The Royal Stag

Storm clouds gathered over nightmare mountain, blocking out the sun. Lightning flashed and crackled. In Andrew’s Castle Dumonin told the king that this was a sign the fourth beast was approaching. The Royal Stag that had once ruled the kingdom and would try to do so again, driving out all speaking people.

King Andy called for his heroes, and together they agreed that the time had come to face the witch in Monster Tower. If Roman Dragonshield and Els could not retrieve the Golden Collar and Hunting Horn the beasts would overrun the land. Outside in the zoo the Molten Cat ate ever more coal, and looked less and less happy with its captivity. Meanwhile the attendants of the Caledonian Boar had to play the magical harp constantly to keep it calm.

Before they departed for Witch’s Wood Els had an idea. Fairy Millicent had promised to help the heroes if she could, and so Els and Roman began their journey at Owl Wood. “Millicent, Millicent, Millicent” shouted Els at the edge of the woodland, and soon enough the fairy appeared.

“You intend to fight the witch?”, Millicent looked worried. “I can offer you little firm advice. But I know that long before the witch Monster Tower was built by the elves, and Witch’s Wood belonged to them. Elf magic is very strong, and lasts a long time. It may well be that even in the tower itself you might find safe places.”

Part 1 – Monster Tower

Armed with that piece of advice Els and Roman Dragonshield set off for Witch’s Wood. As they reached the edge of the wood they decided to try sneaking in. They did their best to be quiet, but a murder of crows appeared above their heads, squawking and flapping and following them as they went.

[Els rolls Climbing and Exploring, fails]

“Chaaaarge!” from out of the woodland shadows a band of goblins rushed upon our heroes, waving rusty swords and snapping with their sharp teeth. Roman Dragonshield fought back with his mighty strength, picking up a goblin in each hand. Meanwhile Els and Snowflake the Husky chased away another band that was sneaking behind them with bows and arrows. The Goblins faded back into the trees. But the murder of crows remained overhead, squakwing and cawing.

[Both roll fighting monsters, both pass]

Roman and Els pushed on into the woods, but the crows followed them. When it got dark they stopped to make camp. As they prepared to sleep they became aware that the forest around them seemed even thicker and darker than it had when they stopped. As Roman stood to investigate a tree root seemed to wrap around his leg, it jerked, and he fell.

[Roman rolls strength, fails]

Suddenly they could see red eyes gleaming in the trunks of the trees as knotted wooden branches reached for them. The trees of the forest packed close around them and closed in, an impenetrable wall of wood.

Roman was being dragged into the dark woods by his feet. Els leapt forward and together with Snowflake managed to tear him free from the tree. But the other trees were closing in. There was no way to run. Somewhere behind the trees could be heard the sounds of goblins, and overhead the squawking of crows.

[Els rolls fighting monsters, succeeds. ]

Dragon Piet can help, yelled Roman Dragonshield and encouraged Dragon Piet to breathe fire. The Dragon’s breath scorched a path through the trees and the heroes ran through. “Follow me!”, shouted Els and she ran into the woods followed by the others, and the squawking crows.

[Roman rolls Dragon Riding, succeeds. Els rolls Climbing and Exploring, succeeds.]

Els found and followed a narrow path. Suddenly it opened out into a beautiful forest glade. The grass was green, and suddenly the crows were gone. All around them was peaceful quiet. And in the middle of the glade was a white marble fountain, overflowing with crystal clear water. Elven writing was carved onto the sides of the fountain. Feeling that they had finally found a safe place to rest Els and Roman went to sleep.

In the morning they set off again, and could soon see Monster Tower in front of them. They had expected a bleak, ruined tower. But Monster Tower wasn’t like that. Monster Tower was a huge fortress protected by a moat, and a drawbridge, and a portcullis. Black banners flew from its many towers and orc and ogre guards paced about the walls. It was vast, dark, terrifying, and reeked of evil.

Els and Roman thought for a moment and came up with a plan. Later on they would concede that it wasn’t the best plan. They climbed onto Dragon Piet and flew toward the top of the castle. The orcs saw them and sounded the alarm, then they fired arrows at Dragon Piet, but he dodged them easily.

[Roman rolls Dragon Riding, succeeds]

Roman Dragonshield and Els leapt onto the top of Monster Tower. Below them they could hear the sound of guards rushing toward them. But first they had to clear the monsters away from the battlements. Fighting ferociously they drove them back down the stairwell. But no sooner had they done that than there came a shouting from below and a group of ferocious orcs in iron armour charged up toward them. The fight on the stairs was furious, eventually Roman tore the door from its hinges and charged down into the stairwell using it as a battering ram. But he slipped and fell, and the orcs wrapped him up in chains. Els leapt forward to rescue him, but she too was captured!

[I rarely do this, but the plan to just fight their way into what I’d explained was a massive fortress full of monsters really deserved to fail. Had it not been the last session in the campaign I might have let it ride, but I had something a bit more cinematic in mind. So I let the fight on the roof go on, with wave after wave of monsters until both heroes failed their rolls. Which allowed us to move to a new scene.]

Orcs, goblins and trolls hauled Els and Roman deeper and deeper into the tower. Then they were dragged into a vast room, at the far end loomed a bone throne on a raised dias. Behind it hung shields, many of them belonging to other heroes who had gone missing in the Witch’s Wood. The orcs and goblins pushed them forward toward a tall figure. A knight carrying a vast double headed axe,  clad in black armour.

“Did you really think you could do this? Did you really think you could simply walk up to this castle and fight your way in? You are without doubt the worst heroes I have ever met. And when my mistress returns from the Nightmare mountain I’m sure your fate will be truly painful.”

“You won’t win! We’ll beat you!”

“Yes. I can see how that’s working for you. The getting captured and thrown in the dungeon plan must have taken a long time to think of.”

“My Husky is still out there. She’ll save us.”

“Hmm. You orcs. Take some raw meat and a net. Come back with a dead dog.”

“She’ll never fall for that!” Els did not sound too convinced, and it began to dawn on the two heroes that things had gone very wrong indeed.

“Take them to the dungeon”

Dragging them by their chains a pair of trolls hauled Els and Roman Dragonshield out of the throne room. They bounced and scraped down dark corridors. But there were fewer guards now. Roman Dragonshield braced his feet.

“Raaaaarghhh!” exerting every ounce of his super strength Roman Dragonshield tore the chains from his jailers hands, and then broke the shackles around his body. Metal links dropped to the floor. The trolls looked on in horror.

[Roman rolls super strength, passes]

Els used her chains to strike out at her jailers. As she did so a barking white shape leapt out of the shadows and sank its teeth into a troll. “Snowflake!”

[Els rolls fighting monsters, passes, and is rewarded with the return of her companion]

Not all the guards were overcome with shock. From behind them came the sound of an alarm bell.

“We’ll fight them all” yelled Roman Dragonshield

[Hard stare]

“I’ll find a place to run to” said Els, leading them into the corridors. Roman smashed aside some goblins as they dashed along. As they ran Els began looking for little used passages, finally finding some that looked as if they were never used. At the end of one was a door, marked with a triangle containing elven writing. Checking they weren’t being followed Els and Roman pushed open the door and stepped through.

[Roman rolls fighting monsters, Els rolls climbing and exploring, both succeed.]

The two of them glanced around. The room was made of white stone. On the walls hung silver armour, swords and shields. It looked like this was a room monsters never came into, or perhaps could not come into. Roman eyed up a sword

“Can I take one?”

He tried. Nothing happened. Encouraged, Roman took a helmet, armour, sword and shield. Els went for the same, and added a spear for good measure. Decked out in their new elven wargear the two got the feeling that their luck was beginning to turn.

“The witch has gone to Nightmare mountain. We need to find the treasure and go after her” said Els. Then she crept up to the door on the far side of the room and looked out. At the end of the corridor a huge troll was guarding a massive locked door. On his belt was a set of keys.

Els and Roman charged. Els drove her spear into the trolls body, and Roman leapt forward to cut off its head. The body slumped to the floor.

[Both roll fighting monsters and succeed. The new equipment makes no difference to the rules, but the change in attitude on the part of the players was extraordinary, and kept going for the rest of the session.]

Using the keys on the troll’s belt the two got the door open. Inside was what was obviously the witch’s treasure chamber. Gold and silver was piled high in chests and jars. Displayed on a red velvet pillow was a magnificent golden collar. Next to it was a case, just the right shape to hold a hunting horn. But it was empty. As Els took the collar there came a sound of alarm from the corridor.

“Lets get out of here!”

Els and Roman ran back through the castle, always trying to head up. Higher and higher they climbed, but the sounds of alarm got closer, and a pack of chasing monsters formed behind them. At last they found a window, and discovered they were high high up in the tower.

“Jump” yelled Els

[At this point there was a brief pause, while I explained that they were very high up. That it was a long way down. That this could go very wrong.]

They jumped, and as they plummeted toward the ground Dragon Piet swept down from the sky, plucked them out of the air and flew off, leaving the enraged monsters of Monster Tower far behind.

Part 2 – Nightmare Mountain

Dragon Piet flew toward Nightmare mountain, and into the teeth of a raging storm. Thunder boomed above them and rain pelted their faces. The Dragon set his jaw and strained his muscles, beating his wings against the wind.


Lightning split the sky around them, then struck Dragon Piet and they crashed to the ground. Dragon Piet struggled to his feet, but it was too dangerous to fly. They struggled on foot for the last miles to the foot of the dark mountain.

[Roman rolls Dragon Riding, fails]

Nightmare mountain was steep and sheer. The great cave that was visible in the mountain from miles away began half way up, and so Roman and Els had to climb. The rain and the wind made it dangerous, but they struggled up the side of the mountain.

[Els rolls climbing and exploring, passes, Roman rolls running and jumping, passes]

As they peaked over the top of their climb they saw a camp fire, and gathered around it a dozen or so orcs. Creeping closer they heard them discussing what would happen after the witch finished whatever she was doing in the cave.

“We’ll be able to do what we want. We can burn the villages, steal the food…” their thoughts of future victory were cut short when Els and Roman burst out from the shadows swinging their swords. Four orcs fell, and the rest fled, their victory would have to wait a little longer.

[Both roll fighting monsters, both pass]

After establishing that orc cookery was neither interesting or edible, but definitely disgusting and creative Els and Roman investigated the back of the cave. Further and further back it went, and in the dark they found footprints leading into the darkness. They lit torches and followed them.

They hadn’t gone far when they encountered a blazing ring of fire suspended in the air. Looking around carefully Els found four strange marks chiseled into the wall around it. Following a discussion about what to do they decided to get past as quickly as possible. Els and Roman dashed by, the flames roared and scorched, but they came through unharmed.

[Roman rolls running and jumping, Els rolls climbing and exploring, both pass.]

On and on into the dark they went. As they entered a large cave the air became cold and their breath misted in front of their faces. Roman glanced up, and saw that the ceiling above them was covered in huge icicles, each the size of a man. As he watched, one of them came loose and plummeted toward him, Roman flung himself to the side as ice splintered all around.

[Roman rolls running and jumping, passes]

Being very careful now Els and Roman tiptoed through the cave. Eventually they reached the other side, and followed the footprints into another tunnel. In the distance they could hear a funny chanting sound.

They crept closer. In the distance they could see a flickering torch, and so they put their own out. Three figures in long cloaks were chanting, it sounded like some kind of spell. Roman slipped on a stone in the dark, and the figures turned to look.

[Both roll running and jumping, Roman fails, Els passes.]

One of the figures sketched strange signs in the air, and a ball of fire whooshed toward Roman, who had to shelter behind his shield. Els leapt out of the darkness to strike one of the wizards with her spear. He gurgled in horror as it impaled him.

[Both roll fighting monsters, pass]

As the two heroes pressed their attack the remaining evil wizards tried to summon magic to their aid. Sparks crackled around their fingertips and shadows coiled around their heads, but before they could unleash their powers they were cut down. As they fell their bodies slowly turned to smoke and drifted off into the caves.

[Both roll fighting monsters, pass]

Beyond the wizards Els and Roman found themselves in a huge cave. At the far end of it a fire was burning. In front of the fire stood a tall woman with pale skin and pointy ears in a bright red dress. On her head was a simple silver crown, and in her right hand a golden hunting horn. In her left hand she carried a wand.

Next to her, kneeling, with its head bowed was an enormous stag.

Face to face with the witch Roman rushed forward to attack swinging his sword. The witch raised her wand and snakes rose out of the stony ground and wrapped themselves around his legs. Els also rushed in to attack, and the witch found herself stepping back to avoid the attack.

[Both roll fighting monsters, Roman fails, Els passes]

Now they could see that the Witch had bound the stag with silver chains. Els broke away from her attack on the witch to try and free the stag. Roman pushed forward with his spear. And so as Els broke the chains around the stags hooves Roman Dragonshield smashed his spear through the witch’s eye. She screamed, and shouted and dropped to the floor, dead.

[Els rolls running and jumping, passes. Roman rolls fighting monsters, passes]

At this the stag leapt to its feet and bellowed. The whole mountain shook and rocks came crashing down all around. The whole front of Nightmare mountain was collapsing. Roman and Els crouched under their shields as rocks fell all around. Finally, the dust settled and they could see laid out before them the whole Kingdom of Magical Scotland. The Stag bellowed again and pawed the ground with its hooves, looking more wild and more terrible by the moment.

Els seized the horn and blew into it as hard as she could. The sound echoed around the ruined mountain, and the stag leapt forward. Els blew again, and the stag, panicked, began to spring up the mountain. It reached the top of the mountain and leapt into the air, climbing and climbing until it eventually came to rest in the heavens, a new stag shaped constellation shining down on the kingdom.

And that, was the end of the adventure of the Four Beasts of Magical Scotland Long Ago. Els and Roman returned home, and were welcomed as heroes. The cat, the boar and kelpie calmed down and remained happily in King Andy’s Zoo.



Notes : The last session was something of a monster, taking up, I’d guess about three hours. But the kids remained engaged the whole way through. I took a big risk by capturing them in Monster Tower, they could have got demoralised,  but in the end it made for a really nice session.

The exploration of the mountain was originally going to involve four elementally themed magic traps. Fire and Ice happened, as, according to my notes did water but I can’t remember the details of that one. Indeed, the only thing I can tell from my notes is that the water trap was solved so efficiently it justified skipping the earth trap that would have come last.

As I mentioned in the main text, Roman and Els became a lot more gung ho once they’d acquired new armour and weapons. In many ways the closing session became a bit more serious in tone than the ones that had preceded it.

If we ever want to play more games in Magical Scotland Long Ago there’s plenty of potential left in the setting. The Witch might be dead, but her Lieutenant in Monster Tower is still there, as is the army of evil creatures guarding it. But I suspect we’re done with this setting now. Ruben’s doing pirates at school this term – time to dream up a game on the great blue ocean…

The Kelpie

King Andy called Els and Roman Dragonshield to the throne room. He was very excited. “Your friend Dumonin has sent a letter” he said. “Let’s read it!”

“Dear friends”, wrote Dumonin, “As I suspected, the Molten Cat and Caledonian Boar are the first two of four beasts that could destroy the kingdom. The third beast is a kelpie, and the fourth a stag.

The beasts were once tamed by the elves, but I don’t know how they did it. They say that there is an elf who still lives on the Misty Isle Tower. You should travel there and ask them.”

And so Roman Dragonshield and Els set off once again. They flew on Dragon Piet till they reached the coast, and then flew on over the sea toward the Misty Isle. The isle was easy to find, and as they approached they could see a wide sandy beach, a green forest and standing in the middle of the island a high white tower. They landed at the bottom of it.

The tower’s door was made of silver and pearl, and covered in what they now knew to be elvish writing. When they knocked on the door there was no answer, but above it were three triangles, each with elvish words inside, and they began to glow. One glowed green, one red and one blue. Remembering the rocks that fell on them last time they encountered something like this they resolved to be careful.

Looking around they spotted three triangular holes in the paving opposite the door.  One lined up with each of the triangles.

After a bit of a discussion Roman and Els decided to light a torch and place it in the red hole. When they did so it glowed with a bright red light. Encouraged they hunted around for something green and put some flowers in the green hole. That too began to glow with a strong light. Then they were stumped because they couldn’t find anything blue. Roman was about to fly all the way back to the mainland when Els realised they could use ‘seawater!’ so they did. With all three holes filled with something of the right colour the lights flared and the doors opened.

Inside was a beautiful white room with a staircase leading up. Up went Roman and Els.

After climbing a long way the staircase entered a room. There was nothing here, but the walls glowed with light from torches. As Roman and Els looked around they realised there were two shadows in the room. Shadows that looked like knights! They raised their shadowy swords and attacked.

Els swung at a shadow with her telescope, but missed. The shadow knight brought it’s sword through her arm, and she felt a chill through her body. Roman Dragonshield kept out of the way of his shadow, but couldn’t work out how to hurt it.

[Both roll running and jumping to avoid the shadows, Els fails, Roman doesn’t]

Thinking fast Els grabbed a torch from the wall and thrust it toward one of the knights. It recoiled from the fire, but Els followed it, and it dissolved into smoke when she pushed the torch through it. Seeing this Roman grabbed a torch too and now armed effectively made short work of his shadow foe.

[Both roll fighting monsters, and pass]

After catching their breath Els and Roman carried on up the tower. In the next room they found a beautiful woman with pale skin, pointy ears and a green dress sitting next to a crystal ball. “Welcome Roman Dragonshield. Welcome Els” she said. “My name is Silmarine. And since you have opened the doors and defeated the shadows I know you must be both clever and brave.”

Roman and Els were flattered, but cut to the chase. What, they wanted to know, could she tell them about the four beasts?

“Long ago.” replied Silmarine, “all of magical Scotland was home to the elves. Then the Molten Cat, the Caledonian Boar, the Kelpie and the Royal Stag came, and rampaged through the kingdom. They would have destroyed the whole land, but we made four magic treasures. A collar for the cat, a harp to calm the boar, a bridle for the horse, and a horn for the stag.

When we left for other lands we left the treasures behind. Two we left in a tower in the woods. One buried in the cliffs, and one we gave to the mermaids beneath the sea. I can tell you that the witch who lives in Monster Tower now has the horn and the collar, you have the harp, and the mermaids have the bridle.”

“Now, let me show you something.”

Silmarine gestured and her crystal ball sprang to life. In it Roman and Els could see an image of the sea. And into the picture strode a huge horse, two hundred meters high. Waves crashed around its legs as it strode toward a distant, familiar shore, and a lonely tower.

“When the horse reaches the land it will drown the whole coast. You must visit the mermaids and convince them to give you the bridle.”

Roman and Els had lots of questions, about elves, where they’d gone and what Silmarine was doing, but quickly decided that they should go and see the mermaids. There was just one problem

“How do we see the mermaids?”

“Go to the shore and sing”

Kelpie 1 for blog

And so Roman Dragonshield and Els stood on the beach of the misty isle and sang Humpty Dumpty. Then they sang it again, loudly.

A bit later a lady’s head appeared in the ocean, closely followed by the rest of her. They could see a big fishy tail where her legs belonged.

“Who are you, singing for mermaids on the Misty Isle?” she asked

Roman and Els explained what they wanted. Daphne was not impressed.

“Well, I can take you to see our Queen. But there’s a good chance she won’t let you go again. She’s very cross about all the things that have been dropped and thrown away into our sea.”

Roman and Els agreed to take the chance. Daphne called them into the water and as they waded in they felt their legs transforming into fishy tails. To their amazement, they could swim underwater without any problems.

Daphne led them far beneath the waves, deeper and deeper into the ocean, until eventually they could see a coral palace. There were many mermaids and mermen around. They were led past guards and into a throne room, where Queen Rossail of the Mermaids looked at them from her throne.

Roman and Els explained why they had come. About the Kelpies and the elves and the bridle. When they had finished Queen Rossail did not look happy.

“For hundreds of years we looked after that bridle.” she said “and all we got was rubbish thrown into the water and washed down the rivers. The people on the land know that mermaids live beneath the waves, but they never think of us.

Eventually, some of my people became so fed up with this that they took the bridle and threw it into the Devourer’s Cave. It’s still there. If you can retrieve it I will let you go, on condition that you tell the people on the land to stop throwing their rubbish into the ocean.”

This was not what Roman and Els had been expecting from the mermaids. But they had the information they needed. There was just one question left to ask

“What’s a devourer?”

And so our heroes set off in search of a giant beast with tentacles that could eat whole ships, and which lived in a deep dark cave.

It wasn’t hard to find. The mermaids knew the general location of the cave, and the closer they got the fewer living things could be seen on the sea floor. Eventually there was just bare rock and deep hole. Els and Roman crept up to the edge. Deep in the darkness Els thought she could see something glistening. The bridle?

[Els rolls finding things, and gets a 10!]

Carefully Els and Roman Dragonshield swam down into the cave. Roman pushed some seaweed away from his face. Only it wasn’t seaweed. The water was thick with tentacles!

[Both roll running and jumping (and swimming I guess) to sneak into the cave, both fail]

The tentacles wrapped tight around the heroes and began to haul them down into the depths. Below them they could see a giant maw opening, filled with row after row of shark teeth. Roman Dragonshield slashed around with his sword and cut himself free. Els wriggled and struggled but was still trapped.

[Roman rolls fighting monsters, succeeds. Els rolls Running and Jumping, fails]

Roman dived down to Els, grabbed hold of the tentacles and pulled them away from her. Freed Els dived into the inky water in search of the bridle, and found it!

[Roman rolls Super Strength, succeeds. Els rolls finding things, succeeds!]

With the bridle secured Els and Roman swam for the surface as fast as they could. The tentacles pulled and tugged at them, but their merbodies were fast and swam out of the cave at speed.

Queen Rossail was surprised to see Roman and Els return, but kept her promise and so it was that Roman and Els found themselves on the beach below Wreckers Cliffs, a golden bridle clutched in Els’ hand. Over the water a vast stormcloud full of thunder and lightning was pouring rain onto the ocean, and beneath it a vast horse strode toward the land. Straight toward the lonely tower.

“Roman! You have to put the bridle on it. You can ride Dragon Piet!” yelled Els. “I’ll get Dumonin!”

Roman took the bridle, leapt onto Dragon Piet and flew toward the kelpie. Els ran as fast as she could toward the Lonely Tower.

Over the ocean Dragon Piet battled the winds to get Roman close enough to the giant horse. The dragon powered through the wind, Roman could see the massive mane of the horse ahead of him, and its wild eyes. He took aim, and launched the bridle toward it’s mouth with all his strength – and missed!

[Roman rolls dragon riding – succeeds, and super strength – fails]

At the lonely tower waves were crashing over the cliffs. Els struggled along the cliff top path to the door.

[Rolls climbing and exploring, succeeds]

Roman pushed Dragon Piet into a dive, the wind and water whipping past his ears. He caught the bridle at the last moment, flew up and thrust it into its mouth. The horse reared up, and then, still striding toward the shore began to shrink. Step by step the horse shrank and the waves receded until it stood foaming and champing on the beach, no bigger than a normal horse.

Kelpie 2 for blog

Notes : Guess where we went? Yes The Kelpies , one of the most stunning pieces of modern civic art I’ve ever seen. I mean, what’s not to love about giant Clydesdale Horse heads towering over the landscape? So they had to go into the game.

This game covered a lot of ground. Meeting the elf on Misty Isle, getting the potted mythical history of the land, visiting the mermaids and tangling with two gargantuan monsters. I was really pleased at how well the kids picked up on the overarching plot. I know they did, because they explained the whole thing to their mum over dinner.

The puzzle to open Silmarine’s front door was another example of ‘make up a problem, and wait for a solution you like’. And once again it worked.

Finally I loved the ending to the game, with both kids really concerned about the fate of Dumonin in his tower – they’d even debated evacuating him before visiting the mermaids, but eventually decided the urgency was about getting the bridle. And then Els urging Roman Dragonshield to take on the Kelpie by himself – and him missing the first time. High drama.

Next part five: The Royal Stag!

Fairy Rose and the Spider Witch

This write-up originally appeared back in October 2013 on the actual play forum of UK Roleplayers. It’s an account of the very first roleplaying game I ever played with my daughter, who was then aged about four and a half. The rules have changed a bit since then – but not a lot. The game went really well, and was the first of a linked series tales about Fairy Rose – the rest of which are sadly lost to history…

Character gen worked as follows. Lisa chose from from the classes of adventurer she’s familiar with – Princess, Pirate and Fairy, and selected a Fairy. After a bit of pondering she was named Fairy Rose.

Fairy Rose was assigned a D6 for Bravery, a D8 for Strength and a D12 for Magic

“Help, Help!” Bushybrow the squirrel came running through the forest. “Princess Melody has been kidnapped by the Spider Witch and taken to her castle! Can you help Fairy Rose?”.

Fairy Rose was sure she could. She walked to the castle. It was very frightening, but she was very brave (roll brave vs 3) and made her way to castle’s door, which was locked tight. After realising she didn’t have a key Fairy Rose used her magic wand to unlock the door, the end of the wand turning into a key that fitted the lock perfectly. The door swang open.

Inside was a dark room. Fairy Rose had a choice, she could bravely go into the dark, use magic to make a light, or go and gather firewood to make a torch. She bravely went into the dark (roll vs 4). Inside was a big room, as her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light provided by strange glowing fungus she saw a giant spider dropping out of the roof to catch her in its web.

Fairy Rose waved her magic wand and the spider was sent back into the ceiling, where it waved it’s legs helplessly. (roll magic vs 4). Her opponent dispatched Fary Rose saw stairs going up and down, she went up.

On top of the castle the roof had fallen in, making it easy to see. There was also a chest. It was too heavy to pick up (strength vs 3), but with an extra special effort (bravery vs 4) she managed. It rattled when she lifed it. Fairy Rose put the chest down and opened it. Inside was a silver ring, with a blue jewel. Fairy Rose put it on. Immediately it glowed with a soft blue light, and Fairy Rose felt much braver. (magic ring, +1 bravery, provides light)

Now she decided to go all the way down the steps. She went deep, deep down underground. But with the magic ring she could she what she was doing. At the bottom of the steps was a rope bridge, stretching across a deep dark cavern. The bridge didn’t look safe, so Fairy Rose just flew across+. On the other side of the bridge was a tunnel, she went further into it.

Suddenly, she heard someone calling out. “Help, help. Can someone save me? I’ve been trapped here by the Witch!” It was Princess Melody! Fairy Rose rushed over to find her trapped in a big spider web. Bravely (roll brave vs 4) she climbed into the web to free her.

On the way back Priness Melody was too scared to cross the rope bridge. Fairy Rose tried to carry her, but Princess Melody was too heavy (roll strength vs 3). So instead she used her magic to give Princess Melody wings (roll magic vs 3). The two were at the foot of the stairs when they heard the sound of the witch coming home. “Princess Melody – It’s time to eat you up now’ she cackled, and her footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs.

Princess Melody and Fairy Rose tried to fly past the witch, but she made a magic spell and cobwebs appeared everywhere. Their fairy wings wouldn’t work (failed roll, magic vs 4). The witch cackled “Two of you then? Well, I like eating fairies too!”. Fairy Rose tried to magic her way out of the webs* but it didn’t work (failed magic roll vs 4), and she couldn’t struggle free either (failed strength roll vs 3). As the spiders got closer and closer the ring on her hand suddenly glowed with bright light, sending the spiders scuttling away (bravery roll, vs 2). Now Fairy Rose used her magic to make the webs disappear (magic roll vs 3)

The witch cast a spell to turn Fairy Rose into a slug. Fairy Rose tried to grab the witches wand to stop her (failed strength vs 3), but the witch was too strong. Fairy Rose could feel her legs getting slimy. Then she used her own magic to turn the Witch into a Spider (roll magic vs 4). The witch turned into a big fat spider, ran away and hid.

Princess Melody and Fairy Rose ran out of the castle. Princess Melody was very greatful to Fairy Rose for saving her.

+ Yup, I’d forgotten fairies have wings. Four year old girls don’t forget stuff like that though.
* I didn’t do this. Lisa decided she’d been trapped in the web.

Notes : I’ve been thinking about trying this with Lisa for a while. We tell lots of stories to each other, which I try to draw, but this was a big step up in terms of decision making. My basic GM technique was to ask lots of questions to get narrative answers, and when Lisa seemed stuck to give her an option for each stat. Strength had started out as Fighting, but made more sense as ‘any physical task’.

Difficulty levels for dice rolls were kept really low (especially once she was getting +1 on brave tests) but to my surprise she was completely OK with failed rolls. When a roll failed I’d immediately offer an alternative action based on a different stat, but try to leave the narration with her e.g ‘she’s too heavy – do you want to try magic?’

She hasn’t really worked out yet that the bigger dice are better. Either that, or she’s determined to test Fairy Rose’s courage at every opportunity.

And for those who like such things, this story conforms nicely with both the Hero’s Journey and Booker’s ‘Defeating the monster’ story structures…

Robotop Rescue

“Can we make up a story Dad?” I love it when that happens. Ruben wants to make up a story and he knows exactly what he wants his character to be.

“A T-Rex. A robot T-Rex. With four arms. For his two swords and two shields. And he’s got a tail he can grab things with. And he lives in a castle, next to a volcano.”

Wow. I asked a few questions and learned a bit about the world where this dinosaur lived. It was a world full of Robot Dinosaurs. There were no people, but it was a bit like the past, with castles and knights.

Was there ever a prehistoric age of the Transformers, when there were only dinobots? I was thinking of something a bit like that.

As we were making up Ruben’s character – named Tyranosneak – I googled pictures of a T-Rex, because they’re hard to draw. And I looked up a page of scary dinosaurs which would turn out to be very helpful.

So, in ten minutes we had a character and a world. The character is

Tyranosneak – king of the robot dinosaurs

  • Chomping (D12)
  • Tail Grab (D10)
  • Sneaking and Climbing (D8)
  • Running and Jumping (D6)

We agreed that ‘Chomping’ would cover all Tyranosneak’s fighting moves. Now all I needed was a story seed. I thought for a minute and wrote down:

‘The triceratops children have run away. Twist – they’ve been kidnapped by the evil Spinosaur ‘Spikor’ and taken to his cave lair’.

Tyranosneak for blog

Robot T-Rex’s with four arms are hard to draw

King Tyranosneak was relaxing in bed with a large glass of oil-beer. Suddenly ‘Bloop! Bloop! Bloop!’, it was the dino-alarm! King Tyranosneak leapt up, and grabbed his swords and shields. Then he headed outside to see what was going on.

He hadn’t got far when a clearly upset Triceratops ran up to him. “King Tyranosneak” she cried “My baby robotops have run away. They’ve gone into the big forest and I can’t find them. Can you help me?”

Tyranosneak agreed that he could help and headed for the forest.

A quick discussion with Ruben revealed that trees in the forest are really huge and made of metal. We decided they have solar panels for leaves and that dinosaurs can use them to get energy. 

Tyranosneak began to search the forest for baby Robotops. Being a giant robot T-Rex he did this by grabbing trees with his tail and lifting them up to look for clues.

[Rolls tail grab, succeeds]

This tactic soon paid dividends. Tyranosneak spotted a trail of footprints leading further into the forest. He followed these for a while. Suddenly the footprints stopped and a new trail began, a single line heading in two directions. King Tyranosneak decided the Robotops must be shuffling their feet in a funny manner and followed the trail further, it headed into a swamp.

[Rolls sneaking and climbing, fails]

So intent on following the trail was Tyranosneak that he waded too deep into the swamp. Suddenly he realised he was sinking. To make things worse, he could hear something moving in the swamp. Tyranosneak used his tail to grab a nearby tree and began to haul himself out of the swamp. As he was pulling himself free a vast metal snake with laser eyes slithered into view. It was Titanoboa!

[Rolls tail grab, succeeds]

Tyranosneak jumped in the air and tried to squash Titanoboa beneath his mighty metal feet. But he missed, and Titanoboa’s coils wrapped around him and started to squeeze. King Tyranosneak could hear metal bending and popping as the snake’s coils got tighter and tighter.

“Ha King Tyranosneak” hissed the snake “You are no match for me here in the swamp. Now you will never find the Baby Robotops!”

[Rolls Run and Jump, fails]

In a fury King Tyranosneak sank his massive metal teeth into the side of the snake and bit. Sparks flew and motors whined. Tyranosneak shook the metal snake free as it writhed in his jaws. Then he tried to take hold of it with his tail for a finishing blow, but the snake used its laser eyes to cut down a tree, which fell on top of King Tyranosneak, pinning him down.

[Rolls crush, succeeds. Rolls Tail Grab, fails]

“And now, King Tyranosneak, I have won” hissed the snake, as it prepared to laser KIng Tyranosneak to pieces. “Not yet!” yelled Tyranosneak, and hurled one of his swords straight through the snake’s eye. Then he used his mighty tail to lift the tree and bludgeoned the snake to pieces.

[Rolls chomp, succeeds, rolls tail grab, succeeds]

Realising a little late that Titanoboa might have been able to tell him what had happed to the baby robotops King Tyranosneak climbed a tree to see where the trail went next. It headed into the distance and then into the ocean.

[Rolls sneaking and climbing, succeeds]

Another quick discussion about the world. We agreed that the ocean is made of molten metal, but that it’s no more dangerous to the robot dinosaurs than normal water is to us.

King Tyranosneak reached the ocean and plunged in, stomping his way across the bottom. Checking his radar he discovered something big and mighty was nearby. Tyranosneak decided to hide and see what it was.

[Rolls sneaking and climbing, succeeds]

Ruben announced that Tyranosneak had sensors, and we agreed that they could spot things and tell him how mighty they were.

Swimming majestically through the molten ocean came Robo-Megalodon, a vast shark with deadly under-fin missiles. Tyranosneak decided to try dialogue

“Are you a goody or a baddy?” he demanded

“King Tyranosneak!” the mega-shark did not seem happy “I am the ruler of the ocean. And I am tired of all these trespassers. What brings you here?”

“I am the king of my castle, and I am looking for baby robotops.”

“Well, you shouldn’t be so careless as to lose them. Why should I help you, foolish Tyranosaur?”

Eventually the two came to an agreement. Robo-Megalodon would tell Tyranosneak what he knew, and Tyranosneak would agree never to return to the ocean. Megalodon explained that the baby robotops had been carried west to an island by Titanoboa. It seemed things would end amicably…

“And if I see you in the ocean again I shall devour you!”

“No. I will chomp you to pieces.”

“It would be a mighty battle, but your confidence far exceeds your skills”

“I have two swords and two shields!”

Yelled King Tyranosneak, but Robo-Megalodon was already swimming into the deep ocean.

King Tyranosneak followed the shark’s directions and did indeed find an island. His scanners revealed three small and not very mighty things, and one very big, very mighty creature.Cautiously he climbed out of the water.

On the island someone had built a fortress. It was covered with radars and scanners and laser turrets. Somewhere inside were the baby robotops.

King Tyranosneak activated stealth mode and crept forward. He scaled the walls as stealthily as a giant robot tyranosaurus could and looked down. Inside were the three baby robotops, imprisoned in a cage of lasers. And – Doctor Robo-Spinosaurus, King Tyranosneak’s greatest enemy!

Reaching out with his tail King Tyranosneak tried to grab the keys for the laser cage. But it slipped and dropped on the floor with a clang. Doctor Robo-Spinosaurus span around

[Rolls tail grab, fails]

“It’s King Tyranosneak! Robo machines, attack!”

Missiles and lasers shot through the air. King Tyranosneak leapt forward, missiles exploded on his shield and he chomped one out of the air with his massive jaws. Undeterred by the defences King Tyranosneak reached Doctor Robo Spinosaurus and pinned him to the wall.

[Rolls chomp, succeeds]

“Argh! You might have defeated me King Tyranosneak, but you can’t save the robotops!” gurgled the evil Doctor. Tyranosneak looked and saw the lasers of their cage were closing in on the baby triceratops. With a cry of rage he released his foe and sprang toward the cage controls, shutting it down just in time.

The robotops were free, but King Tyranosneak’s triumph was spoiled by the sound of Doctor Robo-Spinosaurus’  escape pod whooshing off into the sky. He would have to be defeated another day.

And that was that. King Tryranosneak, rampaged about the secret base till nothing was left, then built a boat from the remains. Using the boat meant he could keep his promise to Robo-Megalodon while returning the baby robotops to their grateful mother.

Robotops rescue

In fact, drawing anything in this story was pretty hard

The end!

Notes – Phew, the whole story, from Ruben’s request to the final resolution took about an hour. It had a very different feel to the other stories we’ve made up, but if that had been a kids TV show when I was five I’d have watched it to death.  I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of King Tyranosneak and his amazing world of dinosaurs. I’ll have to work on my dino-drawing skills.

I think the most interesting part of this game was the discussion with Robo Megalodon. I’d been assuming we’d just have three epic fights (Titanoboa, Megalodon, and Spinosaur) to pad out the adventure, but the news that Robo-Megalodon had missiles seemed to make Ruben think twice about the fight. It was also very important to him to establish whether or not Robo-Megalodon was a goody or a baddy, but it wasn’t really that simple.

And we never found out why Doctor Robo-Spinosaur (I wish I’d remembered to call him Spikor like I did in the story seed, it’s a lot easier to type) was kidnapping triceratops in the first place. Something for a future episode I guess. 








The Lonely Tower

Crash! Els and Roman Dragonshield are awoken by the sound of something breaking, something big. Bang! The castle walls shake as something bashes into them. They rush outside to see what’s happening. Squeal! The Caledonian Boar has broken its chains and is rampaging around the castle. Villagers are panicking and running away.

Roman Dragonshield leaps into action, literally. The Boar charges Roman, but he positions himself in front of a sturdy piece of castle wall, springs into the air and watches as the boar passes beneath him and crashes into the castle, knocking itself out.

[Roman tests Running and Jumping, and passes]

“Oh dear!” says King Andy “It seems we don’t have any chains strong enough to hold the boar. Els and Roman, I need you both to go to the village of Fairview. There’s a smith who lives there called Dumonin. I’ve heard that if anyone can make chains that will hold the boar it’s him. We’ll do our best to keep it under control until you get back.”

And so Roman and Els set off on their next adventure, aiming for the village of Fairview. First through they had to pass through Rover’s Wood.

Remembering what happened last time Els took care to keep an eye out for traps. And she didn’t have to look hard to find one. Hidden in the bushes were a dozen or so bandits, all carrying wooden clubs. Disappointed to see that the bandits had gone back to their rotten ways the two heroes sneak up on them, then spring out. Roman lifts a bandit clean off the ground in each hand, and Els sets her Husky Snowflake on them.

[Els tests finding things, and passes. Then Roman tests strength and Els tests fighting monsters, both pass.]

“Oh no, it’s them again!” shout the bandits as they recognise our heroes. Bandit Bill, now badly disguised with a hat and moustache tries to explain that they don’t know how to do anything apart from be bandits. Our heroes can’t really work out what to do with the captured bandits, so make do with giving them a stern warning and carrying on.

They arrive in Fairview to be greeted by Gary, the town guard. “Are you Roman Dragonshield and Els?” he asks “I’m such a big fan. I know all about your adventures with the Lion and the Boar. I’m your biggest fan!”

Gary is delighted to be able to help two real heroes. However all he can tell them is that Dumonin has left, heading for the Lonely Tower.

Roman and Els decide to head for the lonely tower. They briefly discuss going via Mermaid Beach, but Gary tells them that people who see mermaids are taken away and never seen again. Our heroes decide this is a problem they’re not interested in investigating and set off cross country for Wrecking Cliffs.

When they arrive at the cliffs they see that the lonely tower can only be reached by travelling along a very narrow path and climbing across the cliffs. They set off together, keeping a wary eye on the ocean below. They’re about halfway across when Roman Dragonshield slips and falls. He shouts for Dragon Piet to come and catch him, but Piet is too slow. Roman lands in the water just as Els throws him a rope. Looking around he sees that the water is full of sharks and they’re coming for him!

Roman grabs hold of the rope and Els pulls him clear, leaving the sharks biting the air behind him. The two regain the cliff path, and then decide to try and progress further by exploring one of the caves along the path.

[Roman fails a climbing and jumping roll, and falls. Then he fails a dragon riding roll. Els passes her climbing and jumping roll, and then makes an exploring roll to throw Roman a rope. Finally Els passes a climbing and jumping roll, and Roman makes a strength roll to avoid the sharks.]

Creeping through the caves Els spots a strange triangle with unusual letters carved into the wall. As they approach it starts to glow. After a discussion they decide to carry on past it, and further into the cave. When they do so the ceiling shakes and trembles – the cave is collapsing. Roman leaps to safety, but Els is cut off behind the falling rocks!

[Els passes ‘Finding things’ and finds the magical sign. Then Els fails on Running and Jumping, while Roman passes.]

Realising he’s cut off from Els Roman starts digging in the rocks to try and find her. Meanwhile, Els fumbles about in the dark, lights her torch and spots a tunnel that has been opened up by the collapse. As Roman digs a way out Els goes further and discovers a cave, inside which, surrounded by a circle of unusual letters is a beautiful golden harp.

[Els rolls Climbing and Exploring, and passes, Roman rolls Super Strength, and passes]

Els and Roman looked at the harp, looked at the letters, looked at the collapsed tunnel and decided to leave well enough alone. Instead they carried on to the door to the lonely tower, and knocked on it.

There was no answer and the door was locked. Roman flew up on Dragon Piet to see if he could see through the windows, meanwhile Els tried to get the door open. Something went ‘clunk’ and Els suddenly a bucket of slop was dumped on Els! As this happend Roman was sure he saw someone at one of the windows.

[Roman passes dragon riding, Els fails finding things]

The two of them decided not to force the door, and instead climbed in via the windows and found themselves in a comfortable looking room. There was a bed, and a cupboard and lots of books. A fire was burning and there was a tasty smelling stew on the table.

Els was sure she could hear something in the cupboard. Roman opened it.


It was a very short, stocky man with a big beard.

“Hello. We’re not going to hurt you” said Els

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. Monsters!!!!!” shouted the man.

Calming him down took some time. After all, even if they weren’t monsters that was very definitely a dragon they’d brought with them. Eventually though they found out that the man they’d found was in fact

“Dumonin the brave. Dwarf and smith.”

Roman tried not to laugh. He didn’t do very well. There was a long conversation about dwarves, bravery, Dumonin’s bravery in particular and why hiding in a cupboard wasn’t a particularly unusual or cowardly thing to do.

Eventually Els got a word in and asked about chains for the boar.

“Sorry. Can’t do it.”

“Can someone else do it?”

“Nope. I’m the best chain maker in the kingdom. I promise no chains can hold the Caledonian Boar. Only the Golden Harp can calm it.”

“The what?”

“The Golden Harp. It was made by Elves. Playing it will calm the boar down. But no-one knows where it is.”

“It’s over there in a cave.”


“Can you read these squiggles?”

“They’re Elvish. Yes I can read them. These ones say ‘Danger, falling rocks’. Why do you ask?”

“Because they’re over there next to the cave where the harp is. Come on Roman, let’s get the Harp. You should come too Dumonin!”

And so Els and Roman Dragonshield returned to the cave with the harp, and nothing bad at all happened when they picked it up. Before they returned to Andrew’s Castle Dumonin told them that the Caledonian Boar and the Molten Cat were just the first two of four magical creatures that would appear and destroy the kingdom. He thought that the third creature might be a Kelpie, but he needed more time to do research. He said he’d stay at the tower and promised to send word if he learned something more.

Roman and Els thanked him and set off back to King Andy. When they got back the boar was beginning another rampage, but a few notes on the harp calmed it down immediately – and made everyone else feel like going to sleep. King Andy was very grateful, but rather concerned to hear the news from Dumonin. “On the other hand”, he said, “That’s two more magical beasts for the zoo!”.

Lonely Isle for Blog

Notes : This game was a good bit shorter than the earlier sessions, I think because it was nearly tea time. Had I written a story seed for this story before starting it would have been

“The Caledonian Boar is rampaging. The king sends the heroes to find a smith to make chains. Twist – the smith can’t do the job himself.”

In the back of my mind at the start of the game was that the smith would need some special materials to make the chain. But then Els got stuck in the tunnels and having her find a magic thing on the way out seemed like a good idea. The kids though were very sceptical about a magic harp just lying around, and ignored it. So ten minutes later it seemed the most natural thing in the world for Dumonin to explain that the thing to stop the Boar rampaging was the harp.

Dumonin’s news that there were going to be four beasts was very exciting for the kids. It also meant that I was going to need to think up a bit more over-arching plot before the next session…

Dumonin was right, Part 4 is The Kelpie

The Caledonian Boar

King Andy called Roman Dragonshield and Els to his throne room. When they arrived he introduced them to a bedraggled looking man called Old Oleg. Oleg had come from a small village near Owl Wood. A giant boar – the Caledonian Boar – was rampaging through the area, knocking down trees and breaking things. The people needed help. But that wasn’t all. It was nearly King Andy’s birthday, and he thought the boar would make a great present.

“Els and Roman – can you bring me back the boar? In time for my birthday?”

Our heroes said that they could, and set off in the direction Old Oleg indicated.

First they came to a river crossing next to a village. Since there was nobody around Els and Roman crossed the river and headed toward Owl Wood. Oleg had told them the boar was probably in Owl Wood. But Owl Wood was home to the fairies, and sometimes people went into the wood and never came out.

Our heroes had barely entered Owl Wood when they came to a shallow stream. There was an old woman on the side closest to them.

“Hey you” she shouted “Carry me over this stream.”

Our heroes looked confused

“Look! You’re heroes aren’t you. Carry me over the stream!”

She poked Roman Dragonshield with her stick

“You look big and strong. Get me over this stream. Honestly, heroes are supposed to help people. Not stand around. Pick me up.”

Eventually Roman Dragonshield decided to pick her up. And doing his best to ignore the stream of complaints about how he was carrying her, took her safely to the other side.

[Roman rolls strength, succeeds easily.]

At which point the old Lady walked back across the stream by herself and into the forest, leaving Roman and Els even more confused.

Five minutes after this happened they came across a well. Next to the well was the same old woman.

“Oi You!” she yelled. “I’ve lost my bracelet in this well. Someone needs to climb down and get it for me!”

Els inspected the well. It was dark, and smelly. Full of spiders and snails, and smelling of poo.

“You’ll have to fish about down there with your hands. It’s just a simple leather thing.”

Said the woman. “Go on. Now get it for me!”

Eventually Els decided to climb down and retrieve it. The well is smelly and horrible, but she does eventually locate the bracelet.

[Els rolls climbing and finding things, succeeds on both]

A somewhat smelly Els pulls herself out of the well and returns the bracelet.

“Ugh. It’s all smelly now. I don’t want it anymore.” says the woman, and walks into the forest.

Still confused about what is going on Els and Roman get back to trying to find the boar, or some fairies, or some tracks. They haven’t gone far when they find…

An old woman, with one lag trapped under a falled tree. “Hey you!” she shouts “Lift this tree off me, right now!”. Well Els and Roman have nearly had it with this old woman, who continues to moan at them from under the log while they wonder what to do. Eventually Roman lifts it off her.

“And about time too!” she mutters. Looking no more grateful than on the other occasions.

And then a funny thing happens. She gets smaller, and smaller. Until her clothes are lying on the ground in a pile, and something small and wriggly is underneath. A few moments later a fairy clambers out from the clothes and flutters up to head height.

“Well done you two” she smiles “I can see you’re both nice enough that I can let you stay in the woods.”

The fairy explains that her name is Millicent, and that it’s her role to test people who come into the woods to make sure they’re nice.

“What would have happened if you didn’t like us?” asks Els

“Oh, you’d have probably been stuck wondering around the woods forever.” says Millicent, before asking how she can help them.

Roman and Els explain what they’re looking for, and why. Millicent agrees that the boar is a problem, but isn’t too keen on the idea of King Andy adding it to his zoo. Still, she tells them it was last seen on the far side of the woods near Bigfoot Mountain. And, she warns them, before she met them she spoke to a fox who said he’d heard noisy creatures tramping around the edge of the wood in the night. Millicent also tells them that if they ever come back they should say her name three times at the edge of the wood, and she’ll come to help them.

Els and Roman thank her for the information, and set off again. This time, on the northern edge of Owl woods they do find tracks. But not boar tracks. These are big footsteps, and it looks like they’ve been dragging something heavy.

[Els rolls Finding Things, and succeeds]

They follow the tracks to the base of Bigfoot Mountain, where they disappear into the cliff face. Els looks around for a clue and spots that there’s a door carved into the mountain, with strange symbols all around it. But there’s no handle, and no way to open it.

[Els rolls Finding Things, and succeeds again]

Roman and Els discuss what to do next. Els decides that the obvious place for a clue to open the magic door would be on top of the mountain – and they set off to look. After a lot of climbing they get there, but there’s nothing to see but a pile of rocks. (And an amazing view of the kingdom). They’re about to give up when

“Hello!” says the pile of rocks

Roman and Els look shocked. But after a bit of checking it’s clear that the pile of rocks is some kind of creature, it lives on top of the mountain and it’s happy to have someone to talk to. And, it knows how to open the door.

“Can you tell us how to open the door”

“Just say the magic word”

“And can you tell us the magic word?”


“Yes, can you tell us the magic word, please?”


“We said please. Now please tell us the magic word.”

This goes on for some time before the penny drops.

Armed with the magic word they head back to the door, say ‘Please!’, and it opens. Inside is a long dark tunnel and a trail of footprints. Bravely they go in.

They’ve travelled a long way when Roman brushes against something sticky. He tries to shake himself free, but he’s stuck fast. Els avoids being stuck, but sees a giant spider climbing toward them.

[Els rolls running and jumping and succeeds, Roman rolls Super Strength, and fails]

The giant spider clambers toward them over the rocks. Els runs to bash it with her telescope, but it knocks her down. It’s about to sting her!

[Els rolls fighting monsters, fails]

Roman Dragon Shield tears himself free from the spider webs and rushes to help. As Els manages to get back on her feet he hits the spider in the eye with his sword. The spider scurries back into the darkness.

[Roman rolls fighting monsters, succeeds, Els rolls running and jumping, succeeds]

As our heroes are getting themselves ready to carry on they hear voices in the distance. They’re deep rumbling voices, and they’re singing.

“Hey Ho, Hey Ho, Off to Monster Tower we Go”


“I don’t know what I’ve been told”

“I don’t know what I’ve been told”

“Monster Tower is full of gold”

“Monster Tower is full of gold”

“Who’s gold”

“My gold!”

“Who’s gold”

“My gold!”

“No my gold”

“No it’s mine!”

The voices descend into argument for a while, then start singing again.

Els and Roman move quickly through the tunnels. Soon they’re right behind the voices, and can tell that they belong to a pair of trolls. They can also tell that the trolls are dragging something big along with them. It’s the Caledonian Boar!

Roman decides to sneak up behind the trolls, but at the last moment slips on some rocks. The Trolls turn round, spy him and rush to attack!

[Roman rolls Running and Jumping to sneak up, fails]

The trolls swing huge clubs at Els and Roman Dragonshield. But Roman picks up huge boulders and hurls them at the trolls. While he’s doing that Els leaps in to attack with her telescope, and Snowflake dives in barking and biting. Faced with this savage attack the Trolls run away into the darkness, leaving behind the Caledonian Boar, bound in heavy chains.

Els and Roman take the boar back to King Andy, who is delighted with his birthday present. The boar is added to the zoo, but the keepers look sceptical about their ability to keep it there.

Caledonian Boar for Blog

Notes : Well, King Andy is determined to collect magical animals from all over the kingdom, so that’s going to be the theme of this campaign. I knew I wanted this one to be a boar, and that I wanted some kind of contest between the heroes and the witch (of Witch’s Wood) to collect the monsters. 

Story seed : ‘The king wants the heroes to capture the rampaging Caledonian Boar for his zoo. Twist – it has already been captured by the witch’s minions.’

This session involved relatively little fighting. And the one fight that did happen was in a tunnel, so Dragon Piet was largely forgotten about for this game. One thing that didn’t work out as expected was the heroes ignoring the empty village, had they taken any interest they could have found the villagers hiding from the monsters that had passed through in the night.

I had loads of fun playing Fairy Millicent in her grumpy old woman guise.  There was no real need to roll dice. I just had fun being as unpleasant as possible while demanding help from the heroes. The kids were utterly confused by the whole thing, and I suspect that had we gone to a fourth encounter the old lady might have found them less than helpful. Still, three challenges is the traditional number, and they passed!

The magical gate was another example of posing a problem while not knowing the answer. While the problem is obviously copied from Lord of the Rings ‘Speak friend and enter’ was probably going to be a bit beyond my kids. So I waited to see what they decided. And what they decided was that the answer was on top of the mountain. Having decided to put a friendly rock creature on top of the mountain I just chatted away in character until an answer to the puzzle dropped out. In this case because two impatient heroes somewhat forgot their manners!

Finally the Monster Tower song was a hit. Because for the next seven days of the holiday the kids sang it again, and again, and again.

On to part three, The Lonely Tower

The Molten Cat

And so it was time for Roman Dragonshield and Els to have their first adventure.

King Andy had a problem. And so he called to his castle the two greatest heroes in the land. Roman Dragonshield, and Els. They came, and he explained his problem. Something has been setting the farmer’s fields on fire. If this carries on the farmers won’t be able to grow any food. Would Roman Dragonshield and Els be able to find out what’s happening?

Our two heroes quickly agreed.

First they headed toward the farmers fields. As they approached they saw smoke on the horizon. There was a fire burning right now! They rushed to the scene and found the farmers desperately fighting back the fire.

Initially they weren’t sure how to help. Then, spotting that the farmers buckets were too small to stop a big fire Roman had an idea. He dashed to the village and came back with a bathtub full of water in each hand and dumped it onto the fire. Meanwhile Els pitched in helping the farmers dig a firebreak. Thanks to the efforts of the heroes the fire was extinguished.

[Roman rolled strength for his bathtubs feat, while Els tested running and jumping. Both passed.]

The grateful farmers were sure they knew who was responsible for the fires. ‘It’s the bandits from Rover’s wood’ they said ‘stands to reason doesn’t it?’. That the farmers had no evidence for this at all went unnoticed by Roman and Els, who promptly set off for the wood.

Our heroes began searching Rovers Wood for the bandits. But as it turned out the Bandit’s found them! Snowflake the husky was caught in a net that dropped from a tree and a band of ferocious bandits leapt out with bows, arrows and swords to attack them!

[Els fails a finding things roll while looking for the bandits]

The bandits confident attack failed quickly. Els whacked one in the head with her telescope, but the real hero was Dragon Piet, whose fiery breath melted their swords and burned their bows.

[Els succeeds at fighting monsters. Roman rolls a 10 for Dragon Riding]

Confronted with a ferocious fire breathing dragon the bandits quickly debated whether they should surrender, or run away. But they debated too long, and so surrender was their only option. ‘How can we be bandits now we’ve got no swords and no bows?’ they wanted to know. Our heroes weren’t interested in answering that question. They wanted the bandits to abandon their field burning ways. Bandit Bill, leader of the bandits protested their innocence ‘It’s not us! We’re bandits. We steal things. We don’t set things on fire.’ he explained.

Roman and Els let the bandits go and pondered their next move. They went back to talk to the farmers who were grumpy that it hadn’t been the bandits. This time though one farmer spoke up and said he thought he’d seen something away toward Witch’s Wood. Our heroes set off again.

As our heroes approached Witch’s Wood they could see some sparkly lights in the distance. So they followed them to find out what they were. They hadn’t gone far when they became stuck in a swamp! With considerable effort they managed to pull themselves out. When the lights appeared a second time, they decided to stay where they were.

[No die roll for the first bit, if you follow the Will o the Wisp you get stuck in the swamp. Both succeeded on Running and Jumping rolls to extricate themselves]

But Witch’s Wood is a foolish place to camp for the night. Els was alerted to the sound of something in the bushes. Just in time she woke Roman as a band of goblins charged out of the woods. Els struck them with her telescope, Roman Dragonshield picked up a goblin and threw him into the trees. The goblins panicked

‘It’s a monster!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well something threw me into this tree!’

‘Run away!!!’

[Els rolls fighting monsters, and succeeds. Roman rolls Super Strength, and succeeds]

The goblins were defeated, but our heroes problems were only just beginning. From the forest they could hear the stomp, stomp stomp of something big coming through the woods. Suddenly three huge creatures burst out of the forest, wearing thick armour and swinging tree trunks like clubs. Els and Snowflake were knocked to the ground. Roman Dragonshield used his great strength and stopped a tree trunk from crushing him.

Els scrambled to her feet as Roman Dragonshield leapt to her defence before a monster could crush her. Snowflake bit the monsters on the bottom, greatly upsetting them. Then Roman Dragonshield swung a tree-trunk of his own, proving his strength the equal of the monsters. Finally, after an epic struggle the monsters retired into the forest.

[To make the monsters feel bigger the fight required multiple die rolls. First a test to survive their initial onslaught. Els failed, Roman succeeded. So the next action became the two of them stopping Els getting squashed by a tree trunk. After that the fight continued until both heroes succeeded on their rolls.]

The Trollgers – as our heroes decided to call them – retreated into the woods. Els returned to searching the woods for signs of a fire-starting creature. On the edge of the woods she found paw prints that had been melted into the rocks. Surely this was a clue. Peering over the top of a hill she saw a lion. But this was no ordinary lion. It was glowing red hot like molten metal with smoke rising off it.

[Els succeeds on a finding things roll]

Our two heroes paused for a debate. The Lion was clearly a significant challenge, and too hot to touch. After some deliberation the plan was agreed. Els would keep track of the Lion, while Roman would fly off to get some water to cool the Lion with. And like all good plans, it worked!

Els hid in the bushes and watched the cat, Roman returned with a cattle trough full of water which he dumped on top of it. In a cloud of steam the cat retreated into some bushes and stayed there, waiting to see if the heroes would follow it in.

[Els succeeds at climbing and exploring, Roman at strength to throw the water.]

At this point the heroes elected to try negotiation. ‘Dragon Piet can speak cat!’ and so it was that the considerably cooler Molten Lion was convinced to come with them to King Andy’s Zoo for Magical Creatures, where it was given a bed of coal to lie on and as much coal as it liked to eat.

King Andy was delighted with the work of his two heroes, and promised more adventures for them in the future.

The Molten Cat for Blog

Notes : As inspiration for this first session I had a map, two characters, and memories of recent sightseeing in Scotland. For extra inspiration I flicked through a set of Dixit cards and was attracted to a picture of a red pegasus in a wood. And that, gave me enough of an idea to get started. If I’d written it out as an adventure seed it would have been

‘Something is starting fires in the farmers fields.  Twist – The farmers blame bandits, but it is really a magical animal.’

And that was all the preparation I did.

The eventual choice of a Lion as the monster was based on a Lynx we’d seen, and which the children had loved, at Scotland’s Deer Centre. I’d planned to make more of the farmers wrongly accusing the bandits than I did, but the kids just weren’t alive to the clues I tried to drop in.

The expedition to Witch’s Wood was made deliberately hard because I thought I’d take the opportunity to establish the woods as a really scary place full of all kinds of monsters.

Having created the challenge of ‘What are you going to do about this red hot, monstrous cat’ I just let the kids go at it. I find it’s fine to throw problems at the kids without having an idea in advance as to how they might solve them. They could have just announced they were going to fight it, but because ‘it’s too hot’ was presented as the immediate challenge that was the first thing they elected to address. Having done that they could have captured it, but instead decided to talk to it. The Lion couldn’t communicate much – just that it was cold and hungry, but that was enough and so they took it home to King Andy.

It was while they were talking to Andy that I decided his penchant for collecting magical beasts could become something of a problem. Which leads us nicely to the second adventure…

Part two: The Caledonian Boar

Introducing Roman Dragonshield and Els

Ruben had very clear ideas about character creation. ‘I want to be a Roman’ he said. Further questioning revealed that Ruben (age 5) didn’t have much idea what this would entail. I started asking questions about what to draw, and that got us someone with short hair, a nice smile, no beard, a sword and a shield. ‘How about we call him Roman?’ I suggested, and Ruben agreed. It was decided that he should have a picture of a dragon on his shield and so the name was extended to ‘Roman Dragonshield’.

‘Does he have anything else?’ I asked.

‘Yes. A dragon he rides on. Called Dragon Piet.’

‘Ah. OK’

Then it was time for skills. A quick discussion led to Roman Dragonshield having the following skills.

  • Riding Dragons (obviously)
  • Fighting Monsters
  • Running and Jumping
  • Super Strong

Roman Dragonshield lived on his own tower in Andrew’s Castle, along with Dragon Piet. His top skill (D12) was his Super Strength, then Dragon Riding (D10), Fighting monsters (D8) and Running and Jumping (D6).

Rather uncharacteristically Lisa (age 7) wasn’t sure what she wanted her hero to be. So again we started with a sketch. Long hair, a cloak, trousers and boots. And then Lisa decided that she should carry a telescope and that a key skill should be ‘Exploring’. And at that point everything fell into place. Els (pronounced like the else in ‘or else’) was an explorer. She was good at

  • Climbing and Exploring (D10)
  • Running and Jumping (D6)
  • Finding Things (D8)
  • Fighting Monsters (D12)

And she too was to have a companion. A Husky called Snowflake. And while Roman Dragonshield lived in the castle, Els lived far away on Falcon Mountain.

Coming up with our two heroes took about twenty minutes. The sketch below was kept handy throughout all our future adventures.

Roman and Els for blog

GM Notes : Ruben’s desire to play a ‘Roman’ colliding with not really knowing much about Romans is a classic example of why it’s essential to ask questions when creating characters with kids. Still the end result meant we didn’t get what I’d expected – a medieval knight – but a more interesting warrior who rides a dragon. The invention of the Dragon was a moment for taking a deep breath a saying OK. Dealing with a dragon in the rest of the story was obviously going to be hard work, but telling Ruben he couldn’t have a dragon was just going to result in running a game with a disappointed five year old. And, let’s be honest – dragons are cool.  

I was really pleased with how Lisa’s character Els turned out. She looks a lot like a stereotypical fantasy ranger type, but Lisa’s yet to read or watch anything that would feature a character like that. What started Els off was the telescope, something of a recurring theme with Lisa’s characters when making up Pirate themed stories. I was slightly surprised by Lisa choosing to make ‘Fighting Things’ Els’  top skill, especially as Lisa said this was about hitting things with a telescope. But when we started  including Snowflake in combat scenes as a particularly ferocious husky this made a lot more sense.

And next, part 1, the Molten Cat

Magical Scotland Long Ago

For the last couple of years every family holiday has also included a holiday game. This year, I thought I’d take some extra notes so I could share the kind of stories we make up using the Amazing Tales rules.

We’d been on holiday in Scotland for a week when I picked up a pad of paper and started to sketch a map. ‘Is that for making up a story Dad?’ was the question. It was, and at the top of the paper I’d written

‘Magical Scotland Long Ago’

Why did I write that? Well we were in Scotland, and in addition to visiting lots of castles on our holiday the kids had recently watched a lot of Horrible History shows. So ‘Long Ago’ gave them a vague sense of a medieval period. And magical was in the title because everything is better with magic.

Then it was on to the map. I drew some mountains and hills and then asked the kids what we should have on our map. We very quickly got a castle and a cathedral like the ones we’d visited the previous week. We got a village, mountains, woods and rivers. The kids wanted a beach, so we added one, along with an island off the coast and some cliffs. Then we started naming things.

The castle became ‘Andrew’s Castle’ – because the castle we’d seen had been in St Andrews. This also led to a discussion about who the king was, and King Andy was created. The kids told me he was a young king, but not a child. The cathedral was named St Bangs. One feature the kids wanted added to the castle was a zoo, I think inspired by our visit to Scotland’s National Deer Centre.  King Andy’s Zoo of Magical Creatures  was created, and would turn out to be very important.

The town between the castle and the lake was called King’s Loch. Then we named the various woods. The kids had demanded that one wood have scary trees, and this was named ‘Witch’s Wood’, and the tower in the centre of it was ‘Monster Tower’. The other woods were named Owl Wood and Fox Forest. The mountains I’d drawn at the back of the map were named Bigfoot Mountain, Climbing Mountain and Falcon Mountain. Feeling that we were missing a mountain with a cave Lisa added Nightmare Mountain.

The last wood was called Rover’s Wood. Since the kids are both Dutch/English bilingual it’s worth pointing out that rover is the Dutch word for bandit. So ‘Bandit’s wood’. The river that started in the mountains was called Mountain Side river, and the one that started in the hills was called Hillfall River.

And that was about it. The kids went off to help make dinner while I filled in the remaining place names. Mermaid Beach – Lisa loves Mermaids – , Wrecker’s Cliffs, the castle and village of Fairview, a Lonely Tower above the cliffs, and a Misty Isle off the coast.

And that was it.  Total time, maybe 20 minutes.

Magical Scotland Map for Blog

Notes : Coming up with the map helped the kids really get into the Fantasy Vibe of the game. Looking at it now the only really remarkable thing on it is King Andy’s Zoo for Magical Beasts. I was happy the kids wanted the Witch’s Wood and Monster Tower on there, previous games have suffered a bit from them not wanting anything scary in the game, but if you ask for scary trees and a tower full of monsters, well, it’s pretty clear we’re in for an exciting time.

Next up, character creation!