Tips for young players and Morgansfort

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Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Tue Sep 20, 2022 1:55 pm

Good day, first time poster here.

I run a young group of 4-7 players that are Middle School Age. We recently ran 5e and the Lost Mines of Phandelver and while the group had a lot of fun, they really struggled with managing action economy, abilities, and many of the minutae of 5e.

I "cut my teeth" on the old D&D Basic rules so there is a lot that I love about Basic Fantasy and I feel that kinda going back to basics with simpler characters and simpler combat mechanics may be a blessing for this group. They enjoy the "Dunegoneering aspects of D&D", such as exploring dangerous places and friendly banter amongst one another.
They definitely never felt challenged with Lost Mines and no one ever seemed in danger.

I know that Basic is gonna be a shock to them so I am considering letting them explore the Old Island Fortress starting at level 2 or 3. I.e, I may just give them each 5,000 starting XP modified by being human, which may lead to a level 2-4 range depending on class.

Those who have run this module, would this make things too easy for them?

In 5e they did not have great tactics (which is understandable given their age), so I am trying to find that balance between giving them a taste of the lethality of OSR, without obliterating them outright, if that makes sense?

What would your suggestions be for helping to introduce OSR to some new, but eager players?
Specifically Morgansfort as it seems to be a pretty good starting point with a nice town hub, and a few points of interest.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Tue Sep 20, 2022 3:20 pm

I started a campaign 5 years ago with players in the 10-13 yo range plus dads. They started in Morgansfort with by-the-book 3d6 in order PCs. Every player lost characters multiple times (except the old elf mage who learned to run away early). The dads feared the PCs dying but we stuck to the rules because we wanted our kids to have the original game experience. There were tears, but we helped them see it as no big deal--just roll up a new PC right now and jump back in. One of our long-time PCs is "Azrak III" because the player just erased stats and kept the same equipment.

About a year in, we added a homebrewed death save and let new PCs start with max HP. I guess we figured they'd got the idea of how deadly it can get.

I think the Old Island Fortress would be boring for 3rd level PCs. It's a little tough at 1st level, but can be survived. I ended up adding a secret door to a whole other section to cope with PCs not leveling up fast enough. I think everyone was 2nd by the time they finished.

The key is setting expectations. Tell them that half of the PCs are probably going to die in the dungeon. That it's just part of the game. Tell them how important it is to have a mage with a sleep spell, lots of flaming oil and a willingness to run away. If you don't have an experienced player to apprentice them, you could have an NPC who's there just to give advice.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Tue Sep 20, 2022 3:52 pm

I would start them at 2nd level. That is the author's suggestion or give them a minor 1st level adventure before you introduce it. If you want to give max hp at 1st level that could be helpful also...
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Tue Sep 20, 2022 5:50 pm

Npc help
Guard Dogs/Animals, especially for back row Mages.
Max HP for first level, I have seen this for 2nd level too.

Have players roll up secondary characters for when a death occurs. IMO having such standby ready removes much of the psychological sting of character death... players seem more accepting of death when they have their standby ready to jump back in soon as the plot allows.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Wed Sep 21, 2022 4:16 am

I’ve used the Max HP at 2 level and that to me works. The kids are all elves so they only have 12 HP in all. And the last game my nephew got hit for a roll of 5 HP I think. Anyways, he was hurting and knew he was lucky.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Wed Sep 21, 2022 4:54 pm

If the kids like their character's, give the party a bell of resurrection. It brings a character back to 1hp with just a ring of the bell but it uses one charge (has 1d6 charges to start with or set it to one less the number in the party) (non-rechargeable).

This gives the party a way out of character death but only for a very specific number of uses.

Normally I would not suggest this for most groups but for children this might be enough to take the sting of character death away for a short bit. If they start being causal about it and think they can always ring the bell, just remind them that it only has limited uses and can not be recharged. You can always put in a limitation of only works on 4th or lower characters also. Combined with other suggestions (max hp for first level and 5000 XP starting) the character will be able to come back alive after a bad choice or roll.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:48 pm

Thank you all for the tips.

I think starting at Level 2, and possibly max hp will give me the wiggle room needed to help them transition from 5e to OSR.

I really like the Bell idea, especially for some of my even younger players or as a way to help out later if anyone begins to feel attached. I may add that as a discoverable treasure further in. Kind of reminds me of the early access resurrection powders you find in Wizardry 8.

What I like about Morgansfort, is it's mix of an isolated, untamed area, mixxed with the idea that resources that would aid the players are readily available such as sell swords, supplies, and other things.

Really enjoying Basic Fantasy so far. I like how it's this simple, basic platform that I can add house rules and supplements to better fit my players.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Fri Sep 23, 2022 7:36 am

You could have the kids roll up a first level character by the book and let them have a second level character. That way they can get a taste of Hard mode with a fall back.
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Sun Oct 02, 2022 7:59 am

A little add on to the Resurrection Bell idea...a druidic version that is like a garlic bulb with several cloves that when placed under the tongue will Reincarnate the character...roll on the reincarnate chart.
Also for the bell you could not let them know when it runs out of charges and when rung after that amount it rings a final, off-key note that shatters the bell and raises the character as an undead, roll 1d4 for type, skeleton, zombie, skeletaire, zombraire.
Just some thoughts....
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Re: Tips for young players and Morgansfort

Post Mon Oct 31, 2022 10:34 am

Hi, I'm I'm new here. Sorry if this is considered necroing.

I play BFRPG with kids ages 8 - 12 pretty often. Sometimes we run Swords & Wizardry or Cairn. I'll explain a bit of what I do, in case others come along and want advice.

First, kids are super resilient. As parents we often feel like we need to shield or rescue kids from disappointment and difficulty, but this isn't the case. Learning to deal with difficult tasks, the inevitability of frustration, and developing team work skills is not only extremely important for kids (and adults) of any age, it's also something this game is very well set up to instruct. The game also teaches kids that their actions have consequences.

Given that, I don't pull punches with the kids. Before we play I tell them "your characters can die, and you'll probably lose the first few before you get one that sticks around. That's just the game. Work together, run when things get tough, and come up with creative solutions. If a fight seems fair try to do something creative that puts it in your favor."

I'm extremely strict with turns, movement speed, and lighting. Part of being a parent is being the unmoving, predictable force in a child's life. Even more than with adults I find that playing with kids the DM must be a neutral adjudicator. Don't offer them consolations and apologies if their character dies, but be diligent about warning them of danger. It's incredibly important that they learn to work through their emotions, and they won't learn what they need to if you're tampering with it.

You might reflect how they're feeling and say something like "your character died and you're disappointed. You charged up to the ogre and attacked him by yourself after your team ran away. What do you think you could've done differently? Okay. Here's a character sheet, let's give it another go."

Kids are new to the planet and one thing that takes time to learn is cause and effect. Even with adults it's important to tell them the potential consequences for actions, things their characters would know but they may not realize. This is doubly true with kids, since they don't have the life experience to know what actions are risky.

"The giant spider is as big as a car and the venom dripping from his fangs sizzles when it hits the ground. If he bites you you'll have to roll a saving throw to see if his venom kills you!"

"You look over the ledge, it drops off a hundred feet. The jump across pretty far, you'll have to make a saving through against death rays, adding your dexterity bonus, to get across, which means you'll have to roll a 15 or better. If you fall you'll splat like a bug."

"The five orcs have big tusks and muscles. There's only three of you so it would be a really tough fight. Luckily they seem like they don't want to fight, but they will to protect their treasure. What do you want to do?"

"The gnome seems friendly but you notice a mean glimmer in his eye as he looks at the golden amulet on your neck. He smiles and says 'cheers friends!' and hands you a cup of cider. You notice that it smells like cat pee"

In other words, telegraph danger very loudly, but don't try to save them from it. If they drink the cup of cat pee cider and it turns them into a zombie they'll know right away what they did wrong and how they could've avoided it.

Another thing I do is give them retainers and henchmen. These are back up characters, extra lives so to speak. Often kids forget about them until they die, then they can just switch characters and keep going. It blunts the pain of losing your guy a bit. Also, it allows you to make suggestions and advice by speaking through the NPCs. Finally, retainers make fights a bit easier since the big party can gang up on monsters and the damage gets spread around more. All other things equal I'll usually have monsters and traps kill retainers first, but I do this with adult players too.

"Oflaf, your dwarf henchman, sniffs the air. He says 'i don't like that smell. It smells like dark magic. Peek around the corner, but carefully, there's an evil wizard about."

"Athena, your Valkyrie retainer crosses her arms. "There's no way I'm climbing that demon statue. Just being near it makes my hair stand on end!"

They can take the advice or not. In my experience some kids tend to over rely on the advice of retainers, deferring to them as the voice of the adult in the room. If you find this happening, back off a bit. Play the retainers a bit dumber. Maybe have them rush into danger like fools and get cut down. After this happens a couple times the kids will take matters into their own hands. Often if the retainers make obviously stupid suggestions the players will realize the folly of their own actions.

"Oflaf drops his pack and starts jogging in place. 'no fear, master! I can jump this chasm! Why, I came in twelfth place at the frog hopping competition back in the iron hills!'"

"Lloyd the bard draws his sword and starts jumping around and reposting in the air. 'let's take that dragon! We could do it bare handed! Here, let me have the first swipe, not the first time I've fought a dragon!' with that one of his harp strings breaks with a loud crack, "well, uh, okay, I've never actually seen a dragon, but I've read about them! Nasty buggers. Really awful."

Finally, kids have short attention spans. Most games last maybe 30 minutes to an hour. Pay attention to how they're feeling and cut the game off if you notice them getting bored or overly frustrated.

Cheers. Fight On!
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