Wizards, Constructs, and a Five Year Old
On a quiet late summer afternoon I find myself sitting down at the dining room table ready for adventure. I set the pile of game materials down with a satisfying thud and my players stare back at me, unsure of what is to come.
I carefully unpack the folder that holds the premade character sheets I printed out and pass them across the table. I can't wipe the smile from my face as I watch them sort through their options. This is one of those sessions that I've dreamed about GMing for a long time.
"Pick whatever looks like the most fun to play." I say in my most encouraging voice.
After a few minutes of deliberation it begins like any good session should: with dice, some miniatures, and a box of colored pencils.
Rewind to five-ish years ago
One of the things you know about but will never be able to prepare for as a new parent is the lack of sleep. The moment that child is born the weight of sleeplessness hits you like a ton of bricks. It doesn't knock you out but it always weighs you down and nothing you can do will prepare you.
On one such sleepless night under the quiet hum of the ceiling fan I sat with my newborn daughter in my arms browsing the internet trying to pass the time until mom's shift was up. As a geek parent I would use those quiet little moments to imagine the time when the little person in my arms could roll dice instead of eating them.
At this point I was in full on parental hibernation mode. It had been months since I had played an RPG and I was feeling the pull. I pulled up a new window in chrome and tapped "RPGs to play with kids" into the keyboard.
I ended up finding Hero Kids.
"One day, kid..." I might've said to her as I clicked the purchase button on DriveThruRPG.
Into the saved folder it went as an investment in our geeky future.
Enter the Wizards Tower
This summer afternoon wasn't the first time we played, but it was the first where both my oldest daughter and wife played together. Hero Kids is a pretty simple system made up of a few minor stats, some character special rules, and really easy to consume character sheets.
In Hero Kids you will only ever use up to three six-sided dice depending on how good you are at something. You roll and pick the highest dice out of all the dice you've rolled to represent your skill check or contest roll.
Wizards Tower, written and mapped by the games creator, is an adventure module much like many other adventure modules in the Hero Kids system. Each module provides a series of encounters, maps for those encounters, and monster sheets and paper miniatures to populate your table. This visual element that Hero Kids provides really helped the oldest visualize each scene as it played out.
Color me Impressed
Both sessions that we've played have started with a coloring book pre-play. My daughter selects a character and quickly gets to coloring in the character sheet and miniatures with colored pencils. She loves to color and this has been a great way to get her to the table and calm her down before diving in to play.
My wife is also an avid "colorer" and seemed to enjoy our pre-game coloring routine. After about 15 minutes of refined coloring and childish scribbling we were off to Hero Kids' setting, the Bracken Vale.
What I enjoy about the Hero Kids modules is that they advertise the time to play right up front. Wizards Tower is advertised as a 45 to 60 minute session and most of the modules I've surveyed run in a similar time. Young kids have limited attention spans and don't have the same patience for a 3-4 hour session as I do.
Some highlights from this session without giving away any spoilers:
- It was great to see my wife and daughter cooperate and roleplay together. This was actually my wife's first RPG.
- My wife was having an awful time with the rolls. The dice gods did not favor her that afternoon.
- My daughter surprised me by thinking outside the box for the first time! It involved using her arrows to scale the tower with the highest possible roll of 6!
- My daughter loved the images of the constructs and promptly named them "bucketheads"
- The final boss battle is when my wife's dice started heating up. She triggered her special ability that froze the final boss in place and worked together to make quick work of the last encounter.
Our time with Wizards Tower was well spent. The session ran a little longer than we all would have liked but the flexibility of the system allowed me to reduce the difficulty of some of the final encounters to speed up play time. My wife was a good sport and played along even though she as a non-kid gamer was limited by the choices she could make when faced with the encounters.
Ultimately this is a game you play with the kids, for the kids. Dungeon World's GM advice says to be a "Champion of the Players" and in Hero Kids it's one of the most important mantras you can bring to the table.
Pick up Wizards Tower if:
- You have already played Basement o' Rats, the game's introductory adventure and are looking for more!
- You're looking for a quick hero kids adventure for a kid on the lower end of the games recommended age spectrum (Age 4-7)
- You want some variety in your adventure. The Hero Kids system can limit your options at times but Wizards Tower provided some good paths for progression through the session.