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With the school summer holidays my gaming group has taken a break too.  Without running games regularly (not to mention having kids around all the time) I’m struggling to publish blog entries regularly but will get going again properly in September.  In the meantime I thought I’d capture some more thoughts about playing RPGs with children.

My brother, the same one who bought me Basic D&D at Christmas and kick started my rediscovery of RPGs, sent me a note the other day asking me what I knew about kids RPGs that he could play with his 6 year old daughter. Included in the message was a link to Hero Kids, a game squarely aimed at 4-10 year olds, so I thought I’d have a look.  Previously I’d only come across Dagger and while it looked intriguing I hadn’t really investigated it ,my youngest seemed to be interested in Pathfinder so I didn’t see the need. As it became more evident that he didn’t have the attention span to play Pathfinder sessions (not to mention his fear of his character dying) I hadn’t thought about going to search for stripped down systems although I had looked about for adventures that might be suitable for him and his mates.

I decided that Hero Kids was worth picking up, at the ridiculously cheap price for the complete bundle even if I didn’t like or run it I wouldn’t have lost much. Reading through the rules they are really well put together and nicely scalable (keeping it very simple for young kids and more involved for older kids). The combat runs entirely on opposed dice rolls made with varying numbers of six sided dice while skill checks are made in the same way but against a fixed difficulty.  The more skilled a character is at something the more dice they roll and the highest dice roll is the only one used.  The system is simple enough that my eight year old read it through entirely on his own and understood most of what he read.  The character sheets are icon rather than text or number based which is ideal for younger children and doesn’t really get in the way with older kids, it also focuses the players on the GM and table rather than on their paper.

First read through of the rules and a skim through of the first adventure and I felt able to run a game for both my boys. What I found quickly was how much of a joy the published adventures were to run. The layouts are very simple and each encounter simply lays out what changes are necessary depending on the number of players, anything from one to six is a doddle. We started with Basement O Rats which is a five encounter adventure which should take a little over 30 minutes to run (it’s bundled with the core rules even if you don’t go for the complete bundle). Being able to keep a session short definitely helps to keep kids limited attention span focused and engaged with the game. The adventure comes with its own encounter area maps and paper folded minis which also keeps the kids in the game and reduces the amount of visualisation they need to do.  While my fifteen year old (who plays in my regular Pathfinder campaign) unsurprisingly wasn’t a huge fan the eight year old loved it.

While we were on holiday he not only reread the rules but also (at my prompting) Basement O Rats so that he could GM it while I played.  While he still needed some guidance on the mechanics he improvised an attack by a giant lobster (which he reskinned from the character sheet and mini from a giant scorpion) at an appropriate point and messed around with the ending so that I got a bit of a surprise.  Young kids GMing is always going to be interesting as there is so much to cope with and you have to be prepared to deal with the players going totally off script  The session definitely made me realise how creative kids were and how much not knowing you can’t do something often means that you can.  Something that was reinforced reading what Strange Realities recently blogged about his experiences running Hero Kids games.

As we had some time spare this week and I wanted to do something family orientated I read up the second Hero Kids adventure I wanted to run, The Curse Of The Shadow Walkers.  I managed to convince my wife to play, probably her first ever RPG experience, and along with my eight year old we sat down to rescue some farmers from nightly attacks by terrifying creatures.  The adventure showed that Basement O Rats wasn’t a fluke, I managed to GM the adventure after a quick read through and everybody had a lot of fun.  The adventure is great with much more opportunity to do some actual roleplaying where BOR was far more combat/dungeon crawl orientated.  Again my youngest managed to do some very creative thinking and take some intelligent paths that I don’t think many adult gamers would have done.

As I found a copy of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game that I owned but never played back in the 80s he’s very keen to give that a try but in the short term I’m planning to get some of his friends over and run a Hero Kids game for a larger group.  While he’s keen to set up a regular game with his friends I’ve talked him down to planning one session at a time and finding out how it goes before getting too grandiose.  Hopefully I’ll end up with about four players that I can run through either Escape From The Ghost Pirates or The Mines Of Martek and if it does go well maybe a fairly regular kids game (possibly of TMNT if Hero Kids runs out of legs).

My brother for his part is hoping to run Basement O Rats with his daughter while he’s on holiday and ended up buying pdfs of Faery’s Tale and Mouse Guard as well as Hero Kids.  He also pointed me at Meddling Kids which looked good.

I posted a bit back about how I wasn’t sure that RPGs were going to be right for my eight year old and how boardgames were probably a better bet.  We’ve loved boardgames and been playing lots but Hero Kids has really made me rethink my approach and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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