A few weeks ago I wrote a review on a delightful kids RPG called Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game. We delved into game mechanics, character creation, and general fun factor. I also touched on an adventure — The Pet Predicament — and promised that I would share further details on the adventure in the future.
Well buckle in folks, cause the future is now!
Today, much to my daughter’s delight, we’re talking The Pet Predicament!
Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game is an easy to understand pen and paper roleplaying game featuring the world and characters of the hit TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The game is aimed at children, but is definitely fun for the whole family. For more details on the game and how it works, click here!
At the back of Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game you’ll find a starter adventure called The Pet Predicament. Intended for level 1 ponies, its the perfect first adventure for this game. Yes, seriously. And, it’s not a short or cheap adventure, either! It’s forty pages in length if you count the stat blocks it comes with. My family played through the adventure in two short sessions, though my kids were so engrossed they wanted to play it in one.
In a practical sense, this adventure is incredibly important. It provides a first adventure for players to use, and teaches them how a game should be run by example. For experienced players it also serves to alter our preconceptions about RPGs, and really shake things up. Tails of Equestria isn’t the same kind of RPG as Pathfinder or D&D. It downplays battle, and really encourages players to use creative thinking, kindness, teamwork, and roleplaying to overcome obstacles. This game requires a different mindset than other RPGs. Happily it’s a mindset that kids and young players will naturally settle into and flourish.
So what is The Pet Predicament? I mentioned it was the perfect starter adventure for this game and I meant it. It’s well written, easy to GM, engaging, and fun. There’s plenty of opportunity for Scuffles, but just as many chances for players to completely avoid Scuffles with Tests and Challenges. It features the Mane Six (main characters) from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as initial NPCs, and features plenty of other cameos along the way.
Our adventure begins, innocently enough, in Ponyville’s market. There your PCs (short for Pony Characters in Tails of Equestria) are grocery shopping and have a chance to describe all the things they’ve been buying. This is a great opportunity for your players to talk about their characters, and decide how they know each other.
My family decided to play a strange family of ponies. I played Soothing Heart, an over-prepared earth pony mother who carries saddlebags filled with everything her little fillies might need (including snacks, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, and protective gear for a wide variety of weather). She’s tough, caring, loyal, and determined, with the Healing Touch talent. But, her vision is poor, and she needs glasses to see. Also, since I was also going to be the Storyteller, Soothing Heart is a bit of a follower, allowing her little fillies to explore the world while she minds them from afar. My/her husband is Nugget, a unicorn with a spectacular hairdo and the beginnings of a beard. He’s clever, charming, and a talented magic-user. More than anything, Nugget is an artist with an obsession for magical creatures. If he sees one he can’t resist stopping to draw it — a dangerous habit! My daughter created a pegasus called Bunna who is kind, happy, and adores animals. She can even speak to mammals! Bunna is a seamstress who specializes in hand sewing stuffed animals. She particularly adores rabbits. Unfortunately, she has a terrible fear of… caterpillars! Eeeek! The horror! Finally, my son created Flying Recall, a mystery loving pegasus with special pony senses who always trusts his gut. He’s a friendly, funny fellow, who is a little bit too silly.
My kids had great fun describing their many, many purchases in the market, with my son buying healthy snacks and my daughter buying a massive rabbit shaped cake. Soon, my daughter (the PC who bought the tastiest treats or, in my case, loves rabbits the most) felt her grocery bag getting heavier and heavier… Bunna looked down to realize there was an adorable little rabbit in her bag eating all of her cake! My daughter squealed in absolute delight while my son looked at the picture of the rabbit and exclaimed: “Oh, no! Not THAT rabbit! THAT rabbit is trouble!”
And my son couldn’t have been more right! Angel is Fluttershy’s rabbit, and he’s horribly behaved. Kids are sure to have a blast roleplaying with this little guy. My daughter’s attempts to befriend the rabbit led to it growling, glaring at her, and crossing his arms in irritation. Soon she just decided to let him enjoy the cake which is when my kids (and I’m sure many more) let out their second squeal of glee: Fluttershy herself appears looking for her ‘little Angel.’ Impressed with your ability to handle the rabbit — cue my daughter’s proud smile — Fluttershy asks your PCs for a favour. She and her friends (yes, those friends) have to go on an important trip, but they promised they would give their pets a pampering party! They really can’t delay their mission, but they don’t want to let their pets down, either. They need someone really special to come over and pet-sit!
My kids literally threw their arms up into the air and were begging to be the petsitters before Fluttershy could even get the offer out. They were SO in. Haha. Not a surprise! It’s likely that any kids who has seen the show will be absolutely thrilled at this turn of events. Getting to meet such famous characters is enough to make many kids squeal in glee, and finding themselves the caretakers of all six of their pets? I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who doesn’t love animals!
Fluttershy asks the PCs to show up at her house the next morning and trots away leaving your PCs with the rest of the day to spend as they see fit. It’s assumed that you finish checking out the market and then skip to the scene at Fluttershy’s house, but both of my kids play a lot of complex RPGs, so they had other plans. Especially when you take into account that Flying Recall loves a good mystery! The pair of them spent time investigating the identities of the Mane Six and their pets, figuring out what each animal enjoyed doing, and what each loved to eat. My kids were counting on fingers, trying to remember the pets from the tv show, guessing what those kinds of animals would like in real life, and rolling dice to ask around for gossip, and recall obscure bits of information. They had a blast! I rewarded their efforts with lots of helpful information and they spent time picking up items in the market that they thought would be of use in petsitting. A juicy bone and a ball for Applejack’s dog, the fanciest and most expensive cat treats they could find for Rarity’s spoiled cat, and so on.
When they were ready to move on our PCs headed over to Fluttershy’s house — with my kids wearing incredibly proud smiles on their faces. They got to meet each member of the Mane Six, each of the pets they would be babysitting, and ask any questions they had. I casually dropped a lot of information on my kids in this scene while roleplaying, most importantly about all the pets and what they like or don’t like. The information is easy to come by for GMs, but players will need to rely on their memories, note-taking, or rolling a Mind Check to get everything down. Surprisingly my kids were obsessively dedicated petsitters, and remembered every little detail all on their own. My husband was more concerned with matters like: ‘Where’s the food?’ ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘When will you be back?’
Nugget learned that the Mane Six were off to solve a mystery. Ponies throughout Equestria were being magically turned into statuettes! They always turned back to normal after a while, but it was very jarring. So the Mane Six were heading out to investigate. Their mission would take them into the dangerous Badlands to the south.
Nugget decided that sounded very dangerous, and he would much rather stay behind and pet-sit. My kids agreed.
The Mane Six bid everyone farewell and left. We were alone in Fluttershy’s house with a whopping six pets to care for. All very different. Some easy to tend to and some not. Both my son and daughter got super into this part of the adventure. They did their best to take care of the animals, find and feed them their favourite things, pamper and play with them, and so on. They carefully decided who would be best suited to caring for each pet, and excitedly tried to recall every bit of information they could. They fed Owlowiscious (Twilight Sparkle’s wise owl) chocolate mice and tickled him just behind his ear feathers. They gave Winona (Applejack’s playful dog) the bone they had bought for her, played ball, and patted her tummy. They were absurdly happy to see Winona enjoy the bone they bought him. They gave Gummy (Pinkie Pie’s toothless baby alligator) fish cakes and played Snaps. They brushed and groomed Opalescence (Rarity’s fat, spoiled cat) while feeding her the most expensive cat treats money could buy (which they had already bought a lot of!). They took Tank (Rainbow Dash’s helicopter flying turtle) out for a fly and fed him lettuce. My kids had such a blast with this part of the adventure! They were exchanging high fives and shouting out ‘great job’ and other congratulations at the table. It was just a giant ball of feel-good fun.
And then my daughter tried to handle Angel, the fluffy little rabbit menace. They knew it would be tough. They got him the perfect carrots, gently fluffed his tail, and offered him cuddles. Shockingly, my daughter managed to control the rabbit for a while, but in time he got out of hand. Carrots were met with growls, tail fluffing with glares, and cuddles with fierce little punches from fluffy paws. He was a terror!
Which is the point!
Angel causes such a commotion he knocks all the books off the bookshelf, some of which land on Tank. Tank’s helicopter motor starts up and shoots him right through a window and into the sky. Worried for Tank, Winona hops through the broken window after him. Owolwiscious screeches in panic at the commotion — he had previously been napping — and flies up the chimney in a cloud of soot. Gummy starts to sneeze and ends up biting Opalescence, who leaps into the air, clings to the curtains with her claws, and brings the whole curtain rod down at you! Your PCs have a chance to dodge the curtains, but fate is not with them. If they fail a Body Check they get tangled in the curtains, and if they pass they instead get knocked into a cupboard as it falls over.
“AHHH!” My kids shrieked. “The pets!”
“Tank flew right out the window!” my son exclaimed with wide eyes.
“And the cat got bit by a crocodile!” my daughter added. “That bunny is so naughty! Oh… but he is very cute… I forgive him!”
“We need to save them!” my son pointed out.
Only then did they realize they were stuck. Really stuck.
By the time we all extricated ourselves with our skills from curtains and cupboards, the pets were gone. All of them.
We headed outside to investigate. Flying Recall searched around for clues — he loves a good mystery — while Bunna asked around for eye-witness accounts from the nearby mammals. In time they discovered that each pet had wandered off on their own — most into the nearby Everfree Forest. They immediately decided we had to get them back. But who was most in need of rescue? And which clues should they follow first?
From here we get to the bulk of the adventure: finding and rescuing all six pets. This will present your players with all kinds of obstacles, Tests, and Challenges. Following the trails and clues in some cases is difficult, with failure causing new challenges and mishaps that range from falling into a marshy pool or getting tangled in clinging thorns, to stepping on a cragadile, getting surrounded by timberwolves, and even meeting the mysterious zebra mystic known as Zecora. Surprisingly, my kids didn’t fail a single tracking Check, and never faced any of the mishaps. Rescuing each pet will take creative thinking and teamwork but exactly how each task is accomplished is incredibly open ended, which really allows your group of PCs to use their own unique approach to get things done. The order they choose to rescue the pets in is entirely up to them.
Once your players manage to rescue a pet they need to keep it happy. Each animal has a few paragraphs written about how they act after being rescued, and how your players can affect their behaviour. Some pets are helpful, others silly, and some (here’s looking at you Angel) are a giant pain in the butt! Managing these rescued pets becomes a fun part of the rest of the adventure, even as they distract you from (or help to) rescue the others.
My kids decided that finding Gummy was most important. They had tracked his footprints to a fast-moving stream and easily determined that the alligator was so small he wouldn’t be able to fight the current. Knowing that if they didn’t follow him right away they might never find him at all, they raced off downstream. They discovered a boat nearby, which some of us rode in, but my son didn’t trust the boat. Instead he insisted on racing along the riverbank. The stream leads to a large lake where they spotted a big bird flying through the air with a baby alligator clamped onto his tail feathers. Gummy is at risk of falling, and the bird looks in pain. There’s plenty of ways to go about rescuing the alligator, but with two pegasus in the party my kids decided to fly up there and get the job done themselves. Bunna held onto Gummy, and Flying Recall tried to pry his mouth open while telling him silly jokes. From the ground, Nugget steadied Gummy with his telekinesis, and Soothing Heart prepped a snack and some first aid supplies. They freed the bird without harm, and got Gummy down safe. …only to have him chomp onto Flying Recall! (Gummy sure does love to bite!). Soothing Heart fed Gummy food (thus freeing Flying Recall) while Bunna made Gummy a special stuffed animal. When it was ready she gave it to him to chew on, and then Flying Recall carried Gummy back to the cottage.
After a few minutes of checking the trails and clues again, its clear that all the rest of the pets entered the spooky Everfree Forest. Spotting a plume of smoke that they were sure would dissipate if they delayed any longer, they hurried into the forest after it. But, the forest is dense and travel through it is hard. Flying Recall flew up above the canopy to keep an eye on the smoke and lead the team toward their goal.
Tank had crash landed in a canyon dotted with caves and got his aviation goggles tangled on a tree branch. When my kids saw him dangling from a stick halfway down a canyon with a clearly broken helicopter rotor on his back they panicked! After much shrieks Bunna and Flying Recall flew to the rescue — only to discover that this canyon was home to a massive quarray eel that swallowed Flying Recall whole. My son panicked. Seriously. We reminded him that there’s no such thing as death in Tails of Equestria, and I described the strange soft squishy insides of the eel he finds himself in. That’s when my son exclaimed: “I USE MY TOKENS OF FRIENDSHIP TO REROLL SO I DODGE!!! NOW!!” My daughter decided this was a great plan, so the group gave up some Tokens of Friendship, we rewound the action, and Flying Recall managed to dodge the jaws of the quarray eel.
Now, this wasn’t necessary. PCs who find themselves swallowed whole only need wait on their friends to come up with a plan to rescue them. Jokes, smoke, sneezing, and many other options could work, all depending on what Talents your PCs have and what they come up with. Even if they all get too close to the eel and get swallowed, gameplay doesn’t end. In this case Tank’s rotor puffs up once more, sending him careening relatively safely to the cave ground. There the little loyal turtle waddles up to the eel — he’s much too small for the eel to care about eating — and gives the eel’s tail a solid chomp. The eel reels in pain and spits out any swallowed ponies, leaving Tank to slowly wander back out of the cave to give a proud little nod to the ponies he’s saved. Coolest turtle ever.
In my game, our heroic pegasi both carefully stayed out of the quarray eel’s way after the timely dodge, and delicately untangled Tank with some steadying help from Nugget’s telekinesis.
With Tank safe we headed out after Winona, whose barks and whimpers we could hear from afar. We found her tied up outside the den of some diamond dogs, which my kids knew (from watching the show) like to capture ponies and force them to work in their diamond mines. The goal here is to rescue Winona without getting noticed by the diamond dogs. For most groups its incredibly unlikely to happen, and you’ll then need to parley or otherwise deal with the diamond dogs themselves once they arrive on the scene to investigate the noise. But, super paranoid, Bunna snuck close to Winona and used her ability to speak with mammals and her Charm to good use, telling Winona to stay silent. After a few checks she rescued Winona and we all snuck off without the diamond dogs any wiser.
Next we followed a trail of sooty feathers which lead us to Owlowiscious. Much to my kids surprise they found him flying over and over again into a tree, which was right in the middle of a patch of blue flowers. My kids, who are avid RPG players, were immediately suspicious. They both looked at each other and said: “Trap.”
Both deduced it had something to do with the flowers, with one deciding they were cursed and the other insisting their pollen or smell must make you stupid. Turns out they were both right. The flower’s pollen puts a curse on anyone who sniffs it, which makes something happen that the victim would hate. For Owlowiscious that turned out to be losing his intelligence. Now dumb as a post, the poor owl was smashing himself silly by flying into the same tree over and over.
With no knowledge of the flowers abilities but feeling like they were to blame my kids gave this one a bit of a think. Unbeknownst to them the key here is teamwork. You can solve this any way your group wants, as long as everyone helps. Everyone. In the end Soothing Heart gave Bunna and Flying Recall some protective clothing, Nugget steadied the owl with telekinesis, and both Pegasus flew up there to grab him, being careful not to breathe at all. Mission accomplished!
Unfortunately, even after rescue the bird was still stupid. Luckily, Soothing Heart’s first aid training came in handy. She figured to what was wrong and used her ponlybalm to take away the harmful effects of the curse. But, that wouldn’t be permanent. They’d need to find a way to cure her for good, which would require a visit to the zebra mystic Zecora. Deciding that rescuing the pets was more important, they treated the owl as best as they could and moved on, determined to rescue Opalescence, the pampered cat next.
The cat we found stuck at the bottom of a magic well. Poor Opalescence was yowling in fear, shivering cold, and exhausted. As they approached words appeared on the well, a poem that hinted that if you threw what you loved and would miss into the well, it would return the cat. My kids did not like this. But, they wanted the cat. So my son threw in something he would miss — not his magnifying glass! He would miss that too much, but something else. His notepad. The water in the well rose and the cat floated closer. Following his lead my husband tossed in his art book, which caused the water level to rise a lot. Bunna made a new stuffed animal and threw it into the well, causing the water to rise. But there was a lot of way left to go, and my son soon discovered that no one could give something twice. Soothing Heart would have to throw in something she would really miss. So she took off her necklace — one of a pair which Nugget had given to his wife and daughter — and threw it into the well.
And my daughter freaked out. Holy cow! She suddenly broke down in tears shouting “We don’t match!!”
Did not see that coming. Apparently this necklace meant a lot to her. So, I told her to explain that to the well, and maybe it would make you another deal. Meanwhile, my son grumbled it was just a necklace and saved the cat, which was way more important that jewelry.
Now, it is expected that some folks might not want to give up some of their favourite items forever. The adventure has a few ways in it for your PCs to convince the well to return their items to them. In the end my daughter befriended it, and promised to visit the lonely well once a week. Satisfied, the well returned everything the gang had given it. Bunna let it keep the stuffed animal for company.
Relieved (and no longer sad), my daughter led the group away from the magic well.
We had one pet left to save: Angel.
My kids had decided to save her for last knowing that she would be a handful to manage. They didn’t want her messing up their other rescue missions! But, with all the pets free and safe (in varying degrees of happiness), they set out after the troublesome rabbit.
“I’ve got this!” My daughter told us. “Bunny, prepare to be cuddled!”
The trail led them to a dark cave.
“Trap,” my kids decided.
“Dangerous monster!” my son guessed.
“Spider webs,” my daughter guessed.
“Oh, wait! Please no more cave eels….” my son remarked with a groan.
Nugget made his unicorn horn glow a pleasant green colour and led the way inside. There we found a monstrous magical bear called an Ursa that was cuddling and rocking Angel like a baby. And… cooing at her? My kids were pretty sure the Ursa was singing Angel a lullaby. Angel, for his part, was wearing a diaper and struggling as much as he could for freedom. He glared, he flailed, he punched, and he nibbled. But still, the Ursa would not let it go.
For most groups this will be the most challenging pet to rescue. If they attempt to take Angel by force or trickery the Ursa will cry and wail, drawing its mother home from her hunting trip early. (Yup! This massive bear is actually a baby called an Ursa Minor). The Ursa mother (Ursa Major) will also return if your PCs take too long to rescue Angel or make too much noice. Clever PCs will choose that moment to flee, while adventurous souls might get into a Scuffle which is sure to end with the Ursa Minor (or Major) the victor. Any ponies knocked unconscious from such a Scuffle will likely find themselves the Ursa Minor’s new toy, and will then need to come up with a clever plan to escape.
The best way to free Angel is with kindness. Luckily for us, my daughter found another amazing use for her stuffed-animal-crafting Talent. She headed outside, made up a beautiful new rabbit stuffed animal and offered it to the Ursa in place of angel. She even described how she would give it a little voice box so the new stuffed animal made happy noises. In order to ensure maximum success she used some Tokens of Friendship to automatically pass the Check. The Ursa Minor was delighted.
The real trouble came with Nugget.
Nugget who can’t help but draw magical beasts. Luckily they had charmed the Ursa Minor enough that Nugget got in a quick sketch before Ursa Major came home.
Once your players have rescued all the pets they can head back to Fluttershy’s cottage and clean up. But, my ponies had other plans. They headed deeper into the forest and used all their knowledge to find Zecora. A zebra healer who talks in rhyme. Rhyme! Oh, so hard to role-play! Haha. But, I did a pretty good job. My kids enjoyed it, anyway.
Now, Zecora is written into the adventure as one of the mishaps that can occur if your PCs get lost in the Everfree Forest, so rules for how to utilize her already appear in this adventure. First give your PCs a chance to Charm her — which mine all failed horribly at. Usually, this would mean she sends you away with some cryptic words of farewell, or your players use some Tokens of Friendship to reroll or auto-pass their failed Charm Check. But, my family had already used up all of their Tokens of Friendship. Instead they tried to reason with her. They explained whose pets they were caring for and presented the poor, incredibly dumb, Owlowiscious to Zecora. Being friends of the Mane Six, Zecora recognized the pets and offered to break the owl’s curse. If the PCs repaid her with two future favours. (Hello, future plot hooks!). My family all agreed and Owlowiscious was cured — and grateful! Everyone traded farewells and then headed back to Fluttershy’s cottage.
Which was a mess!
Everyone hurried to get it clean, worried that the Mane Six would come home to find the place trashed. Then they cleaned the pets, fed everyone, and got back to pampering them. Just as the pets settled down for a nap there was a knock at the door. Nugget opened it to find a little purple dragon. It was Spike, the devoted companion to Princess Twilight Sparkle. He looked really hurt.
“You’ve gotta help, guys! Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies are in big trouble! I’m the only one who escaped! They need help right now!” Spike exclaimed, right before falling over unconscious.
Which is where the adventure ends.
Sort of. After this there’s information on how your players can continue the adventure. If you want you can buy the official sequel, Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes. But, the book also encourages GMs to make their own adventures, with the cliffhanger ending as the opening plothook. It offers plenty of questions and suggestions, then reminds GMs to tell their players to level up! Everypony is now level 2.
After the ending of The Pet Predicament there’s stat blocks for every creature featured in this adventure. The stat blocks are easy to read, with colourful pictures, descriptions, and tactics. Stat blocks included are the cragadile, diamond dog, mohawk, quarray eel, timberwolf, Ursa Minor, and Zecora. There’s also statistics for each of the Mane Six — cause you know one day kids are going to want those! Its nice of them to include official stat blocks for the show’s main characters right in the rulebook. Finally, there’s my favourite stat blocks: typical ponies. Here you’ll find one stat block for a typical earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn. There’s a description, stats, and a reminder to select one talent and one quirk for each pony you have your players run into. That’s what makes every pony special, after all! These three little stat blocks are super useful, since your players will often find themselves engaging in social interactions with other NPCs.
And with that, The Pet Predicament comes to an end.
We found that this adventure was a delight to read, GM, and play. Everyone in my family had a blast (including my husband). My kids adored getting to hang out with the pets, and were really invested in the story. The ending also had my kids hooked, as it leads directly into the Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes adventure (which I may admit to having bought my daughter for her upcoming birthday).
If you’ve got kids who enjoy light-hearted RPGs or who love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I highly recommend picking up Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game and giving The Pet Predicament a try. Roleplaying Games of all kinds are really educational (teaching math, probability, reading, writing, problem solving, teamwork, kindness, empathy, and how to handle failure). In addition, they’re just really enjoyable for kids to play — either with friends or family. And this one plays so smoothly. It truly is a wonderful game.
Thanks for joining us today!