Roleplaying with Children – Getting Started

It’s a question some gaming parents dread “Dad can you teach us roleplaying?” Roleplaying is a pretty natural activity for children, they play pretend all the time and their world seems to know no bounds. However they don’t like limits and tend to make up rules as they go along.

So what did I do when my children asked me about my favourite hobby? I said, “Yes” and we’ve had a ball.

The idea of gaming with children

There are some funny ideas about gaming with children out there. A lot of adult gamers tend to react negatively when the topic of gaming with children crops up.

The most common comments I have personally heard are:

1. The children won’t understand the rules.

2. Parents will favour their children.

3. Our game isn’t suitable for children.

4. Our behaviour isn’t suitable for children.

I think this is because gamers spend a lot of time coming up against the criticism that roleplaying is not for grownups and have to defend our hobby. So some people over compensate and put roleplaying in the “for grownups only” box.

So what did I do when Sonja and Kathlene asked if they could roleplay? I said yes.

What to Play?

There were a number of factors that I needed to consider when deciding what to do:

1. The different ages of the children, in my case eight and five.

2. It needed to be rules light; too many rules and they would just stop playing.

3. They needed dice; I didn’t want to go down the diceless road. It’s difficult enough with adults let alone a little person with an iron will. Besides dice are fun.

4. No combat or death, I didn’t feel the girls would like that and I didn’t want their little brother hyped up killing monsters if he joined.

We decided to get supplies while deciding how it would work and made the trip to our local gaming store. Chris at Mark 1 was very helpful and got all the dice down so the kids could see all the colours when choose a set each. We went home and just played with the dice. There was a method to my madness; I wanted to see what dice that the girls like the best. They liked all of them.

I found a number of interesting looking systems online, but none that seemed to cater for very young children so decided to leave that question for later.

Circus Animals, Fairies, Pets…

I asked the girls what they wanted to play, and after a period of intense debate they settled on fairies. I asked them a lot of questions about fairies and here is what they told me:

  • “Fairies job is to look after all the children of the world.”
  • “Fairies can fly and have magic powers.”
  • “Fairies hide from humans.”
  • “Fairies can sing and their songs are magic.”

So we settled on an extremely basic system; fairies would have five skills: Flying, Hiding, Seeing, Singing and Magic. Skill rolls would be made when requested and the kids could roll whichever dice they want, barring d4s, with high rolls being good.

We agreed that the game would be set in a little girl’s garden and it would be their job to watch over her.

Next dilemma – Character Creation

Even in an extremely simple system character creation is about choices and we give things scores in an abstract way to show the weighting of our choices. I needed to find a way to make it work for both the girls, despite their age difference.

The answer came to me when I watched them count their pocket money; give them something physical to dole out between the skills. I thought stickers would work well and bought a lot of the star stickers that teachers used when I was a kid.

I made a character sheet with ten spaces for the stickers beside each skill and gave them the stickers to dole out. It was magic; they had fun chatting and putting their characters together, and then proceeded to draw all over the sheets.

Here is the blank sheet:

Faerie Character Sheet

Here are the results:

KidsCharSheets

We’d already had a ball just setting up…

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