I know, I know, I’m posting on an off day…but I was super excited when this found its way into my inbox the other day, forwarded from one of my friends who follows the RPGNow Newsletter. This week is Teach Your Kids to Game Week. They’re not talking about teaching kids to play Halo or Modern Warfare, they’re talking good old fashioned table top. I know what you’re thinking, oh masses of parents who do not game, but all those horrible things I’ve heard about Dungeons and Dragons! Don’t you summon demons and worship satan and other terrible things? Don’t you play in steam tunnels? Let me just be one of many people who points you in the direction of a magnificent FAQ put together by The Escapist. I highly suggest that people who aren’t familiar with table top roleplaying give that a read through.
So, you’ve decided to go along with this and you’re going to run a table top game for a group of kids. The first thing you need to do is decide what you’re going to be running, as far as genre goes, and then find a system that you want to use. There are a lot of webpages (such as this one) devoted to talking about what sorts of table top systems and settings are good for use with kids, but in my experience as a camp counselor, you would be surprised. We had kids ranged from age eight to age seventeen all playing in the same D&D game together. The rules are complicated, yes, so you guide the kids through character creation and make sure that they understand the types of dice and rolls they need to be able to play their character. I’ve even seen suggestions that I rather like, involving making customized character sheets that only show the skills and such that their character has.
The next question is how do you tailor your game for children. You have to keep the themes of your story kid friendly, obviously. But you also have to keep the sessions short to tailor to their attention span. I’m not saying that kids have a short attention span, I’m saying that 2 hours is a long time to sit still doing one thing, let alone the 24 hour sessions I’ve seen some gaming groups do. You need to make the adventure exciting and compelling, but you also need to be prepared for them to go haring off in random directions because it sounds neat. Really, its like writing for any average gaming group other than that you need to remember that your players are children.
Here’s the thing that I’m surprised more of these guides and sites don’t mention. Under no circumstances should you underestimate your players. Sure, they might not have hit puberty yet, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t grasp the tactics of battle, or the inter-play of politics. Depending on the kid, you might be pleasantly surprised by their understanding. I’m not saying to show them the dark underbelly of the world, but you don’t necessarily have to dumb down your system or run something that involves happy stuffed animals making friends when you could be actually just playing Dungeons and Dragons or Fudge. Kids aren’t stupid, they’re just young.
I read a fascinating article the other day about how afraid people are that with geek culture being popular that the geeky tendencies to have trouble speaking to people might become the norm. What better way to nip that in the bud than through table top roleplaying from a young age. You’re probably thinking that that statement doesn’t make any sense, but if there’s one thing that I learned through my time as a table top player and a LARPer its that roleplaying games really help with the development of social skills. I’ve learned to see other sides to situations from playing that other type of person, I’ve learned to speak up more and how to lead people so that they’ll listen. Certainly, whether kids learn anything from gaming is dependent on the GM, but think about that while you’re writing the game and running the game.
So go forth! Find children, teach them. Pass on the hobby and the wonder. They are the future of table top.
For further reading, feel free to hit up these blogs:
- It’s “Teach Your Kids to Game” Week at Drive-Thru RPG (wired.com)
- It’s Never Too Early to Roleplay [Dungeons & Dragons] (kotaku.com)
- Kickstart Your Kid into Roleplaying (wired.com)