talking about what to do next over breakfast. They were thinking about going back to the cave and looking for dragon eggs to destroy, when a farmer burst in. He sounded delirious, saying "The guard post is haunted!" before collapsing from an arrow wound. The Druid revived the farmer as the Wizard examined the arrow, which looked Orcish. The farmer got too close to the abandoned guard post when catching a stray cow, and a voice threatened him to stay away. Some bodies near the guard post stood up and started chasing him. He was so scared, he just ran. He passed out a couple of times, but ran directly to Dragonville for help. The characters left for the hilltop guard post immediately.

This was a great time for a quick break to get more food.

Not quite like this. Our
guard tower was round.
Action!
The party arrived at the hilltop guard post. They saw a short tower next to a stable and another building, with dead bodies lying around the tower. When they started talking about what to do next, an eerie voice called out "Come no further unless you bring money." Between a lack of Incredible Hearing talents and abysmal Awareness rolls, everybody was wondering which dead body said that. After some bickering, the voice said, "Then suffer!" and seven bodies stood up, shambling toward the characters.

Throwing axes, arrows, and Fire Bolts streaked across the sky, and the Monk and Warrior dove into the fray. The Monk kicked off Ironskin, which held death at bay as the skeletons and zombies slammed him down to 1 HP in a single round. Then the sharp-eyed Archer caught an ogre trying to sneak around the stable to flank the party. The Wizard and Archer opened fire as the Druid cast Startle on him. Next round, the Wizard dropped him with a Fire Bolt.

The party was starting to mop up the undead, when they noticed a team of orcs coming out of the tower. The Warrior's player decided to spend a Luck Point to change a detail of the story. Since he couldn't make the orcs disappear, he made them not have swords. I gave them clubs instead, but he basically traded a luck point to drop their attacks by 2 points. Was that luck point too powerful? Maybe, but it sparked the idea in the rest of the group that Luck Points could do some funky things. That level of inspiration and engagement is worth a great deal more than a Luck Point, so I wholeheartedly allowed it.

Since the orcs were so nerfed by their lack of swords, and since the Wizard dropped the Orc Cleric in a single shot, the 3 that were left made a run for it. Then the 1 that was still standing surrendered. There were calls to kill him, but only from the youngest. I offered that there were law enforcement people to take charge of the orcs back in Dragonville, and cooler heads rallied around that idea.

Like this, only glowing.
Aftermath
The Archer with her Interaction skill questioned the remaining conscious orc and found that the stairs in the tower were trapped. She also found that the orcs were an advance scout for a larger warband and got directions to that base of operations.

In exploring the tower and stripping magic items from the fallen, the party came up with 150sp, a red spinel gem (probably 150sp), a glowing magic sword, a magic chain shirt made of extremely fine links, a potion of healing (defined by another use of Luck Points), and a ring of defense. Everyone wanted the ring. Uh-oh. I pointed out that there was enough for everyone to get something, and nobody should get more than one thing until everyone had something cool. I started going down the list, and everyone negotiated well for what they wanted.

And with that, we were out of time and off to run to a family dinner. Busy weekend was busy. Sometime soon I'll start scheduling the next game. We'll see if everyone wants to keep the same characters.

More thoughts forthcoming in a Lessons Learned and Ideas for Next Time post.

4 comments:

  1. Looking forward to the lessons learned. As the father of a 5 year old boy this sort of thing really catches my interest. He's more into aliens and monsters so...

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    Replies
    1. Gamma World might be more his speed. The WotC D&D 4e-based Gamma World is fairly stripped down, and you can fit a character on a 3x5 card. And you can call any monster an alien and get away with it.

      Or just pick something and handle all the mechanics yourself. Let him tell the story, and you can crunch the numbers if you want.

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  2. So, did you run this group through a HeroQuest dungeon before? I started out with that game with my kids, and it worked great for character selection and initial gameplay.

    -Rob

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    Replies
    1. Half a HeroQuest game, actually. I did it as a time-filler while waiting for others to arrive for game & potluck day. They got through 3 rooms, including fighting a dragon (I used a mini from Dungeon Strike, grabbed the Gargoyle stats, and gave him a breath weapon). It got them a taste of running a character, turn-based combat, and exploring a dungeon, so it was all good.

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