Friday, 28 April 2017

New Recruits: Paying Homage to Friendship (and Nostalgia)

I've been on a nostalgia kick as of late. Perhaps that's why Ernest Cline's book, Ready Player One (I'm an Audible junkie, thus the link), instantly became one of my favourites.  Inspired by this book, and classic superhero and high fantasy plot lines emphasizing camaraderie, I set out to write the New Recruits adventure for Super Kids.

The adventure pays homage to one of the great aspects of role-playing games: establishing life-long friendships. It begins with the kids walking into a classroom of what could be their new school: the Linwood Academy for Extraordinary Children. Linwood is a training ground for young supers.  The kids meet the Principal, Dr. Crandall Hailey, and his assistant, Deathspell the magic duck (aka Coach Quackers).

Your players will have fun introducing themselves, their powers, and their origin stories here. When I play-tested the introduction process, I was surprised how quickly the players came up with their backgrounds and how excited they were to talk about their characters - characters they had just decided on 10 minutes earlier. (My kids' favourite characters are Shadow, Accalia, and Drakor).

Solving the Principal's Riddle

Dr. Hailey provides the super kids with a challenge: overcome 5 groups of adversaries in different rooms and solve a riddle.  If they are successful, they will be admitted into the Academy.  The riddle is a palindromic-type sentence: "Prosper you that teaches it forwards then back."

A few side notes here:
  1. The riddle is not a true palindrome, but it's the best description I can give. The sentence means something different when read forwards than when it's read backwards; 
  2. GMs will have to assist younger players with reading in this adventure; and, 
  3. Some of the meaning in this adventure will go over players' heads, and that's okay, as the GMs will still appreciate it.
The riddle is solved by moving room to room, defeating adversaries, and deciphering clues. The principal gives the characters a "Wheel of Decryption." (Note: GM assembly required; instructions included.) The players are presented numeric clues in each room, which they convert to letters, and then words, using the code wheel. They record the words on their code sheet.

Five Themed Rooms, Five Encounters

The theme of each room and challenge is based on an influential piece of literature or TV series that emphasizes friendship, fellowship, and camaraderie.  I won't disclose the themes here, but given what I'll tell you next, you might well guess them before reading through the adventure.  Most of the themes will likely only be recognizable to the GMs.  This is one of my trips down pop culture memory lane à la Ready Player One.

Challenge #1. Ghostborg Chess. Coach Quackers leads the kids through the adventure via teleports to the different challenge rooms.  In room 1, characters find themselves at one end of a chessboard, pitted against Ghostborgs - part ectoplasmic ghost, part robot.  This is a straight combat scenario: beat the Ghostborgs, win the challenge, get the clue.

Challenge #2. Everybody Floats. When Coach Quackers brings the kids to the second room, they are confronted by a clown, Mr. Clappy, and his balloon dog minions. Problem 1: the adversaries are floating out of reach. Problem 2: Mr. Clappy likes being out of reach and creating new balloon dogs to set loose on intruders. Some super kids have the innate ability to fly, while others will need to use some ingenuity to figure out how to thwart the clown and win the challenge.

Challenge #3. The Lovely. In room number three, a Golem and Orcs are searching for the Golem's lost artefact, "The Lovely." The players are presented with a moral dilemma: help the pathetic Golem find his lost treasure, or take it for themselves.  Will they battle the Orcs and the Golem, or will they use their perception and investigation skills to find "The Lovely?"

Challenge #4. One-Eyed Jilly. For challenge number four, the super kids need to retrieve the undead pirate captain's - i.e., One-Eyed Jilly's - prized dagger. The room, which is the dining area of a ship, is full of pirate booty and skeletal pirates. The crew and Jilly are "asleep" when the characters enter the room, and stay that way until someone rouses them. The super kids have a couple options here. They can try to sneak past Jilly and her crew, or they can battle for possession of the dagger. Stealth is a viable option for retrieving the dagger. The problem is that the ship lurches side-to-side, and any characters that can't find their sea legs, will likely find themselves crashing into the pirates or their treasure.  Add to that a pressure trap under Jilly's dagger, and the temptation of all that treasure, and there's a good chance the super kids aren't getting out without a fight.

Challenge #5. Alternate Dimension. This is my favourite challenge. Right at the beginning of it the kids need to decide if they're going to assist a girl - another super kid, named Kay - who has just been bullied by two older boys.  If the super kids show kindness, they gain a powerful ally.  They need to rescue Kay's brother, Jay, from a Fuzzby and some Spludges.  The super kids will have to climb, or fly, up a steep cliff to get to Jay.  They might also learn that one of the trees at the base of the cliff has the power to teleport them to another area - the clifftop.  The toffee-flavoured Spludges can be a nuisance, but beware the Fuzzby!  Its Chow Down special action could prove to be particularly troublesome for the super kids.

Concluding the Adventure

Having overcome the five challenges, and collected and deciphered each room's clue, the super kids need to put the clues together to solve the riddle.  This involves them reading the word clues forwards, then backwards.  GMs will need to assist younger players, and maybe even drop some hints for the older ones.  After the super kids solve the riddle, they are teleported back to meet with Dr. Hailey and Coach Quackers for a debrief and welcome into Linwood.

As hinted at in my capitalization of the word "Adventure" (instead of adventure) in the product preface, I've embedded an Easter Egg in the adventure for the GM.  Just a little something fun and nostalgic for us old guys and gals - at least those of us who have played D&D for some time.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

New Recruits: A Super Kids Adventure

Encounters: 5
Difficulty: Normal
Duration: 90+ Minutes

Capital City needs superheroes. The police are kept busy dealing with all sorts of problems. Criminals, monsters, aliens, and super villains pose constant threats. This is a city that can use all the help it can get. That’s where super kids come in!

This adventure (available at DriveThruRPG) takes place at the Linwood Academy for Extraordinary Children. The characters are at Linwood being tested for admission into this prestigious school. The school serves as a training ground for super kids. The principal has devised a series of combat challenges and a riddle to assess whether the kids are worthy of further training and missions.

Compatibility and Conversion. While designed for Super Kids—a superhero expansion for Hero Kids—this adventure is fully compatible with all Hero Kids’ products. Hero Kids’ characters, including those from the space expansion, can be used. Game Masters might want to make minor changes to the adventure text to capture a medieval or space setting.

This Adventure was written as a tribute to one of life's greatest treasures. I hope it will help your kids find theirs.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Super Kids: A Superhero Expansion for Hero Kids

Having grown up reading superhero comics and watching Superman (1978, 1980) and Batman (1989, etc.) take to the big screen during my early childhood and youth, I've been a fan of supers for quite some time. Admittedly, I didn't get to see the Superman movies until they were released on VHS.  I had a blast playing Champions (4th edition) as a teenager, with my favourite Champions character creation being Blizzardo!  Like so many others, I've enjoyed watching my favourite superheroes and their powers given awesome special effects life in more recent hits like the Avengers and X-Men series.  I'm currently listening to Drew Hayes' Super Powereds books via Audible

As a dad, it has now come time for me to pay it forward.  I have three little ones - 4, 8, and 10 - so all are in the sweet spot for Hero Kids gaming. And, boy do they love playing (Thank you, Justin!).  Plus, their favourite show right now is Teen Titans Go!  (If you pushed me on it, I'd admit to being a bit of a fan myself.)  Take these things and add in my love of role-playing, creating, using my imagination, and watching my kids have fun.  Result = Super Kids.

I enjoyed creating the Super Kids expansion material.  Kat Glidewell did a bang-up job on the artwork.  As I mentioned in the Discussions on the Super Kids' product page at DriveThruRPG, my aim was to do something similar to what Justin did in creating the Space Expansion for Hero Kids.  The focus was on introducing the supers genre to the Hero Kids system by way of 14 new superhero characters. The setting information has been kept light (for now), and a few new skills and descriptions were included.  One (unpublished) version of the product included details on character creation.  I didn't include it for two reasons: (1) I figured the core Hero Kids materials did a good job explaining the creation process; and, (2) I didn't have a long enough list of balanced powers (i.e., special actions and bonus abilities) for players to choose from.  Given the feedback I've received, I'm working on some options to bring character creation in.  This, along with what I've published so far, is being carried out mindful of balancing.  Warning! Supers can quickly break the game if not contained.  In an upcoming post, I will discuss where I'm at in creating new material.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Character Advancement System for Hero Kids

In the fall of 2016, I became increasingly curious about what a character advancement system for Hero Kids might look like. This became a slight obsession as I developed version after version. The current iteration at DriveThruRPG was what I settled on.

It presents a complete character advancement system with the following new game concepts:

  • 10 levels of advancement, with characters starting on level 1
  • Awarding experience
  • Level progression rate options
  • Character ranks (novice to master)
  • Character classes (fighter, archer, wizard)
  • Talents (e.g., skill versatility, battle prowess, multi-classing)
  • Feats (e.g., accuracy, critical hit, dodge, disarm, speedy, tumble)
  • Character sheet for tracking level advancement

My goals in creating the system were three-fold: (1) present players with new character options as they complete adventures and advance in levels; (2) keep the ideas accessible and kid-friendly; and, (3) make the system compatible with - i.e., not break - current game mechanics and adventures.

As I write this post, and play catch up in writing about the products I've released, I'm nearly ready to update the advancement system to version 2.  Expect more details in an upcoming post.