Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Bloodthirsty Children!

It turns out my daughters have something of a bloodthirsty streak. My ruthless little gamers are quickly becoming the scourge of the minions of chaos!

In my last post I talked about running the first ever campaign for my daughters. We're using The Black Hack with the old D&D module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. This post is the first in a series of campaign play diaries of my daughter's first RPG campaign.

The first session went well, with the girls getting the lay of the land in the keep and interacting with the odd characters there. They spent some time asking around about the area and collecting rumours about The Caves of Chaos to the northeast. Unfortunately for them they picked up plenty of false rumours, including the one about "bree-yark" meaning "we surrender" in goblin. Random tables are a wonderful thing. Thanks to a critical success with their roll to find information, they managed to get some decent directions to The Caves of Chaos on top of their bundle of rumours, so they were able to find the valley without much trouble.

They had some luck on their first foray into the valley with all the caves and I rolled no encounter on their way in. The girls had heard there was magic armour in the southern caves so they started by sneaking into the entrance to the goblin caves.

They crept through the rough tunnels with care, avoiding one group of goblins walking through the halls by ducking down a dead-end passage. For all that sneaking around, when they found the goblin guardroom they decided to walk in with their weapons drawn and say: "Hi goblins! What's going on?"

While I loved that they strutted in there liked they owned the place, the response from the six goblins was negative. One pointed and shouted, "Bree-yark!"

At first the girls were excited, "They surrender? Wow!"

"No, not so much. They leap to their feet and charge at you with their spears raised," I said. "Looks like 'bree-yark' means attack or something like that."

Snekava let fly with an arrow and one-shotted the leading goblin in the face.
As the goblins closed, Wojeb whipped his rapier around like toddler going after a pinata. Most of the goblins went for Snekava and with three twenties, she was tasting the stone floor by the end of the round.

Snekava is even sneakier at level two!

It was looking bad for the group as the not so hand-to-hand characters tried to turn the tide back in their favour when Olys decided to use that Sleep spell she had prepared that morning. With that action the fight was over, but a failed intelligence check meant that Olys expended her spell slot for the day.

They placed Snekava on the table in the guardroom and Wojeb set about patching her up while Olys stabbed the crap out of the sleeping goblins with her dagger. Despite their desire to continue they realised they were not in any position to handle another fight. They looted the goblins and left the caves. They were lucky again and I rolled no encounter on their way out of the caves.

Once back at the keep they were pretty bummed about their poor performance in the caves. I've set the adventure in the old Grand Duchy of Karameikos. The Keep is on the Duke's Road just before it passes into the Black Peak Mountains. This information is relevant because it means the chapel in the keep is part of the Church of Karameikos. The party cleric is from the old Church of Traladara and was sent north to tend the old Traladaran shrine in the fountain square of the keep. The reason he is adventuring is he was given no funds for his mission and living in the keep is expensive.

The party managed to find a Traladaran priest who is staying at the keep. He was friendly and willing to heal Snekava for free as a favour to his fellow cleric. He also convinced the party of the dangers of touching any artefacts or altars of chaos. They promised to return to the keep and get him if they found anything like that in the caves. He was interested in their adventures and talkative. He was also surprised and grateful to learn about the old Traladaran shrine.

The next day they headed back to the caves with vengeance on their minds. They approached the goblin cave through the tree cover and spotted an ambush near the cave entrance. They used their longbows and made short work of the four waiting goblins.

They did better with the first guardroom this time and found the reinforced door to the hobgoblin lair. They heard what sounded like monsters too big and numerous to handle on the other side and decided to return, "When we're more experienced."

They found the second guardroom and entered with an actual plan this time. With no armour besides her shield, Snekava was finished with her bow and ready to mix it up with her sword from now on. They started the battle strong. Since the goblins were on alert, the goblin squad leader kicked over the water barrel and made for the hidden door with a large jingling sack.

Once it was clear the goblin was summoning help through the door, Olys decided it was time to use her sleep spell again. She rolled close to maximum on the 4D6 (twenty-one!) for the hit dice (HD) put to sleep. There are no restrictions on what creatures are affected by the spell in The Black Hack. That meant the Ogre coming through the door folded up like a cheap lawn chair and went to sleep along with the goblins.

They thought that even sleeping, the ogre was too big to kill outright, so after dispatching the goblins with their daggers, they left him alone and walked past into the lair. With no limit to their time, they searched all the nooks and crannies of the ogre's caves. Between his treasure and the gold the goblins had to pay him to fight, the girls hit the motherload!

They raced back to the keep, again with no encounter on the way out.

Once back at the keep they spent some money on better equipment, purchasing leather armour for Snekava and chain mail for the cleric. They basked in the glory of their success and partied in the keep's tavern, The Duke of Cups. I decided this was an effective milestone, having experienced both failure and success. They also had bested the ogre. They were thrilled when I told them they had levelled up!

Olys specialises in conjuring cans of whoop-ass!

The levelling process for the Black Hack was a blast with the kids. They rolled up the improvements to their characters with gusto! Cheering for each incremental bonus gained to their stats and hit points. My oldest, Chloe, actually managed to roll over her 17 intelligence so now Olys, her Conjurer, is a magical force to be reckoned with.

As far as first games go, it was a good one. The girls are hooked and it looks like my Wednesday nights are booked solid until the end of the winter.

Mechanically, I made a change to shields. They absorb damage every round, with small shields soaking 1 hit point of damage and large shields taking 2 points. The rest of the armour I left the same. It doesn't make a huge difference but it is nice for the shields to continue to be useful throughout all the fights. Otherwise, players could have their characters drop them after the first round. It also means characters will continue to use shields at higher levels when armour seems like not much of a big deal.

The other thing I'm considering is cutting the power of the Sleep Spell. At 4D6 hit dice it is always going to wipe a small group of opponents. There should be less certainty when it comes to using magic so I might use the 2D8 hit dice from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess version of the spell in the future.


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Their First Campaign

I've gamed with my daughters in the past. So far we've played a few one-shots to try out or playtest games aimed at kids.

I tried to get them into D&D with the Mentzer Red Box a few years ago. Both of them loved the images and the ideas in the book. The youngest didn't really have the attention span for it at the time and the game died out after the first session. D&D is not much of a solo game.

My oldest (12) has been pushing me to play again so I asked my youngest (9) this weekend how she felt about trying D&D again. She was super-excited to play!

We made their characters Sunday evening. The level of engagement this time was on a completely different level. When they were younger I was using the art to draw them in and help find out what they'd like to play. This time around we talked it out. Part of that came from their maturity level and part of it came from my decision to use The Black Hack as the rules for our campaign. It has no pictures and the rules are so simple all we needed to talk about was class-based concepts and what they wanted their characters to be able to do.

They responded well to starting with rolling the stats to find out about their characters and learn what they were good at. From there we looked at the four classes, what they could do and which ones would be complemented by the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. We also talked about what each class excelled at.

The short one liked the idea of a sneaky character who does things quietly and carefully, so she was keen to play a Thief despite her character's low Dexterity. Fortunately The Black Hack allows for two stats to be switched around during character generation and she didn't care if anyone liked her character, so she traded her DEX and CHA around to get herself a grumpy thief to play.

I barely started to ask the tall one what she wanted to play when she exploded: "Conjurer!"

This girl wants to play a wizard. I think it comes from reading her the Earthsea trilogy when she was little. She rolled a 17 Intelligence for her character so no stats were swapped.

Names came next and after some talk about naming fantasy characters we ended up with Snekava the Thief and Olys the Conjurer.

Snekava the Thief "...because she's so sneaky!"
While the girls shopped for their equipment I rolled up a henchman to help support their characters and avoid the TPKs that come with a party of two. Wojeb the Cleric (AKA Ol' Wojeb) came out of a low STR and CON but relatively high WIS. He can't carry much more than a torch and a shield but his hit points are high enough he should make an effective meatshield.

For the campaign I think I'll start with B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. It's a good spot for it and the Caves of Chaos allow for all kinds of different approaches to dealing with its monstrous inhabitants. Besides, it's an iconic adventure with sandbox elements that I ran recently in 5th edition so there's little for me to do in terms of prep.

The iconic Keep on the Borderlands
As for the larger world, I'm not sure what I'll do for that. I'm considering setting it in the old D&D Known World setting on Mystara. I've already done all the work of sprinkling my favourite OSR and classic D&D adventures throughout the setting. I've also subbed out chunks of the setting with cooler stuff from the Hydra Collective. For all that, the world has a history that makes suspension of disbelief easy to achieve. No matter what I do, it's all new to them, so exploring it will blow their little minds!

As far as system goes, I chose The Black Hack for a few reasons. I've already seen that it's simplicity makes it attractive as a way to bring beginners into D&D style gaming. I also like how it uses some of the modern gaming mechanics like usage dice and advantage/disadvantage. I want my girls to benefit from the old school, but I don't want them trapped there! I also like how damage by class makes weapon restrictions irrelevant so I could let them use whatever weapons they wanted without messing up the game balance. The biggest thing that made me want to use it for my daughters is the level advancement. Every level they'll roll for each statistic to see if it increases. This kind of obvious character improvement is going to make levelling that much more exciting and keep them engaged in the campaign. It also means low stats are not a big deal since they are more likely to increase than high ones.

We've decided on Wednesday evenings for our games since my wife is out that night and both of the girls are home. I'm looking forward to campaign play with the girls. I can't wait to see what they discover about their characters as they change and grow through play!