|Dragonette Mock-Up Cover
Art: "AI Generated Baby Dragon"
by Alana Jordan
(To be replaced when I unpack my art supplies)
Spelling it all out is step 3. First, we need some content to make it all work.
This is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to creating a game that is going to be perceived as "kid friendly" by the grown-ups considering downloading it as a gift for a kid in their life.
The mechanics, even if they are really well-designed for kids, won't attract players if the content doesn't match it. So I have to back up the engine I've cobbled together with a minimum number of spells, magic items, monsters, and treasures... and then make them work for your target audience.
Know Your Audience
In my case, my audience is a pretty smart but silly four-year-old. And it is going to need to appeal to his big brother, too, so that we can work on the team aspect of it.
Thankfully, I read to my kids a lot. This gives me an "Appendix-N" to work with that I can draw some inspiration from. This will include:
- Almost the complete works of Roald Dahl (I started reading them to Son #1 a year ago, and we have gone through fourteen of his books.)
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- The Bunnicula series by James Howe
- The Hobbit
- Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Also, I can draw inspiration from some of their favorite shows, Pokémon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Octonauts, PAW Patrol, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the Deep, and Transformers.
And the video games they have played with me: Sproggiwood, Super Mario Brothers 1-3 and 'World, Final Fantasy IV, VI, and IX.
When writing for kids, you have to select your tone very carefully. Something needlessly puerile or saccharine can fail to satisfy them because at a certain age kids don't want to feel like they are being fed Pablum. This was the failing of No Thank You, Evil!, it is so kiddish kids lose interest pretty quickly.
I am also not interested in a game that is heavily focused on skirmish and combat. In fact, I would much rather focus on everything but. Complex skirmish-heavy games like Hero Kids are prone to becoming all about combat and discourage kids from being as creative as they can be.
|Cover to the 2021 edition of
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Art by Quentin Blake.
I want whimsy, but there is a fine line between being kid-friendly cartoonish fantasy, and being excessively cutesy and frou-frou. I am happy to have some dark and scary monsters drawn from faerie tales in there, but will probably stop short of the needlessly bloody or creepy.
For my test games, The BFG and Narnia have been my go-to inspirational sources. As have the old Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1980s, which were weird, gonzo, and occasionally dark, but handled things in a kid-friendly and challenging tone. And, of course, the earlier, Nintendo-era Final Fantasy Games, especially Final Fantasy V with its light humor mixed with heroic fantasy is a good inspiration, too.
Knowing what tone you want to set is absolutely critical if you are going to build enough content: it will help you keep things consistent and congruous.
Start with the Challenges
Nothing will define the tone of a game more than the challenges that the PCs will face. I will start by defining a handful of monsters.
Defense: 14. Damage: 1d4 (scratch)
- Sneaky: PCs get Disadvantage to avoid being surprised by gremlins, sense them when they are hidden.
- Prank: A gremlin that has a scene to tinker with the PCs equipment plays a prank on them. Roll depletion on all gear that requires it. The PC gets two disadvantages that the GM can apply any time they are using their gear in the next day. Describe how the gear fails in a comical way.
During the design phase of the game you will figure out more rules that you need. First, I failed to establish that you want to set the difficulty for an entire scene. If there is a chance that the PCs have let the monsters know they are coming, or the monsters have a home ground advantage the PCs should roll against the scene's difficulty.
Defense: 13 Damage: 1d4 (club)
- Sneaky: PCs get Disadvantage to avoid being surprised by goblins, sense them when they are hidden.
- Hex: A goblin can place a spell on a player that causes them to have disadvantage on their next 3 rolls.
- Fool's Gold: A goblin can make metal objects appear to be made of lead or gold, and stones to appear like gemstones. They can also make doors appear to be walls. Goblin illusions break if the goblin goes more than twenty meters away is hurt.
- Greedy: PCs get advantage on charm rolls when bribing goblins with food or treasure. Goblins must test at disadvantage to avoid attempting to steal an unguarded precious object/
Defense: 11. Damage: 1d6 (peck)
- Belch Fire: A Wurdle Bird that is startled can belch a cloud of fire. Every enemy HERE around the Wurdle Bird must roll agility or suffer 1d6 damage. Once this power is used it cannot be used again for 1 scene.
- Explosive Eggs: An unhatched Wurdle-Bird egg is filled with an elemental spirit in the process of taking bird form. If any secret word of fire magic is spoken near it the egg will become hot and begin to glow. It can then be thrown and will explode dealing 1d8 damage to any creature that can't roll a d20 under its DEFENSE. Afterward a Wurdle-Chick appears and runs off as swiftly as it can.
Defense: 14. Damage: 1 (peck)
- Belch Fire: Wurdle-Chick that is startled can belch a cloud of fire. Every enemy HERE around the Wurdle Bird must roll agility or suffer 1d3 damage. Once this power is used it cannot be used again for 1 scene.
- Too Hot to Handle: A Wurdle Chick is hot enough that anything that touches it takes 1 HP of damage.
- Gigantic: A friendly giant stands towering over most houses. They can run at incredible speeds and leap impossible distances. They have four advantages on any test involving strength.
- Musical: A friendly giant can play enchanting music. Those who hear one play its harp or flute can fill any partially-emptied hearts. Trying to influence a friendly giant with music have two advantages.
- Speak with Animals: Friendly giants can speak with most animals. They can teach a rare few animals to speak to humans, too, given time. Many Giants are surrounded by odd pets such as singing roosters, dancing giraffes, and cow chefs.
- Gigantic: An unfriendly giant stands towering over most houses. They can run at incredible speeds and leap impossible distances. They have four advantages on any test involving strength.
- Dumber than a Bag of Hammers: Unfriendly giants are very dim-witted. Characters trying to trick them, sneak around them, etc., have two advantages.
- Gigantic: A frost giant stands towering over most towers. They can run at incredible speeds and leap impossible distances. They have four advantages on any test involving strength.
- Illusions: A Frost giant can change the appearance of one creature or object into another of a similar size, or make simple, unmoving things appear out of thin air. These disguises disappear if the Giant is Harmed or moves more than 5km away. They can only sustain one illusion at a time.
- Storms: Frost giants can summon blizzards, hailstorms, sleet, or hurricanes, althought it costs them 1d12 hit points to do so.
- Shrouded: The Snozzbeast is perpetually shrouded in smoke, any attacks against it from HERE are at disadvantages/ Attacks from THERE have two disadvantages.
- Poor Senses: A snozzbeast has no sense of smell, and can barely see. Sneaking around one, losing it during a chase, and hiding from it have two advantages.
- Thunderous: PCs are never surprised by a snozzbeast.
- Snozzberry Addiction: Snozzbeasts will stop anything they are doing to browse on snozzberries, and will ignore anything else going on while eating them. They automatically deplete one die per round from any source of snozzberries. Once none are left, it will wander aimlessly in a stupor for 2d4 scenes.
- Ill-tempered: Snozzbeasts are always hostile unless there are snozzberries around, at which point they are Neutral. They never check morale unless faced with a Wurdle Bird, at which point they test morale at disadvantage.
- Disguise: A Horrible Hag will disguise itself as a pleasant woman in order to lull its victims into a sense of security. When describing a hag in disguise always describe her with some details that hint at her nature, such as a "tinny voice" sleeves too long to let her hands be seen, or the smell of mint or betel being overpowering on their breath.
- Faerie Weaknesses: A Horrible Hag may not use her magical powers when in contact with iron. They cannot cast spells over a barrier of salt. They cannot cross running water, or enter a home without an invitation.
- Hex: A Horrible Hag can place a magic spell on a player that causes them to have disadvantage on their next 3 rolls.
- Illusions: A Horrible Hag can magically change the appearance of one creature or object into another of a similar size, or make simple, unmoving things appear out of thin air. These disguises disappear if the Hag is harmed or moves more than 5km away. They can only sustain one illusion at a time.
- Bad Medicine: A Horrible Hag can put a magic curse on a potion or piece of food that can make a person age 3d20 years, fall into an everlasting sleep, or change into a small animal such as a frog or mouse. There is always a counter-curse that will break this effect.
- Spellcasting: When a Horrible Hag is encountered roll 3 times on the MAGICAL LOOT table. If the item is a magic spell, the hag possesses it in her loot and can use it just like a PC.
Defense: 8. Damage: no attacks
- Slow: Sporacles are slow-moving, and have three disadvantages on any Agility test. They cannot escape by running away unless its attackers are disabled.
- Spray: A Sporacle can spray poisonous spores at a target HERE or THERE. that target must make a TOUGHNESS check or lose the next 1d4 rounds coughing and wheezing, unable to act.
- Stench Cloud: A sporacle can release a cloud of noxious gasses. They swirl around the sporacle in a grey-green haze that grants disadvantage on attacks against it from HERE or two disadvantages on attacks from THERE. Anyone HERE must also make a TOUGHNESS check or be overcome by the bad smell and spend the next 1d4 rounds coughing and wheezing.
- Explode: A Spoacle that is hit explodes, dealing 1d8 damage to everyone HERE. They also must make a TOUGHNESS check or spend 1d4 rounds coughing and wheezing. A sporacle that fails a morale check also may explode if it cannot escape.
- Infect: Anyone who spends more than 5 rounds disabled by the sporacle's stench, spray, or explosion is infected. In 1d3 days they will suddenly keel over and start vomiting out tiny sporacles that drift away in the breeze. The unfortunate victim takes 1d12 damage. A healer, herbalist or alchemist can cure a character of their infection before this happens.
- Brawler: A BFM attacks twice in a round, and has advantage to claw attacks.
- Dim-witted: rolls to trick, sneak past, or outwit a BFM have advantage.
- Brawler: A BBM attacks twice in a round.
- Dim-witted: rolls to trick, sneak past, or outwit a BBM have advantage.
- Spellcasting: When a BBM is encountered roll 3 times on the MAGICAL LOOT table. If the item is a magic spell, the monster possesses it in her loot and can use it just like a PC.
- Lightning Speed: Only creatures with the lightning speed ability can keep up with a Giant Racing snail. Nothing else can hope to keep up with a Giant Racing snail and automatically fail checks to catch it or flee from it.
- Slime Trail: A Giant Racing Snail leave behind a trail of slippery goo. Anything HERE in battle with it or trying to pursue it (except another slimy invertebrate) must make an AGILITY check with two disadvantages or fall down. Once down they have to make a check to get back up.
- Venom: Anything that has been struck by a Giant Racing Snail's radula attack must roll TOUGHNESS or spend the rest of the scene laying down in a daze murmuring something like "pretty stars" over and over again, unable to act.
Defense: 13 Damage: 1d6 (bite)
- Breathe Fire: A Dragonette can exhale a cone of fire. Every enemy HERE must roll agility or suffer 1d6 damage. Once this power is used, roll 1d4 every round; on a 1 it may use this power again.
- Brawler: A Dragonette attacks twice in a round, and has advantage to claw attacks.
- Flying: A dragonette in flight is considered THERE no matter where its foes move. It cannot use it's claws while in flight, however. Only other flying creatures can catch it if it is attempting to flee.
- Sneaky: PCs get Disadvantage to avoid being surprised by imps, or to sense them when they are hidden.
- Hex: An imp can place a spell on a player that causes them to have disadvantage on their next 3 rolls.
- Fool's Gold: A goblin can make metal objects appear to be made of lead or gold, and stones to appear like gemstones. They can also make doors appear to be walls. Imps can make themselves appear to be cats, rats, bats, toads, or dolls. An Imp's illusions break if the imp is hurt, banished, or goes more than 1km away.
- Oracle: An Imp can answer one question about almost anything accurately and truthfully, but they lose 1d6 hp to do so. If they drop to 0hp they return to the netherworld after answering.
- Flying: An imp in flight is considered THERE no matter where its foes move. It cannot use it's claws while in flight, however. Only other flying creatures can catch it if it is attempting to flee.
- Chaos Magic: An imp can use a wild spell as if it had a spellbook.
- Demonic Weaknesses: An imp may not use its magical powers when in contact with silver. They cannot cast spells or move over a barrier of salt. They cannot cross running water, or enter a home without an invitation. They must retreat from holy symbols and cannot enter consecrated ground.
Obviously, this begs for more creatures to be added, but 15 seems like a pretty fair start. And, obviously, I am going to have to break this into multiple parts. 2b will cover loot, which will be the heart and soul of how Dragonette operates.
In the meantime, I will make a list of other creatures I hope to eventually include by the time I am ready to release a playtest edition:
- Arcane Sludge
- Danger Gnome
- Distressing Damsel
- Fish Man
- Flying Sword
- Dire Pelican
- Terror Toad
- Grand Imp
- Giant Spider
- Island Fish
- Noble Goose
- Magical Disaster
- Vampire Bunny
- Zombie Vegetable
- Time Elemental