Roleplaying with Children – How it went

We’ve played three sessions of a home-brew Fairy roleplaying game that I put together for my children. It has gone really well…

The First Game Session

The game takes place in the garden of a little girl called Miranda Heargraves. She is five years old and lives in a large victorian style townhouse with her family. It is the fairies job to look after her, all while remaining unseen by Miranda and her family.

I explained this and the girls started filling in details:
“Can there be a large tree in the garden?”
“What about a small pond? With fish!”
“Put in burrows for other animals!”

So together we drew a simple map outlining what was in the garden and how much space there was.

Then I described the scene:

“You see Miranda and Nanny looking around the garden for Miranda’s beloved teddy bear – Miss Bessie. Miranda is in tears, crying that she left him under the oak tree where they had morning tea.”

Both girls started talking at once, very quickly, and planned out how the entire adventure would go , where they would find the bear and what would happen next.

I gently explained that they needed to co-operate, talk together and decide on what they would do first, then wait and see what happened. “Are you co-operating?” became the most used question for the session, but it was not needed anywhere as much in later game sessions.

While tracking down the bear they spoke to several creatures living in the garden and found out more about the place. The girls often added details and elements to the story. “I want to see if there are any creatures around”. Upon finding there was, she promptly responded “Cool, it’s a ladybug called Gemstone, and it’s my pet.” Gemstone has made appearances in later sessions.

One challenge I found was an over-reliance on magic to solve problems. However I explained that magic can be used to assist in the adventure, but you can’t just magic up the bear.

Their little brother, who is three, also joined in. He didn’t really play, but wanted to roll his dice and scribble on paper. I was worried he would get impatient and clash with the girls, however by letting him do his own thing and just getting on with the story we avoided a blow-up. He was really playing in parallel with the others.

All in all they had a fun time. We played for just over an hour and they had a good introduction to the game. It also gave me a chance to see what their expectations were and adjust the game to fit.
I found it was easier to put aside my feelings of what a roleplaying game should be and we ended up playing a great story driven, co-operative game.

Here are my suggestions for roleplaying with children:

  • Know your audience and just do what works for you and your kids.
  • Remind them to co-operate. They do it well if we give them a chance.
  • They want to add to the story and expect to do so, young children have active imaginations, use it in your games.
  • Keep the sessions short – I use the books they read and TV they watch as a guide for complexity and story length.

The System

The system was initially very simple: roll the dice, add your skill and see if you reach the target number. The girls wanted to roll different dice all the time so I would adjust the target number based on the difficulty of the task and the dice being rolled.

The girls would roll and look excitedly to see if they got the target. They started cheering the good results and booing the bad like seasoned gamers.

I operated on the principle that we could always add more rules or tinker as needed. We haven’t needed to yet.

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