Gaming friends: We’ve had several parents approach us and ask us for help in providing Dungeons & Dragons gaming fun for their young gamers.
Before Covid spiked this fall, we had a solution: We were going to start a Twin Cities Club Heroes, a group dedicated to gaming and teaching, with the latter focused on turning beginning D&D players (parents and kids!) into Game Masters.
That’s still the plan – we’re just on hold until we can do so safely. But that certainly doesn’t help the original issue – helping parents provide some gaming fun. So let’s do that now!
I’m going to provide you with a simple way to create an adventure and you’re more than welcome to use this as either a game to play with your young gamers or take what we started and turn it into an even better story/adventure.
A couple of quick tips in creating an adventure:
* Keep it simple. Your brain will want to expand, expand, expand but trust us, the more you narrow it down, the better it will be and the easier it will be to “run,” or lead as the game master;
* Make it magical. The more magic, the better. By the way, some new to D&D view “magic” as just nasty creatures that want to harm your player-characters. Hardly! In our book, magic is something un-natural that will delight and probably surprise. (OK yeah, sometimes it’s a bit hungry and wants to chew on some fingers … but you get the idea!)
* Give it a personality. This is where the magic happens – providing a person, creature or even an object with a personality is when the fun really starts! Examples to follow.
To start the adventure – especially if you’re not a creative person - go to Google, type “fantasy” into your search and then click on the images button. This will fire up your imagination as you see all these terrific visuals! We did this and came up with three photos, which in essence serve as the content of our adventure.
Let’s call this adventure, “Magic Mushrooms.”
The first photo that grabbed our attention is a picture of a child walking on a snowy road with a reindeer. This will serve as the main storyline of the adventure. Remember keep it simple: The player(s) will be tasked to complete an assignment given to them by their king. They are to take a magical reindeer, who has wandered away from his home, back to its castle. (Maybe a guy with a white beard and a jolly demeanor lives there?)
But remember we have two other key elements to every piece of this adventure: magic and personality.
So the reindeer will be magical – he’ll be able to talk, to fly once a day and cast a few simple spells: fog cloud, mage hand, etc. Spells that can help the players out of tough situations.
And the reindeer will have a personality: We see him as an Eeyore with antlers. Gloomy. (“They’re not very good antlers but I’m kind of attached to them …”) Distrustful. Lazy.
Again keeping it simple, the adventure will be guiding the reindeer down this snowy road, back to its castle. Along the way a couple of fun things happen.
The first one relates to the second picture that grabbed our attention: some interesting looking mushrooms. Keeping things magical, we’ll say the mushrooms are indeed magical. If they are consumed – by the PCs or the reindeer – one of four conditions will occur: On a roll of 1 using a d4, the person turns into a baby form of itself; 2) On a roll of 2 using a d4, the person turns huge, double or even tripling its size; 3) On a roll of 3, the person or creature begins hovering over the ground, not really flying but not walking either; 4) on a roll of 4, the person or creature turns green, begins hopping around and has a sudden hunger for flies. All conditions last 1d4 hours. Use the reindeer to call attention to the mushrooms and probably consume at least one of them, all the while being distrustful of how they'll taste.
The second fun – and magical! – event happens later on the walk, perhaps even the next day. This relates to the third and final picture: a cute, orange kitten sitting next to a pond, with a reflection showing its true self.
Sometime during the walk down the road, the players will encounter this little kitten, which will nuzzle up to the PCs and then, the reindeer. Being his distrustful self, Eyeore the reindeer will demand the players leave the kitten behind.
We’re guessing you know what’s coming: The kitten – at that time a huge lion – ate magic mushrooms and turned into a kitten. At some point during the walk down the road with the players and Eyeore, the mushrooms wear off and poof!, you have a crazy situation. Hungry lion, scared reindeer that could try to fly away, and some seriously surprised players.
And a fun role-playing session!
Hope that helps, fellow parents. If you have other ideas to add to this adventure, leave them in the comments section for your fellow gamers. Thanks!
Gaming friends: Probably much like you, we’ve had our share of Covid fatigue and certainly, plain old disappointment.
But we’re gamers, which means we’re used to the ups and downs that comes from participating in a hobby that is partially governed by chance. You either find a creative way to pick yourself up from a roll of 1 on a save from an ancient dragon’s breath or …. Well, let’s not go there.
This has certainly been the case with one of the goals of Heroes B&B: fund-raising for charities. Make no mistake, Heroes B&B is a business and it has business-oriented goals. But we also have an annual goal of participating in and contributing to charities. We did so – quite proudly – twice last year, once with a terrific event called “Road to Adventure” with gamers in Green Bay and then again through a Duluth event. We even kicked off the beginning of 2020 with this charity goal in mind by having two large dragon miniatures – a bronze and a clockwork - painted and ready to go for another fund-raising event.
And then the world rolled a “1” on a virus save and well, you know the rest.
Sadly, we at Heroes B&B hit a “pause” on our charity goal when all this hit. But we have still our “reaction” for 2020 left and by the gods, goblins and ghouls, we’re going to use it!
It’s called “Fun 4 Funds” and this program aimed at raising funds for a charity will be held in November. While we’re still working out details, we know our “Fun 4 Funds” program will include:
* Heroes B&B will donate half of net proceeds from any games or events we hold in November to a charity. For those of you who aren’t “proficient” in business terminology, net proceeds means the amount left after expenses are paid;
* We’re still deciding on which charity group to provide these funds to. If you have ideas for us, please let us know! We’re also thinking about allowing the group who plays with us to pick a particular charity that they prefer. (Please comment below with your ideas);
* We’re thinking of somehow including the large painted dragon miniatures as part of this, potentially auctioning them off through our Facebook page. Still deciding on that ….
Why do we tell you all this now – even before the start of October? We know many of you plan your big D&D group events well in advance so we wanted to give you a heads up.
Even though 2020 has been far from what we had hoped, we – collectively as gamers - still have a chance to make it far, far better.
We hope you’ll join us in this charitable goal!
Thanks from the encouragement of our supporters, Heroes B&B continues to provide more content for its adaptive version of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
Our adaptive version keeps all the imagination and eliminates much of the confusion from the numerous rules and dice. (Please see an earlier blog on this page for a complete explanation of the simplified system.)
The new simplified content includes:
* new character options, including a female pixie, a female druid with a friendly snake, and Ogol the orc, who promises to be your courageous fighter, assuming there are no pixies around!
* new adventures, including The Bear King's Feast, which we debuted in the fall. This is a wild ride of experiences and encounters in anticipation of collecting enough hard-to-find ingredients to put on an annual Fey feast. Two more adventures are currently in development!
Have character or adventure ideas for us? Let us know as we continue to work on bringing fantasy to a broader spectrum of players!
Heroes B&B's complimentary weekly online discussion "D&D Chat" featured an in-depth look at a couple of DM tools that can be incredibly useful for your world-building. Ever get so busy with real life that you're not able to flush out the entire, upcoming adventure, say the names of your NPCs? Not to mention what they look like and act like? (Too many times, right?!) If so, you'll love Inkwell Ideas' sidequest and NPC decks. Both "handy" products - sorry couldn't resist! - not only will provide content for your D&D worlds, but also plenty of ideas for encounters.
Inkwell Ideas' Joe Wetzel and Andrew Shields, our special guests for this D&D Chat, provided more details on these DM tools, including a look at the company's Kickstarter on some new decks.
Inkwell Ideas also provided Heroes B&B followers a terrific gift for a limited time. You can download a sidequest deck for free by following these instructions: Click here https://store.inkwellideas.com/collections/encounter-decks/products/sidequest-decks-horror-fantasy and then use the code "heroesb&b" to get this great DM for free.
If you've ever played a wizard who through deed or just plain good luck finds a spellbook, well, life is good! It's like Christmas morning before the presents are unwrapped.
Excitement just pulses through you!
So you can imagine having the opportunity in real-life to play through the very same scenario - uncovering previously unknown spells. Yes please!
Which is why we at Heroes B&B asked Mark Hart, a developer and one of the authors of a series of Lost Spell volumes, to join us on our Thursday night D&D chat.
The volumes (pictured) provide both new spells and those brought back to life from previous editions. Each volume provides 20 new spells for us magic-addicted RPers to consume. (You can check out these volumes - all six! - at www.totalpartykill.games.)
Mark, a longtime D&D player and author from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, shared some fascinating insights about his work on recovering “lost spells” during our D&D Chat, including:
* Not all spells can be brought back to life due to the differences between editions. Mark sees the current 5th Edition as more specific at times for players and less arbritrary for the DM, which can make bringing back spells from early editions rather tricky;
* Earlier editions focused more intensely on specific magic schools, like necromancy, vs. the current 5th Edition. (So you magic-users fond of the undead should love these “new” lost spells!);
* The “why” behind this project. In other words, why, as a player or DM, should you even consider using “lost spells” vs. only those found in the official player’s handbook? The answer from Mark’s perspective – and we couldn’t agree more! – is intrigue! Consider from a player’s perspective that moment when you fail a save and thus start to feel the effects of that evil wizard’s spell. How much more compelling (actually frightening!) is it when you don’t know the spell and thus don’t know what’s it about to do to you? Talk about a knuckle-cracking moment!
Finally, during our D&D Chat, Mark also provided us a look at some of the specific “lost spells” in the series, including Repeat Strike – how crazy would it be to duplicate that very recent critical hit through the use of magic!? – and Stolen Breath, a Warlock spell that can lead to a drowning-like situation and makes Concentration spells incredibly dicey for magic users.
SPECIAL NOTE TO HEROES B&B FOLLOWERS: The publisher of the Lost Spells volumes, Total Party Kill Games, has provided Heroes B&B followers a special gift. You can get a free copy of “The Libram of Lost Spells, Volume 1” by going here: http://www.totalpartykill.games/shop-1. You’ll be able to find the volume in the D&D 5e section and after you add it to your cart, just use the “HeroesBB” code to get this volume for free. Special thanks to Total Party Kill Games for this boon!
Heroes B&B's free weekly online discussion "D&D Chat" featured special guest Ben McFarland, a fantasy writer and world-builder. Ben discussed his work on Kobold Press' Southlands campaign setting as well as tips on researching how to build your own D&D world. Fantasy fans can find out more info on Southlands - recommended by those of us at Heroes B&B - at Kobold Press' site, https://koboldpress.com/.
Heroes B&B's free weekly online discussion "D&D Chat" continued with special guest Ted Fauster, an expert fantasy map cartographer. Fauster gave both content and art tips on creating old-school dungeons. Fantasy fans can get more teachings from Fauster here: https://skl.sh/34UWjSK
Heroes B&B started its D&D Chat with Twin Cities art Danny Williams of Miniatures Mutated. Danny provides tips for beginner painters as well as shows off some of his current (incredible!) mini projects. You can contact Danny through the Miniatures Mutated Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/miniatures.mutated/
At its heart, the essence of the world’s most popular role-playing adventure game, Dungeons & Dragons, is pretty basic. Get a quest, overcome obstacles in a fantasy setting and ultimately, strive to achieve that quest.
Where it gets a little confusing is in the rules and the plethora of dice that are involved. Most people who have not played Dungeons & Dragons will look at you strangely after you ask them to “roll a ‘d20’ to attack a creature and then their damage dice if they hit.”
Say what, they’ll inquire sheepishly?
Which is why when a friend of Heroes B&B asked us to put together an adaptive version of the D&D game, we said, “Absolutely. But we need to make it make it less confusing for these new players!”
What we’ve come up with relies heavily on storytelling – a Heroes B&B staple – as well as reduces the number of dice in the game. What our simplified D&D system doesn’t do is change the essence of the game, which is relying on the luck of a rolled dice to partially indicate the success a player has in overcoming the obstacles present in this fantasy setting.
Here’s a short outline of our simplified system, something we believe would work well with a variety of players new to the game:
* Each player character will be given a character sheet, as shown above. Each player also will receive three dice: one yellow, one green and one blue. The dice will correspond with the same-colored box on the character sheet. So if a player rolls a yellow dice, they (or a volunteer) should look at the rolled number and then add a plus-2 to the total. For example, a player rolls a 10 on the dice. They would add plus-2 to that total and the character’s roll would be communicated as a “12.” (NOTE: You can click on the character sheets on this page and download them at no cost. We suggest you laminate them so you can use them repeatedly.)
* The Game Master, or GM, will tell the player which dice to roll according to the situation. For example, when a player wants to look around a new location - a "Perception" roll - they’ll roll a yellow dice. When they want to attack an evil-doing troll, they’ll roll a green dice.
* The player character sheet has boxes on the left side of it. These boxes indicate the player’s current health. When a player suffers “damage”, they’ll simply mark off the boxes. For example, if a player takes 3 damage, they’ll mark off 3 boxes. The player character sheets will be laminated so such marks can be erased at a later time with ease.
* The player character sheet also has a name, race, picture and information about each character. Players can always change their name if they so choose.
* The player character sheet also has two other items of note: 1) a picture of two hands. This is a once-a-day healing ability that players can opt to use on their turn. Once this ability is used, it can simply be crossed off; 2) a picture of a shield and a number in the shield. The latter is the player’s “Armor Class,” a number the Game Master must equal or surpass on a roll in order to successfully target or “hit” a player.
We hope this adaptive version of D&D will allow less experienced players to enjoy the far-flung fantasy settings and memorable quests involved in this creative and entertaining game.
If you have questions on this adaptive D&D system, would like one of our player character sheets at no cost, or if you have ideas on how to improve it, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since writing our initial blog, we’ve had a number of parents reach out to us and say, “I’m game! Show me how to do this, to start rolling dice with our kids.”
Easy enough done, in terms of providing online resources.
There’s a second step, however, that I do want to spend some time on.
But first, let’s ensure you have what you’ll need to start. For an online how-to manual, check out https://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop/players-basic-rules. Then you’ll want to go to a local gaming store (Google “Dungeons and Dragons stores near me”) and get some dice – these are actually different than the ones you probably have around the house – and a map and some miniatures. The latter are representations of player characters and monsters that fit on the aforementioned map. In all, maybe a $20-$30 investment, or about what you’ll pay to go see a movie.
On your own, read through the rules. Don’t worry about mastering them, just get a fair understanding of them.
Then here’s the crucial part: Don’t bore your kids with what you just learned.
Every time Heroes B&B puts on a game with players new to the D&D adventuring world we tell them the following: there are two aspects to this game. The first one allows you to interact with a fantasy world in whatever manner you wish. You simply have to tell us what you’re going to do before you do it. Second, if you encounter a threat, the game changes to a turn-based system, and we'll let you know when that happens.
At that point, we set off into a fantasy world filled with wonder, magic and the occasional grumpy troll.
The point is: Storytelling comes first, rules second.
Show me a place where my imagination can run wild and then sprinkle in some limitations (ie, the rules) and I’ll keep coming back for more. And more, and more!
Neil Pascale is a parent who lives in the Twin Cities. He is the founder of Heroes B&B, a Twin Cities-based service that provides adventure gaming to groups and families in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. He first started gaming as a middle-school student in math class. (Please don’t ask him what his grade ended up being in that class!) He can be reached at email@example.com