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 – #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 – #21 PC: Iona Selby

And the final player character illustration, is my wife’s character, the Seether hight Iona Selby. The design process was a little more involved when the client is not a six-year-old, for there was a lot more back and forth. Still, I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

player character illustration - Iona Selby, a seether who has more in common with things buried within the earth than she does with people.

I’m still a little up in the air about the ink-brush line work compared to the wash coloration. I’ve actually been playing with replacing the blacks with more washes. I did test some of the icons with washed versions, and they looked really nice, but I need to be aware of how much time the artwork is taking. I’m hoping to do the first adventure early in February, preferably the first weekend, which means I need to stay focused on production, and not on non-essential tweaks.

Depending on how much gameplay I get in the first session, I may have time to clean up things for future sessions.

Kids RPG Journal – #17 Character Portrait Colors

I spent the weekend with the boys and had to switch gears from the Lore and Notes cards to work on something that they could watch me work on, so instead of spoilery adventure bits, I decided to color their character portraits: Thule Bonecrusher and Bursten Claw-jaw

Once again, I used Clip Studio Paint for my artwork. I wanted a pretty loose watercolor style, so I did not do any sort of color flats, but instead filled things in by hand, not worrying too much about the getting the color consistently up against the line art.

Bursten Claw-jaw color detail in Clip Studio Paint

I used the Drippy Deek brush from the Frenden brush pack, which has a great watery texture and a cool edge to the stroke that has extra pigment, or whatever the digital equivalent is. I typical do 2 to 3 passes to get the effect I want. I work on multiple layers so I can be overlap the linework and then go back with the transparency brush with a sharper Frenden brush to erase any errant edges.

Clip Studio Paint transparancy brush

And here are the boys’ characters:

Thule Bonecrusher, the Thunder Priest class raised by barbarians in the frozen Northlands.

Thule Bonecrusher character portrait colors

Bursten Claw-jaw, the Wolf Feral who discovered a mystical wolf pelt in the Dark Woods and has been imbued with the spirit of a wolf ever since.

Bursten Claw-jaw character portrait colors

Kids RPG Journal – #14 Software

Today, I am going to take brief detour from the active kids RPG project to go over the digital tools I am using to create everything. I wanted to do this now, as I’m starting in on Affinity Publisher for the first time to make the character sheet, and there’s a slight learning curve I’m going through to develop a process.

The following programs are all great, and I enthusiastically endorse them. Each has significantly improved my workflow and creative processes, or will in the near future.

scrivener, clip studio, affinity designer, photo, and publisher

Writing – Scrivener

I switched over to Scrivener as my default writing and note-taking application a couple of years back and it is phenomenal. It allows you the ultimate flexibility in organizing your documents and document snippets all in a single project. I have a general Daily Writing project for each year, but I’ve also used it for technical specs, comic scripting, website content, adventure design, monster/folklore notes, and book scripts.

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview

Illustration – Clip Studio Paint

For digital illustration, I use Clip Studio Paint almost exclusively. I started out doing digital art with Illustrator and then later with Photoshop and used those exclusively for many years, but I have slowly been moving away from the Adobe products where I can. Clip Studio is a dream to draw in and feels the most intuitive out of all the software programs that I have tried, particularly using the Frenden brushes available for it (http://store.frenden.com/). It is the program that closest resembles my traditional workflow. I love having the ability to seamlessly go from red pencil sketches, to inking, to coloring all together, and then on top of it having robust vector, comic panels, text and word balloons. It really is a complete package.

The only thing I find lacking are the export options. If it had the ability to export vector layers to SVG, it would cover practically all of my digital art needs.

Yet what truly makes Clip Studio mind-blowing is that the iPad version of the application is identical to the desktop, so I can do 99% of my work anywhere and sync with Dropbox to have the fully compatible file on my desktop. Well worth the price of the subscription. The only issues I have with the app for iPad are all based on iOS issues and the hoops one has to go through to access files and assets with various applications.

https://www.clipstudio.net/en

Digital Art Assets – Affinity Designer & Affinity Photo

While I don’t draw with the affinity applications, I do appreciate them for their completeness and flexibility. I have completely dropped Illustrator and Photoshop in favor of Affinity as I can do everything I ever did on those programs without maxing out my CPU, paying subscriptions, random crashes, and all the other headaches that came with Adobe.

Any vector work I need to do is in Designer. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with creating with the pen tool and that tends to be the majority of my work there, unless I have some typography I need to create outlines with. For Photo, I use it mainly to crop images and create digital assets.

I don’t use most of the features available in Affinity on a regular basis, but they are great to have around when I do and the price for the level of polish and quality is unbeatable.

While I do have both applications for the iPad, I tend to do all my work in them on the desktop, so I can’t really speak to those versions.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

Document Layout – Affinity Publisher

This is the program I’ve been waiting for for two plus years, but the beta for Affinity Publisher is finally out! InDesign was the last holdout of the Adobe products, and after a couple of hours with Publisher, I can say that I will be 100% done with Adobe for my personal projects (I still use the programs for the day-job). As much as I love with InDesign, so far Publisher has either matched or exceeded it in every aspect of laying out my character sheets. The text is very quick and intuitive to fine-tune, I haven’t had any trouble placing and altering images, and my test exports seem to work very well.

I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with the beta and when the real release comes out. I’m sure I’ll be putting a bunch of things here as I start building the adventure and various handouts, monster sheets, etc. I’ll document the process as I learn.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/publisher/

At a later date, I’ll talk about the hardware I use for various related projects and how those affect my workflow. Today I’m going to continue to lay out the character sheets for the boys and see how far I get with them.

Kids RPG Journal – #12 Character Sketch Process

When I start designing a character, I don’t really stick to a solid process. I tend to go one of two ways:

One, I jump right in and start drawing something stiff and uninspired, then revise it a number of times until I have something I don’t hate.

Two, I look up some reference, think about it for a long while and only once the idea is clearly formed in my head, start drawing.

Since I don’t draw often enough to tell which method works better for me, I pretty much wing it every time. Since I am almost exclusively drawing for myself, I am pretty lax on reference and spend maybe a quarter of the time I should.

For the boys characters, I went ahead and did some really base drawings without much thought put into them. I knew that the Wolf Feral character would be wearing a cowl and that the Thunder Priest would be beefy. All of the characters are to be kids (which I don’t have a lot of practice drawing), so I needed to be mindful to keep them young looking.

player character sketches

My natural inclination is to draw in a very sketchy manner that I do not find appealing. I keep these in my sketchbook and draw in with mechanical pencils with either standard or red lead. Once I figure out the general shapes and features, then I can go in and clean up the line work and make everything tighter, which is what I’ll do for these in my next pass. For those, I’ll move into Clip Studio Paint on the iPad and come up with a few more sketches before going into the digital inking steps.

The Wolf Feral is pretty close to where I want to have him in terms of design, so I may have many more steps before finalizing him.

Bursten Sketch

Oliver, who will be playing the Thunder Priest, did not care for my initial design and wanted me to make him leaner, more muscular. I’m going to let him see the next drafts before I go too much further, but I’m not quite feeling the character yet, so I may do another pass or two before moving on to the iPad.

Thule sketches

Kids RPG Journal – #11 Ability Icons

Once I decided to go with four abilities instead of six for the character sheet, and to use the same nomenclature as Sidekick Quests, I needed to figure out how to get those on the page. Clever, Quick, Smart, Tough. I want to have some nice icons to use, and while the illustrations on Sidekick Quests are nice, they don’t quite fit the tone of the game I want to play.

I checked No Thank You Evil, and those are no good at all. I really don’t like the lazy association of glasses with intelligence, especially for a game with children.

So, it was time to make my own. I went with more nature-based icons and have each ability associated with an animal totem, inspired by the spirit Guides from John Harper’s, Wildlings.  I didn’t really go out on a limb with the animal associations, but here they are:

Fox : Clever
Falcon : Quick
Owl : Smart
Bear : Tough

The next step was going through a number of quick drafts, some of which illustrated very clearly that I don’t know what animals really look like. Then a couple of reference photos and search of how others simplified the forms, also keeping inspiration from the style of Wildlings and Viking carvings (which have featured prominently in my work for years).

ability icons for kids RPG

Once I had something that I was pretty happy with, I took a picture and started drawing the final forms in Clip Studio Paint on my iPad. I drew out the designs, though I debated if I should make them using vectors for more flexibility. In the end, I prefer to use Clip Studio, and while it has pretty robust vector capabilities, it does not have the ability to export into SVG or EPS, only rasterized images.

And here is the final for the ability icons for the kids RPG:

ability icons for kids RPG

Next, I will be working on the character illustrations for the boy’s PCs (player characters).

Kids RPG Journal – #6 Character Sheet Changes

One thing I want to focus on early is focusing on pairing down the character sheets for Dungeon World. I want to make it nice an manageable for the boys to just focus on the parts of their character that they’ll need for play.

A few things that are extraneous for our game and will be scrapped for now:

Alignment – I can’t see any benefit to trying to get the young ones to wrap their minds around the various alignments and limiting there role-playing abilities. Their actions will have consequences in the game, I think that will be enough to keep us going.

Race – Just going to start out with the standard human race for everyone. Keeps it a little more in the mid to low fantasy vibe I’m working, and gives me a little extra room on the character sheet.

Then there are a few things, I’m thinking about modifying and simplifying:

Abilities – Do I really need all six of the abilities to play? In Sidekick Quests, it has Clever Enough, Quick Enough, Smart Enough and Tough Enough, while No Thank You Evil! uses Tough, Fast, Smart, and Awesome. Clever can include both Charisma and Wisdom for most situations, just as Tough can include Strength and Constitution for most situations. I want to create an icon for each ability to make it a little more kid-friendly and appealing.

The other consideration is do I really need to keep the standard 3-18 range for abilities? I’m not sure that is the most intuitive versus a 1-10 or even 1-6 range, but changing it may make me have to adjust much more than just the numbers on the page. Since the ability modifier is what is predominantly used to make decisions, I might be able to get away with some additional simplification.

Hit Points – I like a more graphical or physical representation of the character’s health, so I may try to set something along those lines and make sure that the health points stay fairly low. Since neither Dungeon World, nor Sidekick Quests increases HP on leveling up, then I think something more graphic would still fit on the sheet nicely.

Moves – I’m really only going to come up with a few of the starting moves for each of the PC classes and some of the moves that they can add on once they start leveling up. I’m not trying to build completely new playbooks just yet, particularly since a lot of that work may change as we progress in the game and find out what moves work best, are over powered, or simply don’t serve the story. Also, it will keep the sheet less cluttered and I won’t have to create icons for each and every move that the character may gain over the course of our play.

Gear – All of their gear will be on illustrated cards where they can see just exactly what they carry on their persons. I’m not really interested in the encumbrance and weight rules of games (nor do I typically worry about a lot of money issues and provisions like rations), but I want the boys to flex their math skills, so I’ll have them keep track of all their weights and spending.