Kids RPG Journal – #34 Thule’s Backstory Video

Thule Bonecrusher against the troll woman with stork legs

On Saturday, we ran through the first session of the Harrowlands game with the boys and pretty much spent the entire time going over rules and the character backstories. I’ll post a post-mortem of the game soon, but here is a short audio clip of Thule Bonecrusher’s backstory.

Audio clip of Thule’s backstory

Kids RPG Journal – #33 Tinted Paper Letters

On my lunch today, I played around with tinting some paper for another handout, the acceptance letter from Kraghall Academy. Each of the player characters get this letter in their backstories, but I will only do the handout on the last story, Iona’s. I want to have focus while everyone gets their backtory time to shine. Their first NPC, Plunk, will be the one to hand it to them.

sacrificing some of my coffee to tint the paper for the letter prop

I brewed myself a loverly cup of coffee and saved a touch out to make the stain. A light brush on the paper with a quick pat down from a cloth napkin to reduce rolling, and it was ready to dry.

finished letter prop

Later in the afternoon, I threw it in the printer for the text and then trimmed the edges. Now it’s sitting in a box with a couple of aromatic tea bags and will be ready to unearth at game time. 

Kids RPG Journal – #32 Printables & Handouts

With the game only days from now, I’ve been plugging at getting the printouts and handouts all ready to go. First I proofread and printed out the character sheets and any maps for the first adventure.

player character sheets and Saksaland map

Then it was time for me to write up the Dungeon World basic moves I will be using, keeping the language as concise and simple as I could. I added the icons in and realized that I never drew one for the Defend move, so I threw down a basic shield (though in hindsight, I should have had a round shield to match the Viking flavor of the campaign) with Eihwaz, the rune of defense.

Dungeon World basic moves with simplified language and custom icons

We’ll see how well the basic moves work for the boys. I’m a little concerned it will be overwhelming at first to have so many, but I think we can get through them in play.

Finally, I started printing out item cards for the first quest. These will fit nicely in the Equipment Packs from r-n-w.net. The cool products Rose and Niels (https://www.patreon.com/rpgtoons/) put out are a big inspiration for what I want to do with the boys.

item cards and paper equipment chests

I’m getting a little close to the wire on the remaining items. I have to finish writing and designing two more handouts (a quest sheet and an acceptance letter to Kraghall Academy), design and build one more table piece, and write the backstory scenario for my wife’s character. Then all that will be left is to flesh out how I want to role-play the initial NPCs.

Getting excited to roll this out to the boys and start exploring the world with the characters they’ve made.

Kids RPG Journal – #31 Dice Trays

This last week has been a little difficult getting items posted to the blog, as my routine has been messed up. I typically get my posts ready in the mornings after I drop the kids off to school and before I have to log in for the day job, or on the weekends when Monica takes them to the gym with her in the mornings. So far this week, I haven’t had any of that morning time and therefore no posts.

But with only 4 days to go until we run the game, I’ve definitely been busy with prep work.

Since I’m going to be recording the game, I have been a little worried about the sound quality and reducing things that will make it difficult to record. I don’t have any solid plans for what I will do with the recording. It’ll probably be some time — if ever — before I get into putting the recordings up on a podcast, let alone doing video on Twitch or Youtube, but I want to make what I do have as clean as possible.

The first thing that came to mind was dice trays. First, to reduce the audio clatter of rolling, and to temper the enthusiasm of six-year-olds who will hurl the dice across the room.

Initially, I thought about making my own from scratch, but I just don’t have time for that right now. The boxes would be simple enough to cut the wood and assemble and probably even stain, but I’m not the quickest woodworker and I think it would take me a while.

I can’t afford the beautiful trays from Wormwood and I would have some serious reservations with letting the boys play with them if I could afford them. So I chose the next best option: quick and dirty dice trays.

I picked up some cheap unfinished pine wood trays from the craft store for about $5 apiece, and come sheets of foam in assorted colors.

quick and dirty dice trays using pine boxes and foam sheets from the craft store

For the first session, I am just cutting the foam sheets to size and sticking them on the unfinished trays with some wood glue. Perhaps if I find a little time, I’ll go back and stain them with a little weathered stain I made using steel wool and vinegar.

cutting the foam sheets to size for the dice trays

But for now, the kids can roll their dice for the game in their cool dice trays and the foam keeps it nice and quiet. Not a bad deal for the time and money.

trying out the finished dice trays with kids' new polyhedral dice

Kids RPG Journal – #30 Thule’s Background

For the first session of the campaign, I am going to treat it as a part of a session zero – an introductory session where the players learn the ropes of the game and how to interact as their characters and with their adventuring party. Sly Flourish, DM and author of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, just posted a really good overview of his session zero prep on Youtube (starting at about the 18 minute mark to skip the finale of his previous campaign).

My session zero is going to feature a lot of the backstory of the characters, how they end up together and going a bit over game mechanics, then finishing off with a mini-challenge to put it all together. As I want to keep the sessions at around an hour to an hour and a half, we won’t have a lot of time to get into role-playing, so most of that will begin in the next session.

I’m going to treat the first few sessions as a continuation of the session zero, as we all kind of figure out what we’re doing. Then we will get into the meat of the stories and advetures. Last night, I wrote the first bit of backstory for the players, featuring my youngest’s character, Thule Bonecrusher.

Thule Bonecrusher, you come from the frozen north. When you were a tiny child, your parents were swept away in a terrible storm.  You were rescued and adopted by a clan of nomadic barbarians. The storm left a mark on you and as you grew older you became dedicated to the thunder god, Thor, in a desire to control the skies themselves.

To the east, beyond the rim of the world, is a terrible giant who wears the form of an eagle, hight Hraesvelg, or Corpse Gulper. His form is so impossibly large that when he flaps his wings, it sends mighty storms of snow and ice through Midgard.

Last week, one of the wise-women in the clan let slip that the storm which you lost your parents in was indeed created by Hraesvelg. Vowing revenge, you set off to the east to find and punish this Jotunn, an evil type of giant. Unfortunately, you didn’t get very far before you were running for your life across the tundra.

What was chasing you? Was it a troll-woman with legs like a stork? A slobbery giant wolf? Or a starving Lindorm, a snake-like dragon with yellow eyes?

Adding questions for the players to do some world-building is one of the core features of Dungeon World, and it allows the backstory to feel a little more interactive while still being able to keep the pace up.

While you were running, you did not see the sink hole in front of you and were going to pitch right into it. 

Roll 2d6 to Defy Danger using your QUICK modifier to see if you can grab onto the tree next to the hole.

On 10+ (success) he grabs onto the tree and does not fall, but the monster pushes the tree into the hole, on 7-9 he grabs for a large branch, but it’s not strong enough and breaks and he falls with the branch into the hole, on 6 or below he just straight up misses and falls in. (The end result is going to be pretty much the same, but I want to introduce the moves mechanics)

You fall for what seems for minutes and land in an icy underground river. Grabbing the remains of the tree, you float into darkness. You don’t know how long you were stuck on that tree in the darkness, but it felt like days. Luckily, you’re used to the cold and were able to tough it out. Eventually, the water began to flow more rapidly and you saw light at the end of a tunnel coming quickly. Followed by a long drop as you plunged over a waterfall into a large lake.

You swam to the surface, and as your eyes began to adjust to the bright daylight, you saw a burly man in a row-boat looking at you with his arms crossed.

“You’re late”, he said.

Kids RPG Journal – #29 Character Sheets

Working on building a new character sheet and hacking a game for children borrowing elements from Dungeon World and Sidekick Quests has been really illuminating. By digging into the details and questioning how I would simplify for little ones, it made me realize the base assumptions I just follow without even thinking.

Bursten Claw-Jaw character sheet final version

I feel like I did a pretty good job of cutting out a lot of the cruft, simplifying the moves and other aspects on the character sheets to make them more user-friendly.

Simplified pools

Even though I want to promote math skills for the boys, I didn’t think that having huge numbers for the health, energy and experience pools was helpful for gameplay. I want them to see what they need at a glance, so I simplified how certain things work. Most notably damage and health.

When a player takes or deals damage, the base damage is going to be 1 health and then modifications can be added. This allows for simplified health pools and combat. This gives the ability to display health with individual icons. It’s obviously not going to be very well balanced, but I’m focusing on the story, so it may not matter.

The one drawback is that it seriously reduces the types of dice used on a regular basis. Right now, the game is geared toward using d6 for the majority of rolls. I will need to find other challenges that use the different dice, so the kids can get used to identifying and using them.

Iona of the Willows character sheet final version

Simplified Design

I limited what I have on the sheets to four sections: profile, abilities, custom moves and pools. Everything else is either on another sheet (basic moves), or have individual cards (inventory and weapons). This gives the boys easy to read graphic segments, so that they never have to search around for things in the middle of play.

 Maybe when the character’s go up a couple of levels, I’ll have to put the basic moves on the character sheets and then have the custom moves on their own page, but I’ll tackle that when I get there.

The liked the different colors Sidekick Quests uses for difficulty levels and whatnot to allow the reader to see where things are at a glance. My palettes are much more muted, but I took this concept for the three move results (success, success with consequence, and failure).

I’ll definitely be tinkering with the design over the course of the campaign.

Thule Bonecrusher character sheet final version

Simplified Moves

I am starting to get the hang of PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) type moves, and feel like I was able to pair down the descriptions and details of the moves to keep them from dragging down play, making them usable for six-year-olds. Additionally, I moved away from just making arbitrary bonuses and instead allowed the class to use more favorable abilities for certain rolls when the move is triggered.

Once game-play starts, and we’ve got a dozen sessions or so under our belts, I’ll know a lot better what changes need to be made to the custom moves. But I think that will go for all of the Dungeon World and Sidekick Quest rules I’ve  adopted and modified.

Now that the character sheets are designed and completed, I have a style I can build on. I’ll start in on monster sheets, NPCs and inventory cards in the near future.

Kids RPG Journal – #28 Setting Limits

One of the concerns I have with the game, is my boy’s tenacity to stick with one thing and do it over and over again. It can be a song, a saying, a joke, or in the case of earlier role-playing experiences, shooting things. While playing No Thank You, Evil! the boy’s would approach every monster the same way, by firing their eel-blasters at them every time. I had to work overtime to get them to expand to find other options.

While I’m sure as they play through, they’ll use a lot of other skills and resources to deal with problems, I’m hoping to not have it be an issue early on in the game. Judging by the things play-acting during the character creation stage, the shocking weapon ability may be a go-to. To get around this, I’m looking to set limitations on the number of times certain moves can be used.

I definitely don’t want to get into a resource-management style game with arbitrary limits, but I do want to encourage different options and ideas. The idea of having prepared spells is not appealing to me, it was never one of the fun parts of D&D, and with the limited number of moves already, seems overly restrictive.

I briefly toyed around with the idea of basing the ability to continually use certain abilities until the player rolled a failure, and then the ability would be gone until the character rested, but I didn’t like the option of it possibly failing the first time they use it and then not having it for the whole day, I don’t want using their abilities to be punitive.

Yesterday, I was working on finalizing the character sheets and needed to make a decision so I could complete the design. I went with an energy pool along side the health pool, so that the players can use all of their abilities multiple times in a day, but not necessarily spam them. Like health, I kept the energy pool very simplified, a maximum of six-eight “stars”, and certain abilities requiring the use of a star.

energy pool for using certain custom moves denoted by stars

Naturally, most of the abilities requiring energy are combat related, as I want to encourage more investigation and role-playing, but I did set one of my wife’s divinatory moves to require a star. These abilities are marked with a golden star next to them on the custom moves section.

stars on custom moves denoting the energy requirement to use.

This way, the moves can still be cool and the boy’s can still use them liberally, but not to the point of it becoming dull.

These are the moves I set as requiring energy to use:

  • Vicious Bite (attack)
  • Fearsome Howl (fear)
  • Thunder Touch (push opponents)
  • Storm Charge (attack)
  • Burning Touch (attack)
  • Earth Memory (divination)
  • Channel Önd (healing)

We’ll see how it goes and if we don’t like it, I can always drop the energy pool concept without too much reworking.

Kids RPG Journal – #27 Item Cards & Lore

I’m heading into the second month of the kids’ RPG journal and kicking it off with a some drawings of items which will play a part in the first mini-adventure and a little bit of the local lore from Saksaland.

items for item cards in first mini-adventure
items for item cards in first mini-adventure

Bits of Lore

Gripa was a giant in the mountains. One morning, she was playing with her golden ball when it rolled down the mountain and into the plains. She searched and searched all night for the ball, but could not find it. Unfortunately for Gripa, she tarried to long and was turned to stone when the sun rose over the horizon in the morning. To this day, her weeping form overlooks the vale.

Hugrun’s Cauldron is a swampy mire in the Harg Mountains. Legend says that the giant was brewing a poisonous elixir to trick the gods, but Odin discovered the trick and Thor crunched him with a hammer blow. The remains of the poison sit in the cauldron, leeching it’s way into the depths of the earth.

Bees are messengers for the gods and other wights as they are always buzzing with gossip and tales, if you know how to listen.

Kids RPG Journal – #26 Installing Fonts

In an effort to improve my workflow for the kids’ RPG project, I needed to add some fonts to my iPad so I could access them in Clip Studio Paint, instead of having to overlay text off of my desktop after exporting jpegs. Since I couldn’t remember exactly how I’d done this in the past, I decided to track my steps here in the journal.

For this, I need two programs: Dropbox (both on the desktop and laptop to sync files), and All Fonts on the iPad.

Copy font files to Dropbox

First, you will need to sync up a folder on Dropbox between your desktop and iPad. This is incredibly useful for nearly everything and is the only way to make file management halfway usable on iOS (but that is for another blog post).

I have the fonts already installed on my Mac, so I opened Font Book and right-clicked on the font I wanted and selected Show in Finder.

select Show in Finder within Font Book


This shows me the folder the font is stored and makes it easy for me to copy and paste into my Dropbox sync folder.

folder location of fonts for copying to Dropbox


Once the files are copied over, they are automagically synced on your devices, so I switched over to the iPad.

Transfer fonts to iPad using All Fonts

All Fonts application for iPad


All Fonts makes the transferring of fonts super easy once they are in your Dropbox.

All Fonts transfer fonts view


Open the app and click on the little cloud download icon in the upper right corner and select Browse.

All Fonts transfer view - select browse


Make your way to the Dropbox sync folder and find the font you want to transfer.

go to Dropbox sync folder to locate fonts


Click on it and it will give you a popup saying it is imported. After a minute or so, the font should show up in your Transferred Fonts view.

All Fonts: transferred fonts view

Install transferred fonts

Once you see it on the screen, click on the font and it will show you a font preview.

All Fonts: font preview


Click the Install Font button at the bottom. Follow the instructions on the dialogs. If the profile is not signed, you may need to confirm you want to install the font a few times before it shows up. Repeat the process for all fonts you want to add.

Check font is in Clip Studio Paint

If I already have Clip Studio Paint open, I find that I have to restart my iPad in order to get the new fonts to show up in the text tool.

Clip Studio Paint on iPad - text tool property to locate your new fonts


After that, you can organize your fonts by creating custom lists and they will be available for all applications.

Kids RPG Journal – #25 Places

Over the weekend, I completed a couple more location drawings and wanted to put them up here.

House of Arg, the mad baker next to the Pumpkin Snarl on Momma Yrla's stead

First, is the house of Arg, the mad baker, who lives within Momma Yrla’s stead. I’ll go a little bit more into him when I do the character illustration. His house/bakery is right next to a massive Pumpkin Snarl.

Viking-style beehives made from hollowed tree stumps.

Second, is some Viking-style beehives set in old, hollowed tree stumps. Bees are going to play an important part in the opening scene for the adventure.