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.