What do you think about adding kids to your weekly game?
Written by Daniel Pike
To all the single folks out there, this might not seem like an obvious choice. Kids can be random, childish, heck, they can be immature, its expected of them to be completely honest, and that may not work well in some groups where the players already have those characteristics.
As we get older, and as our groups start to grow apart (life happens, jobs and families mean folks start to grow apart), it can sometimes be difficult to keep the hobby going. More folks than I care to count have suffered this, seeing their dice and books gather dust or worse <dramatic music> get sold off.
There is an easy answer for that…include your family you worked so hard to create.
A little about myself. I am a father of three, I have been playing roleplaying games for so long, my gaming career could drink a beer. Most of that time has been spent running games. I was also in the military for a good long while, and that really showed how gaming groups fall apart quickly, with everyone needing to move every couple years. I still have a group now, but as fun as the group is, my hobby has always been something I wanted to share with the kids.
Even at a really young age, we played “the story game” in which one of us (usually myself or Nimblephish (the wife)) would start, and then each of us in turn would tell a sentence or two of a story. For example, I would say: “There was once a king who had a large kingdom, but the kingdom was at war with…” and my son would take over and say: “With an army of Dragons, and the dragons were mean because they were hungry, they were always hungry…” my daughter (my oldest) would then say: “hungry for cupcakes. The dragons were sad, and when they were sad, they would want cupcakes…” and then my youngest (another son) would say: “so the king would have his cookers make lots of cakes, but added rocks so the dragons eat the cakes and couldn’t fly ’cause of the rocks…” Then my wife would add in: “So the dragons, now full with rocks and cake, and unable to fly, went into hiding. The armies could fight them easy when they were slow from the food, and unable to fly…” and then I would follow it with: “So they went into hiding, the kingdoms grew strong, and mankind didn’t see dragons again until…” You get the point. We would do this on car trips, or while the kids and I waited in the car if Nimble was getting something at the store. I like to think this encouraged free thinking, and story creation. In the end, it was an activity that kept their minds active in an otherwise stale moment.
So, this brings us to a couple of years ago. Gamma World (based on Wizards of the Coast DnD 4e) came out, and I loved the system, it was simple, but there was still some things I think it would have been hard for the kids to get. So I modified it, I simplified it, I made it super kid friendly, and I allowed the kids to make their own characters. It went well, we had a magical miniature horse (copyright issues), a spiny werewolf named “John Wayne”, and a creature from nightmares named “Dark Guy” (this was from the imagination of my youngest, it had animal parts that shouldn’t be and could control darkness). They took to the post-apocalyptic setting much more easily than I would have guessed, and really had fun with it. My middle, 8 at the time, even took the modified game and ran it for his friends on his class’s “Board Game Day”. It was a hit. I ran that a couple of times for them, but then with scheduled the way they were, the game ended.
Then came 5th edition, and I read through the quick start and wondered how well they could handle it. The kids (now 11,9, and 5) understood the premise, and I went over the different character options, and essentially built characters around what I thought they could play (and what they wanted to play). The youngest has some issues with reading the bigger words, but my wife decided to play to round out the party. As Clerics can also be useful, I also asked a buddy to sit in (at least for the first session) to help out and see if he could handle playing with three kids. He is a single guy, and I prefaced the first game by telling him I fully understood if he ran for the hills. In truth, he was extremely patient, and a really good addition to the group. The concept was simple, the group had been hired to help out a caravan that was traveling between towns, it had been ambushed by a crew of Goblins, they were taken, and woke up in an underground lair. Now they were fighting/sneaking their way out.
They handled the skill checks, and attacks well, describing what their characters wanted to try, and making some really good rolls (also botching a little, which is always fun when you play it up that way). And we stopped after about an hour and a half. At that point, it was already past their bed times, and the youngest was pretty spent.
Since that session, I drew up/built some kid friendly character sheets, with less overall verbiage, and solid shapes around some of the areas (abilities, attack bonuses and damage, hit points) so that they will be easier to find. We allow them to do the math when they make their rolls (f they aren’t learning, what’s the point, right?), and encourage free thinking. Ironically, it is my daughter, the eldest that causes the most random elements in the campaign so far (“I run through the tunnel”, “I try to pet the rabid Goblin Dog who just attacked my brother”, for example).
All in all, this had been a very positive experience. I know it isn’t for everyone, not everyone can handle the patience required to play with kids, but to be honest, I have had all the same issues with more than one player, and they are adults (or should be). My suggestion, don’t write off kids, they can be some of the most creative, most interesting characters you will see. Give them a chance, they might just surprise you.
**If modifying games isn’t for you, there are plenty of games meant for children that you can try. Many of them have really, really simple rules, and can still be a blast to play. Some examples include: ‘Hero Kids’, ‘Little Wizards’, ‘Camp Myth’, and the ‘The Zorcerer of Zo’, plus numerous others. If you have tried any of these, or have any questions, hit us up in the comments below**