Basement O Rats was the first Hero Kids adventure we ran with the kids. It’s the one that comes with the starter kit. I am writing this over a year after we did it because Reasons, so I’ll be lighter on the specifics of the encounters than I hope to be in future posts. I’ll also be using nicknames for the kids because their actual names have essentially no bearing on these tales.
A Party is Formed
First, the party had to pick characters. Fortunately, this was a mostly quick process. I printed out the different pre-made characters and presented them to the kids.
Ghoti (our then 5-year-old son) immediately gravitated toward the fire-wielding warlock. The Totally (Not) a Firebender aesthetic was right up his alley. Before we could even get started, he was ready and willing to incinerate everything that got in his way.
Pincess [sic] (our then 3-year-old daughter) also found her RPG soulmate without hesitation. The picture of the female hunter’s extremely long hair coupled with fact that her ranged attacks are actually performed with her Rapunzel-esque hair was all she needed to know.
Things were harder for Bubba (our then 2-year-old son). He understandably had a hard time deciding what to do because this was all a little too abstract for him. He eventually settled on the knight because he wore a pot on his head which he thought was silly.
Mom (not her real name) was initially planning on playing her own character, but opted to pair up with Bubba and try to help move the players’ team along.
Let’s Go to Dinner
With the player characters selected, I gave a quick rundown of the rules and what each character could do, and we got started. The adventure began with the kids and their family in a local restaurant, owned by a friend of theirs. A sudden scream came from the back, and the owner rushed out saying that giant rats had captured her son, Roger, and taken him into the basement. Ghoti’s and Pincess’s characters are both unarmed (magic fire hands and extremely long hair are perfectly normal equipment for children in restaurants), so they were ready to go. We took a moment to try to get Bubba engaged by talking about how he needed to raid the kitchen to get a cooking pot for his helmet. Sadly, it didn’t really work and he spent most the time rather aloof.
Into the Basement
The kids went to the back of the restaurant and found themselves walking into the basement where they found several larger-than-usual rats scurrying around, as is the tradition. Here’s where they started to get a feel for the rules and where I started to get a feel for their feel for the rules. One of the things that’s nice about Hero Kids is that it repeatedly reminds you (as the DM) that you should feel free to cater—and even ignore—rules to fit your players’ skills. We started with simple interactions, ignoring the special abilities and things until we got farther into the campaign.
The few rats they could initially see were milling around eating grain on the floor and weren’t initially hostile. While Ghoti threw fireballs, Pincess worked out the nuances of attacking rats at range with her hair, and Mom and Bubba worked out how to play as a single character, the kids worked their way to the back of the basement where they found a hole reaching down into a cave beneath the basement.
As the kids approached the hole, they heard Roger’s voice calling out for help. They wasted no time climbing down. In the leap down, Ghoti
rolled poorly twisted his ankle and lost a hit point—the warlock’s special ability lets him attack with one additional die when he’s not at full health, so it was actually advantageous and a good time to start introducing some of the additional skills characters can have. They found themselves in a narrow passageway that opened up into a larger cavern. Here, Mom decided to employ more tactical thinking than the kids had been using up to this point. She had taken a liking to one of Pincess’ abilities: When she is attacked by a melee attack, the attacker gets one fewer die for their attack roll. Giant Rats, despite their name, are pretty weak creatures; they only get one die to attack unless there’s more than one of them attacking a target. So, Mom suggested the kids plug up the narrow part of the cave with Pincess in front (essentially impervious to oncoming rats being forced into single file by the cave structure), Ghoti behind her throwing fireballs, and Bubba being indifferent in the back. Basically, they out-played the encounter. So, I decided to get them on the move. They beat a few of the rats. Then, after a quick roll of the dice, two of the kids heard hissing coming from the hole above them. “SNAKES!” they panicked. They ran into the cavern proper as a number of snakes dropped in through the hole every couple of rounds, encouraging them to dispatch the rats and get to the other side.
They reached a wall in the cave where Bubba boosted them up to the next section where they encountered more rats and small holes in the wall that the rats could use to get around. Then, they came to a fork in the road. While they decided which way to go, they again heard Roger calling for help from one of the paths. Now that they knew which way they should go, Ghoti wanted to explore the other path (which I completely support). But he was in the minority in this, so they went toward the call for help.
The King Rat
The kids followed Roger’s call for help, but didn’t find him yet. Instead, they found themselves staring up at the King Rat. A larger, more regal vermin, suitable for capturing children and pestering adventurers. Since they kids were getting a bit restless and wanted victory, the King Rat didn’t pull too many tricks, and the kids were able to beat it pretty easily. The other rats fled when the King was taken down, and they eventually found Roger hiding in one of the tunnels the rats were using to get around. They brought him back up to the restaurant and celebrated with ice cream (in real life).
All in all, the kids had a mostly good time. It was a little tricky to keep Pincess and Bubba engaged. The kids all seemed to enjoy the narration of the story: me talking about flinging hair around, burning rats’ tails, and so forth. To keep the violence to a minimum, most of the rats “ran away” when defeated, but a few were turned to ash or actually killed. They very quickly took ownership of their characters, and said what they wanted to do as if they were the ones doing it. It went pretty darn well, I’d say.
It would be a while until we got around to playing another adventure, though. But we did eventually play a full second campaign.
Another interesting thing to note is that I recently received an update to the basic rules and noticed the Hunter’s (Pincess’ character’s) special ability was changed in newer editions: instead of attackers getting one fewer die with melee attacks against her, she gets one additional defense die from melee attacks. From a balance standpoint, this makes sense as it does otherwise render weak creatures completely unable to hit (but, my narrations about how her hair prevented damage got pretty creative by the end).