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 – #48 Wild Hunt Quest

When we last played the Harrowlands game so very long ago, the adventuring party had just survived the bee swarms and crashed their wagon. We will begin the next session in Yrlashof and they will need to find a way to get their wagon repaired. However, there is a problem.

It is the night of Alfablot and not only do folks need to stay off the roads, but no one will offer them hospitality and allow them to come into their home, for the dead travel on this night. The main quest for this session is going to be to survive encounters with any vengeful spirits who wanders too close.

Quest: Night of the Wild Hunt

First, they will carve faces into their turnip lanterns to scare off the spirits (the players will draw scary faces on turnips and we’ll fashion lanterns with them using mini tea lights) and roll to determine how effective their artistic skill is. With the howling wind and lack of time, it might be a challenge.

Turnips for carving to scare off the ghosts of the Wild Hunt

Then starts the procession of the wild hunt, led by the Alf King on his massive spectral boar. If all of the lanterns hold up, then it should be pretty straight-forward, but if not, then they will need to find alternative methods for dealing with any wights who will come into their camp, without fighting. There may be some trickery, parley, wrestling, or offerings to ensure that no one gets hurt. 

map of yrlashof during the Alfablot

I created a number of props for the quest, turnip papers for lamps, a “battle map” of Yrlashof to show where the wild hunt will be passing through, some overhead drawings of hunt members, and the quest image. Additionally, I set up the quest pages on the Harrowlands website for online use:

The Wild Hunt led by the Alf King

Quest: Night of the Wild Hunt

I’m thinking we may be able to play this weekend if things aren’t too crazy. Otherwise, we may have to look into a weeknight game, just to keep the ball rolling.

Kids RPG Journal – #42 More NPCs Yrlashof

This week I’ve spent some time researching Samhain and Alfablot for the next adventure. The party is going to arrive at the farm at a bad time, and the wind they caused is definitely going to make things worse. The people of Yrlashof are observing the Alfablot, where the rules of hospitality are reversed, and there is to be a ghostly procession, a Wild Hunt, of dokkalfar (dark elves) along the road.

I needed draw up two principal characters for this adventure. First is Momma Yrla, who I drew a while back, but her story has changed significantly since then and the picture no longer reflects the character I want. So, I kept some basics of the drawing , but adjusted her face and outfit, to reflect her position as a former sea king – a ruling pirate. Now she maintains the farm. I recolored her with my new palette to better match the character. The new drawing makes here look a little bit older than I had planned, but I can live with it.

Revised image of Momma Yrla, former pirate, and the lady of Yrlashof.

Second, I drew Momma’s former first-mate who still guards her family, Gurla, a sturdy water-witch. She is gruff and superstitious, coming from the eastern countries. This one actually looks a little younger than I had hoped to make it.

Gurla, Momma Yrla's guardian and former first mate

My next step is to draw an overhead map of the stead where the adventure will take place.