Monday, 14 December 2015

Skills in Hero Kids, part 1

The other day my four year old son Connor and I were preparing for a Hero Kids™ adventure and I asked him to pick out the Kids who would be going on the latest adventure. It’s just he and I playing, so I tell him to pick three Kids from the stack I have. This involves him in the set up, and gives me a few moments to sort out the maps and gather the needed monsters for the adventure.

Don't forget the Healer!
Connor went through them all and was talking to himself as he selected each, espousing the comparative merits (as he saw them) of one Hero over another, at one point I was rather amused when he declared, “...and we need Sally the Healer. You have to have a Healer in case a monster attacks because she can use her magic to heal you.” Apparently, the gamer trope of always including a Cleric in your party is quickly learned, even at an early age!

Speaking of learning things, Hero Kids™ has a pretty fast and loose skills system.  It works, but it’s not an exact system. Even the game’s designer, Justin Halliday often inserts new skills in the Ability Tests of his adventures. Sadly, there is no official method for a Hero to acquire new skills.

Now, for the occasional one-off game, this isn’t really an issue. If an Dexterity (Traps) Ability Test is called for, the absence of of a Traps Skill isn’t really THAT big of a deal - for your average 4-6 year old you can simply hand-wave it and move on. However, if you have a gamer who is a bit older or more experienced, they may start asking what Skill relates to Traps, or to Swimming, Climbing, Acrobatics, Riding, etc. Perhaps they are using the same Hero repeatedly and want to learn a new skill not covered by the default handful or the single starting Skill each Hero has. Thankfully, the skills system is easily expanded to include any new skills that come up, and can even be further expanded to permit long-term advancement in a variety of ways.

Recently, I went through the adventures from both the fantasy and the Space Expansion published as of Dec 2015, gathered all the skills mentioned by name from every Ability Test, and added a couple of my own as inspiration struck. Out of the almost 40 different skills I found (plus the handful I added), only 19 are mentioned in the rules, with many of them grouped under a single icon -  the “book” icon serving as the indicator of the skills Knowledge, History, and Lore, the “mask” covering both Disguise and Sneaking, etc.

Also, there are several skills I found which are overly similar for the intended low complexity level of this game: Herbalism & Herbs, Stealth & Sneaking, Speaking & Talking, Driving & Piloting, and so on. There is a definite opportunity to expand on skills. I propose the following replacement Skill system:

Alternate Primary & Speciality Skills System

Heroes have two kinds of Skills to draw from to perform various tasks during the roleplaying adventure, Primary and Speciality Skills.

A Primary Skill covers a broad range of actions and add one extra die to Ability Tests involving that skill. Thus, if performing a Dexterity (Stealth) Ability Text, a Hero would roll their Dexterity die pool, plus one die for the Ability Test, and one die for the relevent Primary Skill.

A Speciality Skill covers a more specific focus of actions relating to the associated Primary Skill, and reduce the difficulty of a test by one. Thus, a Hero performing a Dexterity (Stealth/Traps) Ability Test at difficulty 6 would roll their Dexterity die pool, adding 1D6 for the Ability Test, one die for the Primary Skill, with a reduced difficulty of 5 from havng the Traps Speciality Skill.

To use the example above, each Skill Listing would look like this:

Stealth: (Primary) This is the art of sneaking around, concealing oneself, and otherwise using such things as your surroundings, your attire, and other methods to evade detection of yourself or an object. Speciality Skills: Disguise, Hiding, Traps.
    Disguise: (Speciality) This is the ability to make one thing look like another. For example, making yourself look older, or making a trap look like an ordinary section of the floor.
    Hiding: (Speciality) This skill focuses on making something or someone go unnoticed. Effectively using the shadows, or knowing just how to best hide behind a group of trees comes under this.
    Traps: (Speciality) You know all the dirty tricks used to ensnare, imprison, entomb, mangle, or otherwise impede people who are going where they’re not wanted. Making, finding, and disabling all manner of traps is your speciality.

Technically, one can still perform the tasks of Disguise, Hiding, and working with Traps without the Stealth Specialities, but they wouldn't gain the difficulty reduction. I went with assigning a difficulty reduction to Speciality Skill instead of an additional dice as I didn't want to have too many sources of dice pool increases, plus this method should work out to be a lesser bonus than a full extra D6.

I'll follow up in my next post with a full treatment of this alternate skill system, complete with all skills, rules for assigning them to a Hero, and a means of skill-oriented character advancement. This post is rather long enough right now, and I just want to get the idea out there first. Let me know what you think so far, and soon I'll post part two.