Episode 207 – gaming with kids
by Dan Repperger

* (0:30) Why Chris is becoming our new monthly visitor.

* (2:39) Using game mechanics as the basis for a plot, encounter, or player character.  How rules can serve as a great inspiration for many aspects of your game.

* (19:51) Gaming with kids.  We start by setting some boundaries on the conversation regarding the type of game and age group we’re talking about.  We also discuss why this topic is important even to people that don’t have kids of their own.

* (26:22) The problems and opportunities presented by limited literacy and math skills.  Ways of simplifying the concepts and teaching kids new skills as you go.

* (38:29) How gender can affect the game.  Is it helpful to setup a plot for boys a little differently than girls?

* (48:40) Dealing with controversial subject matter in a game with kids.  Determining what’s appropriate, particularly when not all of the children present are your own.  Is it appropriate to use games to educate children on moral themes?

* (58:15) How a lack of life experience can make conveying setting or theme more difficult when dealing with younger players.

Hosts: Chris, Dan, Johann, Pat, Wayne

NOTE: You can find the blog post with suggested titles for kids here.

Comments (6)

ChristophOctober 7th, 2010 at 9:39 am

I have to agree Johann.

Systems and Mechanics are as rich for the story, if not richer than the fluff; if used right.

When I began designing Free Spacer, I started with design pillars some based on fluff and others in systems or mechanical goals. Following System/Mechanics Pillars led to many interesting and exciting unique gameplay aspects.

ChristophOctober 7th, 2010 at 10:59 am

One good solve for the life experience issue could be for the GM to research/experience the children’s entertainment. If you sit down and watch the kids favourite shows, you can learn the trops the kids understand themselves.

tirsdenOctober 7th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

“It’s pretty pony time!”

“Okay, my pony is going to kill all the other ponies off one at a time with his sneaky ways. BWAHAHAHA.”

“…Blue dolphin! Blue dolphin!”

All joking aside, I think the best idea is to get to know what the kids themselves are interested in first, if at all possible. Like Christoph points out, kids’ media has its own take on the more basic tropes and also quite a few of the adult-expected tropes. And twenty-ish years ago, I had some pretty complex plots going on as a kid with my stuffed animals, My Little Ponies, etc. Those just happened to be the physical medium through which my imagination worked, being as I was a kid with kid toys and specifically a lot of girl toys thanks to stereotype-happy parents. That didn’t stop me from having a conniving villain, macho hero, sappy love interest, and a ton of minor characters for which I could see the evolving storylines from all their points of view. I wish I’d had an outlet like a tabletop roleplaying game back then!

DragonhelmOctober 8th, 2010 at 8:28 am

I’ve used mechanics a lot to help develop a character. Sometimes, the mechanics are my starting inspiration. Maybe a new race, class, prestige class/paragon path, or something else may inspire me.

However, that’s often the starting point. I look at the mechanics, then expand on that into story format. For example, the warlock in D&D 4e makes a pact with some otherworldly being to gain arcane power. I like to expand on who the pact is made with, and what sort of “deal with the devil” a person might be getting into.

buddhafrogOctober 13th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I was very glad to see this podcast topic. This is my first comment here on FtB, though I’ve been listening for almost a year. I started DM’ing after a 25 year absence. I bought my nine year old a ton of miniatures last Christmas b/c he loves playing with little soldiers and loves LotR. It then hit me – why don’t I play D&D with him (the only rpg game I’ve played). I ended up playing with him and two friends – they LOVE it.

My wife and I are ESL teachers living in Korea. Since last Christmas, I’ve started six separate D&D games for these ESL kids ranging in age from 10-15 years old. I play D&D with each class, once a week. These Korean kids absolutely love the game and genre. It is completely new to them as there is no rpg culture in this country. In the land of computer gaming, each of my students have told me that D&D is the best game they’ve every played.

Keeping motivated and organized with six separate games each week is a little taxing, but the rewards of the students’ enthusiasm has been outstanding.

As for the podcast, I’d like to point out that starting a kids game is very easy as long as you have one kid to start, be it your child or nephew/niece. Ask them to bring a couple friends. It really isn’t harder than that. You don’t have to “find” these friends – they’ll be his/her natural playmates. There was much discussion of getting parents approval, etc, which is all fine, but I feel it was overplayed on the podcast. If you treat playing rpg’s like it is potentially a bad thing, the parents’ reaction will more likely be negative. Just tell them what you will be doing and let them know you will make it kid friendly – and just double-check that it is OK with them. If you don’t make it a big deal, then the other parents won’t either. As a GM, you shouldn’t have to worry about going too far – just don’t push any limits at first. The more you play with the kids, the more you will understand what level is appropriate for that group.

ThunderbellyNovember 7th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Back in the day… 1993… I had a friend who was running some of the original d&d content for his daughter who were both under six. Their actions were very simple… and they got to roll dice. My college roommates and I got to observe a few minutes of this one night as we arrived for our game a bit earlier than scheduled. They seemed to love the game!

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