07 October 2012

The Gummy Bear Pirate Captain Treasure Hunt

Pirate Captain Gummy Bear Green designed at www.heromachine.com
I have played role-playing games for many, many years.  One of my favorite parts of role-playing games is the problem solving, typically in the form of puzzles, riddles, and other brain teasers.  So it was only natural that I suggested a treasure hunt for my son's first birthday party.  Regardless of the fact that his guests, his cousins, 2, 3, and 5, can't read.  And have the attention span of a gnat on methamphetamines.  My son's own inability to walk and lack of real interest in anything but food, sparkly lights, and sleep precluded him from actively treasure hunting in any other capacity than napping through it.
However, in the true spirit of gaming groups I figured that solving the clues would entertain the adults who could direct the boys to near the next clue which they would have fun finding.  Like entertaining the problem solvers, min-maxers, and hack-n-slashers there would be problem solving for some, loot for others, and the shared joy of discovery.  I designed the challenge to be non-competitive, each boy had their own set of clues.  I didn't count on the eldest being able to solve most of the clues himself and the middle one to be lazy to the point of turpitude.  So much so that when he found his final prize, he made his grandfather "Get it!" despite being two feet away.  The youngest just had fun running around, the goodies being transiently enjoyable.
The birthday theme was Gummy Bears.  So I designed three pathways, Blue, Red, and Green.  Each team received an envelope color coordinated with a Gummy Bear Pirate Captain logo (see above) on it with their first clue.  This sent them to their first prize, a pack of Marvel Heroes Popping Candy With Lollipop.  As each color now had an associated character, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk, respectively, the next prizes were an action figure and a vehicle.  In order to increase the difficulty, there were two clues to get to each prize.  The candy and action figure had word balloons containing the next clue.  Thus there were five clues (a total of fifteen) to find three prizes.
Some design notes:
  • Do not have two clues for the same person be in the same generic classification as the other.  Two of my answers for the Red/Iron Man path was a tree (albeit different trees), which I thought did a good job of describing geographical location but instead described a tree.  Thus, the eldest cousin simply walked around looking at trees, missing the action figure and it's attendant clue, but accidentally stumbling upon the final prize, the vehicle.
  • The innate familiarity with my yard made the answer to clues much more obvious to me than my victims...er...players.  Thus I wanted to have one group find the largest tree in the yard, which they had figured out, but they completely missed it, they were so busy looking for it they did not even see this tree in the front yard.  A blue rock was apparently not as blue or as obvious as I thought it was.
  • Things are a lot more obvious when you hide them, than when you are looking for them.  It is hard to hide bright colors, such as yellow and red, however despite that items that I thought were ridiculously obvious were invisible to people as they searched.
  • Clues that describe an object such as the green clue "I am a strong machine, but I do not smash but cut so clean" (lawn mower) or the red clue "In your teeth or where to cook that is your clue for where to look" (grill) were superior to those describing geographical locations, e.g. attempting to describe a specific tree.
  • Children are easily satisfied, they were happy after finding the first prize.  So sometimes bigger is not better.
Things to consider for next year...

21 February 2012

The Apocalypse Stone or "Lemme Tarrasque a Question"

Following Boris, Dorune, Goldune, and Warrick's retrieval of the ornate egg from Castle Brave and turning it over to Gareth, the world went mad. It rained soup, then frog demons. The village near the adventurers' keep was decimated by plague. Someone (or something) slaughtered the retainers of our hero's keep and stitched them back together into horrific flesh golems. Dwarves and elves started living together. The city of Greyhawk was sucked into a massive sink hole. In all the end was upon them.

At the doughty explorer's keep, our party was attacked. Invisible fiends lashed them with magics that froze all but Boris in place. Spells were spun from the empty air while unseen talons and transparent fangs gouged the party. Brave Boris was, despite censure of his divine might, able to break the enchantment, freeing the party. Immediately the dwarf-troll hybrids went to work, one-by-one disassembling the pit fiends as Warrick lashed them eldritch might. Boris imploded the demons with his divine powers. In the end one pit fiend hovered, still invisible, above the party, punitively striking the heroes with sorcerous talents. Goldune grabbed his creche-brother and threw him at the demon, Dorune grabbing a hold and raining axe blows upon the floating fiend. The pit fiend's overlord, Maloubaub, then unmasked himself...only to be summarily destroyed by Boris' dweomer craft.

That night the party shared a dream of a snowy vale with a trail of blood leading to a distant castle. They awoke in that same vale, except no castle or bloody trail. Convinced that this was a sign of further trials they journeyed in the direction of a tower of smoke roughly in the direction that castle should have been. They found a ruined village and there were beset upon by an old knight who terrasque'd them to fight a great horned beast. Much debate occurred within the party, in the end the benefits of stopping one marauding beast versus those of stopping the apocalypse, could not be outweighed. They politely declined the knight's offer, who rode off fuming. The party was joined by a young boy, Ned, from a neighboring village who guided them on their journey.

As they journeyed further they were caught between warring factions of centaurs and wemics. Each side bemoaned their woes at the hands, hooves, or paws of their foes and each side offered a king's ransom for the adventurers to join their cause. The brothers Warbreed derided both sides as having great financial wealth which could be used to solve their problems rather than fighting over scraps. The party left the cowed lion men and horse men in their wake.

They journeyed on, coming upon a frozen knight kneeling before a forgotten, holy spring, a hidden altar to the god of justice. As they approached, the massive armored form began to move, and the skeletal visage of a death knight peered down upon the party. A deep, sepulchral voice emanated from the lungless mouth, "I am Lucius".

This Lucius turned out to be the same Lucius of legend, who with advancing age had faltered in his quest, who became jealous of his two squires' youthful prowess and struck them down, the god of justice cursing him henceforth. Remorseful, Lucius had tried all means that he could to lift his curse, to no avail. In the end, centuries ago he had come to his spring where he had remained in thoughtful prayer and contemplation. The spring's curative waters had not then or now, had any reversing effect on the justice god's curse. Hearing that the party intended to recover the Apocalypse Stone, Lucius begged to join their quest. The brothers Warbreed drank from the spring and felt invigorated. Boris took a flask of the spring's sacred waters for future use.

Their final trial took them to Ned's village, where the party interrupted the villagers from hanging an old crone, an herbalist who lived near the village. The villagers believed that the crone had kidnapped a child and sacrificed him to a demon as well as engaging in mutilation of cattle. Halting the lynch mob with a demonstration of whole body flossing using the mob provided rope, the party investigated. They found the missing child, Timi, who had fallen in a shallow well. However on investigating the crone's hovel they found the remnants of a mutilated steer. Cleared of murder, but guilty of consorting with demons, the witch was executed as a planar traitor.

Having successfully solved the challenges put fourth by the God of Justice, they were spirited away to the ruins of Castle Brave. There they found the naked and butchered corpses of many people, corpses that bore the mark of familiar ax and spell craft. Deep in a crevasse they found the madman who they thought they had killed during the last battle of Castle Brave. Although gravely injured and his body broken, the madman gibbered on. Using the healing waters of the spring, they healed the man, not only in body but in mind.

The man, speaking in a sonorous wise voice, revealed himself to be Parshawn II, who had been ruler of Castle Brave. He told our heroes that Gareth was his brother, a man twisted so by jealousy, that he had made demonic allies and cast nefarious spells to bring down Castle Brave and wrest the Apocalypse Stone from its environs. Gareth had cursed his brother with madness and polymorphed his retainers into the beasts that had attacked our heros when they raided the castle. The removal of the Apocalypse Stone from Castle Brave had started the destruction of the terrestrial plane, knocking it off its axis and severing the connection to the other planes.

By restoring Parshawn II, Boris regained a measure of his divine might. Then the disciple of justice, Parshawn, Second of His Name, transported the party to Castle Craven, Gareth's twisted replica of the now shattered home of the Apocalypse Stone. The party approached the gates, carving through the giant guards at the gate like a razor through a gelatinous cube. Inside the castle they found a team of mercenary adventures, sworn to the service of Gareth. These they dispatched with ease, despite having to face the untapped reserves of Gareth's powerful guard. In the end, they cast down the twisted half-god and liberated the Apocalypse Stone.

This object of creation was hurriedly returned to Castle Brave where Parshawn could contain its planar warping powers. He offered the heroes positions to help guard the Stone from further depredation, for he who controlled the Apocalypse Stone, controlled the stability of the planes. And so the strange band was sundered, the Warbreed taking up a new task as guardians while Warrick and Boris continued back into the world looking to greater understand eldritch and necromantic craft.

And so our tale ends...for now