Treat Ye’Self: An Ogre and His CakeDecember 21, 2018 Off By TK
Welcome back, adventurer! Last week we continued “Treat Ye’self” with the Scooby-Doo mystery “Trouble in Tresendar Manor” with Kat Kruger and the D20 Dames. This time, we’re taking a look at the kid-friendly phenomenon “An Orge and His Cake” by Christoper Walz and Emmet Byrne.
So make sure your presents are wrapped and the balloons are full! Let’s find that missing cake! (Warning: SPOILERS abound below this line!)
“An Ogre and His Cake” is designed with a younger audience in mind, ideally years 8-12 (advertised as 5+). As such, it is calibrated as a 1.5-2 hour mini-adventure, roughly the length of an animated Disney film. In addition, it professes little to no lasting violence: villains run away when their HP hits 0 (not terribly dissimilar to the legacy of fainting Pokemon or fighter pilots hitting the eject button in the GI Joe cartoons). Shared story-telling is encouraged to keep kids focused on the adventure at hand, and engaged in their magical surroundings. There are pre-generated characters and the Rule of Cool is the name of the game here: let the kids be heroes and don’t limit their creativity too much with clunky mechanics.
The plot plays out like this: The players have been invited to halfling Massie Littlefoot’s 12th birthday party with amazing performers and much excitement about her attending wizarding school in Waterdeep next year. Unfortunately, Clonker the ogre has stolen the cake and it is up to the adventurers to get it back! This theft isn’t what it seems, though, and the group will discover that Clonker is just lonely and wants friends to share his own birthday.
Starting from the cover, we have an idea of exactly the sort of adventure we’re expecting. The ogre is a friendly Shrek-ish green with a smile—foretelling a happy ending. The colors are warm, welcoming, and bright, and nothing about the ogre’s posture advertises hostility or aggression. In fact, his arms are open in celebration, as though he is receiving the cake as a gift. All of this will help fixate the image that an ogre can be a friend in the minds of children and will plant the goal of peaceful reconciliation in their minds early and often.
There are 3 pages of Introduction dedicated to helping you get into the mindset of running a game for young children. Item charts are presented with larger texts for easier reading and DM notes are printed on bright yellow “Post-Its” to break up long blocks of text. NPCs like the pixie Bright Brothers come with bright, whimsical illustrations and there are a few “doodles” in the margins. Most NPCs are rather helpful (if mischievous) and the DCs to interact are in a great range (10-14) to give some challenge while still letting children feel pride in success.
The multiple map files for Clonker’s Cottage come in color as well and greyscale, with and without grids and legends. The art is incredibly well done and looks to be straight out of a storybook, complete with ill-gotten decorations, a failed attempt to bake a cake, and a straw mat bed for Clonker to rest his weary, misunderstood head. There are multiple ways to figure out a resolution to the story and, like “Trouble at Tresendar Manor” this is an adventure that can be concluded without fighting the “boss”.
Overall, this adventure is perfectly polished and has some great lessons for children: specifically that compassion is the most powerful item in an adventurer’s arsenal. Any choice that they make has consequences for future stories, so remind your young adventurers of that early and often (the adventure helps by providing the Bright Brothers to do exactly that). Just because you can fight, doesn’t mean that you should. Heroes know when to fight and when to try making friends.
I loved the redesigned character sheets and spell lists. The redirected focus to “who are you” from “what numbers do you need” is simple but effective and it is certain to appeal to kids of all ages as they are introduced to fantasy rpgs.
If you’re pressed for time or wish to remove battle for sensitive or pacifist adventurers, consider ignoring the Grimtooth goblin ambush and replacing them with low DC traps set by the Grimtooth that the group needs to navigate to reach Clonker’s home.
That’s all for this week, adventurers! Next time, we’ll be bring “Treat Ye’self” full circle with a guide to interpreting signs and symbols of the Multiverse with Ashley Warren’s fantastic “Amira Metanova’s Opuscule of Omens”.
About The Author
TK is a speculative fiction writer and part-time eldritch horror. They can be found as a cast member of The Demonplague, Unearthly Twilights, The Land Between Two Rivers, and Hell’s Belles on the Don’t Split the Podcast, WebDM, and Dungeons & Dragons networks, respectively. Their gothic and cosmic horror stories can be found at tkjwrites.com and very soon in print in a collaborative set of short stories and comics with artist Kayla Cline. TK themself can be found on Twitter @tkjoinsthefray.