The Story of the Warband Stronghold

The second session of the RPG for kids happened this past Saturday. We had a new player who couldn't make it last time, bringing the group up to 5 kids between 6 and 8 years old, and the entire group dynamic changed. I feel like I worked extra hard to run this game, and the actual play session was shorter than last time.

Hairfoot Rogue.
Getting Up to Speed
Our new player brought a character sheet for his 8th level Dragonborn Ranger from the game he plays with older kids. Alarm bells went off in my head, and I knew this would be a tougher session to run than last time. I took him aside and talked to him about how this game was different: different rules, no classes, and no dragonborn characters. I offered him the 4 pregens I had left, and he chose the Hairfoot Rogue.

I had him roll Thievery to gather rumors that he could pass on to the rest of the party, and to show him how the mechanics worked. I think he got the mechanics pretty quickly. My daughter wanted to name this session "The Haunted Church", so I gave him a rumor about a roadside church back toward civilization. People went in to pray and many times they didn't come out. We went back to join the rest of the party.
They skipped the church...

Decision Time
The party marched their orc prisoner back to town and handed him off to the magistrate. Yes, there were renewed calls of "kill the prisoner" on the way, and our new rogue decided to play to stereotype and try to loot and steal everything. Sometimes a little RPG experience is dangerous.

Everyone had a chance to reintroduce their characters. Everyone took the same characters they had last time, which avoided the "I want to play the archer this time!" discussion that I feared. Everyone's character slept and got mana and hit points back.

The joking and disruption kept going. There was confusion about who already knew each other. I explained (twice) that the rogue had been part of the pre-game adventure of killing the dragon, but he had been delayed in town and couldn't investigate the Haunted Guardpost with the rest of them. We got into a metagame discussion about where the rumor about the church came from. It was a struggle to keep everyone's attention, and the Rogue's "I want to rob the rich houses in town" refrain didn't help. It's a village. You're in the richest house in town; it's called the inn, and you're lucky it got two stars.

In the morning, the party saw the magistrate mount a horse and head east toward more civilized lands with his orc prisoner in tow. They also had a decision to make. I gave them the option of checking out the haunted church, or following up on the information the orc prisoner gave about the rest of the orc warband holing up in a cave a few hours' walk past the guardpost. Since they got it in their heads that the orcs may attack sooner rather than later, they chose to check out the warband.

The Approach
...and went for the cave with the orcs.
We went to the map and handwaved the travel time. They saw an orc guard in a stand of trees that masked the cave entrance, just off the road exactly where the orc prisoner had said. The rogue went off ahead, got the drop on the guard, questioned him at daggerpoint ("Wulgash leads here. We will destroy the town, and you will die!"), then slit his throat. Having Rogue 6, skill in Dagger, Interaction, and Thievery, and Exceptional Rogue makes ridiculous numbers much more common.

In looting the body, they only found an orcish sword, which they kept. They found no other guards outside, so they approached the cave entrance. The Druid checked for tracks and counted at least 20 orcs who have been here for at least 2 weeks. The Wizard cast Light on his staff so everyone would be able to see when they went in. The Rogue wanted to zip off ahead (and probably die), and he wanted the Wizard's staff so he could see.

The Rogue wanted to use his Interaction to talk the Wizard out of his staff. I wouldn't allow using a social ability against another PC, especially since the Wizard's player was out of the room at the time. I suggested asking the Wizard for his staff and seeing how that went. There was asking and pleading, then the Rogue got stuck on "stabbing the Wizard in the butt". Time to refocus away from that rathole, as everyone was talking too loudly to hear anyone else anyway.

The Archer looked into the cave with her Incredible Sight, and saw the tunnel take a left after about 30 feet. On the wall opposite the entrance, she saw a half dozen arrow slits. An arrow narrowly missed her, and suddenly all butt-stabbing was forgotten.

The Best Laid Plans End With "Get 'Em!"
How deep is your dungeon?
Everyone piled into the cave and started shooting at the arrow slits or running to the turn to get under cover. About half the party was hit with arrows. The Archer and the Rogue managed to get a dagger and arrow through the slits, but they didn't know how well they did. The Wizard rolled really well with a Firebolt, and the entrance filled with a lovely charred orc smell.

They turned the corner and saw that the tunnel took a right about 30 feet in. At the corner, there were 2 rough curtains covering a section of both walls. One of the boys came up with, "Maybe there's a naked lady behind the curtain!" and suddenly everybody wanted to get to the curtains. At this point I kept going around the table asking what everyone was doing, and fighting to keep everyone quiet until it was their turn. After everyone had their say, I moved all the minis and resolved everything at once. It worked fairly well, I think.

Unfortunately, there was a trap in the hallway. The floor dropped about a foot, and spikes flew out to catch the Warrior, Monk, and Rogue in the shins for a few points of damage each. All but the Rogue fell down - again the high Rogue score saves the day. Four orcs came out from behind one of the curtains, from what looked like a kitchen. They had aprons and meat cleavers and charged the trapped characters. Shouts came from around the corner and further down the tunnel.

The party recovered, and killed half the orcs in one round. Another half dozen came around the corner. The Rogue asked if he could loot the body. I said "Sure, but these two will get free attacks on you. Still want to do it?" He declined. The party heard horns sounding further down the tunnel, and more sounds of orcs arming for battle. The Druid feared his estimate of the number of orcs was woefully low.

The Better Part of Valor
The second dozen got the point across.
More orcs turned the corner the next round. Some loved it, yelling "Bring 'em on!" Some realized that there were another few dozen orcs coming around that corner. Some were curious what was behind the other curtain. I kept pulling out orc minis and putting them on the map. Cooler heads prevailed and the party decided to retreat.

The Rogue started thinking about making traps. I told him anything would take time, but he could improvise something. He ran outside the cave and looked for rocks above the cave mouth to hopefully cause some damage and deter pursuit when the orcs came streaming out of the cave.

The Archer took an orc body, still smouldering from the fatal Firebolt hit, dragged it over to the arrow slits and stuffed the corpse's arm into one. The smoke from the body gave the party some cover from the archers behind the wall. In my mind, that was the awesome play of the day, right there.

The Monk used Athletics and Acrobatics to flip over to the other curtain, take a look behind it (a storeroom full of questionable foodstuffs), and jump back to join the party on the way out the door. Everyone else executed a decent fighting withdrawl, giving the Rogue a few rounds to work.

Not quite this, but effective.
The party ran out of the cave, a couple dozen orcs hot on their heels. The Rogue tripped the rockfall, which didn't kill anyone but gave the pursuers pause. The Archer and Wizard dropped a couple before they charged through the trees and lost sight of the cave. The orcs started arguing about whether or not to give chase. The party ran their legs off and escaped.

Back in Dragonville
They made it back to town in the evening to lick their wounds and try to fence their orc sword. Woo. At this point, the game broke up. They were more interested in playing with each other than playing the game, so I let them go. I did mention that the magistrate came back to town that evening and offered the party the use of the guardpost if they wanted to fix it up. So next time, they have more choices about what to do.

Everyone was scattered, trying to be funny, not paying attention to the game, and definitely talking too loudly. They're young, I get that. It was a full moon, which may have had something to do with it. I didn't have as much fun as I did the first time. Keeping everyone on the same page and repeating everything a few times so everyone knew what was happening got old quickly.

I've got some more thoughts and reactions on this session, but I think I'll break those out into another post like I did last time.

Thanks for reading!

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