Monday, 10 October 2016

Family gaming pt.2: the depths of the castle



The kids have been badgering me to play another instalment of our family gaming, continuing from the last adventure which ended in the adventurers finding a trapdoor in the ruined castle.

For a dungeon based game we used the Heroquest rules as a starting point, but used these houserules:

  • All characters can walk 4 squares. If they walk 4 squares then they can also complete two other actions: attack, cast a spell or investigate the area
  • Characters can instead run 6 squares but forgo any other activity
  • Investigating the area could trigger a wandering monster or the discovery of treasure, traps or equipment
  • The spell-casting character (oldest daughter) can cast any spell she can think of (she has to use her imagination). For it to be successful she has to use rhyme in her spell incantation and had to roll under a GM determined amount - dependent upon how strong the spell is deemed. She only uses one battle dice in combat.
  • My middle daughter and young son had two combat characters so could use three dice in combat. My daughter's character also had a mind control spell which she could cast on an 8+ but easier on a weaker character and harder on a stronger character. And she can throw a knife. My son could attack twice..
  • Plus lots of other rules I made up as we played to help the flow of the game and keep them interested. Oh and treasure was in the form of jelly beans!


  • The three young adventurers descend the stairs into a dank and smelly dungeon. The walls are lined with moist moss and there are mushrooms growing through the cracks in the cold stone floor.

    Son runs ahead eager to explore and smashes open the locked door with his flail. At the end of the corridor he can see a couple of skeleton guardsmen. The female adventurers explore the room hoping for some early treasure. There is none.

    The little fella's not phased by the two skellies, "let me at 'em" he cries!

    And they were indeed quickly dispatched with a spell and a swing of the trusty flail. The spell went thus:
    "Swords and daggers have us all,
    Smash these monsters into the wall!"


    Middle daughter decides to leave the fighting to the other two and open the door which was mid way along the corridor.

    Inside she discovers a chef hard at work making gruel for all the dungeon monsters. In a bit of rpg fun they had a discussion:
    Daughter: "can you help us explore the dungeon?"
    Chef: "no I'm busy cooking"
    D: can you give us anything to help us on our quest?"
    C: "No, I'm busy cooking and I know your type, don't start rummaging through my stuff".
    D: "You're not very nice!"
    C: "Hmph".


    The end of the conversation. So what did my daughter do? That's right with her last available action of the turn she rummaged through some barrels! She was given a 7+ roll to make to enable stealth, which she failed and the chef heard her and ran after her! (Some sort of lesson to be learnt there?)

    Here you can see her legging it from the angry chef (sideways?)

    As the party moves into the next room, they see a wealthy looking man standing next to some gold chests. Without any hesitation they ran up to him and started rummaging through his gold coin! Should I be concerned? Well they should be, the man is actually a witch who had cast an illusion and the chests of gold turned into zombies!!!

    A slightly greedy older daughter faces off against a newly revealed witch and some zombies. She rummaged through those chests without even asking and now they're gravestones. The witch continues an incantation of sorts until my spellcasting daughter successfully casts a freeze spell on the witch with the rhyme:
    "Frozen in motion that's what you shall be,
    because you're a bad witch who smells like wee wee!"

    My middle daughter decides to return to the chef and apologise (worried that he may turn against her). He is pleased with her apology and then warns her of the witch who haunts the nearby rooms. When he is told that she's raised some zombies against her siblings the chef becomes enraged and charges off to confront the old hag!

    The Chef joins in the melee and soon all the zombies and the witch are no more. He returns to his cooking, concerned that a pot has boiled over. The kids discover some more chests of coin and gain some jelly beans too.

    Intrepid son marches on through the adjoining door where a rickety old bridge spans the sewers. An agility roll was passed and he continues onwards.

    But on ringing the bell at the portcullis, a giant stinking rat appears squeaking and trying to bite his ankles! Fight! 

    Meanwhile his sisters continue to explore the witches room and in their thorough searching of the gravestones they unleash a wight! Thankfully spellcasting daughter makes up a protective spell whilst they attack the undead witch:


    "I need a safety bubble to cover us three,
    so we can get away from this witch who smells like wee wee"


    A slight repetition of the witches unappealing smell, but successful spell casting none the less.


    Middle daughter, trying to harvest as many jelly beans as possible, without actually getting involved in any fighting, notices a section of floor above the room. She nimbly jumps up on the successful roll of a 7+ and finds another treasure chest with gold coin, a battle axe and a scared cat (that used to be the witches familiar). But with the witch dead the cat has returned to it's normal self. She names the cat Tigger and they have a new model in the adventurers party (and a few jelly beans to eat).

    Having slain the rat with ease the adventurers, led by the youngest boy approach the final room, a splendid throne room. They notice the ornate decoration as they enter but are soon stopped in their tracks by the sound of a whimpering princess and a nasty looking old dwarf with a walking spellbook. Behind all of this is a dead man on a throne and a set of stairs leading up and (hopefully) out.



    I was intrigued by how they would approach this scenario, fully expecting my kids to charge in and fight and look for more gems/sweets. But they had a short consultation (away from me) and starting asking the dwarf some questions..:


    Children: "Princess are you ok?"
    Princess: "I'm scared and I want to go home"
    Children: "Dwarf, why are you being horrible to the princess, what has she done to you?"
    Dwarf (slightly taken aback): "Well I've kidnapped her and am awaiting my ransom, but it's none of your business"
    Children: "That's quite greedy and not very nice. Do you know all the creatures we've defeated to get here? We're not scared of you and just think you're not very nice"
    Dwarf: "Well I'm not scared of a bunch of kids and you can't tell me what to do".
    Children: "You should be scared!" And on this note my daughter cast a spell to animate the skeleton!!!


    "That old skeleton bring him to life,
    we want to cause this dwarf some strife"


    Now at this point as GM (and Dad) I was so proud of their approach that I let the spell be cast without a roll and decided that yes, indeed the Dwarf was scared by the skeleton and out-thought by the children. He asks to be spared.


    My daughters both say yes and my son says no! At this point I let the dwarf run away and my son instead decides to free the princess. And they all get rewarded!


    But possibly I got the biggest reward from playing this with them and watching them resolve situations in a range of different ways that showed a growing thoughtfulness (ie from running straight up to some gold, or rummaging in the kitchen when they had specifically been told not to - towards talking and challenging someone down from a difficult situation).


    Oh and here's one of my daughter's spell-sheets. I'll be keeping them so she can use them in future games. Next time we're going to try a watered down Frostgrave.