High Variance

The Scepter and the Crown

R turned five this weekend and we celebrated with a party, some amazing cupcakes, a trip to the carousel, and a brand new Nonviolent Dungeons and Dragons for Kids adventure. This one was more puzzle-based and less monster-focused than The Haunted Castle. It was also a little longer and more open to different routes through it.

Props (all optional)

  • a scepter
  • a crown
  • Some sort of horn
  • box with coins and jewels
  • frog boots
  • rope


King Ricardo (your father, if you’re a princess) has a special mission for you: You must deliver this scepter and crown to your cousin Princess Soldina for her birthday in three days. He gives you a map of the area–it looks very far and there is no direct route. The King then smiles and gives the players a beautiful magic flying carpet. He says it is very fast and should get you there in plenty of time. It will also return to the King as soon as you step off of it.

What do you do?

Your flight is very pleasant until you start to cross the Black Mountains. That’s when a roc notices you and starts swooping in for a closer look.

What do you do?

The player can try to avoid each roc capture attempt by rolling 3d6 under her dexterity, but eventually the roc will get them. If they roll exactly their dexterity, they fall and just barely grab the edge of the carpet where they are gently plucked off by the roc.

1. The roc’s cave

The roc flies north and brings you to her nest and then flies off again, in search more food for her chicks. The nest is in a cave high on a mountain (see DM’s version of the map of the land). There are two hungry baby rocs in the nest. They don’t like jokes, but can be soothed to sleep with a lullaby. The cave entrance is a cliff dropping thousands of feet to sharp rocks. You get a little dizzy looking down. In the back of the cave, it looks like a tunnel goes further into the mountain.

There is a weird glowing mold growing on almost all the walls of the caverns that provides enough light to see.

The DM should draw the roc’s cave on a blank sheet of paper for the players and extend the map as the players explore without showing his own complete map of the caverns.

2. The abandoned bedroom

It looks like someone has been living in here recently, but they aren’t here now. There are dirty clothes and some fresh food and drink. If the players search the room, they will also find a long coil of silk rope, a sharp knife, and some magic green boots with frog eyes on the toes. These will let the wearer jump long distances.

3. The giant spider nest

The giant spider is working in the back of a giant web–she is busily wrapping her silk around something large and doesn’t notice the players. In fact, she has caught Boris, the human who lived in the bedroom on food stolen from the roc’s babies. He made his rope from the spider’s silk, but he got too close to the spider recently. The group may try to rescue him, though the spider is a tough opponent. She is scared of fire though. The web is extremely sticky. Players will need to either be very strong to escape or use a knife to get out.

4. The chasm

The bridge that once crossed this chasm broke long ago. Players will need the frog boots and possibly rope to get across. The cave turns into a tunnel on the other side and winds down for a long way on the other side to the underground river.

5. The underground river

The tunnel opens up into a small cave with a low ceiling and a fast-moving river running through it. Next to the river is a small boat. If you want to make the adventure tougher, you could put a hole in the boat and make the players figure out a way to repair it. The river flows underground for several miles and then exits the mountain flowing another several miles to the ocean. Show players on the King’s map.

Just before the river takes a sharp turn and joins the ocean is an unusual multi-colored arched rock about the size of a horse. It is called rainbow rock, but the players don’t know that yet. It can’t be seen directly from the ocean.

6. The Pirates

After being swept past the odd arch-shaped rock, the players’ boat is caught in the ocean’s current moving south. They soon encounter a pirate ship. The pirates (led by Pink Beard) are a rough crew but not very hostile. They are looking for a treasure chest that is supposed to be buried under something called Rainbow Rock. The pirates have been unable to find it thus far. The players have the option of telling the pirates where it is or keeping quiet.

7. Rainbow Rock

If the players dig under the rainbow rock, they will find a treasure chest. Inside are gold coins, jewels, and a horn covered with intricately carved animals of all kinds. It is a magical Horn of Animal Summoning. When blown, some animal will come to the aid of the player. Some animals are more helpful than others. Aquarius the whale will come if the players blow the horn at this point. He can tow their boat along with the chest all the way to Princess Soldina’s Castle in time for the birthday party.

How it went

R started by creating a new Princess character and enjoyed coloring her map of land throughout her adventure. R was initially very cautious exploring the caves–I had to goad her into moving down the tunnels–but by the end she was feeling quite comfortable underground. She was also wary of the frog boots and certainly didn’t want to tangle with the giant spider. The whole adventure took about half an hour and my favorite moment was at the very end, when she said “Can we play another story now?”