Tuesday 10 December 2019

Brecken Vale Gazetteer

I'm working on something new for Hero Kids, and it's taking a while! 

It started as a simple idea to produce a official map of Rivenshore.  But since then, it's expanded to a gazetteer of all of the Brecken Vale.

The gazetteer will feature an overview of the regions of the Brecken Vale, a rundown of the key locations in Rivenshore, as well as details about notable characters from across the vale.  Additionally, the gazetteer will be packed with gameable adventure hooks to inspire your Hero Kids game.

Here's my original layout of Rivenshore:

Rivenshore layout

From my layout, Eric Quigley illustrated the village:

Rivenshore early sketch

Rivenshore work in progress

Which has become this thing of beauty!


Speaking of Eric, he's also illustrated a whole bunch of notable characters, both friendly and villainous, from across the vale:

Sheriff Walt
Lizardkin Shaman S'Lis
Mortain and Crow
Old Madge

Keep an eye out for the Brecken Vale Gazetteer in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Hero Kids review round-up

What better time for a round-up of the latest Hero Kids reviews than... RIGHT NOW!

"This whole rule system is a perfect way to introduce younger children to tabletop RPGs. I have played 3 seperate sessions with my son and my nephews, and they absolutely love it. I forget the rules for damage sometimes, and railroading sometimes comes into play, but with younger kids it is best to keep the game moving on and Hero Kids provides a great way to do that.

Not only does this system have a great starting base with the Basement O' Rats adventure as well as several other follow-on modules, the author is allowing for a ton of additional content to be written and published as part of the Hero Kids label. Kudos for that! And the price just cannot be beat!

Another awesome perk of this is that you can go ahead and purchase the hardcopies if you want, but for me the digital works just fine. I just print what I need for the adventure, and keep the rest on my computer or tablet.

Overall, I love this system, and am currently using it to build a campaign for my son for when I return home. Highly recommended!!!"

How 'about this one:

"I genuinely like this better than expensive competitors like Mice and Mystics (and even HeroQuest). 

Paper minis enable Hero Kids to have a larger variety of creatures to encounter, and creatures of many different sizes. 

The stories in this are better (the prose is more concise), and the rules are cleaner. This means you get to play faster without spending much time in the rulebook. It's a game I like to bring to the table with kids."


"I'm afraid I've not played a roleplaying game for years, but my 9-year-old daughter found my old dice, asked me how they worked, and she was entralled with the idea—so I poked around the internet to see what there was nowadays and i settled on HERO KIDS. 

My two younger kids were hooked from the beginning of Basement o' Rats. My 11-year-old, initially disdainful, got interested and asked to join in—we had to contrive a way for her to join in partway through. 

The combat was exciting enough, and they got into it, but their favorite part was the side trip to the chamber with the pool, where they had to figure out how to extricate a small treasure chest from amidst magically frozen rats, without getting trapped and frozen themselves. I also decided the mushrooms there would be useful magical ingredients and were safe to eat, but made the characters glow blue the remainder of the adventure, which tickled the kids. 

In all, you've roped in three kids, 7 through 11, who had a blast with their first RPG and one dad who had a blast with them, and got to roll some serious dice for the first time in ages. I highly recommend the bundle for grownups whose professional life doesn't leave lots of time for creating—the adventures are a lifesaver."


"This product as a whole, Hero Kids, is an amazing investment. 

My 5 year old son and I have played over ten times in the first few weeks of owning it. I love how imaginative he gets. My D&D group has a few dads and we got together to all play. Each adventure is unique and has many options to increase the replay factor

It's flexible enough that we can go rules lite and really let the story be the focus, or play it straight up and work on his math and counting! And the narration is wonderful, putting the kids as the heroes to do what the grown ups can't! 

I have recommended this product and all of its adventures and expansions to all of my friends with kids."

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Hero Kids Creator's Guild Adventures!

The Hero Kids Creator's Guild is now live on DriveThruRPG, so this is a good time to check out a few of the great community-created adventures.  These adventures are available as a bargain-priced bundle:
Hero Kids Creator's Guild Adventure Bundle

Worries in the Weasel Warren
When weasel raiders steal a flock of sheep, it's up to the heroes to rescue them in this four-encounter adventure.

Treasured Possessions
Can our heroes help the mayor and track down the thief who has stolen his treasured possessions in this five-encounter adventure.

Mage Missing
The most mysterious man in Rivenshore warns our heroes of the terrible danger behind a series of kidnappings carried out by purple blob creatures.  Can the heroes find the missing children and free them from their captors before its too late in this six-encounter adventure.

The Case of the Repulsive Fart Monster
In this four encounter adventure, the heroes find Farmer Billy lying unconscious on the ground and soon discover the culprit; a large fart monster that they must defeat in order to save Rivenshore, once again, from a most repulsive demise.

101 Koboldz
In this fifteen-encounter premium adventure, a traveling merchant named Boris arrives in Rivenshore with a cart smack full of kobold hatchlings. When the kobolds escape, it's up to the heroes to recapture them, or maybe rescue them instead.

Picture Day
In this eight-encounter premium adventure, the heroes must figure out who stole the town's fund to rebuilt after the devastating Fire in Rivenshore.  Along the way they will meet colorful characters, pass dangerous terrain tests and battle in furious combat. 

Saturday 20 April 2019

Hero Kids Creator's Guild coming soon!

People of Hero Kids, in June we're launching the Hero Kids Creator's Guild on DriveThruRPG. The Hero Kids Creator's Guild is home to community created adventures, translations, monsters, equipment, heroes, pets, and expansions.

For game designers, translators, and enthusiasts, the Creator's Guild is a place to contribute to the Hero Kids universe. Here, creators can build on existing Hero Kids materials or create something new. Creators can publish and sell their work to the growing community of Hero Kids fans.

If you're interested in participating in the Creator's Guild program and getting something ready for the launch, get in touch with me here or at justinhalliday(a)gmail[.]com.

Friday 12 April 2019

Hero Advancement Cards

Phew!  That was harder than it should have been.  The Hero Advancement Cards for Hero Kids are done, dusted, and released:

The Hero Advancement Cards expansion includes 120 cards, and allows players to improve all aspects of their heroes:
• Improve abilities (melee, ranged, magic, or armor)
• Gain new abilities (melee, ranged, magic, or armor)
• Add an additional health level to their hero
• Learn new skills
• Train new special actions
• Master new bonus abilities

Here's a look at the cards in the pack (warning; there's a lot!):

Check out the Hero Kids Complete Fantasy PDF Bundle at DriveThruRPG

Friday 8 March 2019

Hero Kids review round-up

No time like the present to scrape the latest Hero Kids reviews for insights.

First, we have an in-depth review of Hero Kids on YouTube:

That review includes an interesting Adventure Blueprint framework to structure adventures for beginner players all the way up to experienced players:

Second, I'm seeing a theme of people using Hero Kids in their 'normal' games, not just with kids:

"Simple, objective, upgradable, replayable, PERFECT! Awesome to play with kids but I cannot deny that I am playing with a group of adult friends and we are having a lot of fun. LOL"

Third, we have lots of feedback from people introing their kids to RPGs with Hero Kids:

"Great product! I was wanting to introduce my 9yo to tabletop RPGs and this was a perfect way. She grasped it quickly and wants to play every weekend now. I will be buying the rest of the modules now I guess! Thanks!"

"This is absolutely fantastic for younger kids getting into rpg's, i started by getting my kids (3, 4 and 8) to choose a hero out of the coloriong book, a separate free download, and got them to color in their heroes as we played (a helpful distraction at times for the younger 2).
I had my 8 year old help the 3 year old at times but he is definitely keen to play more, and all 3 kids already feel a connection to there heroes and each others, (one encounter I may have KO'd one of their heroes causing them to get a little upset....but they worked out they could use a potion on him to get him up again).
Things are easily modifed to suit your needs with age differences etc. and the book has a few tips on running a game with younger players. I'm so glad i found this!"

Fourth, there's several reviews that give specific feedback about using Fire In Rivenshore to teach when it's okay to keep secrets, and when these should be discussed with adults:

"This was a good adventure to work on listening skills - trying to keep a list of tasks and the order she wanted to do them in to help the most people.
It also highlighted that we needed to discuss with her about what is ok to keep secrets about vs things that should be discussed with an adult. Amazing what a 'simple game' can make parents realize :-)"

And this review:

"6.5 year old has very much enjoyed the game - we've played 2 of the adventures so far - one of which we did one evening while on a family vacation - just had printed the adventure beforehand - handful of 6 sided dice and a very compact game to play whereever the desire (or boredom) may strike.
Simple rules, simple math, the adults have had fun, she has had fun.

Works on listening skills, critical thinking, some good math practice for the age group, and at least one of the adventures highlighted a discussion we needed to have on what kinds of things are appropriate for "keeping secrets" vs what should be discussed with an adult."

Fifthly, here's a recent - and lovely - review:

"This is a great system—not only for introducing young kids to RPGs, but also for enabling families with young kids to play RPGs together. The system is simple enough for very young children to be able to play, but has enough detail that older kids can enhance their characters' capabilities as they understand more.

All of the player characters (many fun pregenerated options are included) have a special ability. My kids have latched on to these; each is excited about their character's special strengths and functionality. The enemies also have well-concieved special abilities, so there's some exciting variety in combat even though the combat mechanic is very simple and easy for all to navigate.

The published adventures are a lot of fun, and always include enough detail to help inexperienced DM parents narrate a compelling story for the kids. Of particular note are the maps. They're done simply but very well. They're nice to print out and keep around for reuse in other adventures in other systems.

That's all enough to make this a great system; but to sweeten the deal, the prices are very reasonable."

Finally, let's talk about some criticism:

"The first adventure focuses only on combat, and is incredibly repetitive. Fight a group of rats, then another group of rats, then a third group of rats, then the rats and their king. I'm not adverse to violence (I love intriguing fights), but the system is so simple that the fights become boring very quickly on the one hand, and on the other hand: is this REALLY what RPGs are about? Kill monsters? I think we all know there are about much more than that. They are about the wonder of discovery, the relationship between characters, moral questions and problems, etc. Kids are NOT too young to deal with these issues! By focusing the adventure (and indeed, the core system) only on combat, it diminishes their potential enjoyment of the game."

This is a legitimate criticism of the first adventure; Basement O Rats.  It was the first I ever wrote for Hero Kids, and it is heavily combat-focused.  As this reviewer points out, the adventure includes four combat encounters, and only a couple of exploration elements.  While the side room does include an opportunity for role-playing, it's incumbent of the GM to create and introduce a character here; 'Old man Jenkins'...

The heavy focus on combat for this adventure was intentional, to the extent that anything I wrote that long ago was intentional.  As the intro adventure, I wanted the adventure to focus heavily on the mechanically-codified section of the game, combat, rather that on the more free-form aspects of the game, exploration and role-playing.

With an extra six-year's experience under my belt, Darkness Neath Rivenshore is somewhat of a replacement for Basement O Rats.  

Compared to Basement O Rats, Darkness Neath Rivenshore has:
  • Less combat encounters
  • More variety to the combat encounters
  • Integrated role-playing through the conversations with Emon in the drains
  • Puzzle and exploration elements integrated into the encounters (blocking gates, the spring statue, the cause of the mutations, etc)
  • The option to use the adventure to explore death (from the review "Kids are NOT too young to deal with these issues!")
So, I guess if people don't like Basement O Rats, they should play Darkness Neath Rivenshore as a better representation of the role-playing experience.

And maybe I'll revise Basement O Rats in the future...

By the way, despite that reviewer's criticism, their review is still positive:

"Overall, this is a recommended purchase for any parent who wants to involve his or her kids in RPGs for the first time, but be aware you'll need to do a lot of tweaking to the adventures."

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Character development in Hero Kids

Let's talk about character development in Hero Kids.

The number one thing that people ask me for in Hero Kids is:


But the number two thing that they ask for is:


Thus, I recently directed the Eye of Sauron to the task, and worked up some ideas for how character development could work in Hero Kids.

Before we discuss these actual ideas, these are the principles that guided the development work:

  • Maintain compatibility with existing heroes and expansions (i.e. equipment)
  • Minimise straight-up escalation of die pools
  • Allow players to choose what aspects of their characters to develop
  • Enable advancement in each of the aspects of characters (dice pools, armor, health, actions, abilities, and skills)
  • Continue the look and feel of Hero Kids

Here's the idea, the Hero Chronicle:

And here's how it works:
  • Each hero has a corresponding 'Hero Chronicle'.
  • The Hero Chronicle as a number of character development options
  • Each character development option on the Hero Chronicle has one, two, or three check boxes
  • Each time the hero completes an adventure (or a reasonable adventuring time period, such as 90 minutes), the player can check off a box on one of the development options
  • When all of the check boxes next to a development option are checked, the hero has 'earned' that development
  • The development options are:
    • 3x Increase a dice pool by 1 die (Melee, Ranged, Magic, Armor)
    • Add a new dice pool (Melee, Ranged, Magic), such as a Magic pool to a Melee character, and gain that pool's standard attack action
    • Add a new health level (Grazed)
    • 4x Add a new special action or skill
    • Add a new bonus ability
  • Each development option has matching set of Development Cards, representing all of the development options (such as different skills, special actions, or bonus abilities)
In play, a hero would venture forth, and as they completed adventures or adventure sessions, the player would check off boxes on the Hero Chronicle, and progressively accumulate additional development options, each of which would be represented through a Development Card:

The Development Cards would look like these:

So, that's the working idea.

Leave a comment below with feedback and discussion.  I'm keen to hear whether this seems feasible, or whether the great eye needs to look further afield.

Friday 1 March 2019

Hero Kids YouTube Actual Play - Darkness Neath Rivenshore

People who've never played RPGs before often ask, "How do you even play Hero Kids?" This is a great question.

So much of playing RPGs is learned through participation and tradition. Which makes it hard for people to get started outside of that tradition.

For those out there who want to know how to play Hero Kids, I recorded a playtest of Darkness Neath Rivenshore with my kids:

This was my first shot at recording video and audio, and comes with a bunch of embarrassing qualifications and apologies.
• The exposure fluctuates a bit at the start, I kept moving the papers.
• I read too much of the adventure text verbatim (when you're running Hero Kids it's best to internalise the gist of the text blocks rather than read them like I did).
• Dash was sniffing at the start (you can see me looking at him sternly)...  :-)
• The video gradually progresses into potato quality as we lost light (it's not terrible, but it's a bit grainy). :-)
• I forgot to use some of the monsters' special abilities...
• Any rules mistakes are all my responsibility.
• The adventure changed slightly after this paytest; I added another puzzle in the encounter with the dire rats.

Saturday 23 February 2019

New adventure Darkness Neath Rivenshore

I've just released a new Hero Kids adventure; Darkness Neath Rivenshore!

This seven-encounter adventure takes place in the ancient tunnels, chambers, and cisterns beneath Rivenshore.

When the town’s well runs dry, a child’s pleas for help echo from the dry pit. The kids must delve to rescue the lost child. Yet something sinister lurks in the ancient structures beneath the town, and the kids will need all their skill and bravery to rescue the lost child Emon.

• Adventure with seven encounters and maps
• Monster Cards for the unique monsters (water beasts, dire rats, slime, slime beast)
• Additional 14 modular encounter maps

I'm trying something new with this adventure, it includes two possible endings, one for younger kids, and another for more mature players:
• The heroes rescue the lost child and reunite him with his parents
• The heroes discover that the lost child is a ghost who died in the well long ago

In the ‘rescue’ ending, the heroes find the child hiding in the final room, and reunite him with his parents. In the ‘ghost’ ending, the heroes find the child's bones, and take them to the cemetery to bury alongside his family.

I playtested the adventure with the 'ghost' ending, which my kiddos found challenging, but not distressing.

Once we got to the climax of the adventure, my youngest - Dash - twigged pretty quickly about the bones at the bottom of the fountain pool.  Violet was a bit more affected by the ending of the ending of the adventure, but they both determined to help reunite Emon with his (also long-dead) parents.

All in all, I was very proud of how they dealt with the adventure.

Check out the Hero Kids Complete Fantasy PDF Bundle at DriveThruRPG

Friday 8 February 2019

Playtesting Darkness Neath Rivenshore

Thanks everyone for your feedback around the idea of having a somewhat 'mature' ending for the next Hero Kids adventure: Darkness Neath Rivenshore.

Based on your feedback, I've included the option of having alternate 'rescue' or 'ghost' paths through the adventure:

"This Hero Kids adventure includes two possible endings, one for younger kids, and another for more mature players:
•  Emon is rescued and reunited with his parents
•  Emon is a ghost who died in the well long ago

In the ‘rescue’ ending, the heroes find Emon hiding in the final room, and reunite him with his parents.  In the ‘ghost’ ending, the heroes find Emon’s bones, and take them to the cemetery to bury alongside his family."

In other news; Violet, Dash and I have been playtesting the adventure, and everything's looking great!  Stay tuned!

Check out the Hero Kids Complete Fantasy PDF Bundle at DriveThruRPG

Friday 1 February 2019

Adventures with Challenging Themes?

Hero Kids people. Help me out. I've been writing a new Hero Kids adventure, where the heroes rescue another child who's trapped down a well.

However, I had a quandary last night: I'm not sure that all parents will be cool with the story tilt at the end of the adventure. Basically, the child is revealed to be a ghost who died in the well hundreds of years ago, and in the end the heroes lay the ghost to rest and reunite it with its parents.

What do you all think?

What do you think of this kind of content for Hero Kids?

Should I switch it to a straightforward rescue mission?