What is up, Orcs and Ogres! Welcome to the 3rd part in a series about Tabletop RPGs! We are finally in the home stretch, getting to the nitty gritty. Enjoy reading, and feel free to...*roll* down to the comment section! Ayy... ;)
Quick recap for any new readers: This is my journey from knowing nothing about TRPGs to loving them to wanting to make one. It’s subjective and largely useless for anybody (except lovers of collaborative brainstorming?)! In today’s chapter, we will finally be reaching the good stuff. But first...
So I had discovered various D&D media that I was really digging (see part 2). I also realised D&D-type Tabletop Games (TTG) would be a great way of teaching kids how to Co-Op... IRL. They would have just enough structure to let their imaginations run wild.
I set about to find a game they could play. A kid friendly D&D. “My First D&D”, something like that. Given how obscure an idea it seemed to me, I wasn’t sure how long I would be researching for an answer.
I went to Bing as the first step of my journey, because of contractual obligations. After a while, I realised that Bing was superior for porn- and little else. I then turned to Jeeves, but my phone just threw up an error message to remind me it wasn’t 2002. I knew this would be harder than anticipated, so I went to the Almighty Algorithm (AKA Google). I had to be careful with my query- any error could skew my results. I labored for days over my search terms, but I knew when I had it.
Stifling the nervous shuddering in my lungs, I typed: “D&D 4 Kidz”. During my earlier planning I realised I would probably be searching and scrolling through page after page after page and, thankfully, I was already prepared for the task ahead. With a Red Bull in hand and bated breath in chest, I steeled my nerves and pressed enter... and I immediately found it. It was called Heroes of Hesiod, and published by WotC (owners of D&D, apparently). Hands down, the absolute best thing about HoH is battling. Simple enough for basically any age (maybe 6 & up): All you do is roll a d20 (or 3 regular dice), and if it matches or exceeds the enemy’s armor, you hit! Simply color in one of the circles of their health bar. Honestly, it’s really neat, super easy, and I recommend at least checking it out.
One problem with the system, though: It’s not really an adventure. The entire “story” part is “Cages were opened, go kill!” Maybe that sounds good to some people...but the kids I know want epic adventures in a land of magic and wonder. Not glorified rat-stomping through a basement. That’s like... “first-quest-in-Balder’s-Gate” stuff, not “entire game” stuff.
I began outlining a little journey for them. It didn’t take long before I hit a wall: Dice. See, rolling dice is fun, in any game. Craps, Yahtzee, and more are games played with ONLY dice. Having to roll dice also means there’s always a tiny chance to succeed in any action. But what if you’re particularly good at something, like...talking or swimming? How do we acknowledge it in a dice roll?
So the game needed skills and skill points. But I didn’t know how to do that. The kids would love some say in their character, so that meant races and classes. Yeah...I had no idea about that, either. It needed a story, but one that could work as a game. Ok, yeah, I realised I didn’t actually know any thing about these games. I only had *some* pieces of this puzzle and Heroes of Hesiod couldn’t really help me with the missing ones.
I had to find a game, play it for myself and learn, but I didn’t really know anyone in person that I could ask. As luck would have it at the time, there was a post by paranoia-champion Raithulu (IP Address: 184.108.40.206) here on TAY about an introductory session of D&D 3.5. This led me to Discord, which led to a taste (because the first hit is always free) and then the abrupt realisation that I was instantly hooked. I started freaking out for more. I itched all over my body, had cold sweats and hot chills, and even offered to fellate a man who turned out to be a woman...who turned out to be a cop. A quick stint in County for prostitution later, and I took to social media to subtly drop hints that I was looking for a game.
That’s when one of my closest, dearest friends contacted me with a suggestion (I’m telling you, me getting into D&D was fate). NotGoodForYou, famous TAY author and just the best guy around (also a very, very dear friend, whom I’m certain would say the same about me) was like, “Dude, broheem, BFF. Have you considered trying Roll20? (Btw, feel free to quote me if you eever write about this moment. I trust you to represent it accurately, because we’re such close, great friends).” He really is a mensch, I tell ya. Swell guy. We’re best friends.
That led to Roll20, if you can believe it. There I found a DM, followed by an Intro game for Pathfinder. From that game, I got to join a DIFFERENT PF game with the same DM, Ace, and I’ve been having a blast ever since. For anybody interested or curious, he’s still teaching Pathfinder, and I definitely recommend it for Noobz:
Anyway, we’re finally all caught up with gratuitous backstory, even with all the extra bits I added to the whole search engine part. Well shit. I guess I can’t delay anymore... Time to share my thoughts, ideas, etc for the StupidSimple™ RPG system! In this part of the series, I’m gonna introduce the idea for the story- since I feel like it’s the best way to get everyone in the right mindset. Ok, no more delays...
Right before that though: I cannot stress enough, THIS IS A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT. Share your thoughts in the comments, good or bad. Like this? Tell me. Got a better idea? Do share. Arbitrarily afraid that saying your ideas out loud means someone will immediately steal it, patent it, then get rich off your perfectly-formed-as-is, no-refining-required idea? Let’s brainstorm!
Alright... So when I started out, I knew what the underlining basics should be: Simple, easy, and fun.
There’s a term that Dungaroonerzs and Dragonessé use called “Railroading” to describe forcing players to follow the “story missions”, and it’s usually pretty frowned upon (because the whole point of these games is everybody improvising a story together, not being puppets for an egomaniac).
Here however...things are a little different. The kids are going to be LOOKING for guidance when they start, so we have to railroad a little. However this is supposed to be a paired down introduction to TTGs/TRPGs, so we also have to introduce the idea of “anything is possible!”. It will be a real balancing act. Luckily for this post...well, I can just write it out like it’s a given, and we can all discuss. Check it:
Pretty basic stuff, I gave it a little flair with the backgrounds so I could post images and make this post more “accessible” to all you cool kids. Anyway... One day, while playing videogames, Mom calls up to the Adventure Party to tell them that Professor Exposition (Professor Ex, for short) really needs to see them.
As the group exits the house, they see Chad- the stupid, harebrained, dolt from two houses over- standing by the Lab and trying to look in a window. F**king, Chad... that oafish ignoramus... He clearly is jealous that the AP gets to see the Professor and he doesn’t. (Ugh! This guy is just the WORST!) If approached, he tells the Party how he doesn’t even care that he couldn’t join the Adventure “Dweebs” (he totally cares) and that he’s probably gonna make his own group that everyone will want to join (no one will). Every single second spent with Chad feels like its own lifetime, but soon enough the party will have to continue to Prof Ex’s Lab/Home.
So you enter the lab and go back to Prof Ex’s office and see this floating necklace, encased in a Tube Of Science, on a table. The amulet part is glowing all purple and you can just tell this thing is like... SUPER magic. Prolly scores, like, 10.8 mage-itude.
Anywho Pro Expo tells the AP that this is the MacGuffin of Destiny, literally the most powerful magical artifact in existence, barring any sequels. See, there once lived a dastardly Lich named Muffintop Evilman who tried to rule the world with his villainous necromancy. With a very foreshadowy tone, PEx says that Muffintop almost succeeded until a group of adventures managed to call forth the power of the Cardboard Prison- locking him away “for good” (yes, Prof Ex does air quotes for that part).
He then explains how he wants to study its strange properties for reasons that pertain to the plot, but he needs a Macroscope to do so. He once let his buddy, Dr FetchQuest, borrow it at the National Convention of Science a few years ago, but forgot to get it back afterward. He’s pretty sure the guy still has it, but he’s so busy with science that he just can’t make the trip. So he called the AP to travel to Prologuedale, meet Dr FetchQuest, and bring back the Macroscope.
...and an Open-Faced Turkey Club sandwich from Questly’s. They’re gonna be in Prologuedale anyway, might as well, right? It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s not like he’s asking them to go all the way to The Big City or anything. Plus, have you had a Questly’s sandwich? They’re amazing!!!
The AP heads to Prologuedale, which requires passing through Redneck Forest. This is where the battle mechanics come into play as this entire opening quest is all tutorial. Redneck Forest is home to many dangers, including wolves, bandits, and the occasional owlbear. It’s said that somewhere deep in the heart of the woods is where one can find the leader of the Redneck Rangers, but that’s a potential sidequest for another day.
Soon enough, they will reach the town and learn the basics of all towns and cities. There’s a Clinic (healing!), Gunther’s Goodies (the main type of shop in town), and the Dragon Bean Coffee Shop (because there’s no pubs in a kid’s game). Obviously each town will be different (in fact, most will have a couple side quests to offer), but these are the main staples of every hub area- the connective tissue for the whole world. We’ll chat more about it next time- for now, let’s focus on Prologuedale (home of the Original Questly’s Sandwich Shop).
With the presumption that the party gets all the stuff they were hired to- mainly the sandwich, but also that Macro thingy- everything goes smooth and they’re ready to head back. As they start making their way, Professor Ex calls them in hysterics (like...he is hysterical, not that it’s the name of a place). He expounds, elaborates, and another-synonym-for-his-names as he informs the Adventure Party that the MacGuffin of Destiny has been stolen! (Scandal! Shocking!) He needs the AP to hurry back to his lab immediately. As he hangs up, a douchey silhouette with an evil aura is seen flying overhead toward Anterior Dawn...
That seems like a good place to stop, I’d say.
Now, some of you may notice that the names seem to either be blatantly referencing their trope, or just outright silly- and there’s a reason for that. Two, actually. For one thing, I think it’s funny, and I bet the kids (plus any adults) will enjoy it a little. Secondly, I’m stealthily teaching them fiction tropes, and they don’t even know! Fun AND learning? Look out, Sesame Street, lightsaber.ninja thinks he’s clever!
Some of you reading this probably hate everything I said. That’s ok! I would still like any constructive feedback you have to offer, (even if you’re not on the same genius level, because I’m super woke and inclusive). Same for anybody who enjoyed it.
So tell me...what do you think?
There’s one final group of highly observant readers who read all that and said, “Hey wait a minute! Who the hell does this guy think he is?! That entire tutorial is just a slightly modified version of Gen2 Pokémon with self-aware names! This is an outrage, Ninja! Explain yourself!!!” And to that group, all I can say is-
OH SHIT LOOK OVER THERE WHAT IS THAT!!!!