Hero Kids: Deus Ex Machina and the Mysterious Mines

Last time, our Hero Kids completed a hectic quest in a Minotaur’s cave. They wandered its labyrinthine darkness, made mushroom soup, defeated a variety of monsters including the Minotaur and its surprise scorpions, and retrieved untold treasure. This time, the kids would boldly go where no Hero Kids have gone before: Into the mind of a six-year-old. This time, our own Ghoti worked with me to create this campaign from scratch. He and I spent some time mapping it out, designing the encounters, and introducing a new mechanic to the game. When the time came to play, he was the DM while I acted as his assistant and occasional advisor.

But, first things first…

The Party
With Ghoti and I working as collective DMs and Bubba still uninterested in prolonged play, Mom and Pincess were the only two kids that were going to be heading on this journey. Since things were different, the ladies considered switching the characters they used. Pincess decided to switch to the female Warlock—suddenly being a water bender was very important. Mom decided that it might be a good idea to keep a Healer with them, especially because they had no idea what Ghoti had planned for them.

WarlockF Healer

Into the Mines
Some time after the kids had completed their training, the local miners came to find them. They had been working in the mines near the Minotaur’s cave and found a mysterious metal door. They weren’t able to figure out how to open it or tell what it was for, so they tracked down some of the local new heroes to see if they could figure out what it was for, or at least how to get in. They found Pincess and Mom and kindly asked for their assistance. Being charitable (and aware that they were playing an RPG) they said they’d help. So, the miners took them to the area of the mine that the door was found and went back to work elsewhere.

The heroes found themselves in a dimly lit mining passageway. On their right, was the newly discovered path and the large metal door they were told about. They ventured closer. As they approached, they saw some other metal, box-like object at the corner on the way toward the door. Neither of them had seen anything like it before, and they couldn’t tell what it was. Pincess decided to use her water powers to throw an ice cube at it. She struck it, and it said, “ow!” They quickly apologized and started a discussion with it to see if it was hostile or friendly. They learned that the robot was somehow connected to this doorway and whatever was beyond. It said it could open the door for them if they could prove themselves worthy. At this, Mom decided maybe she didn’t want to help the miners, instead, leaving them to prove their own worthiness. But, in an RPG adventure (especially one designed and run by a six-year-old), the players kind of need to do heroic things to move the story along. They asked the robot a few questions about how they’d have to prove their worth, offering information like how they had helped defeat a Minotaur previously. The robot told them that their test would be to defeat some rats and snakes. They eventually agreed to be tested.

A Test of Strength
At this, sections of the ceiling opened nearby and some rats dropped down. They looked like average, run-of-the-mill rats (the kind they’d defeated before). Our adventurers quickly dispatched these enemies. Then, a few snakes dropped in, also defeated without any problems. At this, they heard a loud rumbling; the door was opening, the two sides sliding into the wall.

Before going in, they wanted to bring the robot with them. It said it was unable to leave the wall. They tried to pry it out, but doing so started to harm the robot. They could tell if they managed to remove it, it would probably end up in pieces. They opted to leave it there. As they entered, Mom gathered some large rocks to wedge against the open doors to prevent them from closing on them. (She was interestingly paranoid for this whole campaign—probably because she knew that Ghoti just might have been unprecentedly sadistic.)

The Hub
They entered a room with exits to the north, south, and east (they came in from the west). At this point, Bubba, the Warrior, decided he wanted to be part of the action ran into the mines to join them for a while.Warrior In one area was a collection of mushrooms, the same kind they had found in the Minotaur’s cave. Pincess immediately ran over to them to collect some for whatever they had in mind. While she was picking them, the robot came out of the wall in front of her. It could freely move around the walls of the mine, but couldn’t come out of them. It told them it would help offer information and advice in what may become the most literal example of deus ex machina we will ever witness.

Mom looked around the room and down the other directions out of the room they were in. She discovered that each hallway had some sort of laser grid blocking the path. The robot told her that attempting to walk through the lasers would be very dangerous, and suggested she look closely at where the lasers came from the wall. She was able to find the laser emitter on the exit to the south, tried to get around the corner from it, and tried to use magic to blast it. Unfortunately, Ghoti set a strangely high difficulty for a task they had to complete to continue, and Mom wasn’t rolling well it took Mom quite some time to successfully deactivate the lasers, almost getting wounded herself in the process. As this was going on, Bubba was able to use a well-thrown rock to deactivate another emitter to the north. Pincess took a moment to take out the final lasers to the west so they could then go wherever they wanted.

At this point, Bubba decided he was done playing had other matters to attend to outside of the mines. The ladies went south first.

The South Room
Mom and Pincess entered the room to the south. They found a few holes in the ground that were filled with water. On the far side of the room was another smaller door like the one that let them in. They inspected the water and found nothing. They tried scooping out some of the water, and found that the hole got narrower and deeper. After some other fruitless interactions, Mom decided to use her magic to blast air down the hole. At this, a water snake popped out of another hole and attacked them. A few other snakes came out of other holes, but they weren’t much of a challenge for the party. During the fight, they noticed that the door at the far end of the room appeared to have a visible lock with a keyhole that looked like snake fangs. After defeating these enemies, they used one of the fangs to unlock the door.

Bandit's BowIn this next room, they found an assortment of gold and a magical bow. Upon investigation, they discovered this was a special piece of equipment a Hunter can use to re-roll any 1s rolled on attack rolls. The original art for the equipment, of course, showed an archer’s bow. Since Pincess usually played as the Rapunzel-like character, she wouldn’t have wielded such a weapon. So, I did some amateur picture editing to remove the picture of the bow and hand drew in a hair bow instead because homonyms are awesome. Pincess still got to use this new bow to enhance her current character’s abilities the same way. We opted that since she had hair, the bow’s properties would still work, Hunter or Not.

With this discovery, the robot offered to take them back to the hub area to see what they could find in other paths. They all went back together and decided to follow the path to the east next.

The East Room
As they walked to the east, the cavern became unusually dark very quickly. Mom used magic to light the end of her staff, but it had little effect on this thick darkness. They heard and saw nothing, but were apprehensive about just waltzing into a conspicuously and seemingly arbitrarily dark cavern. Pincess decided to check the dirt for glowing worms to add to the light. Ghoti ruled that she found some, but that the light wasn’t enough to really see much.

Eventually, they decided to slowly walk farther into the room, nearly checking everywhere. In the final unexplored section of this cavern, they found a Minotaur standing in front of another locked door. This Minotaur spoke to them. It asked why they were there, and they started to talk. Behind the Minotaur, the locked door seemed to have a lock with a hole that resembled that Minotaur’s horns. They asked it to unlock the door, but it refused. During their conversation, it came out that they had defeated another Minotaur nearby which made it angry. A fight broke out, but lucky for the much smaller party, this Minotaur wasn’t nearly as strong as the one they met before. They bested it without much hassle, and it agreed to unlock the door for them and leave them alone.

Yew StaffAs the door was unlocked, the darkness dissipated. In the next small room, they found some more gold and treasure and a new wand for Mom: a new staff. This one increases the range of her healing capabilities by a distance of 1 square, making it easier for her to heal the other kids while keeping her distance from the front line of any conflicts. Their second challenge was safely completed.

The North Room
The ladies returned to the hub, healed up using the mushrooms and headed north. Similar to the other paths, this led to a large room with another locked door in the back. Standing between them and the door was a giant scorpion, and, as you may have guessed, the key hole on the lock appeared to be in the shape of a scorpion’s stinger. Mom and Pincess charged in and quickly defeated the scorpion before it was able to do anything. It backed away from them, opened the door, and quietly moved to the back of the room it just opened. This made Mom really nervous. Everything else had either died or left them; this enemy had wandered ahead of them and was waiting. After it was obvious that they weren’t just going to walk into the room, the robot came back to them telling them it was safe for them to go in. The robot assured them that the scorpion wouldn’t harm them.

Inside, they found even more gold and two more pieces of equipment: a shield for Bubba that lets him re-roll any 1s he gets on defensive rolls, and a chaos pendant for Ghoti next time he plays. It has 6 random effects, one of which is triggered each time the wielder is hit by an attack. With that, they had explored the mysterious cavern. They returned to the surface to explain what they had found

Light Shield Chaos Pendant

Final Thoughts
Ghoti did a surprisingly good job building his quest and its encounters. He was open to my many, many suggestions to simplify the goals. He initially wanted to have the boss encounters in each room followed by more smaller enemies in the treasure rooms. I was able to convince him to let the treasure rooms be standalone rewards. He almost added an encounter in the final treasure room, but I advised him to take in how the players felt by this point. The campaign had gone a bit long and was difficult. He was able to tell that Mom and Pincess were pretty much done and let them safely get the last bits of treasure.

He also learned a few DM tricks about how sometimes things aren’t as random as they seem. We had discussed introducing the equipment for the players, and he helped pick which ones everyone would get. As part of the design of the encounters, we had to decide when everyone would get their equipment. He naturally wanted to decide which room held which treasure, but I made a suggestion to him: if we played it by ear and just decided which treasure was in a room when they got to it, we might be able to make things more serendipitous. We planned to put Pincess’s bow in the first place they went, Bubba’s in the second, and Mom’s and Ghoti’s in the last one. That way, they didn’t get confused about who to give the Chaos Pendant to (since Ghoti really wanted it) or give Mom her healing staff before healing was going to be necessary. We shifted a bit since Bubba wasn’t interested in playing, giving Mom hers earlier.

He even made up some of the dungeon puzzles as it was going (maybe they were premeditated, but they weren’t part of the plan and maps we drew out). The snakes were originally just going to be in holes (similar to the room in the Minotaur’s Maze), but he decided to make them puddles and water snakes instead. The darkness in the other Minotaur’s part of the cave was also new to us all when it happened. During that part, I tried to guide him to make some obvious solution to whatever the puzzle was, because the players were a bit confused, but it all worked out.

Ghoti had a great time and is looking forward to being DM again another time. But, he still really likes being a player, so I don’t think I’m out of a job yet.

… And, with this, I’m officially caught up on Hero Kids adventures. Now, I need to write up some interesting Dungeons and Dragons sessions from a family reunion and probably start logging a bigger D&D campaign that Mom’s brother is running with Mom and me. And, of course, there will be more Hero Kids adventures coming as well.

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