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…
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.
When we last heard from the Hero Kids, they had just rescued their families from a ship full of ghost pirates. They befriended one of the human pirates, conquered the ghost captain, and returned home safely. Their next quest would take them to a mysterious cave where each twist and turn could hide untold danger: the Maze of the Minotaur.
More Heroes Than Kids
This session was a bit different. We did our entire adventure as a longer-than-normal one-shot adventure and had some of our adventuring party come and go during the evening. Most importantly, we had two extra players with us: my parents; we’ll call them Grandma and Grandpa (probably not their real names). They were in town visiting and wanted to see what it was like to be Hero Kids.
Ghoti, Pincess, and Mom selected their usual characters, the Warlock, Hunter, and Healer. Bubba also picked the same character he did last time, the male Warrior, but didn’t actually play at all.
Grandma and Grandpa were given a quick rundown of the rules and handed a pile of character sheets to peruse so they could choose the character they wanted to go into the adventure with. They made their selections somewhat quickly. Grandma liked the look of the female warrior. I think the axe-wielding character resonated with her Viking heritage. Grandpa ended up selecting the same character that Bubba played with on the kids’ first adventure, the knight, because he liked the idea of that character’s ability to take damage on behalf of other players.
As our hero kids gathered together after clearing out the lower deck of the mysterious pirate ship on which they awakened, they took a short respite to heal and get ready to take on whatever was up top.
There’s Something Strange on the Upper Deck
Rather than charge in, Pincess decided to sneak a peek up the stairs for some reconnaissance to see what awaited them. Carefully crawling up and looking around, she saw that the ship was seemingly far out to sea and that a thunderstorm had just moved in. Rain was just starting to fall and there was lightning in the distance. Suddenly, to her surprise, a few pirates walked by, unaware of her presence. She realized something was off about one of them. It didn’t look right. On closer investigation, she noticed it was actually a skeleton dressed as a pirate!
She came back down, and reported back. They talked to Davy to understand what she saw (and to see if he was actually a skeleton or something, too). He said that most of the crew was regular pirates and mercenaries, but many of them were actually skeletons. He promised he was just a (human) hired hand and that he tried to avoid the skeletons as much he could. With this knowledge, the kids didn’t want to rush in to take on whatever else was up there. They decided to try to lure as many pirates down below as possible so they had more control over the combat. They convinced Davy to call for help when they were ready to start fighting. Before the action started, Ghoti and Pincess decided to hide in and under a few of the piles of cannonballs near the bottom of the stairs. Mom helped them get hidden, and even decided to braid Pincess’ hair to look exactly like a rope to help with the disguise. With two of the kids well-hidden and Bubba sitting back with Davy, Mom was ready to distract whatever pirates (or “pirates”) they could bring down to take them out as quickly as possible. Bubba and Davy pretended to fight, and Davy called out, “Help! They’re escaping the brig! We need help down here!”
Quite some time after our first adventure—about a year—all of the kids agreed it was time to take on another adventure in Hero Kids. So, I got out the next adventure I had planned, Escape from the Ghost Pirates. Things were a little different this time around. For one, the kids were a year older. Pincess and Bubba were more interested in playing than they were the first time we played. Additionally, Mom and I were deep in the middle of catching up on all the past episodes of Critical Role, a web series in which professional voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons. Critical Role was Mom’s first real exposure to actual D&D, and she was really enjoying it. It helped foster some way-over-the-top creativity in the coming adventure.
To get started, we had to form the party. Ghoti and Pincess wanted to keep the same characters they played with the first time, which made their setup really easy. Bubba decided he wanted something different and rather quickly decided on the warrior for this adventure. Mom was ready to try her hand at being one of the party and was worried about what I’d do to the kids this time, so she decided to be the healer.
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.
About a year ago, I lamented on Facebook that I didn’t know of any tabletop RPGs that were super-accessible for young children (mine were 2, 3, and 5 at the time). I had some friends chime in with a few suggestions, one of which was Hero Kids. I looked it up and liked what I saw. In it, the kids are the heroes. They’re not just kids playing adults; they’re kids playing kids. Additionally, the rules seemed like they were wisely simplified in ways that allowed plenty of freedom to get creative with those rules as appropriate for the group.
We tried the introductory campaign, and my two oldest had a mostly good time. We hadn’t played traditional tabletop RPGs before, so figuring out how to properly DM to keep such young kids motivated was tricky. It took two sessions to get through the initial campaign, but it was fun. It took a (really long) while for the kids to collectively want to play again, but we’re working on our second full campaign and having a really good time. I thought it might be fun to catalog our exploits in hopes that they entertain somebody else.