Friday, 21 October 2016

An Endless Supply of Adventures for Hero Kids

HK Monster Compendium
Hi roleplaying fans, I've been out of touch for the last few months, but thankfully I've just been busy doing a bunch of other things, not actually having a difficult time.  One of my blog readers, Josiah approached me with a wonderful tool he crafted for use with the Hero Kids - Fantasy Expansion - Monster Compendium inspiring me to make this blog post.

Josiah has compiled all the monsters from the compendium, assigned them relative challenge ratings, and cross-referenced them by region or terrain to create a system for randomly generating an encounter's-worth of monsters, adjusted to match both the area you're in, the number of players in your party, and the difficulty you're looking for - and he has produced it as an automated Excel spreadsheet and a PDF of random dice tables for those who want to manually roll.  Josiah has generously allowed me to present this delightful tool on my blog.  He calls it a Monster List, but as you'll quickly find out, it is so much more powerful than that!  By pairing up this encounter generation system with Justin's Monster Compendium, you can now effortlessly create any number of monster encounters for your Hero Kids games.

Josiah's Monster List - Excel
Josiah's Monster List - PDF

The Monster List Encounter Generator in Action
I believe this system is so robust it can create the foundation for a whole adventure as well.  To prove this, and to satisfy my gleeful exuberance for Josiah's extremely cool encounter tables, I'm going to show right here how easy it is to use and how it's output can then be fleshed out into a full fledged adventure.  I will assume two Heroes for my adventure, thus each encounter needs 8 points of Monsters.  Also, I've decided my adventure will have five encounters with varying location types to mix things up.

  • Encounter One will start with an "Any" location.  I roll on the chart until I meet or exceed 8 points of Monsters.  I get a Brigand Archer (3 pts), and a Knight Blaggard (5 pts).
  • Encounter Two is in a Forest, giving me a Weasel Warrior (4 pts), Hissing Snake (2 pts), and a Coot (5 pts).
  • Encounter Three moves into the Mountains with a Tengu Slinger (3 pts), Tengu Groundling (2 pts), and a Tengu Archer (4 pts).
  • Encounter Four takes place in a Castle, so we are facing a Guard (4 pts), and two Guard Nightwatch (2 pts each).
  • Encounter Five is also in the Castle and is the Big Boss showdown, so we're upping the points total to 13, and our opponents are a Guard Sharpshooter (4 pts), two Guard Nightwatch (2 pts each), a Guard (4 pts), and a Guard Spear Bearer (3 pts).

All of this is just a skeletal framework for an adventure though, now we need a story to hang it on and some story-based motivations to entice the players to take part in it.  So let's spin a story to tie this together...

The Duke's Family Jewels
A Hero Kids adventure for two players

The players are approached by the local Duke who tells you that a handful of days ago a number of priceless family heirloom jewellery were stolen from his manor.  He is fairly certain these criminals were hired by a larger unknown group as several other Noble's manor houses in the area were robbed at the same time and none of the thieves have been apprehended, nor have the stolen goods shown up anywhere for sale.  If you can find out where this controlling group is located, the affected Nobles will reward you handsomely.

The Rusty Nail - inequity on tap
All the Duke knows is the pair of thieves whom he suspects stole from him are known to frequent "The Rusty Nail", a local eatery near the lumber mills and carpentry workshops.  Once the players reach The Rusty Nail they immediately recognise them sitting at a table, one is a man known to have no reputable income and be good with a bow, and a Knight who recently moved into the area and has done nothing every day but drink and boast of the many conquests he's had - elsewhere.  The situation will quickly turn into a fight should the Heroes approach them.  After defeating them, the Knight Blaggard confesses he works with a large group of thieves based in an abandoned keep in the mountains north of the forest surrounding this town.  If the players are more lethal in how they deal with combat encounters, this information can be discovered from a letter in the Knight's clothing.

Journeying through the forest towards the mountains, the party is beset upon by a Coot, his pet snake, and his Weasel Warrior companion.  They aren't associated with the thieves, but they aren't friendly to anyone travelling through "their" woods either.  Defeating them doesn't provide any useful information, although some food or healing potions might be suitable loot.  If the players are KO'd by the Coot and his companions, they will awaken at the edge of the forest near the mountains, minus any food or healing potions and with a note pinned to their chest warning them to stay out of the forest.

I swear I saw something moving up ahead...
Leaving the forest behind, the party travels up into the mountains in search of the abandoned keep.  The PCs have never personally been there, so they aren't completely certain of it's location.  If you'd like to introduce some non-combat skill use, you can have the players make tracking skill rolls at a difficulty of 5 or 6; success allows them to skip Encounter Three and arrive at the Keep, while failure results in them being attacked by a band of Tengu who are patrolling their territory.  Defeating them could have two different results - you could simply beat them and gain some loot and possibly directions to the abandoned keep, or you could make them submit to you and agree to assist in storming the keep.

If the Tengu join forces with the Heroes, then they will conduct the advance attack on the keep, allowing the players to skip Encounter Four and go straight for the leaders of the whole thieves organisation.  If the Heroes reach the keep on their own, they are faced with a small stone keep whose gatehouse tower has collapsed long ago, leaving a simple walled courtyard with essentially a large archway as the entrance.  In the courtyard is a two story keep which has its upper story half ruined, leaving just the ground floor usable by the thieves.  The courtyard itself is guarded by two Nightwatch Guards and their Guard leader.  Obviously, they won't welcome you with open arms...

Once this was a nice place I'm sure.
Once the Heroes are past the courtyard they are faced with a stone keep which is essentially just a great hall with stairs leading up to the mostly ruined second floor.  Inside, next to a cooking fire is the leader of the organisation, a Guard Sharpshooter, his Guard Spear Bearer companion, and the second shift of courtyard guards in the form of two Nightwatch Guards and their Guard leader.  Upon defeating them, the Heroes will discover not only the missing jewellery from their Nobleman patron, but the stolen valuables of six other Noble families of the surrounding countryside and a journal listing the contacts for buyers for all of these goods who apparently are wealthy Nobles from a neighbouring kingdom.  Returning home with all of this will see the Nobleman very appreciative, possibly even setting up a valuable contact among the local nobility who could be a source of further adventures.

There you have it, add in a few maps, npc names, and other such details and you have a nice little adventure for two players, courtesy of Justin's Monster Compendium and Josiah's Encounter Generator.  All you need to do is spin a plausible yarn to connect the dots so to speak!  Try it yourself, you'll have a blast coming up with explanations for each of your encounter results.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Goods and Services in Hero Kids

Just the other day I was contacted by Josiah Fiscus who, after reading my July 8th post, A Way to Use Loot and Gold in Hero Kids was inspired by my Item and Equipment Pricing Chart to create his own chart for randomising Items and Equipment one could find in a treasure hoard.  He arranged it in an interesting way, grouping the entries by their cost as outlined in my prior blog post.  He and I discussed it back and forth and after some further tweaking by he and I, here it is as a downloadable PDF for your reference: Hero Kids - Item and Equipment list.

I'll take a moment to both thank Josiah for his generosity in allowing me to share this on my blog, and to encourage anyone who finds themselves similarly inspired to submit it as well.

Josiah's input and creative interest in my blog spurred me to make a set of companion charts for detailing what one could find at various businesses in a typical fantasy town.  Rather than attempt an exhaustive listing of every conceivable business one could encounter, I instead created a few generic examples:
  • Armorer
  • Bowyer & Fletcher
  • Weaponsmith
  • Eatery/Inn
  • Livery Stables/Saddlery
  • Herbalist/Alchemist/Magic Shop
  • Tailor
  • General Store
My charts aren't configured for randomised results, instead, they are grouped into categories, combining both the Items and Equipment pricing system outlined in my Loot and Gold post as well the default arms and armor ranking system outlined in my July 15th post Naked Hero Kids wherein I theorise on the stats of unarmed and unskilled Heroes.  Thus I have grouped the entries into the following ten categories, each with their own purchase price:
  • Items - Mundane, Minor: The most basic of consumables. A meal, or a potion. Simple services are also covered by this category. 1 Gold Coin.
  • Items - Mundane, Major: Consumables which last a set time instead of just an instant effect. I also included extended services here. 2 Gold Coins.
  • Items - Magical, Minor: The same as Minor Mundane Items, but with a magically conferred benefit. This would cover a simple magical service too. 4 Gold Coins.
  • Items - Magical, Major: The same as Major Mundane Items, but with a magically conferred benefit. This covers extended magical services too. 5 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Simple: The "lesser" of the default equipment a Hero starts play with. Their sword, bow, or shield. 2 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Advanced: Conceptually the same as Simple Equipment, but are more advantageous things such as a full suit of armor or a large two-handed weapon. 3 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Mundane, Minor: Equipment with a simple or specific use, or offering only a limited usage benefit. Rope, a lamp, or a weapon with a situational benefit like the Raider's Battleaxe. 3 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Mundane, Major: Equipment with constant beneficial abilities or uses, usually applicable to multiple situations. The Hunter's Longbow, Heavy Shield, or a Pony. 4 Gold Coins.  4 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Magical, Minor: The same as Minor Mundane Equipment, but with a magically conferred benefit. 4 Gold Coins.
  • Equipment - Magical, Major: The same as Major Mundane Equipment, but with a magically conferred benefit. 5 Gold Coins.

One could easily regroup the goods and services to represent a different type of venue, such as a Blacksmith, a Potion Shop, a Fish Market, a Fur Trader, Rug Merchant, Gem Seller, or whatever else you wanted to include in your game.  All you need to do is assign the goods and services accordingly, adding any new entries into the appropriate category.

Speaking of new entries, in populating my charts, I ended up creating almost half a hundred of Items, Equipment, and Services which were not previously detailed elsewhere.  I may compile them into a set of equipment cards in the future, complete with category and pricing info as per my previous systems.  I have included the eight example Fantasy businesses as a printable PDF for in game reference: Hero Kids - Sample Fantasy Shops.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Naked Hero Kids

No weapons, no armor, no training, no dice!
Okay, so not actually PLAYING naked, but what are the stats of a completely unequipped and untrained Hero?  I spent some time comparing various Heroes and it appears they would be zero dice in their Melee, Ranged, and Magic Dice Pools, one die in the Armor Dice Pool, and three Health Boxes.  The Melee/Ranged/Magic Attack, Special Action, and the Inventory and Items sections would be empty, and the Bonus Abilities section would almost always be empty. (There are a few abilities representing inherent abilities that would stay, but most are part of their hero type.)

Now, no one would want to play this Hero, he's basically a blank slate, but by stripping away the weapons, armor, and training of a Hero, we can see some interesting "under the hood" workings of the Hero Kids system. One such discovery was a loose set of preassigned or default unnamed weapon and armor types as well:
  • Simple Weapon: Single handed weapons or spells which are the source of the Hero’s basic attack. These grant two die to the appropriate Die Pool (Melee, Ranged, or Magic), permit a basic attack dealing one damage, and are the prerequisite for the Special Action.  Example: The short sword used by the male Warrior.
  • Simple Advanced Weapon: Large two handed weapon employed by Brutes (or equivalents) which are the source of the Hero’s basic attack. These grant three dice to the appropriate Die Pool and permit a basic attack dealing one damage, and are the prerequisite for the Special Action.  Example: The two handed maul used by the male Brute.  As depicted, the female Warrior’s two handed, double-headed axe should grant three dice instead of two, or give her a one handed axe - Maybe her clothing is simple advanced armor?
  • Simple Armor: Partial armor or shield worn by a Hero. They grant one additional die to the Armor Dice Pool, and can act an alternate prerequisite for the Special Action.  Example: The medium wooden shield used by the male Warrior.
  • Simple Advanced Armor: Full armor or large shield worn by a Hero. They grant two additional die to the Armor Dice Pool, but reduce the Melee, Ranged, and Magic die pools by one die, and can act an alternate prerequisite for the Special Action.  Example: The “pots and pans” piecemeal armor worn by the male Knight.

Incorporating this method with the standard Hero creation guidelines can suggest ideas for new Heroes.  There is an opportunity for an Archer who uses a longbow of the simple advanced weapon type, conferring three Ranged dice.  Or an armored bowman with one ranged die and three armor dice. Alternately, if you have an idea for a Hero, you're unsure of how to allocate the dice, but you do know what kinds of weapons and armor they have, then this system can guide you.

Again, as I have said previously regarding other systems I’ve introduced for Hero Kids™, this one isn’t perfect.  No reverse-engineered, post-production, bolt-on system will 100% fit the pre-existing rules.  As noted above, the female Warrior and her two handed axe are short one melee die, similarly the female Healer has a large staff and she has no melee die. (Although in this case you could easily assume a Healer has no weapons training.)  Lastly, this system doesn’t make any allowances for wielding two weapons or weaponless attacks, however neither does the core rules, (see the male Rogue with two daggers), so I’m not going to bother addressing it.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Have We Been Looking at Hero Kids Dice Pools All Wrong?

Are Dice Pools equivalent to Attributes or are they more akin to Skill bonuses?  Is a Warrior with a Melee Die Pool of 3 dice stronger than one with 2 dice, or are they more accurate?  Their attacks both deal only one point of damage, yet the Warrior with 3 Melee dice will have more successful attacks than the other Warrior over time.  If so, then how can we more accurately portray a physically stronger character?

Having 3 Ranged dice makes you hit more often, not harder.
Simply making their attacks deal two damage each would be an obvious and simplistic method, but it isn’t ideal.  The damage/health granularity in Hero Kids™  is rather coarse, thus each damage point meted out or received is a large amount.  If we measure strength by how much damage one can effect, then the Hero who always does 2 damage with each strike due to their strength alone isn’t just a bit stronger than average, they are twice as strong.  This is the difference between being able to lift a person and being able to lift a refrigerator!  Such an approach doesn’t address any other aspect of being stronger than how much damage you do with your specific weapon.  Thus, the “strong” Hero who always deals 2 damage would NOT be able to lift any more than the “weaker” Hero as Skills reference the Heroes die pools.

We need to give stronger Heroes a bonus which mimics (even approximately) the effects of being stronger in the real world, without granting a bonus which is too large or too specific.  One could give stronger Heroes a ”Strong” Ability granting a bonus die for any strength related skill test.  This addresses the issue of stronger Heroes being able to lift heavier things, but still leaves attack unaddressed.

The only complete method of addressing a stronger Hero dealing more damage would be to increase the damage/health granularity. If we adopt a finer granularity, say double for the purpose of discussing this, then your average Hero has six health boxes, a normal Attack does two damage, and pre-existing Abilities or Items/Equipment which previously granted a +1 damage will now grant a +2. Die Pool modifiers remain unchanged as we aren’t altering that.  Technically this would work, allowing a Hero with the “Strong” Ability to also gain a +1 damage to their Melee Attacks without it being an overwhelming bonus.  However, the amount of effort to update all your game material could be daunting…

Here is the Brute Hero from the core rules, shown in its original and revised forms.  Adding the extra Health boxes, the Strong Bonus Ability, and modifying the damage amounts in the Hammer Smash Melee Attack and the Retaliation Bonus Ability isn’t a massive change.  Even if you’re not skilled with graphic design, a sticker over the appropriate spots could get the job done.  Still, this degree of change would need to be effected to every Hero, every Monster, every Item, and every Equipment.

Not all changes would be mathematically uniform either.  In some cases, to better serve the intent of the original ability, a different phrasing or an adjusted numerical change would serve better.

Plus, as the Brute example shows, one could make a case for altering other details to better serve the original intent, as I did when reducing the accuracy of the Brute’s Melee attack via a smaller Melee Die Pool when I increased the damage.

Given the total amount of change this solution requires, it is more accurate to call this Hero Kids 2nd Edition or some such thing.  While an interesting mental exercise in game design, unless it were combined with other desired system changes, creating a 2nd edition of this game may not be needed.  Hero Kids™ already passes the primary test for any game - children enjoy playing it in its current form.  Still, such things are fun to consider.

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Way to Use Loot and Gold in Hero Kids

“If you’re running a longer adventure then you might reward the heroes with some gold or extra potions and allow them to rest and recover some health.” page 14 (v1.6) or 17 (v2,0), Hero Kids™ rules.

The above quote packs a lot of implied content into one sentence. Unfortunately, this is the extent this concept gets in the rules. Perhaps Justin plans to one day publish an expansion, or maybe he felt this was enough to say about it. However, one question remains: what do our Heroes DO with said gold rewards? There are no prices attached to anything in the game. If they want to buy a sword, shield, armor, pony, or just a meal at the local inn, what is the cost? If they try to sell any loot gained in an adventure, what’s it worth? First, let’s establish just what is meant by gold in this game.

Gold!  Gold!! GOLD!!! ...what’s it good for?

What is the Hero Kids™ currency? Given the intended audience and the simplicity of the system and setting, we need to strongly enforce the KISS method, so there is just one currency used by everyone and it consists of one denomination - the Gold Coin. Names of coins and details of appearance may differ over time and from place to place, but the value is unchanging. We could get into debating the value of rare gold coins from an ancient lost kingdom, but in such a scenario they technically are being treated as rare art pieces then, not simple coins. If they’re used to buy a sandwich, then they are the same as any other coin - if they instead go to a museum of the lost kingdom of Tra-La-La then they are no longer considered simple coinage.

For everyday purposes, the prices of goods are small and don’t differ between like items. Treat it like an intermediary, trial coinage system for a world just beginning to progress past the barter economy. In fact, despite this post’s topic, one shouldn’t avoid having Heroes barter for simple goods and services. The restaurant owner may offer a meal to a Kid in exchange for a simple chore like fetching water, delivering a letter, or cleaning out a dirty back room. This could even be an entry point for an adventure…

Item and Equipment Price Categories

Rather than create a price list for hundreds of purchasables one could have in the game, lets create a simple system which can quickly and easily assign a price to anything one could want to buy or sell in game. One approach is to divide all purchasables into categories with a single price per category:

Minor Mundane Items: 1 gold
Non-magical, single use objects.
Examples: Food (per portion), Gold (per coin), Herbs (per single potions-worth)

Major Mundane Items: 2 gold
Non-magical, single use objects which grant a clearly defined bonus (usually combat oriented).
Examples: Bomb.

Minor Magical Items: 4 gold
Magical, single use items whose effects do not last beyond one turn past their usage.
Examples: Healing Potion, Sandman’s Dust*, Haste Potion*

Major Magical Items: 5 gold
Magical, single use items whose effects last for “5 minutes” or the duration of a single encounter.
Examples: Potion of Strength, Potion of Invisibility, Fee-Fi-Fo-Fungus*, Four-Leaf Clover*, Shrink-A-Drink*.

Minor Mundane Equipment: 3 gold
Non-magical, multiple use objects which only function under specific conditions, for a limited duration, once per encounter, or are otherwise limited in their usage.
Examples: Trickshot Bow, Speed Bow, Unfailing Bow, Sharpshooter’s Bow, Bandit’s Bow, Deepwood Longbow, Throwing Axe, Heavy Crossbow, Throwing Dagger, Swift Sword, Thirsting Longsword, Vorpal Longsword, Lucky Longsword, Raider’s Battleaxe, Brigand’s Axe, Thundering Hammer, Strikers Spaulder, Light Shield, Everpresent Shield, Guardian’s Shield*.

Major Mundane Equipment: 4 gold
Non-magical, multiple use objects whose function can be enacted every turn, or which feature a continuous effect once equipped.
Examples: Footman’s  Pike, Defending Weapon, Club of Earth-Shattering*, Hunter’s Longbow, Siege Longbow, Binding Bow*, Boomerang Buckler, Guard’s Shield, Heavy Shield, Defender’s Shield, Wrist Bracers, Vault Pole*.

Minor Magical Equipment: 4 gold
Magical, multiple use objects which only function under specific conditions, for a limited duration, once per encounter, or are otherwise limited in their usage.
Examples: Magic Wand, Vicious Wand, Explosive Wand, Wizard’s Staff, Magi’s Staff, Lucky Charm, Vengeful Pendant, Wild Hunt Hat, Diabolic Mask.

Major Magical Equipment: 5 gold
Magical multiple use objects whose function can be enacted every turn, or which feature a continuous effect once equipped.
Examples: Faerie’s Wand, Staff of Protection, Yew Staff, Chaos Pendant, Cloak of Invisibility, Sack of Useful Items, Conjurer’s Hat*.

Notes: * Featured in the Hero Kids Compatible product Armory 1 by Travis Legge of Aegis Studios.

free one-sheet reference pdf
Prices do NOT directly relate to their intrinsic material value, construction complexity, or damage/protection potential, instead they are a rough measure of their availability, versatility, and ease of use. Equipment dealing more damage, but which can only be used under special conditions or once per encounter will cost less than a lower damage Equipment which grants its bonus with every use. Correspondingly, an Item costs less than an equivalent effect Equipment since it is expended upon a single usage. Lastly, magical Items and Equipment are intentionally higher priced, even when their effects are identical to another mundane Item or Equipment. This is done to simulate the fantasy trope that magical things are rarer, more difficult to acquire, and generally more expensive than non-magical things.

Is this a perfect system? No, far from it. It makes even one gold coin potentially worth a lot, thus awarding a chest of 500 or even 50 gold coins is an enormous degree of wealth. However, this also means if you’re playing with young children, you can award them amounts they can readily conceptualize. While one could tweak this system with more categories, higher gold piece costs per category, and so on. In all likelihood once your players are ready for more complex in game economies, they will also be ready for a more advanced game all together. As nice of a game as Hero Kids™ is for younger children, it does have its limitations. In the meantime, a system such as this one can provide an introduction to the concepts of buying and selling things in game without requiring advanced understanding of mathematics or economics.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Inventory - The Junk Drawer of Hero Kids

At first glance, the Inventory and Skills section of a Hero Kids™ Hero Card contains only Items and Skills. However, there are actually four categories of “things” in the Inventory and Skills section - Items and Equipment, and Skills and Abilities. Further confusing this is when the rules refer to Skill use as an Ability Test. Despite the fluidity of system terminology though, there are very real differences between Items and Equipment, and between Skills and Abilities.

  • Items: Objects which are expended once used (food, gold, bomb, a healing potion).
  • Equipment: Objects which remain for multiple uses (Rope, Staff, Raider’s Axe).
  • Skills: Character specific and conceptually thematic activities one learns to perform (Talking, Knowledge, Herbalism, etc.).
  • Abilities: Inborn or inherent traits usually assigned to all creatures of that type, although they can be possessed by an individual alone (Such as Dwarves with Dark Vision allowing them to see in darkness or a bird with Wings granting flight).

Inventory Abilities are not to be confused with the “Bonus Ability” listed elsewhere on the Hero Card, which is usually more of a thematically specialised Skill (Such as the Knight having the Bonus Ability “Defender”).
Inventory Abilities
One opportunity presented by recognising just how the Inventory Abilities differ from Skills or other Hero-specific Abilities (The Melee/Ranged/Magic Attack, Special Action, and Bonus Abilities) is that it provides a ready made location for us to intentionally place unique abilities which aren’t associated with the primary theme of the Hero, thereby creating a secondary theme which can become an alternate grouping for these Heroes (or Monsters, for that matter).

In the Hero Cards III expansion for Hero Kids™, there are non-humans such as Dwarves, Halflings, Elves, etc. They aren’t labelled as such, but their provenance is obvious. The Knight and the Stonemaster appear to be Dwarves and they both have the Dark Vision ability. One could also envision a group of cultists to some dark god of the ocean, and regardless of the role each member has (Fighter, Cleric, Baker, Candlestick Maker, etc.) you could give them all a “Breathe Underwater” ability.

Here are some ideas for Abilities for Monsters or Heroes: Breathe Underwater, Mind Reader, Shape Changer (specify form, such as”Shape Changer: Wolf”), Venomous, and Climber. Each of these would need to be fairly simple. Climber for instance could grant the ability to move up or down vertical surfaces like trees, cliffs, or walls as easily as walking on the ground. Venomous could deal repeating damage, paralyzation, or some such effect with a bite or sting.

If we to want to give Heroes or groups of Heroes Abilities more complex than a single static competency, the Inventory Abilities section isn’t really the best spot for it as it uses a symbol to denote the Ability with no room for text. I would advocate removing the iconized Abilities from the Inventory completely and moving them to the Bonus Abilities section, but that’s just my personal opinion. Adding such things as granting all Elves an Ability like Woodland Walk (Plus one movement and no terrain penalties within forested environments only.) would be better suited to the Bonus Abilities section of a Hero Card. Racial templates for Hero Kids™ has occurred to me previously and I do have some thoughts on how I’d implement it, but I’ll leave that for a possible future post.