It all started when my six-year-old daughter told me that she didn't like D&D "because of all the fighting." I realized that she was right -- sometimes, combat was relegated to dice rolls. While the occasional natural 20 spiced things up, for the most part it was damage calculations and rolling to hit. It's sometimes the least exciting part of D&D -- not because combat isn't fun, but because my daughter's a kind soul and prefers not to fight if she can help it.
But there ARE other forms of conflict resolution in the form of skill challenges. Boccob's Blessed Blog is a hugely valuable resource in this regard, although I've since simplified the process of skill challenges even further.
When I ran Tyranny of Dragons, it centered on my son's character first and foremost. I was determined to make a new game tailor-made just for my daughter. And that meant ponies. My Little Pony specifically.
The new My Little Pony franchise is surprisingly D&D-friendly. It includes all the traditional D&D tropes and over six seasons of content. There's also a massive fan community of artists and authors who've done all the hard work already. Our game uses Cheezedoodle96's rules.
Next was to find an appropriately epic adventure series. Out of the Abyss was a little too grim and I didn't want to do gothic horror with Ravenloft. Since we just finished Tyranny of Dragons, that left just one logical choice: Princes of the Apocalypse. Thus was born My Little Pony vs. Princes of the Apocalypse! Here's the summary:
Twilight Sparkle was startled to discover that four of the Elements of Harmony were plucked out of the Tree of Harmony: Magic, Kindness, Honesty and Generosity.
Tharizdun stole the four elements to impose his will through the four archomentals and power their return to Faerun. Tharizdun forged four weapons with each Element embedded in it: the spear Windvane (Kindness), the dagger Tinderstrike (Magic), the trident Drown (Honesty), and the war pick Ironfang (Generosity). Then he gifted the weapons to the elemental prophets.
Twilight Sparkle used her magic to determine what happened and, upon realizing the Elements were in other realms, set out to retrieve them by using the Crystal Mirror to traverse dimensions. But when they went to use the portal, Spike, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were left behind. Instead, three other souls were transported to the Forgotten Realms: Cutie Petal, Goldie, and Champ. It's up to these three heroes of Equestria (well, two, more about that later) to find the four ponies trapped in their humanoid (Equestria Girls) forms and rescue them from the clutches of Elemental Evil!
The other thing I wanted to do was ensure my daughter, who is still learning to read, is really engaged. In addition to letting her pick her character's appearance and name, we use the "bling bag" pony toys, about 3-inches high. They're compatible with most D&D miniatures. I also created a comic using a PowerPoint template summarizing each episode, which she avidly reads.
~Cuite Petal is our star hero (played by my six-year-old daughter), a shy pegasus with an affinity for plants who charms everyone she meets (even though her Charisma isn't very high). Cutie was an innocent bystander who was warped through the Crystal Mirror. Cutie Petal is a Wonderbolt by profession but prefers gardening in her spare time. Her powers became enhanced when she was sucked through to the Forgotten Realms as she's now a druid. Her wildshape ability is a little too complex for my daughter so we gave her advantage on Charisma-based rolls and disadvantage to enemies saving vs. any plant-based attacks due to her cutie mark.
~Champ (played by my eight-year-old son) is a dragon who goes by that nickname, short for "Grenade" Hudraer, Champion of the Red. He is one of the progeny of Bomber, the black/green dragon hybrid raised by Elec. Bomber's mate was a red dragon, so Champ (currently) looks like a red dragon -- we'll see if he exhibits any green dragon traits in the future. My son enjoys playing a dragon after working so closely with Bomber in the previous campaign, and he took Bomber's death hard so this made him feel better. Unlike his companions, Champ is a native of the Forgotten Realms, he just got teleported out of his home while trying to learn how to use his breath weapon. Champ tends to act without thinking and likes blundering into things, so the barbarian class suits him.
~Argestes "Goldie" Goldclaw is a griffon, played by me. Like Cutie, he was an innocent bystander sucked into the Crystal Mirror. He is a paladin, meant to provide combat and healing support as needed. I role-play Goldie like the Muppet Sam the Eagle: dour, humorless, and more prone to hanging back and judging everyone. He's lawful good though and will come through in a pinch.
So far the biggest challenge is just thinking outside the box. Most encounters assume combat and I keep pushing myself to think of alternatives that involve skill or spell resolution instead. It's been an interesting exercise so far, but the true measure of success is if my daughter can stick with the game to its conclusion. There's only one way to find out!
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- Twilight leaving through the Crystal Mirror:http://mlp.wikia.com/wiki/File:Twilight_leaving_through_the_mirror_EG.png
- Mirror Portal Background: http://favoriteartman.deviantart.com/art/MLP-EGRR-Background-The-Mirror-Portal-Again-501201257