My son has been playing some variant of Dungeons & Dragons since he was three (in other words, since he could roll the dice), but when I discovered the simple rules system for Heroes of Hesiod I decided he was ready to move on to something approximating an actual system. But I needed scenarios, and even though I’m not using the Hero Kids system, the scenarios are an excellent example of adventure design done right. The first scenario we tried was Curse of the Shadow Walkers, with a sorcerer named Sir John and his female fighter companion and sister named, oddly enough, Sis. My son controlled both characters, although he was nominally controlling Sis for his sister.
But before we dive into the scenario, a word about how these adventures are structured. Each encounter is clearly separated out, there’s box text to read, maps accompany every encounter, as well as a set of paper miniatures. We didn’t use the somewhat crudely-sketched maps in favor of my adventure tiles from the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures sets. And of course I replaced the paper miniatures with plastic ones. But any parent could easily use this adventure right out of the virtual box.
Even better, each encounter is scalable by the number of adventurers, from a solo game up to four. With the exception of dice and a character, this is everything a game master could possibly need to run an adventure. EVERY adventure should be like this.
That said, I grade scenarios for kids by their ability for the players to not just hack-and-slash their way to success. Unfortunately Curse of the Shadow Walkers falls a little short. The first scenario involves rescuing a girl from an out-of-control wagon, but it’s impaired by language that’s well above most kid’s reading level and features significant typos.
The order of events is straightforward: kids rescue girl, meet her family and rescue them from wolves (combat), meet with a wise-woman who tells them how to cure a werewolf, fight spiders to retrieve wolfsbane (combat), then fight a werewolf (combat) and force wolfsbane down his throat. The only role-playing scene of substance is discussing the cure with the wise-woman – she has no name, and neither doe the two farmers/parents of the girl the adventurers rescued. The discussion doesn’t really have anything but an obvious goal – ask about the cure – and there’s no alternatives provided if they don’t do the right thing. In other words, there’s really not a whole lot of role-playing to be had in this role-playing scenario.
There’s also no alternatives to fighting the monsters. The wolves, spiders, and werewolf aren’t interested in negotiating, so there’s really not a lot of decision-making on behalf of the characters. The players’ job is to knock monsters unconscious and that’s pretty much it.
That said, this is a perfectly good scenario for older kids who are looking to beat things up. The giant spiders hatch from eggs, which makes combat interesting, and of course the wolves are a persistent threat due to their numbers.
My son made it through the scenario just fine, with Sir John taking out the wolves with a fireball while Sis took on the werewolf in hand-to-hand combat. In the end, Sis was knocked unconscious and Sir John just barely managed to defeat the werewolf, curing him of his curse.
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