A major calamity has left the land in disarray and a religious cult has chosen to take advantage of the moment. They have ‘marked’ certain children as a source of corruption, seeking to use them as a sacrifice for their deity; more level-headed folk have chosen to assist the children, orphans of the calamity, by smuggling them out of the country. The characters chance upon such a smuggling run under attack by members of the cult.
Fantasy AGE Encounters: Children’s Crusade provides the barebones set up for a short adventure session. Essentially, the short supplement sets out a situation and provides a reasonable thumbnail sketch of the key characters.
While written for Green Ronin’s Fantasy AGE system, the generic approach means you could use it for any game – indeed, there’s no reason why you couldn’t adapt the situation to a different genre, from modern to sci-fi.
The supplement amounts to 5-pages, with 3-and-a-half pages of text, so the detail runs short and pithy. The first page explains the situation, what needs to happen and what’s at stake – before outlining what the characters see when they stumble on the attack. The situation, as I say, could well be on a different planet or somewhere in south-eastern Europe in some modern day setting.
The second page includes a random table of possible encounters as the characters escort the children with stats for the cultists. The third page includes brief tips on getting the most out of the adventure and what might happen next. The better part of a page and half gives thumbnail sketches of each kid, with first name, age, a little background and some sense of their personality.
The GM would need to spend some time considering this information and use it to provide a sense of the individual about each child. Really, if you can’t get the characters to fall for one or more of these guys, then you just end up with a ‘caravan guard’ scenario. The descriptions usefully pick out what they or their parents did before they became orphans, how they’ve reacted and what they aspire to. You should a simple enough time mirroring each character with one or more children – or you can always swap in more appropriate personality or background traits to achieve this.
In a nutshell, you have the start of a campaign here. Do the characters succeed? What fate befalls the orphans? How do the characters deal with the ire of the cultists? Where do the orphans end up? Will the characters maintain any contact or perhaps they catch news that draws them back to help these kids again? And, are the cultists right about the children being ‘marked’ and what repercussions might that have?
The adventure reminds me of the start of A Fragile Web from the Dragon Age supplement Blood of Ferelden, where cultists kidnap a child for nefarious reasons. Children’s Crusade puts the characters in immediate threat and faces them with a challenge they might never have chosen to get involved in. Like so many bad Hollywood movies, the adventure will involve some scenes with the player characters slowly getting attached to the plight of the kids and wanting to see them escape persecution. In that act, the characters might well set themselves up with a campaign-load of trouble.
At 5-pages, including a cover with staff credits, Children’s Crusade provides a serviceable kick-off to a campaign if you’re struggling for one. It doesn’t have ties to the Fantasy AGE system beyond stats for the cultists, so you could use it for anything. The personality portraits provide immediate character and utility in turning these children into something more than helpless 2-dimensional cargo; mind, that will require you putting your acting hat on and trying to play the part.
Interesting setup for a generic adventure, if not essential for Fantasy AGE and a little bit pricey for the page count.
Review based on a personal copy. Fantasy AGE Encounters: Children’s Crusade. Written by Jack Norris. Published by Green Ronin. Available from RPGNow in PDF for $2.95.