Here, there be Dragons: System Concept (For Codex: Colossus Submission)

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.

System Highlights
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.


Sounds awesome, both in concept and in the reason for doing it! So, many of those kids could use some great escapism!

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Thanks. I had a lot of medical issues as a kid myself, and fantasy gaming was such an important experience to me. The sense of exploration, adventure, and an epic fight or two. Good for what ails ya. :slight_smile:


I love this idea for a number of reasons: simplicity, target audience, mysterious magic, lack of “homework” before play begins, etc. I’d like to nudge you in a certain direction. I hope that monster hunting isn’t a central and necessary aspect of the game. How about adding other kinds of problem solving, finding lost things, leading people to safety, rescuing, negotiating, etc.

Also, the simplest dice mechanic to use and learn (if you plan on using dice) is Otherkind dice, IMHO. If that was part of this game, I’d be sold.

Shorter, simpler instructional text would be better, and if it was one sheet (front and back) with art… that would score triple-bonus pointis.

The game you’re describing is my dream game as a father and teacher, so I’m watching this thread with interest now.


Thanks for the thoughts. You could absolutely adapt the core rules of Here, there be Dragons to a wide variety of adventure hooks. However, I want to create a focused core experience and design the mechanics around that. I recognize a monster hunt sounds potentially bloody, but I’d plan the experience to me more like nintendo level grittiness - the theater of combat but without blood, guts, or bones.

Monster hunting is also a great hook to tie together a call to adventure, a series of rumors, a reason to explore, and a final boss fight that connects to the exploration and rewards planning. I think it also works well to interest people of a variety of ages so older siblings can play with younger ones and all get involved. I know that as a kid I loved fighting imaginary monsters.

If people respond well to the system, I’d love to create other focused rpgs based around different themes as well.

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Is there a link to a SRD, even a proto-design?

Not yet. I haven’t written up the detailed rules at this point, I’ve just kept it in my head. This post is partly to gauge interest to see if others would be interested in this, or if it’s just me. :slight_smile:

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Here are the combat rules I’ve been using right now. Wondering what people think of them. My goals for combat design are:

  1. Encourage players thinking about problem solving and how exactly they’re attacking the monster they’re hunting

  2. Simple, fast-paced core resolution

  3. Meaningful decisions to make during your turn

  4. Tension/excitement in the gameplay

Taking Actions
The first action you take each turn is free. Afterwards, you can “defy danger” by doing another action. Whenever you choose to defy danger, your danger level increases by 1 and you roll 1d6. If your die shows a value equal to or under your danger level, your attempt automatically fails in some extra-terrible way and your turn is over. If you succeed, you can stop or defy danger again.

If the action you’re taking requires rolling 1d6 (as most tests and attacks do) then the defy danger roll is also the roll for that action. No need to spend time rolling twice.

For example, you’re attacking a dragon with a +3 weapon. This is your third action for the turn, so your danger level is 2. If you roll a 1 or a 2 on this action, you’re going to fail in some extra-terrible way. The fact you have a +3 weapon doesn’t matter for checking the roll against the danger level. If you’d rolled a 3, you would have dealt 6 damage.

How are you attacking?
While you can just say “I attack” for your action, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. If you just say “I attack” then all you’ll do is damage. If you attack a specific part of the monster, or with a specific goal, you can get the damage and the bonus effect. For example, attacking a wing could deal damage and maybe stop the colossus from flying. Attacking to draw the monster’s focus away from a wounded friend could deal damage and save your friend’s life.

Bad: I attack. I attack again. I attack again.

Good: I jump on the beast (roll). I attack the wing to try and ground it (roll). Sweet! I did it! Should I press my luck? Heck yes, I’ll go for the head (roll). Oh no… I rolled a 2. What happens to me?"

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