Monday, March 20, 2017

RPGs with Kids: The Birthday Party

I ran an birthday party-adventure with a group of 9 kids of mixed ages and various levels of experience with RPGs.
The Party Favors 
Favors
An adorable monster notebook to keep track of things, and a set of polyhedrals.

Mechanics
The rules were mostly Sword & Backpack/Fluid Fundamentals. That is, pretty much just "roll a d20 and hope it's high." I used the Fluid Fundamentals idea of Room DCs, which made keeping track of everything very easy (which proved vital, as the chaos around the table was high, and I'd have lost half the party if I'd ever stopped to look anything up).

There were lots of scrolls lying around, and the spells were Maze Rats. It was fun watching kids figure out spells from names like "ectoplasmic form" and "enveloping insect."

And I looked for lots of opportunities to make kids roll the different types of dice, so they could try out their whole set.

Chargen
There were no attributes or classes (although several kids insisted that their characters were elvish ranger-paladins and what-not).

They picked or rolled on a table of fantasy home-realms and occupations. No mechanical implications here, just a smidge of specificity to get the imagination rolling. I also had a long list of names prepared, but I don't think anyone used it.

Then, I asked each one what their character was best at, and told them that they had a +2 bonus at that. This information went into their adorable monster-books.


The Adventure
The party woke up, unequipped, in a cage in a giant's pantry. They escaped and armed themselves as best the could with what they found: rolling pins, pot lids, Purple Sturgleblossom (the world's stinkiest cheese), vengeful ghost-pepper powder, giant beetle eggs, etc.

They busted out into a kitchen full of kobold chefs preparing sea serpent chowder. The fight that resulted was as much against each other as the kobolds, as the players vied to be arm themselves with the limited supply knives.

They also found a giant barrel of Elvish Moonwine—a healing potion that tastes differently every time you drink it. The found four empty bottles, and once they filled them, I brought out four bottles of fruit juices, and explained that this was their supply of moonwine, and when they drank it all, their character's would be out of healing. Result: kids willingly rationing a sugar source at a party. You don't see that often.

Every time someone drank, they rolled to see what flavor it was:

1
Blood of
Boiled
Bat Wing
Aged 200 Years
2
Drainage of
Brewed
Black Pudding
And Mint
3
Effluvium of
Digested
Fire Beetle Guts
Flambé
4
Elixir of
Fermented
Innocence
From Concentrate
5
Juice of
Infected
Onyx
In a Decorative Mug
6
Liquor of
Jellied
Pixie Dust
On the Rocks
7
Oil of
Processed
Potato
Served in a Boot
8
Sap of
Putrescent
Rot Grub Castings
Shaken, Not Stirred
9
Secretion of
Reclaimed
Sea Serpent Eyeball
Suspended in Aspic
10
Tea of
Regurgitated
Shoggoth Gland
Swirled with Snotberries
11
Tears of
Sugared
Spite
Topped with Beard Shavings
12
Water of
Wounded
Unicorn Spleen
With Goat Milk

Equipped with knives and potions, they proceeded to get lost in some mouse tunnels they found behind a barrel of minotaur butter. Eventually, they bribed a giant mouse with the beetle eggs. Having an encounter not immediately descend into bloodshed was, perhaps, the greatest achievement of the game.

They snuck past a sleeping Cerberus, and found two treasure chests.
One had a label reading: THIS CHEST CONTAINS A TERRIBLE MONSTER.
The other was labeled: BOTH OF THESE LABELS ARE LYING.
Clever sprats worked this out in a few seconds, opened the right chest, and found some nice upgrades to armor and weapons.

Then they stumbled into a giant griddle-room. Goblins skated across the griddle-floor on thick slabs of fat tied to their feet, tending to massive strips of mastodon bacon, roc eggs, and pancakes. The pancake dough was ladled by a mechanical crane, which, of course, could target the characters. And there was a cage with one of the character's family in it, about to be grilled.

Things broke down at this point. The party ran in different directions, they accidentally woke up the Cerberus, they left a comrade sizzling like a sausage, and the family went un-rescued.

And that was time! Three hours had passed, and the kids clearly needed to run around, so the game was abandoned in favor of a snowball fight.

The Carnage
I had about seven more rooms prepared, and many families to rescue, but that was clearly overkill.

Takeaways
1. This was the cheapest and easiest birthday party we've ever thrown. Highly recommended.
2. Holy Dang, guys! You really don't need much in the way of mechanics at all to start playing! I mean, I knew that, but I needed to be reminded. Resolved: to never let rules-explanation to slow down starting a game.
3. Kids get RPGs. The only ones who needed anything explained to them were the ones who were expecting 5e. Kids, after all, invented "let's play make-believe."

Addendum
I baked a citrus pound cake in a dragon-mold. I used too much butter, which gave the cake really nice, crisp definition in the details of the mold, but resulted in a texture more like a fried doughnut that a birthday cake.

Also, right before the party, the kid made labels for all the snacks. Corn chips became "Gorgon's Toenails," grapes were "Ogre's Eyeballs," carrots were "Magic Missiles," etc. Wish I'd thought of that.