One of the things I found when I decided to start playing RPGs with my children was that there was not a lot of information out there on appropriate game systems for this player type. To be honest, the few resources that I did find basically said to dumb down Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 or higher until the kid could play it. This strategy seemed plausible to me at the time since I had not yet discovered the vast number of rules-light and kid-targeting systems that were out there. But once I started trying to “dumb down” D&D 3.5, I found that doing so would talk much longer than I had anticipated and would probably only confuse my two young girls (at the time 5 and 3). This lead me to do a little more digging, and I found this list. Now, the vast majority of games on this list have remained unexplored by me, but this list lead me to Faery’s Tale by Firefly Games, a game that I bought for about $10 USD from drivethrurpg. This turned out to be money well spent when, after our first session, my girls were hooked. This experience started me down a rabbit hole in search of even more games for my kids to play, which brings me to purpose of this post. I wanted to make a list of RPGs that I own, whether or not I have played them with my children, and my thoughts on the ease of using the games for children. In no way will this be a exhaustive list, now will I have played them all with my children at the time of this post. I do plan on making this a sticky post and updating it as needed. I also will use this as a sort of checklist for the systems I want to run with my kids. Obviously this list will evolve as they all get older.
Please let me know what games you think should be on the list and leave a comment on any experience you may have had with a listed system, whether or not children were involved.
- Hero Kids– One thing you will notice about me is that I love d6 systems. Call it simplicity or just outright rebellion from years of d20 systems, either way I am unashamed by it. This system is a d6 system in which the players have a pool of dice assigned to each combat trait. To attack, players simply roll the number of d6 in their pool and compare with the rolls from the GM (the GM rolls the dice in the opponent’s defense pool). If any one of the attacking die is higher than the highest rolled defense die, the attack is successful.Character creation is simple since the toons are premade and the creator has done an excellent job of making both sexes available in each character type. To some, this may not be a big deal, but in my house it is HUGH! My girls want to play as girls, so having a girl paladin and a girl cleric works wonders. Now I will say that the core rule book doesn’t have complete gender parody with all classes, though the supplements correct this easily. This is also a very well supported system, with new content coming out regularly. While not as deep as other systems (it is aimed at ages 4-10) my kids did enjoy playing this early on.
- Faery’s Tale– This is a d6 dice pool system with exploding die, though it is heavily story-driven with a focus on role play rather than combat. You will find no complex maneuvering mechanics or extreme combat feats. Rather, you will find a game that encourages character interaction and using the tools at your disposal to get out of situations. The system is a roll equal to of greater than the challenge rating system, which makes it easy for kids to grasp. Essence is the key mechanic that keeps things moving, as it is used to cast magic, use abilities, as well as being used for your HP. The ebb and flow of Essence is vital for this system, and a good GM will know when to award Essence as well as when to put the players in situations where using Essence as the easy way out would be detrimental to the player/party.While this system is easy for kids to pick up quickly, it also has a Dark Essence mechanic that can turn a campaign dark in a hurry. When players do something bad, hurt an innocent, or anything outright evil they have a mote of essence replaced with Dark Essence. If all of their Essence is replaced with Dark Essence, the player turns evil for good. This system may make things a little more confusing for kids, but I can imagine a campaign full of moral conflict and redemption based on this system.
- Maze Rats– Ahhh, Maze Rats. If you haven’t had the chance to read my review of Maze Rats, I will give you the short version: It is amazing! It is a rules light OSR inspired system made specifically for kids (the creator Ben Milton is a 5th grade teacher I believe) that is super lean and fast to start, yet has plenty in the tank for years of play. It is a d6 system as well but is much more in the realm of the OSR. It is deadly, dirty, grimy and oh so satifying with plenty of tools for the budding GM.
- Fate Accelerated– Fate Accelerated is the first entry on this list that is not a d6 system. Instead the system uses Fudge dice. It is very much a system based more on storytelling rather than combat, but unlike the previous entries, this system can be used in any setting without any modification at all. This is great when your players want to be fairies one game and secret agents the next. The system can be had in pdf form for free. The system is a little more involved due to the aspects mechanic but is still very much accessable to kids.
- Mouse Guard– If you’ve never heard of Mouse Guard, do yourself a favor and buy some of the books. Start with Fall 1152 and you won’t be sorry. But in the RPG, you are a mouse in the famous (or infamous, depending on the point of view) Mouse Guard, a group tasked with keeping all of mousedom safe from predators and treachery. Political intrigue can be high in this game and the way in which the characters are made makes for some very good interactions between players and NPCs. While the system is a little more advanced than the previous entries on this list, it is still more than accessible to children about 6 or older. Plus, who doesn’t want to play as a caped mouse carrying a sword? The game is powered by the Burning Wheel system and therefore is extremely character driven, with characters having driving forces, moral codes and instinctive reactions that can have a great impact on how situations are handled by the players.
- Deadball: Baseball with Dice– Ok, so this is not a traditional RPG but oh man is it fun! Even more so if you enjoy baseball. I actually bought this on a whim for solo play and while I was in the middle of a close game my youngest daughter saw it, asked about it, and requested a game after I finished. We used two of the premade teams from the Southern League and went to town (I was trounced 9-1 by her). The game includes rules for making your own teams and the prebuilt ones are co-ed which my daughter appreciated. The rules even allow for you to take real teams from any era and convert the stats over to the game so if you really want to play as the 1921 Yankees or the 2017 Houston Astros you can. I’ve been using the rules to convert the real life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) teams to the game. The RPG side comes in when you create a team and advance them or when you play in League play with others.
- Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition– I would be remiss not to include good ole D&D in this list. Considered the granddaddy of them all, when you think of tabletop RPGs, this is the game you think of. Players and DMs have been using this system in one form or another since 1974 and the system is widely supported by third party writers as well. The systems are usually well polished and due to the popularity of the system, its not hard to find players with at least a little experience playing it. The system is a little crunchy for younger children in my opinion, but ages 8 and up should be able to grasp the majority of the concepts. They system has historically lent itself toward the use of miniatures to visualize things due to its Chainmail heritage, though it is not a prerequisite to own such figures to start playing. It is a d20 system so a full set of polyhedral dice is required but the combat that is capable in this game can leave you jaw on the ground from amazement. This is truly the game of epic heroes.
More to come very soon.