Roleplaying With Kids

I love roleplaying games, and I love playing games with my kids. Putting the two together is not an unobvious thing to do.

My kids can deal with pretty complex games, but they are still young and so a full-on system is overkill on so many levels. There are existing roleplaying systems for kids, but the one I have looked at most closely is both tied to fantasy settings, and apparently owes much of its structure to Dungeons & Dragons.

I do not care for D&D.

My solution to this was to use a system derived from a different roleplaying system called Savage Worlds. This is the system that we are more or less exclusively using in my roleplaying group, and I like it a lot because it is setting-neutral, the core mechanics are simple to learn, and it plays pretty fast. It is still too complex in its full form for the boys to deal with just yet though, so I trimmed it a bit: cut the number of skills, especially, and simplified character creation. In fact, I wrote up characters based on the boys’ ideas.

I ran a short superhero game session, and the boys loved it. We used LEGO minifigs as miniatures, and they battled an alien dragon that emerged from a tunnel and had a blast.

The next outing is to run a game for a group of kids we know – I’m going to use the same basic version of Savage Worlds, but my thinking at this point is to run a story set in Middle Earth. This is a setting I will have to do very little to explain, since there has been so much Hobbit and LotR exposure over the last decade. It is also a low magic setting – one of the difficulties with the superhero game was that the superpowers were a bit complex to run. If I am running a game with 6-10 munchkins, I want this to be as simple to follow as possible.

Besides, I want this to be about story and character and puzzle-solving rather than combat. Combat always ends up more complicated than you expect, and it’s easy for an encounter with even a handful of characters to get bogged down in minutiae.

I will post details of the game system itself when I have them properly written down. I may even post the game materials once the game is played.

2 Replies to “Roleplaying With Kids”

  1. Valerie says:

    Wow, that’s neat! It sounds like a lot of work to try and “balance” the game so it would be challenging, certain players wouldn’t have an advantage, and you weren’t having to cheat all the time.

    My favorite game as a teen was the Dutch version of the game “Mafia”: (I played the version where the bad guys were werewolves and the innocents were villagers–there were a lot of torches and pitchforks going around). It’s not really roleplay as I understand it because the players don’t really act besides pointing out victims and who they want to lynch, but there’s a storyteller who ties everything together and some of my friends would get very creative in that role.

    Regardless, I’m very interested to hear more details! I’ve always wanted to try out roleplaying games but my experience with D&D was that it required a whole lot more investment than I was willing to give.

    1. Dunx says:

      Well, the Middle Earth game never panned out – mostly because I was having trouble making the time to prepare. I have since run another session with my boys using a more thoroughly codified system which I will write about soon.

      The way I play RPGs is all about the story – I will do combats, but I don’t like them very much because they stop the story (also I am bad at them). So my games tend to be light on the mechanical aspects in any case, using single rolls from characters to see how much is seen or how vehemently the door is closed.

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