I'd found Beyond The Wall and Other Adventures some time ago, and as we were about to reboot our kid's game, it seemed like a perfect time to rewrite the BTW playbooks with more of an ACKS bent. I really wanted to try out those playbooks; and a pack of children is the best place to try something out that's as inventive and flavorful as BTW's playbooks.
Yea, I know.
Anyway. I'm not going to dwell on the mechanics of what I did, because that's not the point today. I am going to share the best part of Beyond The Wall - how the playbooks fared.
- My eldest daughter: The Nobleman's Wild Daughter
No surprise, a Fighter. She harvested two rerolls out of me on this - a couple of the rolled results were a little embarrassing for her - one of her original results (on how she learned to fight) was being taught the bow by the "handsome young hunter". She turned beet red upon reading that.
Of course, the fact she's old enough to be embarrassed by that is it's own thing, and well outside the scope of this blog. Sigh.
- Her family's name is one of the oldest in the land, and they stay out of affairs that do not concern them.
- She's never met someone who didn't like her.
- The grizzled captain of the guard has taken a liking to her (she named him Olaf)
- She learned Fighting Style: Two Weapons from the old mercenary that serves her parents.
- She earned the men's respect saving an injured hunter in the woods (and learned Wilderness Survival)
- She entered her father's tourney in secret; and accidentally killed her first foe; then withdrew. Her friend (the Fae Foundling) was there. She also led the cheer for her sister, who entered with you.
- One night, she went deeper beneath the castle than ever before; she found a beautiful jeweled ring that glitters in the darkness.
The weird part that happened here was my two daughters ended up rolling different results, but still came out very similar in stats. Almost as if they're sisters.
- My wife: The Fae Foundling
My partial-ACKS conversion of BTW has this statted as a Elven Spellsword. She kind of surprised me here by not going with Witch's Prentice (a Druidish sort of theme, which she usually gravitates to)
- Her adopting father was an outcast; rightfully or not.
- She learned a little from everyone; they all had something to teach.
- She befriended the hunters, often camping with them. (It was noted later she knows the hunter the Wild Daughter saved)
- She had a wizened and clever look; even as a babe. She has the skill Loremastery.
- The unseen is clear before her eyes; she gains the spell Sense Nature.
- The sluagh came from the west one season; and she protected her friends from their attack. She gained the spell Shield. The younger Wild Daughter (IRL younger sister of the daughter who's playing) was there with her.
- When her foster parents found her; amongst her swaddling clothes was a wonderfully carved stone rose.
- Youngest Boy: The Local Performer
This is a Bard type. It's not something I would have predicted this person to pick - one of the strengths of BTW is that it hides the class mechanics behind a story first. I'd expected a Ranger out of him.
This character is also a lesson in providing complete rules. I'd sent a draft of this whole thing to this boy's father, and they all got excited and rolled up characters. I hadn't mentioned that stats in BTW are supposed to top out at 19 - he managed to gain a Charisma of 23. He's 7 years old, the dice spoke, I'm going to let it stand, and figure out how to handle it on the fly. Converting ACKS' stat tables, using the 2/3/2/3 progression, a 23 gets him a +5 modifier. He doesn't have any other reaction-modifying proficiencies, so that's not too bad considering what you can get up to in default ACKS.
- His father was a local merchant. He learned to name his price and charm his customers.
- He never met someone who didn't like him.
- He often helped the old widow around the house.
- Grandmother Weaver's tales of faeries, knights, and maidens filled his head with tales of adventure. He gains the skill Perform(Oratory)
- He gets the best applause from his rendition of a famous and well-loved tale of romance. He gains Inspire Courage.
- A minstrel from the south sat all night teaching him and his friend (the Forgotten Child) many songs and tales. He gains the rituals Read Languages and Summon Berserkers.
- He's gained the favor and true name of a faerie noble. (combined with the aforementioned minstrel)
- Eldest Boy: The Forgotten Child
A thief. He's a foster child in the local nobleman's (the one with the Wild Daughter) manor. I'd expected a straight fighter out of this boy.
- His house is known for base betrayal - the family is respected but not trusted. They authored this as the boy's uncle overthrowing his father in a coup.
- Everyone has something to teach, and he learned from them all.
- The seneschal taught him games of strategy and skill.
- His favorite place isn't in the castle - it's in the village beyond (thus tying him to the other players) He gains Loremastery.
- His favorite book in the library is a book of maps; showing the lands for miles around.
- His father's brother, the vizier, made a pact with an ancient evil. He managed to reveal his deviltry, too late, however. The Heir to a Legend saved him from a dark ritual occuring just as the coup was starting. Gain the skill Lockpicking.
- He has a dagger of dark iron, gifted to him by his grandmother.
- The Boys' Father: The Heir To A Legend
Not surprising. I've been gaming with this guy for ~14 years or so, and I had him pegged as either this or the Gifted Dilettante. This is a 'Ranger" type.
- His mother kept the old stories; his head is full of them.
- There wasn't a game he couldn't win.
- A grizzled mercenary taught him a thing or two (rewrote into his father)
- His father traveled to Faerie and returned after defeating and evading the perils of that strange land. Gained Resilience.
- His father taught him the old ways of war; where single heroes fight for glory and honor, gained Fighting Style: Weapon & Shield.
- Someone or something connected to his father's adventures pushed him to make a name for himself; he saved the Forgotten Child from a dark ritual with the Local Performer in tow.
- Last autumn, he found a broken blade bearing his brother's name ( a rewrite to support their backstory)
My youngest daughter, at 4, was involved lightly, I was just seeing how she'd participate. She got bored with the process, and became impatient with taking turns, so she got out her own paper and drew her own village. She more-or-less aped her sister, including wanting the same result on the last table (a special ring). She was a little put out there wasn't a board or pieces during this. I think she'll be a wargamer like her daddy.
Assuming I added these up right, here's the party's stats:
Nobleman's Wild Daughter
Fighter: STR 12 INT 9 WIS 10 DEX 17 CON 11 CHA 14
Spellsword: STR 9 INT 17 WIS 12 DEX 11 CON 15 CHA 8
Bard: STR 11 INT 11 WIS 8 DEX 9 CON 10 CHA 23
Thief: STR 10 INT 12 WIS 11 DEX 12 CON 13 CHA 15
Heir to a Legend
Ranger: STR 15 INT 11 WIS 10 DEX 16 CON 11 CHA 9
Nothing too outlandish except that 23 CHA. Looking at the rest of his stats I may offer him to change anything that doesn't conflict with the story they've worked up.
Everyone had a good time. I got some good NPCs out of the whole deal (NPCs that they made, so they're invested into them already) to dangle rumors and provide information with, they've got some ownership over the starting town (almost as if they grew up there, huh?)
The boys and their father had such a good time I ended up with a mini-novel on their backstories - they took the BTW-provided hooks and ran with them - the Forgotten Child is the lost scion of the ruling house of a faraway (but not too faraway) kingdom, the Heir To A Legend is who helped him escape the coup attempt by the Forgotten Child's father's vizier; the Local Performer is who discovered the ritual in progress. I've got a inn populated with NPCs and PCs and an entire kingdom they're going to want to visit one day.
My fevered hope is that we play these characters long enough that we get to name level and they can grab some troops and go take back that kingdom. I would *love* to toss some Domains At War into this.
I can't recommend enough Beyond The Wall. It's a fine "light OSR d20" in it's own right - three basic classes (mage and cleric are combined), an interestingly literary ritual system, and a dead simple freeform skill system, but the character playbooks launch it into a must-have.
Sure, you could sit down with bunch of folks that are well-read in the "classic fantasy" and come up with an interesting backstory with enough world-creation that the GM has a bunch of ready hooks to hang adventures on. But can you come up with them randomly generated with related skills and stats?
If you've read Earthsea or the Prydain Chronicles or any other number of young-adult fantasy novels, you're going to find in here loving call-backs to well loved characters and themes - if you don't, go reread them now, because you've forgotten the magic they had when you were young.