Trademark and Newbies

**Hero Kids is a trademark of Justin Halliday and is used with permission.**
If you are new to this blog, start with the "Intro" post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Spells and Abilities

One of the things that happened at the end of the Maze of the Minotaur was that our PC's (Player Characters) each received a new ability. They have been so incredibly excited about their new powers that they've been asking me non-stop for over a week how they work exactly and when they can use them. I figured if they were this excited, maybe some other players would enjoy similar upgrades in your games. So this is how I plan on implementing them.

Our Master Archer gained the ability to blend into any environment if he hasn't already been seen. Basically, he will have "super stealth" that will make him nearly invisible to all but the most perceptive enemies. Mechanically, instead of starting with 1 die and gaining a die to his stealth check pool for each thing that helps him, he will always start with 5 dice and remove 1 for each thing that would hinder perfect camouflage (like bright sunlight in an open field or a very perceptive foe). He will also always succeed with a 3 or higher. Once he does something to attract attention, he loses his camouflage. Also, if his pet bear follows him and fails a standard stealth check, he will lose his camouflage.

Our Life Mage has gained the ability to heal at range. I will probably also give her some sort of protective shield or extra defense so that she isn't left completely vulnerable while playing a mostly supportive role (she's the youngest and will probably need a little extra help as the encounters begin to become increasingly more difficult). The only limit I plan to impose on this ability is that the target must be within eyesight and a main PC (no pets except her own).

The Nature Mage gained the spell, Polymorph, which allows him to transform into an animal for a time. Each animal form will have its own set of stats and abilities. For example, if he morphs into a bear, he will have 3 HP, 3 melee dice, 1 armor die, and have the Barging Attack Special Action. If he is KO'd in animal form or the spell reaches its time limit, the mage will revert back to the same state he was in when he cast the spell (if he had 2 HP when he cast the spell, he has 2 HP after it's done, no matter how many HP he had left in animal form). Clearly, this has the potential to become very overpowered very quickly. I'm imposing several limitations on the spell to balance this. First, he has to choose 6 animals ahead of time that will be available for him to morph into. He can only change out which animals are in those 6 when he can rest for a full day. Additionally, there are 4 size classifications for all the animals (small, medium, large, huge) with a max of 2 from any given size allowed to be in the 6. A max of 2 of the 6 can be magical or mythical creatures (dragon, griffin, etc.). Finally, Polymorph may only be cast twice per encounter with each animal limited to one use until he can get a short rest. A short rest replenishes the availability of all 6 animals, but if there isn't time for resting, any used animals remain unavailable for the next encounter.

The Elemental Mage gained the spell, Living Elemental, which allows him to transform into one of 4 elemental creatures: fire, water, earth, and air. The elemental forms can pass through their own element for a short distance. They also have stronger element based attacks. Otherwise, the spell is mechanically identical to Polymorph.

I haven't had the opportunity to see these in use yet. I'm sure situations will arise that I did not anticipate  that will force me to improvise better balances. I will check back in with how things work out in game once they get used to using them. If you guys have incorporated anything like these, let me know how they worked for you

Monday, September 28, 2015

A little "Down Time" between sessions

We won't be able to play for the next few weeks due to weddings, soccer tournaments, etc. We will probably spend a little time in Bayhaven, and my oldest boy has written a space adventure that he wants to GM for us. Mostly, though, I'm using this "down time" to prep the next several adventure paths our wandering band of vertically challenged heroes may choose to explore next. I've been trying to somewhat faithfully recreate the ruined keep and ambush dungeon from the Glade of the Unicorn adventure. Here's what I've come up with so far (I still need to cut out the crumbling second floor for the keep).

The ruined keep without the second floor. 

The arrow slits and doors can be seen here.

The "secret" rubble entrance in the back.

The entrance from the keep above is in the larger area in the bottom left.

The kids' characters are beginning to become quite powerful, so I'm planning on completely swarming them with goblins. There are 4-6 each archers, jabbers, stabbers, and shaman. They've been given a few new abilities that I know they are going to want to try as well.

That's the other thing I've been doing. Two of them gained the ability to transform into other things, and so I've been working out the details for those abilities. Once I figure them out, I'll post them for you.

I'm also going through all the rooms and traps from the Maze of the Minotaur for you guys. I'll post those as soon as I get them organized into a coherent list.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Minotaur's Labyrinth 2

Whew! We've finally made it to the Minotaur's Lair. That was a rough one on them. They made it through, though. And it only took about 18 hours over 6 or 7 sessions!

I keep finding it amazing how much these four kids are willing to pour themselves into these characters. I keep presenting them with obstacle after obstacle with less and less information up front, and they keep figuring out more creative ways to conquer them. Of course, it's also fun to watch them work for an hour to try and figure out increasingly elaborate ways through a trap only to have the youngest one of them beat it in one sentence. They needed to cross a room that was a magic trap and filled with gas whenever any magic entered or was formed in the room. If they would've used any magic or brought anything with magic currently at work within it (like their enchanted gems that they were using for light), the room immediately filled with a yellow haze that would do 1 damage to them immediately and 1 poison damage on the following turn. They didn't want to leave the gems behind, though. So two of them entered the room and explored it without any magic ... or light ... while the other two stayed behind with the gems. Leaving their comrades behind, one almost was eaten by a giant, magically enhanced Venus Flytrap, one became Hulk-ified for a few minutes, and both ended up stuck in a dimensional portal in a trapped chest. They were rescued by one of the other two. After all that and still no success in getting the gems across the room without taking damage, the last one of them (the youngest) simply said, "can I just throw these things across the room?"


I chuckled at the other three for a moment ... then made them roll a dexterity check to not get hit with the gems. Heehee.

Finally, they found the Minotaur at the top of a sloped corridor that had a trough running down the center and had a trap door in the ceiling near the top (I bet you can figure out what was above the trap door ... they haven't seen Indiana Jones yet ...).

They now have two pieces of the artifact that they need to assemble. The Minotaur also gave them scrolls that let them choose between two spells to help them on their journey. I've never seen 8-11 year-olds so conflicted. You would have thought I had asked them if they wanted to save the cute puppy or the cuddly bunny from the hungry lion. It was awesome.

They are so excited about their characters and trying out their new abilities that they acted out at least half a dozen scenarios on their way to bed. I am excited to see the ways they come up with to use their new abilities.

I'll list all the traps, the rooms in which they found them, the treasure rooms, the monsters, and the location of the lair in another post. They didn't explore the maze in its entirety, but they will have that option if they want to do that next session. I'm pretty sure they missed about 7 rooms.

Our four intrepid adventurers rise from the Maze of the Minotaur weary but determined. The elemental mage has become so infused with the elemental magic that he has gained the ability to become a living elemental being. The master archer has honed his tracking and stealth skills to the point where he can blend in to any surroundings (basically, disguise + camouflage). The life mage has learned to manipulate the life energies of her fellow adventurers at a distance and can now heal at range. The nature mage found himself at one with the wildlife around him and gained the ability to polymorph into any creature. May these new abilities prove beneficial on their journey to bring Zimarim the Grimm down.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Minotaur's Labyrinth

Don't worry. We're still playing. It's just been a bit since I've been able to post.

Our game has slowed down a bit due to other schedules. I've been back to work for several weeks now following a short medical leave after surgery this summer. Pre-season training for my oldest son's soccer team began. Vacations, camps, and good weather for bike-riding have all caused our sessions to happen a bit less frequently. Also, the boys decided that unless their friends are here, they don't want to progress in the main campaign. So we've done a few one-offs from the Bayhaven adventures and Space adventures and a few I made up off the cuff.

This also is compounded by the fact that we have been engaged in a MASSIVE dungeon crawl through the Labyrinth of the Minotaur. They solved the riddle to open the secret entrance only to find a 70 foot shaft descending through the underground lake. They very creatively figured out a way to descend the shaft safely utilizing some vines courtesy of the nature mage (the pets had to be left behind for this one due to the shaft and the tight nature of the corridors). That was about 5 sessions ago. I made the labyrinth a HUGE underground network of caverns and tunnels from the map pieces in the Maze of the Minotaur adventure. It's made of 35 full sheets in a 7x5 grid. Here's a picture.

We've had to move this adventure to the floor.

I've been having a blast running them through a ton of traps and battles as they make their way through this maze. I decided to lay it out like this instead of reveal it room by room for two reasons. First, I wanted them to get a sense of the vastness of the labyrinth. This is the largest map on which they've played. Second, I figured they were going to get the "secret labyrinth" feel with all of the traps and random encounters I have planned.

They descended into the labyrinth in the third row, second column (little horizontal corridor with one opening to the right). They travelled north and hit almost every room in the upper right section. They found some glowing gemstones that give each them a portable light source, several giant snakes and scorpions, two spider infestations, glowing mushrooms that disintegrated when pulled from the ground by hand (they didn't investigate those any further to discover how to harvest them), a former adventurer (now only remains) with 1 intact potion, a magical stream of healing water, a pit trap, a cave-in trap that KO'd the life mage (healer), and the minotaur - which they defeated only to see it retreat into what can only be described as a glimmering portal.

After finally freeing the life mage from the rubble from the cave-in, they are now investigating a trap in the next room (where the minis are standing looking into) that they have learned is tripped by magic but not by physical objects. It's fascinating seeing them go through the process of detecting the trap (archer) through the partially blocked exit of their current cavern, detecting it is magical plant-based, testing it with a fireball, then an arm, then a staff, then a staff with magic sent through it, then a magical rock, then an arrow, then an arrow with ice that was created magically on it, then an improvised torch made from a magically manifested stick (nature mage) lit by magically manifested fire (elemental mage). Through all of that (with very little prompting from me) they figured out that the trap was triggered by magic, but not be physical things - even if those physical things were created by magic.

They still have yet to discover the actual lair of the minotaur, which will hold a second piece of the artifact as well as two scrolls for each character that will let them choose one of two variations on an upgrade to their abilities (i.e. - the life mage will be able to choose from a resurrection style spell that fully heals an ally from a KO once per day/adventure or permanently upgrading "Healing Touch" to a ranged spell). They also will probably run across an arrow trap (think Indian Jones), another group of lost adventurers that will end up being a reanimating skeleton attack trap, a locked room escape riddle, a mirage trap, an acid stream trap, and at least one more treasure room (the very upper right room was a treasure room).

The Minotaur's labyrinth has been loads of fun so far for them (they were laughing hysterically when the nature mage's spelled failed and ended up sprouting thorns out of the elemental mage's bald head). Hopefully, they'll bring back rewards worth the danger the faced (so far, each of them has been KO'd at least twice, and they were one character away from a TPK - Total Party Knockout).

If you guys are interested, I can post more detailed descriptions of the traps and consequences ifyou would like to include them in your adventures. Let me know below. I can do a whole post just on the traps I've used to trick my boys and their friends and the ones I've yet to spring upon them. They might be my favorite part of their adventures because I love watching them go through the process of devising solutions to the traps when discovered or triggered.

Happy adventuring!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Paper/Cardstock Minis and GM Screen

 Here are the pics of the minis and their clips that promised before:

Some of the minis from one of the Space adventures. You can see that I've stopped gluing the monsters together. I just put the clip on the bottom after they are folded. You can also see the GM screen I made when I found I needed some way of keeping some of the information I needed to use hidden from the players. I use the clips for everything. I also use the clips to store all the monsters (on the left).

The 2 droids on the left are how I do the monsters now. I just flip the metal arms up. The ones on the right are how I used to do them. I got tired of putting the metal arms back on every time I wanted to switch the clips to a different monster. The kids don't mind If they are just flipped up.

The monsters are printed on cardstock, but I don't like using an entire piece of cardstock for one mini for bosses. So this is what it looks like just printed on paper. They are not quite as durable, but they work just fine. I leave the arms on for paper minis because they add support. I usually glue the hero minis to cardstock or print them on cardstock if they will be used more than once, and so I give them a permanent binder clip base without metal arms.

Favorite Moments 2

Ok, so I wanted to share a proud dad moment with you, or more accurately, I'd like to take a moment to be a proud dad. As I was thinking through some of our game sessions I realized something about my oldest that gave me a great big smile. I'm watching him grow into a real critical thinker right before my eyes. I constantly find it amazing the things of which he thinks while we are playing. Setting dressing suddenly becomes an integral part of the story when he enters the room.

I had set up an encounter with goblins performing some sort of magical ritual in place of rescuing the miners in the Mines of Martek adventure. I simply described a table with an open book surrounded by several potion bottles, some empty while others had yet to be used, that the goblin shaman (named Benny Goblin) was using to recite a chant for the spell of transference. Suddenly, my son decided that he wanted to take the potions and the spell book. Ummm ... ok. He wanted to try and use the spells in the book. Ummm ... it's an alchemy book. You'll need potions and ingredients. Now he wanted to know the ingredients. Sooo ... now he is using the Spell of Finding in the goblin's alchemy spell book to search out the cult of evil fire druids, and I am writing a spell book and developing an economy of potions and their uses to satisfy his clever little brain. I refuse to just deny them their creativity without reason, and so I get the privilege of watching his brain begin working 5 to 10 moves ahead of what he thinks is coming. It's awesome. He created an entire dynamic to the game that didn't exist before because he decided to pick up the spell book after defeating the goblin shaman. He also created a hook to get them looking for the lair of the Minotaur aside from the 5 pieces of the artifact. After all, where else can you find the fangs of a giant snake that are needed to cast the Spell of Finding but in the Maze of the Minotaur ...

I'd love to hear your memory-maker moments in the comments.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Favorite Moments 1

I've decided that I'd like to share some of our best moments from our campaign (and some of the moments from our non-campaign adventures, too). We have played Hero Kids for at least 40-50 hours at this point (not including all my prep time, which I also love) and have had a dozen or so "memory-maker" moments. As a dad, these are why I play games with my boys, coach my boys' teams, and vehemently protect my free time to spend with them. Their joy gives me joy.

I'll share 2 moments in this post, and more in later posts.

One of the best reactions I have gotten so far is when I made my 7-year-old son break down in tears just before bed. Granted, I don't usually love when my kids are bawling their eyes out (especially when I caused it), but this time it gave a nice warm feeling in my heart. That's because after nearly 6 hours of playing over 2 sessions we had just reached the "Big Bad" of our first adventure (yes, Basement O' Rats took us over 9 hours to complete), and I had decided that they would get captured by having the whole party get KO'd instead of defeat the boss. Unfortunately, it was also an hour past bedtime and a "good" place to stop until the next day. My son thought he had just lost his character forever and that all the clever things they'd done meant nothing and that they'd lost the game and were done. He broke down in tears, and went to bed wailing, "but I don't WANT us to lose my guy! We're dead! I want to play more!" It took another 20 minutes and a few hugs to reassure him that I had a plan and his guy wasn't dead.

The second moment came at the end of that adventure when my older son, who plays the warlock, finally got what he'd wanted the whole time. I had limited him to fire magic throughout the adventure so that he learned to roleplay the character rather than himself. Being a little disappointed that he couldn't "bend" the elements, he reluctantly limited himself to creative fire-based solutions. The boon that he was given at the end of the adventure was control over all of the elements. He jumped up, threw his fists in the air in triumph, and yelled, "I'm the AVATAR!!"

If you want to share any memory-maker moments you've had with Hero Kids, post them below.