This is the third article in my summary of our year in family gaming – marking the fact that RpgGamerDad Podcast is now over one year old.
So far we have covered our exploits in the gaming worlds of:
Rory’s Story Cubes,
and Fighting Fantasy RPG.
RpgGamerBoy’s Surreal Dungeon Crawl,
Dungeons and Dragons the Fantasy Adventure Board Game,
and Fate Accelerated.
Despite my two-part intentions, I think this series is going to run to four parts in total — so there is more in store — but today we kick off with D&D For Kids by the amazing Susan J. Morris.
We came across this after I interviewed Susan and Erin M. Evans about D&D (they both author D&D books) and, more specifically, about their own D&D campaign — which sounds like a lot of fun and demonstrates Susan’s remarkable commitment to the art of being a Dungeon Master. Truly remarkable!
To date, Susan has written two D&D For Kids modules; Heroes of Hesiod and Champions of the Elements. Both are almost 100% fighting-focussed and follow arena-style combat with no element of exploration. They are free to download and come with print-and-cut-out boards and counters.
The boards are single-room maps with terrain (eg. tables, chairs, spawning points). We played Champions of the Elements as a family and had fun with it. I decided in advance not to push the roleplaying angle too hard and to use this as an introduction to tactical combat games for RpgGamerBoy. As such, it was a little out of our ballpark but still good fun. Susan Morris has an amazing imagination and has absolutely maximised the level of gaming interest by giving the characters and bad-guys interesting powers which interact with/counteract each other and lead to genuinely interesting and meaningful tactical decisions.
I would still love to see Wizards of the Coast commission some modules with an exploratory element — and with more scope for roleplaying — but, hey, who doesn’t have their own personal ‘I would love to see Wizards of the Coast commission…’
Next up, No Thank You, Evil by Monte Cook Games (predominantly, lead-designer Shanna Germain). We have playtested two modules of this (it has not been released yet) and it is a definite hit. Unlike much of the other gaming we have done, this RPG features cartoony, kid-friendly artwork and a setting which owes much to the surreal worlds of childrens’ books rather than the more staple RPG faire.
We played both modules with the entire family (including RpgGamerGirl who had just turned 3-years-old) and the sessions were very successful. We completed the first adventure – which involves helping out the Bee-Queen and riding around on her Bee-dirigible. There are also some witches, a sparkly mushroom (which became a singing broccoli in our game), the opportunity for improvised singing, self-generated sound effects and zooming pictures around the gaming table — all of which greatly entertained.
RpgGamerGirl was a little concerned at first — she is not overly keen on scary things happening and wasn’t sure what was going on when the characters reached a chasm. But I think she soon realised this was a pretty safe experience. She excelled in her ‘support character’ role by ‘being awesome’ (an actual game mechanic) at appropriate times to sway the action.
RpgGamerBoy was amazed to find a kid-friendly game which encouraged the bizarre and surreal flights of fancy which he tends towards. He is always most comfortable when he gets to generate significant chunks of narrative action as a player. I’m not sure yet whether this is just his natural preference or because he is quite young as gamers go — but I’ll keep you updated on that!
This first adventure was clearly an introductory module: very simple with limited choices.The second game was longer and more complex and RpgGamerGirl only made it halfway through before she got fidgety. This is no reflection on the game. I think getting a young 3-year-old to sit still at a table and play at structured make-believe for an hour is an amazing achievement and anything longer would be asking too much. We paused the game and continued once she had gone to bed.
This second adventure, again, allowed the kids to follow their imaginations a lot more than following the actual module. We introduced a Dalek and the opportunity to fly a pirate ship down a mobius-strip staircase in search of missing time-machine parts.
RpgGamerBoy has become a little used to winning games easily so, with GamerGirl safely tucked in bed, I upped the level of difficultly in the finale. I threw a few spanners in the works when victory was in his grasp and I think this led to great satisfaction when the heroes finally fixed the time machine. A good time was had by all.
Most of these experiences are played out on the RpgGamerDad podcast (those that aren’t are available as extras to patrons of the podcast) so, please feel free to head over to RpgGamerDad.com, click on ‘Podcast’ and peruse the back episodes.
Next week will be (I promise!) the absolutely final (part 4 of 2) article in this series and I am very excited to write about RpgGamerKids RPG — the RPG we wrote ourselves and HeroKids RPG by the totally amazing Justin Halliday. Worth the wait!
In the meantime, happy gaming!