Child Encounters I

Werewolf, Wooodcut, 162 × 126 mm

Look, I have MET werewolves, and you are NOT a werewolf. You're just crazy!

1) A skilled sleight-of-hand artist has developed the Mystic Artist series of abilities to go with his card, scarf, and juggling tricks, allowing him to pull off various bardic-style effects. While he normally contents himself with using his talents to extract a little extra money from his audiences, sometimes that isn’t enough – and he’ll resort to fascinating and distracting his audience while his youthful “apprentices” pickpocket them.

If he’s taught the kids the Companion (Familiar) feat, with the Transform ability as the granted bonus, He – and the kids – will each have a Familiar that can take their form and will be able to take the form of the Familiar. If they pick – say – a flying species, or one that’s good at sneaking in and out of places, they’ve got some escape options – and whatever town they visit is likely to have a small crimewave.

2) About a month ago a wealthy merchant’s oldest son – a boy of thirteen – was bitten by a “stray dog”. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a werewolf – although, in the confusion at the time, that important bit went unnoticed. Now it is once again the full moon, the boy has run off – and his parents want him back, unharmed, and – preferably – cured.

Things may get more complicated if his somewhat younger brother would prefer to be the first in line to inherit. Perhaps some months earlier he acquired a ring or talisman which fascinated him – and found that it turned him into a master werewolf, able to bite other youngsters to create lesser werewolves bound to his will. Fortunately, the talisman can be used to cure it’s victims. Unfortunately, they have to be alive, or it’s chaotic evil power will already have dragged it’s victims souls to the abyss. Was the kid psychotic to start with? Did he embrace this willingly or not? Will you sacrifice one to save the other, and would you be right to do so?

3) Not all animal companions are familiars or beasts of war. Some are just clever pets. Can the frantic dog get the adventurers to follow him back to where Little Timmy has fallen into a cavern system, been captured by monsters, or otherwise gotten into far more trouble than any five year old can possibly handle?

4) One or more young nobles desperately want to be adventurers. Unfortunately, loading the kids up with magic and equipment “to help them survive” just means that they find minor encounters less challenging – forcing them to spend a lot more time at low levels, and so making it more likely that they’ll be killed rather than less.

Sending them along with an experienced party charged to look after them is safer, but exposes the youngsters to the greater dangers that a high-powered mentor tends to attract. It undermines the youngster’s dreams of heroism, makes the escorts baby-sitters to be avoided, and doesn’t even speed things up that much; they may be being called “a member of the party”, but it’s a lot more like “luggage”.

The only way to really make this work is to hire some more experienced adventurers to shadow and shepherd the group of youngsters – to stay out of sight, keep ahead of them, deal with anything too powerful for them, let the youngsters deal with the lesser menaces without interference (while standing ready to come to the rescue if they’re getting overwhelmed), and play guardian angels until the youngsters hit second or third level.

Go ahead. Skip from “how to drop by and heal them without arousing suspicion”, to “how to get them to alter their campsight to somewhere that’s NOT on top of the cursed crypt full of undead that will awaken at sunset without being spotted”, to “defeat the group of owlbears while keeping it quiet enough not to let the kids know that you’re there”.

Are you quite sure that there wasn’t someone out there doing this for you when you were a new adventurer? It’s one way of justifying that string of “balanced encounters” that you started off your adventuring career with.

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