Monday, February 18, 2013

Three Crazy Games

While usually play D&D and VTM with kids, sometimes I like to go a little crazy. In fact, some of the most memorable and fun adventures I ever ran were wacky and absurd games that allowed young gamers to flex their imagination and experience something truly new and exciting.

Of all the slipstream game I ran with kids, these three were the most memorable. SHIPS! and RATS! were awesome too... but you already know that. In fact you may know these as well. They were posted on the WotC website in days long spent...

And yes, I do realize I have a tendency to make all my titles a plural noun followed by an exclamation mark. That’s just how I like my RPGS!

This campaign relies heavily on improvisation and may not be suitable for groups full of rules lawyers. Strange as it may sound, this game of filth and ferrum (F&F?) was especially popular among young girls. Possibly because they weren’t bothered by the freeform gaming style but enjoyed the possibility to design a unique character from an infinite selection of spare parts… even if it was all just recycled trash.

This is how it went: after some cosmic holocaust, nothing but colossal amounts of garbage remained on a planet now devoid of all life. Slowly, various broken appliances connect to form unlikely heroes made from broken toasters (to shoot heat-beams), lawn mowers (to move around and slice enemies), Ipads (to think and sense) and so forth. As the game progresses, the PCs gathered more spare parts, creating truly unique characters.

Players had the option to connect with each other to form a juggernaut, a huge creature controlled by a several players, or stay small and independent. Curiously, all the boys ended up being part of some huge lumbering monstrosity, while girls were willing to sacrifice power in return for maintaining their individual characters.

Typical adventures revolved around fighting other animated garbage over control of power plants and supplies, fending off schizoid juggernauts and technomancers commanding hordes of formatted “zombies.” The most dramatic adventure dealt with a crashed spaceship and its surviving biological crew – a treasure coveted by many. The revelation that followed, although quite clich├ęd, left quite the impact!

Some day I will turn this into a very cool card-based RPG or board game. Some day...

Art by Mateusz Ozminski

Every adventurer was a kid once. What did he do at this tender age, sat at home all day and did his homework? Hell no! He had wonderful adventures, slew monsters and divided their loot while making sure mommy and daddy didn’t know a thing!

A single-session scenario I especially like to run is a fantasy version of Home Alone, where resourceful but physically undeveloped PCs have to fend off a goblin warband that entered the house while the PCs’ parents were away adventuring. Just bring some PC strips and a map of a normal house and the rest of the adventure will take care of itself itself!

If some kids are unhappy about not playing their usual PCs this session, you can tell them that these are their PCs twenty years ago and that any reward they now gain for cleverness or courage will be transferred to their regular adult PCs next session.

Below are a few quick PC examples:

11 hp, AC 10, Fort 11, Ref 8, Will 11
STR +1 DEX -2 CON +1 INT -3 WIS +0 CHA +1
Athletics +6, Intimidate +6
Stop Hitting Yourself! (standard; encounter) an adjacent enemy makes basic melee attack against itself. If it hits, add your Charisma modifier to the damage.
Get Lost! (standard; encounter) Charisma vs. Will. an enemy within 10 or less squares moves its full speed away from you and is stunned (save ends)
Equipment: Leather jerkin, club, random object belonging to a different class

Wizard’s Apprentice
7 hp, AC 13, Fort 9, Ref 13, Will 11
STR -3 DEX -2 CON -1 INT +3 WIS +1 CHA -2
Arcane +10, History +10
I Think I Get It… (full round; daily) you receive a clue from the DM.
Fast Talker (standard; encounter) Charisma vs. Will. Your enemy is stunned for one round (save ends).
Equipment: Hefty tome, magic wand

8 hp, AC 14, Fort 9, Ref 13, Will 11
STR -2 DEX 0 CON -1 INT +3 WIS +1 CHA +1
Strange stuff +8
This Is Nothing, Now Sir Lancelot… (standard; encounter) an ally restores 1d6+4 hp and punches you in the nose.
The Great Caesar, in 55 BC… (standard; daily)  an ally receives +2 to attack rolls or +4 to damage or skill roll until the end of the encounter. He then asks you to shut up.
Equipment: Storybook, training armor, wooden sword

8 hp, AC 13, Fort 9, Ref 13, Will 11
STR -2 DEX 0 CON -1 INT +3 WIS +1 CHA +1
Stealth +5, Thievery +8
Leave me alone! (minor action; daily) you become invisible until the end of your next round.
I don’t need you! (minor action; encounter) You gain +10 to your next skill check. This check may not be assisted by other party members.
Equipment: Pocket knife, outrageous makeup

Art by  Charlene Chua
One of the most memorable games I ever ran was literally improvised on the spot. On account of a colleague vaporizing (not literally), I had to DM a game for 15 kids (a nightmare into itself) with zero preparation time and no resources except my dice and some 3e D&D books. Now if you remember, the old Monster Manual had an extensive Animals section, which gave me an idea – animals against poachers!

I gave each kid a random animal of CR 2 or 3 and set them on a quest – to defeat the poachers who killed so many of their brothers and sisters. There was even an evil twist – the obese wolf they rescued at the start of the adventure was actually helping the poachers – he led animals to the poachers’ lair to be killed and skinned and in return he got meat (the lazy bastard couldn’t be bothered to hunt by himself!) The game was an absolute blast and I’m told that kids talk about it to this day.

The cooperation in that game was also amazing. For example, the snake coiled around the boar’s head and spat at its enemies to blind them before the boar charged. Granted, this isn’t realistic animal behavior, but when was the last time you picked up an axe and went to slay a dragon?

If you’re in a hurry, you may just photocopy some of the animals from the Monster Manual. Suitable animals for this kind of game include:
  • Cacklefiend Hyena (without Acid Bloodspurt)
  • Cave Bear
  • Crushgrip Constrictor
  • Deathrattle Viper
  • Dire Boar
  • Dire Wolf
  • Fey Panther (without fey step)
  • Visejaw Crocodile
With more mature groups you might also use various birds, which are weaker, but make great spies and emissaries. You may want to halve the animals’ hp and decrease their bonuses by -2 to -4 to make them feel less epic and more like normal woodland beasts. Just like with young PCs, if you have time to prepare, I recommend designing PC strips. 


  1. Please. Garbage! card game. Please? PLEASE!

  2. Can you please post links to these RPG games? Thank you

    1. Hey, these guys sadly don't exist yet. But I promise you that as soon as they are made, you'll be the first to know :)