Last night, Dad, Mom, and Kiddo and I played a variation on the Goblin Quest playtest. This is a game in which you have 5 goblin characters and rotate through them as each of your goblins dies. You build a dice pool based on your relevant stats, though ultimately, you pick one to 4 d6’s to roll, with a 1/3 chance of success and a 1/3 chance of hit point loss (and each goblin has 2 hit points).
The result is universally a silly game where you’re trying to do whatever the quest is, before the clock (and your supply of goblins) runs out.
We modified it for the Feral Dragons that were invented last week, with a few changes. The clutch had Something We’re Good At, Something We’re Terrible At, and each dragon had a Special Feature that had to be somehow visible. You couldn’t just say “We’re smart.” You had to have some way that I would look at the character and see that they are smart.
Mechanically, Goblin Quest boils down to “build a dice pool of 1-4 d6’s, roll them, and narrate how you get hurt and/or succeed, based on the dice rolls. You need nx9 successes, where n is the number of players, over the course of the story, to complete the quest, and each player can get 10 injuries total before they are out. Statistically, it favors failure.
I had everyone write down a clutch and good/terrible, and one feral dragon. Dad and Kiddo sped ahead and wrote down several ferals to start, but I mentioned they would probably want to change them when they came up in play.
Dad made his feral clutch based on the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.
Mom made hers based on Starbucks drinks.
And Kiddo made hers based on misery and pain… except not.
We also made a fiction rule that feral dragons who “die” are not dead. They turn to stone, but will be back to normal the next day. This explains a LOT about the other feral dragons and their relative lack of concern when someone is turned to stone.
As a back-pocket rule, losing the second hit point didn’t have to mean death or even being turned to stone for any feral dragon, as long as they were taken out of the story. This was important later.
I sketched a little map and they decided to have a quest of clearing out the trampoline (it was supposed to be a barn, but hey. Trampoline!) and that morphed into an obstacle course which would have crocodiles they needed to swing above on a rope, and a tire obstacle, and the trampoline. We invented another group of ferals, the Gloop Gloops, who would compete with them.
In the course of the game, we realized that the prize was the much-desired “Bone Thingy,” also known as a skeleton! If you’re paying attention to my Epyllion posts, you know that ferals who do not have a skeleton are Trouble. I think we know why, now.
The three stages of the adventure were to get rope and tires, set up the course and clear out the trampoline brush, and then run the race.
In the first scene, Dad’s dragon “Fred” whose special feature was “wears an ascot” cast some powerful dragon magic. Now, we’re not saying he turned into a pile of tires. We’re just saying that when the smoke cleared, there were tires and Fred was gone.
Kiddo’s dragon Undead had a special feature of being able to remove her body parts and reattach them. She lost her last hit point when she took off her own head to scare the rival Gloop Gloops. There is now a feral dragon statue holding her own head out with a scary face.
The Gloop Gloops showed up in scene two, during the setup, and cast a curse on the dragons. From that point on, the characters all had an extra d6 for their dice, an orange die that I had in my collection. They had to roll it until it was somehow negated, and the d6 always had a -1. This escalated the failures quite a bit, but that d6 rolls 6’s a lot, and on the balance, I think it helped more than hindered the players.
The hijinx in the game were very high. The tension was ratcheted up in the final scene, the actual race, where the players had to decide how much their dragons wanted to cheat ( the Gloop Gloops are notorious cheaters).
At one point, Dad’s dragons (they were modeled on the Mystery Machine characters) unmasked a crocodile as Old Man Winters.
Kiddo had made a feral dragon named Talent who was good at “Everything.” I passed a note to her dad that this was Kiddo’s 4th RPG session and she was already min maxing. I’m so proud.
Her next-to-last character was L.M., who was super-smart and had a power armor suit (power creep!) L.M. is an interesting dragon, because Kiddo was emotionally invested in her. When L.M. rolled a bunch of 1’s on the dice, she wanted to take it back.
Her parents were firm– you can’t take it back.
I’m the FDM (Feral Dragon Master). Kiddo was really upset. Something about what had just happened wasn’t fair to her mind, and it was going badly. Trust in my DMing was being lost. Time for the back-pocket rule.
“OK, Kiddo. No matter what L.M. does, you would still have to roll those dice and sit by the results. So, let’s look at what happened. This isn’t a great outcome– you got Something Good, and a lot of 1’s and 2’s. So, think for a few minutes. All that matters to the outcome is that L.M. is going to help her next team mate– probably Scrappy Doo– but she is otherwise out of the race. How do you want her to be out of the race?”
We went back and forth. I suggested a bunch of non-death ways for L.M. to be out– including the idea that her power armor jets power up and she goes so fast she can’t turn around and come back to the race in time.
In the end, she decided that L.M. would slip out of her power armor and fly up into a tree, disqualifying herself, but being available as a “swing” to boost the next contestant in the race. L.M. survives the obstacle course (which is good, because I’m going to bring her back next week as the spokesman for this feral colony).
Scrappy Doo, meanwhile, was taken out when he was revealed as a meddling kid (I think?)
In the final die roll of the night, the race is heading for the finish line. Everyone is down except for Kiddo’s last character, a male dragon named Pain. Pain casts some special portal magic in front of the Gloop Gloops to make them run into a portal and out, then straight back into the first portal. I call it the Gloop Gloop Endless Loop and it’s the best thing of the night.
Unfortunately, it also takes out Pain’s last hit point. At this time, we’re ready to wind down, and Kiddo is having a hard time losing in the story. The players didn’t win, but neither did the Gloop Gloops. More importantly, I want to tie this story back to our big dragons. So I steal my earlier idea.
“The portal magic goes awry, and Pain is suddenly super-sonic– he’s so fast, and he can’t stop moving. He darts all the way around the world in a single, unbroken line. His race attracts Lydia’s dragon magic– in fact, it’s the homing beacon she follows on her quest–”
I point to Mom. “Lydia is your mom’s character, remember? We’re back to the big dragons now.”
I describe how, back with Samera, Lydia, Trogdor, Samsmelt, and the dozen ferals from the cave, the party is gliding down into this forest clearing, where they see this bizarre scene, with multiple stone-shaped feral dragons, and a bunch of obstacles, a random crocodile or two, and a couple of portals with an endlessly looping relay team of dragons. The skeleton is nowhere in sight, which, as Trogdor dourly points out, is definitely not good.
In the end, 12 dragons from the players were turned to stone, not counting the Gloop Gloops who were almost certainly equally affected during this race. 1 dragon disappeared, perhaps becoming a pile of tires. 1 dragon is hanging out above the crocodile-infested river. And 1 dragon went on a supersonic trip around the world, catching the quest spell of a much larger dragon and her clutch of cave ferals.
Next session is going to be an interesting journey, indeed!