Tuesday, December 6, 2016

D&D With Kids Part 2: The Gates of Karak Norn

When we left our intrepid band of kid D&D players in the first episode of D&D With Kids, the party, Kriv the dragonborn fighter, Foxy the human druid and Adrak the elf rogue, along with their animal friend, Scruffy the wolf, were just entering the lower entrance complex of the dwarven city of Karak Norn.

They encountered a handful of goblin sentries (more on that later) and defeated them handily, so the second session started in one of the main halls.

Right away I ran into a bit of an issue.  Iris' friend Julius, who is 6, wanted to play too.  I didn't want to spend a bunch of time making a character, so I was initially stumped, but then I ran upstairs, printed a Beast Card for Scruffy.  I forget where I got those, but whoever made them did a great job!

So Julius had a fairly simple character, and played Scruffy to great effect.

Dyson's Darking Depths
I used one of +Dyson Logos excellent maps for the entrance complex.  They had reached the diamond-shaped chamber in the center.

I decided that I didn't want this to turn into a combat-heavy dungeon crawl, so I was thinking about ways I could make sure that didn't happen.  I decided (nebulously) was to have factions - the goblins, a dwarven guardian of some sort, and some kind of animals.  Also I figured on incorporating some way the kids could scare off the goblins.  Little did I know they already had me covered!

When they explored the diamond-shaped chamber, they found that the two attached rooms on the north walls contained working dwarven ballista, used for room defense.  They investigated them but didn't do much else, then moved on to the large chamber to the north.

The Dwarf Guardian
I decided that this room would have the dwarven guardian.  The central area looked like a statue, so I put a huge dwarven golem on the plinth.  When they entered and I described it, the thief, Adrak, immediately headed over to touch it, despite Kriv's warning that it looked dangerous.

The golem awoke, and after a short conversation, offered them a deal.  Get rid of the goblins - don't care how, and the golem will open the gates to the city.  They agreed, then headed off to find the goblins.

I made it clear at this point that there might be a lot of goblins, and if they attacked mindlessly, I would kill their characters.  It sobered them, so they came up with a plan.  Kriv and Foxy manned the two ballista in the entry hall, and Adrak volunteered (with Scruffy's help) to lure out the goblins so they could shoot them with the ballista.  Not a bad plan...

The Goblin Chief
Adrak entered the room to the right of the diamond-shaped chamber, which proved to be a dwarf boot-room, and encountered 3 goblins, one of whom had an alarm gong and mallet.  Adrak doesn't speak Orcish or Goblin, so he didn't understand when the goblins asked him who he was and why he was there and where the sentries (amember them?) were.  He didn't make any hostile moves, so they went and got Grung, their chief - you could tell he was chief because he wears the BIG HAT.
Grung spoke enough common to negotiate, and the kids got a real kick out of my goblin voice.  After
much laughter, Adrak negotiated with Grung that the goblins would leave and meet the party on the other side of the mountains, whereupon the party would give the goblins 25% of the treasure they found inside the dwarf city.  Grung didn't understand %, but agreed when Adrak explained that meant "most of it".

Adrak told Grung that the sentries were "asleep" and "wouldn't wake up", but panicked a bit when Grung headed off to yell at the sentries for sleeping on the job.  Grung yelled at them for a bit, but they didn't wake up, since they were dead, and Grung started to get mad, but turned and realized that two huge crossbows were pointed at him.  He immediately surrendered unconditionally.

Kriv speaks Orcish, so it was lots of fun to have Grung switch from broken Common to fluent Orcish.  The kids all laughed when he went from "No KILL GRUNG!" to "Ah, you speak a civilized language.  There is no need for bloodshed, I surrender unconditionally."

Faced with the threat of the crossbows, the Goblin chief agreed to leave, especially once Adrak confirmed that the "most of it" deal was still in effect.  About 50! goblins filed out, driving home the point that fighting would have been a baaaaad idea.

Couple of notes on running games with kids here.  First, they can come up with some pretty great plans.  Second, funny voices and accents go over really well.

The party then returned to the golem, who confirmed that the goblins were gone and opened the gate to the dwarf city.  It warned them that the city was long abandoned, and that it had no idea what they would find.

God of Fish
Beyond the gate they found a large cavern full of water, with a number of large square stone columns emerging from the water.  It appeared to be an ancient bridge that had been taken down by the dwarves.

The water was deep and dark, and the columns were too far away to jump to.  They discussed several different ways of bypassing the water, but having Scruffy with them made everything harder.  I reminded them that Foxy can change into animals, including possibly a fish.  Foxy immediately jumped into the water.  She wanted to change into a goldfish, but I reminded her that if there was anything dangerous in the water, it might be nice to have teeth, so she changed into a giant pike instead.

Probably RAW (Rules as Written) this wasn't something she was allowed to do, but when you play D&D with kids Rule of Cool ALWAYS wins.

I stole this next part from Matt Colville's excellent Youtube series on D&D.  Stealing cool ideas for your game is good.  You should do it more.

Swimming through the water, Foxy soon encountered a small, shiny fish with lots of pointy teeth - a subterranean quipper (basically a piranha).

Foxy decided she wanted to talk to it, so she cast Speak with Animals.  Again, not rules as written, but a great idea, so she was able to talk to it.

It seemed surprised...  "Are you good to eat?"  it asked immediately.  "No," replied Foxy, "I taste terrible and am poisonous."  The fish then yelled into the darkness "NO GOOD TO EAT."

"Awwwww..." chorused hundreds of other quippers from the darkness all around...

Foxy was roundly congratulated for a good answer by the rest of the group.

The fish then asked "Are you God of Fish?"  They had never seen a fish so huge before, nor a fish that could speak quipper.

"Yes." answered Foxy promptly.

Foxy got another round of congratulations for that answer.

The quipper swarm assembled and then intoned in unison "What would you have of us, Oh God of Fish?  Do you desire offerings?"

Foxy then instructed the fish that, yes, she would desire offerings and that they should not eat anyone on or in the water for the next day.  The fish agreed, and began bringing coins and treasure up from the depths of the pool.

I described this like a scene from a disney movie.  Fish darting about, banging into each other, carrying treasure, one fish inside a helmet swimming into the wall, 10 fish dragging a sword back and forth because they were all swimming in different directions.  Disney scenes and physical comedy are all good when playing D&D with kids.

I also had the fish ask if the should "bring up the chain" since I wanted to give them a way to bypass the water.  Turns out I shouldn't have bothered, but Foxy said yes, so the fish brought up a chain that, when pulled from above, ratcheted up a set of climbing chains that would allow people (short people) to climb between the stone pillars.

Then I did some random treasure rolling, and they found:  110 gp, a +1 Longsword of elvish made, a Helm of Elvenkind (as boots, but a helmet - cause I described a helmet in the fish scene), a Brooch of Shielding and a Ring of Water Walking.  After some discussion, they decided Kriv should take the longsword, Adrak the helmet, Foxy the brooch and they tied the ring to Scruffy's collar.

Kriv's new sword
Doing a quick image search on your phone and showing the kids pictures of what their new items look like is a great way to build enthusiasm.  But if they want to describe it themselves, keep that description!

Into the Deeps
Using the chains and the now water-walking wolf, they crossed the water and explored a bit, finding a small dwarven temple, then a tunnel leading deeper into the mountain.  The tunnel led several hundred yards, then ended at a square vertical shaft, with metal cables hanging from the middle.  The kids immediately recognized it as an elevator shaft.

Kriv had the great idea of dropping a rock to listen for the distance to the bottom, and the brief length of the fall convinced them they could climb down.  Adrak and Foxy are both quite agile, so they had no problem climbing down, but Kriv volunteered to carry Scruffy down, and managed to roll well too.

Julius asked if he could roll, too, so of course, he could, since everybody else was rolling dex checks.  He had a little trouble, but made it.  Good general rule - try to make sure everybody has a chance to roll dice.

At the bottom of the shaft they found an elevator platform, a large tunnel with a stone pipe along the side, and a complex-seeming piece of machinery with a lever that did not seem to do anything other than produce a gurgling noise. Deciding to check on the destination of the pipe, they followed the tunnel as it slowly sloped upwards.

They noticed as they went that the large stone pipe did not angle upwards, and so it slowly receded into the floor as they continued.  Finally, at the point where the pipe was level with the tunnel, the tunnel opened out into a huge cavern containing an underground lake.  The pipe stuck out into the lake water some distance.

We hadn't actually had any combat in the session so far, so I decided to put a fight down here.  A fight and a puzzle, actually, but definitely a fight, since Kriv's player is very combat-oriented and it gives everybody a chance to roll some dice.

The first thing they noticed was a number of tall, pale-skinned creatures standing on top of the pipe, apparently fishing with long bone spears.  Kriv immediately threw a javelin at them.  Since this was designed as a combat encounter, I ruled that was fine, and gave the party surprise.  Kriv threw the javelin, Adrak and Scruffy charged forward and Foxy used her Thorn Whip spell to grab one of the creatures (Grimlocks) and haul it off the pipe into the water.

Next round, Kriv charged with his battle axe, Scruffy pulled one of the Grimlocks to the ground, and Adrak stabbed another.  Foxy, though, couldn't really decide what to do.  Knowing that she had one use of her animal shape left, I suggested, "You could change into a bear and attack them."

The result of that suggestion
Grizzly bears are... really tough.  3 attacks, lots of HP, high damage.  Also Foxy had new dice and was rolling pretty well.  So yeah, Grimlock butt got kicked.  She was so effective that I'm actually a little worried that Kriv is going to be unhappy about no longer being the party asskicker.  I'll have to look at that.

Letting each kid have a real chance to shine, and making sure that those opportunities really come up are critical when you are playing D&D with kids.  Adrak's player likes sneaking around and being athletic.  Foxy's player likes animals and interacting with them, Kriv's player likes BATTLE.  Knowing this and factoring it into adventure design is really important, and I foresee a potential problem considering how effective a Circle of the Moon druid can be at handing out the the hurt.

Within a few seconds the few remaining Grimlocks (these are aquatic Grimlocks) were swimming away under the water.  The party realized the pipe was blocked with rubbish, and decided to clear it to see if that would cause the lift to start working.  As they worked, Scruffy started growling and Adrak noticed white shapes moving in the water.

Suddenly, a huge, albino crocodile with several Grimlocks clinging to it lunged out of the water, and another battle began.  Foxy was still in bear form, and grabbed the albino gator by the head, shaking it lifeless and tossing it into the wall.  General mayhem (atten-hut!) followed, and the defeated Grimlocks fled.

With the pipe unblocked, the party returned to the strange machine.  They couldn't really figure out what to do at this point, so I had them make Int checks to see if they could figure out the machine.  They succeeded, opened the valve, threw the lever and the platform began to rise, taking them up into the darkness of the abandoned dwarf city of Karak-Norn.

I set up the machine to be a fairly simple puzzle, but I think it was made more difficult because I just described things. If they had a model, I'm sure they would have figured it out easily.  The machine is basically 4 parts:  A tube to bring water, a valve to shut off the water, gears to turn the crank, and the crank that raised the platform.  They had to clear the tube and open the valve, then throw the lever that activated everything.

At the end of the session Kriv and Foxy went up to level 3, Adrak is a little ahead in XP, so he stayed level 3, and now I have to figure out a way for a wolf to go up levels, because Julius would like Scruffy to go up levels too!

It will be a while before our next session, but hopefully we'll get more gaming in the new year!

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