Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Daddy, This is NOT D&D

My kids are, unsurprisingly, quite into games, particularly narrative games. My 5-year-old even went so far as to write a choose-your-own-adventure book as a Christmas present for his cousin this year. A week and a half ago, we borrowed a copy of HeroQuest from that same cousin and we have already played a half-dozen times...

Just in case you're wondering about the title.
Silas says: "D&D uses your imagination, not a board
and little plastic guys. This game is TOTALLY different!"
...more adult D&D players need to learn this
Of course, Hero Quest is a board game, and somewhat limited in scope as written, and one hates to say "no" when a kid has a good, creative idea. So we have had to make several adjustments. What follows are the various hacks we've made to the game so far...

The specific Hero Quest box we borrowed included not only the original basic set, but also the figurines from TSR's 1993 Dragon Strike board game, the quest books, figurines, and cards from the Elf Quest Pack, the Barbarian Quest Pack, the Kellar's Keep expansion, the Return of the Witch Lord expansion, and an entire set of duplicate cards from the original game. So there is a huge amount of stuff there to work with, not all of which will be available to other players, but maybe you'll find some use for some of these ideas.


Additional Player Character Options:

My kids are very different in their approaches to RPGs and RPG-like games. My 5-year-old wants to play a different character every session. He likes making up new characters, rolling their stats, finding images and telling stories about them, and playing multiple roles when they do a "play". My 3-year-old gets attached to characters. She regularly portrays "Stinky Pete the Pirate Princess" when playing make believe, consistently wants to pull out "my special character" (a human fighter named Aleena) when we play D&D, or "my stormtrooper" when we play Star Wars.

When we got the overstuffed Hero Quest box, the elder looked at the giant bag of miniatures and immediately started drooling over the possibilities. When I showed him the cards for the four official classes--Elf, Dwarf, Wizard, Barbarian--he shrugged, picked the Dwarf and Barbarian and was ready to play (that first game at least). The younger, however, dove into the bag and came up with a Troll and a Bugbear from the Dragon Strike minis, and has used them consistently every time we've played.

The Sorcerer
My initial thought was to go the lazy route and just use the Barbarian stats for the Troll, and Dwarf stats for the Bugbear, but why turn interesting things into boring things. Thus, I quickly made up some basic stats for them, and invented some special abilities to make them unique.

Shortly into playing, the elder's Barbarian encountered a closed door. "Do you open it?" I asked. "No. I kick the door and send it flying to smash the monster hiding behind it!" Thus we learned that Barbarians should also have a special ability beyond those described on the card.

Each round of playing thereafter, the Troll and the Bugbear were accompanied by two new allies. The Elf and Wizard were tried, as well as a few other stranger options from the giant bag. Eventually being joined by the Sorcerer, Thief, and Tlincallis. Of course, as some of the characters started acquiring treasure and magical artifacts, which I paper-clipped to their character sheets to keep them from getting separated, some started reappearing (especially once the Elf got the Cloak of Passage that allowed him to walk through walls).

In their most recent quest, they also learned some useful tactics. Like having the Troll or Tlincallis (which are each 2 squares long), stand and block wide corridors to prevent enemies from flanking the party.

Character Attack Dice Defend Dice Body Points Mind Points Special
Barbarian 3 2 8 2 “Kick in the Door”
Wizard 1 2 4 6 Elemental Spells
Elf 2 2 6 4 Elf Spells
Dwarf 2 2 7 3 Disarm Traps
Bugbear 2 3 6 3 Sneak Attack
Troll 3 1 8 1 Regenerate
Thief 2 2 5 5 Disarm Traps, Sneak Attack
Sorcerer 2 2 5 4 Chaos Spells
Manscorpion 2 2 6 3 Sting, Earth Spells

Description of Special Abilities:

  • Kick in the Door!:  When the Barbarian opens a door, any creature standing in the first or second square directly behind the door (in a strait line) takes 1 body point of damage, unless it rolls a 5 or 6 on a red die. A door opened by a Barbarian cannot be closed again (we mark these with an empty door base).
  • Elemental Spells:  The Wizard begins each quest with 9 spells prepared. Select 3 of the 4 elemental groups and gain the three spells from those groups.
  • Elf Spells:  Elven magic is very different from that practiced by Wizards. At the beginning of each quest, the Elf starts with 4 Elf Spells of his choice (from the Elf Quest Pack).
  • Disarm Traps:  Dwarves and Thieves may disarm traps without a toolkit. To do so, they must avoid rolling a black shield on one combat die.
  • Sneak Attack:  The Bugbear and Thief specialize in moving stealthily and getting the drop on their opponents. Figurines should be turned to face anyone they are attacking. If the Thief or Bugbear attack an opponent from the rear, they roll 1 additional combat die.
  • Regeneration:  At the start of its turn, the Troll automatically heals himself of 1 body point of damage. The troll is, however, weak-minded and reckless.
  • Chaos Spells:  The Sorcerer trained under Zargon and his chaos warlocks and is able to use chaos magic. The Sorcerer begins each quest with 6 Chaos spells. These spells are chosen randomly from the deck of chaos spells. Unlike the Wizard, the Sorcerer may freely use axes, swords, and crossbows.
  • Sting:  The Tlincallis can attack with either a weapon or with its poisonous stinger. When attaching with its stinger, the Tlincallis rolls 2 combat dice. For each skull rolled that is not blocked, the target takes 1 Mind Point of damage (instead of body points). The stinger has no effect on monsters with 0 Mind Points (like zombies or skeletons). A thinking monster reduced to 0 mind points is killed.
  • Earth Spells:  The Manscorpion begins each quest with the 3 Earth elemental spells.

Our unlikely heroes assemble for a quest!

Additional Rules:

1. The Diplomatic Approach
"Daddy, why isn't there more talking in this game? I want to make friends with the goblin!"

A simple hack. Player Characters may attempt to befriend monsters, causing them to leave peacefully, give up information, or otherwise help the players. In order for this to work, the following criteria must be met.

  1. The player characters must not have attacked any monsters within sight of the target to be befriended (thus this works best when first opening the door into a new room). 
  2. The target monster must be intelligent (it must have 1 or more Mind Points).
  3. The players must say, in character, why the monster should not fight them. "We don't want to hurt you, we're just looking for Sir Ragnar." "Hey, I'm a goblin too!"
  4. The player rolls a number of combat dice equal to his Mind Points (Wizards are very diplomatic for some reason, Trolls are monosyllabic). If he rolls a number of black shields equal to the target creature's mind points, that creature becomes friendly.

A creature that has turned friendly can be asked to do one of the following things:

  1. Leave. The monster moves in the direction of the steps at its normal movement rate. If it reaches the steps without being provoked (see below) it will exit the dungeon and no longer trouble the PCs.
  2. Reveal one secret about the room it is in: "There is a secret door in the corner" or "This treasure chest is empty and trapped". After this, the monster will stand down, neither moving nor attacking until provoked or "re-friended".
  3. Reveal the contents of the next closest unopened room (player's choice if multiple adjacent rooms are unopened). Zargon should put all monsters and furniture in the indicated room on the board. After this, the monster will stand down, neither moving nor attacking until provoked or "re-friended".
  4. Reveal the location of the McGuffin of the current quest ("Oh yeah, Varag the Gargoyle lives in the big middle room"). Zargon should indicate what room on the board the quest's goal is in, but no other details. After this, the monster will stand down, neither moving nor attacking until provoked or "re-friended".
  5. Introduce us! The monster will follow the player character until they meet a second monster. The player may roll additional combat dice equal to the monster's Mind Points when attempting the Diplomatic Approach with this new creature. After this, the original monster will stand down, neither moving nor attacking until provoked or "re-friended".
Provoking the Monsters: Any monster that has been befriended in this way will "Stand Down", neither moving nor attacking (except as described above). However, if the player characters harm any other monster in the dungeon, all previously befriended monsters immediately become hostile, unless there is an intervening barrier (such as a closed door) that would prevent befriended monsters from moving directly to the harmed creature's aid. Thus, when the PCs do decide to fight something, they should make sure to shut the door behind them first (the screams of dying goblins echo surprisingly far down stony corridors).

Likewise, attempting to "search for treasure" in a room that contains a befriended monster will also cause them to become hostile (no one likes to be stolen from).

Under no circumstances will a befriended monster aid the player characters in combat.

2. Petey's Orb of Scrying!

Artifacts are cool, and there are a lot of them. We should shuffle them into the treasure deck. The first Artifact the kids found when searching for treasure was the Sky Orb (from the Elf Quest Pack).

Silas says: "Petra, you got a Crystal Ball!"

Petra says: "I see what's in this room!"

Mind Point protection is lame. Scrying is awesome. So I said, "Yes, of course".

The Sky Orb comes with 4 orb tokens. The owner of the "Crystal Ball" begins each quest with all 4 tokens. As an action, the player character in possession of the Orb can place an orb token or tokens on any room(s) on the board. Zargon will then immediately place all furniture, monsters, doors, and secret doors (if any) present in that room on the board. Once all four orb tokens are used, the "Crystal Ball" cannot be used again during that quest.