Roll For Teaching 4: Short, Quick and Easy

The Guild editorial staff apologizes to Mr. Bourguignon for the delay in publishing this entry in his series.  It has been a challenging year.

The end of the school year is still puttering on, which means that I can keep playing games with kids.  It also means that I’ll slowly have more time to read more blogposts.  I got excited by the idea that I could take some of the kids through the Borderlands that I’ve been reworking.  I also work best with a deadline.  It helps me discard precious little ideas that do not really fit.  Having a (potential) game to look forward to also gives you context as to what kind of game it should be.

For me this meant:  1) Kids of ages 6-12 and 2) about 40 minutes for a game/session which will probably be the only one (but potential for one follow up game in some cases).

I also learned that if you give these kids the choice between games they know (like UNO, Twister, …) and a weird new game that needs to be explained, they will most likely go for UNO or something like that.  So I don’t get my hopes up if a choice is given for a big group to play all kinds of games.  (Also, you’ll probably have even less time in this situation)

This year I went with a very easy system (Roll 4 Shoes) and very simple character creation (choose a picture and a name. You have only one skill:  Do Anything).  Still this took more time than I wanted.  Maybe next year I’ll make some pre-gens and just let them draw randomly.

I also, not only by my own brilliance, but under the influence of this blogpost, playing Electric Bastionland and the kind of JRPG type game I want to emulate, made the map node-based.  This makes travel easy.  I gave the option though of going off the path, but they would have the possibility of getting lost.  Node Travel was automatic, with events per node.

Here I’d like to take another page out of Electric Bastionland’s mapmaking book next time and already have prepped the first event rather than just a d6 table about what you could encounter at each point.

I did like the idea of treating one node not as a vector for a random encounter, but as a puzzle or roleplaying option like in the 5 room dungeon model.  (Like the model said, it doesn’t have to be rooms.)  I did this with the river crossing.  The puzzle is crossing the river, how do you do it?  I would like to spec it out more.  How difficult is it?  What is around?  Etc.  Oh well, maybe next year.

All in all, it was quick enough that the kids could make characters, look at the map, head out and hunt in the Wild Woods (Het Wilde Woud) and return with a slain dragon.  One of them tried to tame the dragon, which pleased me tremendously.  Unfortunately he didn’t succeed.  Also unfortunately, he isn’t one of my students.  I try to teach them empathy, I really do.  Oh well.

I’ll end this with a short actual play report of that specific session:

I briefly explained the concept of the game:  “You are heroes and treasure seekers that have arrived in Castle Kronenburg (Kasteel Kronenburg) to search for treasure and fame and to do good.  The Castellan (Kastelein) told you that there’s dangerous creatures to hunt in the Wild Woods (Het Wilde Woud), that there are treasures guarded by monsters in the Creepy Caves (De Griezelige Grotten) and that there are bandits to rout out in the Misty Morass (Het Mistige Moeras).  The ones that bring back the bandit leader (alive), a big treasure, or a hunted monster will get a feast in his honour at the castle.”

They get an index card on which they write their own name, stick a picture of their character on it (they get to pick it from cut out images) and write a name for their character (this part took considerable time).  Then they could write their one known skill.  “Do Anything:  1”.

Questions the kids had:  “Aren’t they good in other things?” (Answer: “We will discover that together”) and “Are we literally this character? (Answer: “It’s mainly a guideline.  If you want to use a thing and your picture has it, we don’t need to roll or the difficulty will be easier.  If not, we roll to see if you can or have the thing you want to use/do.)  I explained that it was kinda like a fairy tale story and that if they want to see if they could do magic, they could try it.

So they set out to the crossroads where they encountered a hunter that was resting near some pheasants he shot.  He asked them what they were doing and that he suspected that impressive heroes such as them will probably not be out in full force to hunt some pheasants.  One of them tried to deceive the hunter but failed.  The hunter gave them some advice.  If they would come across a cottage with an old lady living in it, to stay away. She’s dangerous.

The kids all looked at each other and whispered in unison:  “A witch!”

And so they headed out, (nearly) got ambushed by a dragon (one of them spotted its tail and could let out an “Alarm!” before it let loose a blast of fire.  A bunch of magic shields went up and only one of them got burned.)  They wounded it and then two characters had opposing goals.  One wanted to heal it to try and befriend it, little Aesop that he is.  The other wanted to finish it off.  They rolled to see who was quickest.  The healing character went first, failed and the other one finished it.  The rest either ran away or stood by and watched.  They went back and had a feast while the school bell rang and I had to leave because I had to go get a COVID-Vaccine.  All in all, it was a success, even though I want to see if I can make the system quicker yet without losing fun.

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