Kids RPG Journal – #60 Night of the Wild Hunt Quest

For the upcoming mini-quest, Night of the Wild-Hunt, I have broken play out into two main phases: preparation and survival.

quest: night of the wild hunt

Preparation Phase

First, the players are charged with “carving” frightening faces into large turnips. They will each get two printed turnips and some drawing supplies to make the scariest faces they can. I will set a three minute timer to up the stakes a little. The quality of the drawing is not what determines success, it just adds fun to the activity. Then they roll against Clever or Quick for their characters to see how well they did for each turnip.

  • For 10+ rolls the turnips work as expected and keep away most Wild Hunt monsters
  • 7-9 means they will have to make additional checks when the turnips are challenged
  • 6 or below, they fail right off the bat and have to suffer a consequence: crushed, extinguished, flamable, or just not scary
carved turnip consequences: extinguished, in flames, shattered, or just not scary

Each turnip goes next to the player with a tea light and stays lit unless something happens to the turnip. The smaller turnip stand-ups are then placed by the players around their tents.

turnip tealights

Survival Phase

As soon as the players get the turnips in place, the Wild Hunt can be heard coming down the road. As the wild, spectral horde passes by and partakes food left out in the offering tent, some stragglers break off from the pack in three separate waves.

Each wave will test any turnips that rolled a partial success, with a -1 penalty compounded in each wave. Turnips that fail (6 or below) will suffer one of the consequence above and cannot protect their portion surrounding the tents.

Wave one: Wild Hunt Wargs – These spectral wolves will come in looking for victims to devour, but should not be able to get past the turnips unless they pretty much all go out. If they are not scared away, the wild wind will shift and the smell of the food coming from the offering tent will distract them. (-1 penalty on turnip checks)

Wave two: Wild Hunt Goblins – Ghostly little goblins that obsessively take things apart. They are not violent, but more destructive and will slink around and disassemble tents, packs, and clothing. PCs can get rid of the goblins by distracting or scaring the goblins. Any goblins in Plunk’s tent will flee shortly after he releases his loud noises. (-2 penalty on turnip checks)

Wave three: Wild Hunt Troll – The troll is a mild-natured, but incredibly stupid creature, who will play roughly with the PCs if they cannot scare it away. He is particularly vulnerable to dumb jokes. If they are having trouble with the troll, Gurla will come over and suggest it wrestle all of them. (-3 penalty on turnip checks)

printables of the wild hunt troll and wild hunt goblins with Thule Bonecrusher and a tent for scale

Any player who uses a weapon against the Wild Hunt creatures or tries to strike them or harm them will suffer the wrath of the Alf King, which could get pretty ugly.

Kids RPG Journal – #59 Paper Crafts

I took a short break from drawing monster doodles for the Harrowlands site to put together some paper-crafts of the player characters, relevant monsters and quest materials. With the new, simplified drawing style I’m using for the project, I can spend a little more time making quick and dirty props for the game. Earlier, the thought of trying to making paper figures for play was stressful, but now it’s no big deal. I’ve already drawn the characters in the new style more than I had the previous year in the old style.

Now I’d never tried making my own paper minis before, but I have printed out some cool paper props from awesome creators, like Trash Mob Minis and RPGToons (@RPGToons and @r-n-w).

I started with a 3d stand up of the players’ tents and figured out how best to show the tent staves from all sides. By doubling the staves, it gave the whole piece some needed strength and looked so much better than my first attempt.

Tent paper-craft template

After that, I worked on some 2d stand-ups for the quest, including the various carved turnips which would be used against the Wild Hunt, stand ups of the player characters, and the monsters of the Wild Hunt most likely to wander by. The initial thought was to hot glue the figures to metal washers to give them some weight, but paper bases seem to be sufficient for now. If I feel that they are too easy to knock over, then I’ll glue them all down.

player character and wild hunt monster paper-craft templates

Drawing the backs of the characters was an interesting exercise I’ve never done before, working with the reversed silhouette of the front and just filling out the contents. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. It’s definitely not something I’d put out for a published product, but more than good enough for our home game.

Finally, I printed out tokens for those turnips that don’t survive the night. I probably could have gone the extra step to make stand ups for them, but once again, I think what we have if going to be plenty for our needs.

turnip paper-craft templates: turnips, extinguished, burning, not-scary, and crushed turnips

After a bunch of printing, cutting, and a couple of glue sticks, I have a neat little collection of paper minis for whenever we have the next gaming session. Unfortunately, it has been pushed back again and again, but it did give me the opportunity to redesign things.

figures for the alfablot quest, with an unimpressed Miso in the background

Now, I will go back to my doodle monsters and start working on future quests, of which I have about four or five in the works.

Kids RPG Journal – #58 Optimizing for Print

Instead of curling up with the iPad and doodling monsters and enjoying the latest season of Stranger Things, I went down the coding rabbit hole and optimized the Harrowlands website for mobile and print. This cleanup has been on my list of things to do ever since I started building the site and my initial attempts were inconsistent.

This time, I went into the CSS (cascading style sheets) and stripped out everything that was not necessary or responsive. I won’t go into the technical CSS  in-depth here, because this is meant to be more about my process as a gamer, not a developer, so I’m going to focus on my goals and what I accomplished.

Since Harrowlands is primarily a resource for me to use for my games with the kids, I wanted it to be flexible as possible. I primarily access it using the laptop or the iPad Pro, which is what I originally built the site out using, but I sometimes like to check resources on my phone, and I definitely want to be able to print out things like monster and character sheets, because in the end I am a big pen and paper guy.

For this post, I am showing screen shots of http://harrowlands.com/monster/ghoul.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (desktop)

The aforementioned character and monster sheets are definitely the most complicated portions of the site (everything else is pretty bare-bones basic) and these are the ones I most want to be perfect in all formats.

Both have a top section and a bottom section split by the keywords. Each of these sections needed to be be flexible with the components within, expanding and contracting based on the device or format. Everything is based on viewport units, which adjust elements based on the width of the screen. At first, I thought I had to have the printed version in all static units (pixels), but other than maintaining heights or certain components, I did away with pixels completely.

For mobile, every component within each section needed to fit across the screen and be arranged in a column for scrolling.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (mobile)

For print, the importance was to try to fit everything on a single printed page while maintaining the essential desktop layout.

screenshot of harrowlands ghoul monster page (print preview)

This will give me a lot more flexibility when creating new monsters because I can easily look something up when I have an idea and I can easily print out any monsters and characters I want to use in the game or want to scribble notes on their sheets for revisions and additions.

printed version of ghoul monster sheet

Kids RPG Journal – #57 Monster Bestiary

I’ve spent the last few nights cranking out more of the monster doodles to get them ready for the harrowlands site and future game-play. It seems I can get two or three done in a night when I have time to sit for a while, I’d guess each one takes me about an hour to sketch, ink, and color.

monster doodles: ankou, banshee, barrow wight, draug, fekst, ghoul, mummy, orco, red cap, revenant, valraven, vampyr, white maiden, wraith
monster doodles: ankou, banshee, barrow wight, draug, fekst, ghoul, mummy, orco, red cap, revenant, valraven, vampyr, white maiden, wraith

So far, I have fourteen monsters drawn out. I made my way through all of the walkers (undead), and am into the wargs (bestial and trollish monsters). I’d guess I have another 40-50 to go before I get through the current catalog of monsters. I probably won’t try to do those all at once, but space them out with other content and get a few done every week.

  • Hungry dead: ghoul, vampyr, barrow wight
  • Lonely dead: draug, mummy, wraith
  • Grieving dead: ankou, banshee, revenant
  • Cold ones: fekst, white maiden, valraven
  • Teeming: orco, red cap

As I complete each drawing, I am uploading a portrait and thumbnail to the site. When all of the monsters are completed, I’ll convert the existing pages to show a thumbnail of each one next to their description. 

harrowlands monster listings

Having the illustrations completed will make it a lot easier for me to work on making the custom moves, mannerisms, and precautions for each monster. This will allow me to have a whole library of monsters ready to go for any game. Creating my own monster manual has been a fantasy of mine since I was a kid, so I have the added benefit of making 9-year-old Matt very happy.

Kids RPG Journal – #56 Monsters Simplified

While we were out camping, I spent a little bit of time drawing and coloring some monsters working in the new super simplified drawing style. I sketched out about twenty or so monsters from my notes in previous sketchbooks and am starting to work on them in Clip Studio.

sketchbook monster doodles

It seems I can do a couple a night if I get a little quiet time, which is much more conducive to my goals than averaging one drawing a week. More illustrations in a quicker time, allows me to make more content and spend a little bit more time writing.

This will also help me explore more monsters on the Harrowlands website than I’ve gotten to recently, and that is always a good thing.

Ghoul

simplified ghoul

Vampyr

simplified vampyr

Barrow Wight

simplified barrow wight

Draug

simplified draug

Wraith

simplified wraith

Kids RPG Journal – #55 Changing Directions

Contrary to the scenes playing out in my head, where we’d be able to play Harrowlands nearly every weekend, the kids’ summer break has proven to be even busier than the school year. Soccer, swimming, camping trips, theme parks have taken up everyone’s time and energy. There just hasn’t been much opportunity to play. My work schedule isn’t going to get any better, as there are some shake ups that will probably leave me working more through the rest of the year.

So what are we going to do?

First, I realized a couple things from the last gaming session. 

One, I am incredibly distracted by my own kids. I’m already a little like Doug from Pixar’s Up, where I will “Squirrel!” at the slightest distraction, but with the boys, it’s much much worse because I don’t know how to get out of parent mode, and I continually lose track of what I’m making up to say.

This just makes the improv portions of the game harder for me, so I need to prep descriptions just a little bit better, so even if I’m distracted, I can get right back in with the proper prompts. I can wing it most of the time while GMing for adults, kids —especially my kids— is a different story.

Two, I need to move faster. Part of this is reducing being distracted and keeping the game rolling. But the biggest part is to reduce the slower bits of the game that I’m used to doing with adults. The boys aren’t quite ready to get into more role-playing character based  stuff. I need to trim a lot of that and make sure that I hop right into some action. Something major and wild needs to happen in the first 10-15 minutes of starting the game, otherwise the boys will start squirming in their seats and blasting everyone with thunder or howling like a wolf.

Once the quest hub is established a bit, then I should be able to do more of that kind of roll into some sort of encounter or puzzle. Right now, there has been too much backstory and not enough stuff to do.

Both of these led me to the realization that I need to be quicker on my feet within the game and with my preparation. I’ve been doodling with the boys recently and we have a lot of fun with that, so I’ve decided to move away from the current art style I’ve been doing and go over to more of a cartoon doodle style. It will be sufficient for the game, will be quicker and more energetic, and I will not find myself being tempted to be a perfectionist about it.

To speed up the beginnings of game sessions, I will start drawing quick(ish) comics to get any vital information and the vibe for the story in place and the beginning of gaming sessions can be a couple of minutes reading the comic page out loud and then hopping into the action.

Not all of the scenarios need to be role-played in this case. I’m already going with a moderate railroading approach, so I have the luxury of knowing where each session is going to go for the most part and where I can speed things up.

Comics for the next session involve Momma Yrla showing the party around the farm and explaining a little bit about the Alfablot.

Introductory comic for session 4, part 1
Introductory comic for session 4, part 2

I’m still completely dedicated to making and running a fun game for my boys, even though the progress is much slower than I had hoped.I think simplifying the art style will open things up for me a little and allow me to put more and more content out there for when we do get the opportunities to play.

Kids RPG Journal – #54 Session 3 Audio

A while back we played our third session of Harrowlands, with mixed results. It was kind of a bummer for me as we set up and then couldn’t play for very long – about half a session – and the kids were already pretty much wiped and had very little attention to give to the game.

One thing I notice, is when the kids are distracted, I get really distracted and have a hard time GMing, I forget things and have trouble making the non-player characters fun. I’m definitely going to think on ways to improve my improv when my children are involved.

The session I was setting up had a little too much chat in the beginning and not much action. I probably should have jumped right into action, but since I’m setting up the location as a potential “quest hub”, I didn’t want to blow through things. The next session will hopefully go longer and be more action packed.

I’ve been putting off editing the audio for some time, and just finally muscled my way through it. We recorded for 38 minutes, but the final audio – subtracting long pauses from the GM, fits from the kids, and a couple other uncomfortable and distracting noises – only ended up being 25 minutes. The audio is a little less clear of the players as my Blue Yeti microphone got disconnected and apparently all the audio was coming in from my laptop, so I am really loud and the others pretty soft.

I’m definitely no audio guru, but I cleaned it up as well as I could.

The group finds themselves stranded at a farm and go to ask for help where they interact with three NPCs: Gurla, Momma Yrla, and Sluglump. They receive a somewhat cold welcome as they seek help getting their cart fixed on the night of the Butcher’s Moon and the Alfablot.

Hopefully, we can get a game in next weekend before the holiday and see where they go when the Alfablot truly begins.

Kids RPG Journal – #53 Monster Bestiary

Added a few monster illustrations this last week.

Wild hunt goblins will steal your shoelaces and unravel all of your baskets.

Wild hunt goblins will steal your shoelaces and unravel all of your baskets.

Wild hunt troll wants to eat all of your food and tell crude poop jokes.

Wild hunt troll wants to eat all of your food and tell crude poop jokes.
Everybody's favorite demon sow, the gloso will eat your children and toast their souls.

Everybody’s favorite demon sow, the gloso will eat your children and toast their souls.

Kids RPG Journal – #52 the Otso

Speaking of bears

Next on my monster list is not really a monster but instead a revered spirit of the forest that I found very cool. The otso is a bear-spirit guardian of the forests that was worshipped by ancient Finns. The imagery of the otso is of a giant bear with trees growing from its back.

I couldn’t resist making this into a monster.

otso, malevolent bear-guardian of the forest, bent on cruelly punishing mankind

Normally, the otso is a benevolent spirit, but if the heart of the forest is corrupted (one of the themes hinted at in Bursten Claw-Jaw’s origin story), then they can turn evil and become fell bears bent on destroying man and all they represent.

This corrupted creature is a jaeger, a cruel type of warg intent on punishing the weak and the isolated.

I don’t like the bear design I came up with the otso as much as the one I did for the moroi, as I was trying for a shaggy cave bear look and I’m not sure I did it justice. However, the point of doing these is to make them good enough, not perfect. Maybe someday when I have some downtime, I’ll rework this one.

But for now, moving on to the next monster.

Kids RPG Journal – #51 the Moroi

The game with the boys was delayed another week. With Mother’s Day, me prepping for a business trip for the day job, and other commitments, we just couldn’t fit it in. We’re hoping to get the next session this upcoming weekend.

I was doing some monster research in the short chunks of downtime this week, because that’s what I do, and I was making notes to write out descriptions and some monsters for the game, when I came across a couple of monsters that caught my imagination earlier, but now really forced me to stop what I was doing and flesh them out.

The first was the moroi. Most descriptions of the moroi are that they are Romanian vampires or ghosts with some shared traits with werewolves. However, there is one particular description that really sticks with me: some versions of the moroi are spirits that like to possess the bodies of bears.

I still haven’t tracked down the origin of this, but I just love the thought of some demon spirit inhabiting bear corpses (I took the term “bodies” to mean dead) in order to get whatever vengeance or whatever else they were compelled to finish. 

The moroi, a demon spirit within the corpse of a bear with thirst for blood.

Since the main descriptions of the moroi are vampiric, I decided to have the spirits inhabit bear corpses to sate their need to taste blood.

I’ve tentatively assigned this monster to a type of ghost, the bound ones in my notes, but I may change it over to the thralls known as vessels, or even come up with a fourth ghost type if need be. I think it all depends on how characters would have to deal with the monster. If the purpose is just to destroy the bear corpse or break the link between the corpse and possessing spirit, then it should be a thrall, but if there needs to be a way to release the spirit itself, then I should stick with ghosts.

Definitely something to think about. I don’t have any immediate plans for the moroi in the game, but I do like to have them in the stable, ready to go.

The illustration I put together for the moroi, I didn’t want to go all gory and have bones and rotting flesh falling off, but more of a fresh possession. I’m fairly happy with it, though for some reason it feels like I’m trying to channel my inner Gary Larson.