Monday, 17 December 2012

Answering some Hero Kids questions

Over at Google+ (where I lair) Stephen Farquhar posted a fairly long write-up and a few questions about Hero Kids.   I answered them there, but I think it's worth reposting here for the non-Plusers.

Stephen's original post (my responses follow):



Hero Kids.   TLDR: It was good.

This is a first on many fronts:
First time I have GM'd in 25 years.   First time I have RPG'd in 25 years.   First time my kids have ever played pencil-and-dice RPG.

Players: 10 yo Girl played a Rogue.   6yo boy played a Knight.   Mum played healer so the kids could take the battle focus.

Comments: We played the very simple and enjoyable first scenario Basement O' Rats and it was a great introductory setting for both me and them to get into the swing of things.   The professionalism of the presentation of the scenarios was a major contributor: good maps, good environment descriptions targetted for the kids amusement (they didn't believe me that the text actually read "and the whole place smells like a giant rat’s toilet." and I had to show them.)

Minor balance issues:
The Knight seemed both underpowered and indestructible with 3 dice of armour - looking to test this in a more advanced scenario.
The Healer, with 2 dice of Searing Light, killed almost every rat she attacked, which is a bit of downer for the kids who only had 1 dice of attack.   We made the Healer (Mum) always attack last, and always healed instead of attacking, if that was an option.

PROs: All good, however I reduced the number of rats.   Being the first game, the gameplay was a little slow and we ended up taking almost 2 hrs.

CONs: These aren't really cons, more just things I had to deal with:
- Should I reroll initiative at the commencement of each turn? This was relevant because it could seem that the wording of some abilities make them conditional on whether or not the player had been attacked this turn or not.   e.g.   The Knight's Strikeback Special attack which reads: If an enemy has attacked you since your last turn, you can attack that enemy with 1 extra dice.   If heroes gained first initiative at the start of a battle, and that initiative is maintained through every turn of the battle, then it might seem that this attack can never be used.   The difference though is interpretation of "since your last turn" as opposed to "since the last turn." We played the rule to be the former rather than the latter.

- Should I roll for player attack/move order during the turn, or should I let the players decide, or should all attack be considered simultaneous? This question arose when considering the Warrior Bonus ability Teamwork: Gain 1 extra dice to attacks against targets than an ally attacked since your last turn.

How did I deal with these: Hey, we're playing with kids! We winged it and just used abilities when it seemed appropriate and I frequently manoeuvred bad rats into convenient positions for the hero's to inflict maximum fun damage.

Recommendations:
1.   Create some example clarifications on how to treat scenarios above.
2.   Clarify the Ability Test (p.15) - it's not clear on initial reading that a number has to be rolled higher than one of the difficulty numbers (4,5, or 6), or if it's meant to be equal-to or higher, or just higher.
3.   Create scenario PDFs, especially maps and character sheets, that don't have background shading.   Printing all that yellow background was murder on my ink cartridges.

Conclusions: We can't wait to play the next scenario!




Thanks for the long post with great feedback.   I've tried to answer your questions and observations below.

"The Knight seemed both underpowered and indestructible with 3 dice of armour - looking to test this in a more advanced scenario."
For those reading at home, all of the characters have (basically) four dice shared amongst their melee, ranged, magic, and armor characteristics.   When creating characters (as opposed to using the pre-gens), the first dice in ranged and magic costs two dice, but all of the rest cost one.   So the Knight has only one dice for melee attacks, but three dice for armor, which means that he trades off attack power for excellent defenses.   The opposite of the Knight is the Brute, who has three dice for melee attacks but only one dice for armor.
The Knight is a character that requires some attention to play.   He can gain an extra melee dice when using Strikeback Attack to hit an enemy that has attacked him.   His combination of three armor dice and his Defender ability (the Knight can choose to take damage dealt to an adjacent ally) means that he is usually able to choose when he takes damage.   So, yes he is nigh-invulnerable but not usually very powerful when attacking unless retaliating against an enemy attack.

"The Healer, with 2 dice of Searing Light, killed almost every rat she attacked, which is a bit of downer for the kids who only had 1 dice of attack.   We made the Healer (Mum) always attack last, and always healed instead of attacking, if that was an option."
I think the choice of both the Rogue and the Knight for the kids is tricky, because they both only have one dice for attacks.   However, as explained above, both of these characters have ways of gaining an extra dice to attacks.   In the case of the Rogue, they can gain an extra dice to both melee and ranged attacks by attacking an enemy that has been attacked by an ally.
The healer is a good support character, but they can end up spending every turn healing their allies.

"All good, however I reduced the number of rats.   Being the first game, the gameplay was a little slow and we ended up taking almost 2 hrs."
If the game is going slow, reducing the number of enemies is always a good idea.   Once you've got three or four players the adventures can get long.

"Should I reroll initiative at the commencement of each turn? This was relevant because it could seem that the wording of some abilities make them conditional on whether or not the player had been attacked this turn or not."
Nope, once you've established the initiative you should just keep running around the table in the same order.   Sometimes you'll run into situations where players will want to hold their actions to do something after another character, but you can wing that.

"The Knight's Strikeback Special Attack which reads: If an enemy has attacked you since your last turn, you can attack that enemy with 1 extra dice.   If heroes gained first initiative at the start of a battle, and that initiative is maintained through every turn of the battle, then it might seem that this attack can never be used.   The difference though is interpretation of "since your last turn" as opposed to "since the last turn." We played the rule to be the former rather than the latter."
Yes, you interpreted this correctly.   The key phrase here is 'since _your_ last turn.   So if that character has been attacked since they last had a turn, they can attack with an extra dice.   Obviously this can't be activated if the Knight has initiative and is acting before the enemies, but that's a small price to pay! :-)

"Should I roll for player attack/move order during the turn, or should I let the players decide, or should all attack be considered simultaneous? This question arose when considering the Warrior Bonus ability Teamwork: Gain 1 extra dice to attacks against targets than an ally attacked since your last turn."
As I mentioned above, I only do initiative once, and then let it stand through the whole combat.   Basically, I use initiative to determine whether I go first or the players.   Once that's established, I go around the table clockwise for each round, starting with whoever has initiative.   I don't do individual initiative for the players or the monsters, only group initiative.
However, as you mention there are instances when players want their characters to act out of initiative order to gain some advantage.   When that happens I just temporarily switch them in the order to let them achieve their tactical goal.   This can happen when a character like the Rogue gains an advantage attacking an enemy _after_ another character has attacked it, but neither of them have attacked that enemy yet and the initiative or table order would normally have the Rogue attacking before the other character (thus not getting the bonus dice).
Don't forget, you don't have to play to this level of tactics.   Simply choose the Warrior, Warlock, or Hunter and the combat tactics are greatly simplified while offering relatively powerful attacks.

"Clarify the Ability Test (p.15) - it's not clear on initial reading that a number has to be rolled higher than one of the difficulty numbers (4,5, or 6), or if it's meant to be equal-to or higher, or just higher."
My fault.   This should specify that the ability tests are be *equal to or higher*, like attacks (otherwise you could never beat a difficulty of 6).

"Create scenario PDFs, especially maps and character sheets, that don't have background shading.   Printing all that yellow background was murder on my ink cartridges."
Sorry about that.   I'll see what I can do in the future for 'printable' versions of the PDFs.