The overlap between these Playing with Youngers posts and similar-age gaming has always been apparent to me, but many times the lessons of better design reveal themselves to me when running games for kids versus adults.
For my Outschool DND adventures, I created a desert-theme Perilous Pyramid adventure. For the several groups of kids I was running games for at the time, they had accumulated many loot treasures and thus need to barter or trade at some civilized spot. So the adventure started in the town of Al-Haman, a place with a nice list of locations:
- Lord manor
- Novelty market
There are NPCs to interact with, services to purchase, and STUFF TO BUY.
How do you come up with the content of the stores in your game?
Do they just have everything on the game’s equipment list? Do you use an abstracted roll to see if they have a given item in stock? Do players make a “money roll”? Or a “bartering roll”?
I tend to list items available and then mark them off as they’re purchased, like I did for Dolmenwood. Using Maze Rats as a guide for price, I then came up with a list of items I thought interesting and then put them in the novelty market.
- Gluepots (3) (35c)
- Blowgun and darts (30c)
- Paralyze darts (3) (20c)
- Fire kit (15c)
- Water pack (20c)
- Bonescythe (40c)
- Camel (100c)
- Parrot (75c)
- Ostrich (125c)
- Monkey (250c)
- Potion of Telekinesis (90c)
- Potion of Sandform (110c)
- Potion of Animal Control (90c)
- Scroll of Sandshape (130c)
- Scroll of Golem Summoning (100c)
- Scroll of Escape (45c)
- Adobe (925c)
- Alabaster Tower (1750c)
- Cellar (550c)
- Soldier (200c/day)
- Guide (100c/day)
- Servant (30c/day)
- Magician (300c/service)
- Wagon (300c)
Some fun stuff, some standards, some eyebrow-raisers.
But there was one item I threw on the list, not realizing the impact and adventure potential it would contain just by being there:
- Royal Sun Guard armor (3000c)
The Royal Sun Guard armor is priced absurdly higher than any other item on the list. It costs more than the Adobe and Alabaster Tower put together.
But by kid logic, it being the most expensive thing on the list, it must be the best thing there.
And every kid wanted it.
Some chose to go about the path of the entrepreneur, bartering off as many things as they could then noticing they were still short of their 3000 coin goal. Some players were approached by the town brewer, who offered to brew highly-sought antidotes from the venom of the local giant gila lizards if the players were willing to track some of them down and sell him the innards.
Boom, adventure. Motivated by treasure.
Some chose to go about the path of the thief, choosing the time and place to heist this valuable. Which merchant of the novelty market owns the Royal Sun Guard armor? What time does he leave the market to go home? Where and when does he keep his valuables during the night? That would be V’vet Skra, a Thri-kreen who claims to need the money for the next leg of his pilgrimage. He leaves the market when everyone does at sundown. He keeps his valuables in his ostrich-drawn cart, which, coincidently is leaving town tonight.
What do you do?
Now when the players get their grubby hands that coveted, expensive item, it has to deliver on being awesome.
So what does the Royal Sun Guard armor actually do?
I’ll just ask you. What does the Royal Sun Guard armor do?
Whatever motivates the adventure and drives the action forward.
Make some key items REAL expensive. Give players a target to shoot for or a target to acquire.