Here, there be Dragons
A Kid-Friendly System of Monster Hunting and Exploration
I was recently asked to run an RPG game for a local childrens’ hospital, so I put together a new system for them. That’s what this is. My goals were to create a game that was incredibly easy to pick up, could pack a ton of adventure and exploration into a small amount of time, and deliver a sense of wonder and discovery that comes from exploring a fantasy world. I felt it would work perfectly with the upcoming codex colossus theme, as it’s all about going on a hunt for a big monster in an unexplored land. Wanted to post it here to get some impressions and find out if it’s something others would be interested in.
Hunt a Colossus
Players are on a monster hunt with simple but evocative mechanics. In the setting, players are Hunters and it’s their job to hunt a dangerous monster called a Colossus. This is the general term for a monster that even other monster fear, it can be something like a dragon or a giant or anything else of that scale. Each Colossus will be unique. The system will include a simple generator for creating a unique Colossus with particular behaviors, abilities, and weaknesses.
Players start the hunt with vague descriptions of their monster gathered from rumors at the start of the adventure. They aren’t told it’s a dragon, a giant, or a dinosaur. They’ll have to figure out from the rumors and what they find while hunting the monster what exactly it is they’re dealing with.
Tracking their prey has a “Progress” value. Players must earn this much Progress during their Hunt in order to find the monster. The hunt itself takes the form of rolling random encounters in the wilderness until you have earned enough Progress to pinpoint the monster’s location. In the process savvy players can also pick up clues to the monster’s capabilities and weaknesses. There’s also danger aplenty and treasure to be found that will help you in the final fight. The hunt concludes when players face the monster and execute their plan to take it down. Combat is simple but cinematic, designed to provide an awesome finale to the hunt.
Magic is Mysterious!
Spells are more like mysterious treasure than the classic interpretation. Each spell can only be cast once. When you learn a new spell during your adventures, the DM writes the name of the spell on a notecard and hands it to you. That’s all you know, the name. DMs hand players note cards with names like “Tornado”, “Swarm of Bears”, or, “Mystic Portal”. Only by casting the spell can the player discover what the spell does, and since each spell can only be cast once they’ll never get to use it again (unless they find it again). Spells are always very powerful and useful, using one is almost never a bad thing. By keeping the exact details of each spell mysterious, the players don’t need to learn complex rules or track spell text. They simply cast the spell and the DM narrates what happens, or gives the player choices and allows them to help shape the outcome of the spell.
Simple Start, Learn as you Play
The game embraces a lack of up-front “homework” for players. Characters start incredibly simple and gain capabilities during their adventures, based on the loot and spells they acquire. Players aren’t expected to be familiar with the monsters, magic, or setting ahead of time. You’ll learn about the monsters, setting, and new options for your character as you play. Finding that stuff out is the core of the game.