Kids RPG: Lessons Learned and Ideas for Next Time

I had many things work well and a few things work not as well in the Kids RPG. Consider this post as notes to myself for next game, though if you get inspired to use something here for your game, I won't stop you.

1) Doing Something Trumps Explaining Anything
This is a no-brainer, but it came back to me loud and clear as we started. Explaining how to hit someone is boring. Rolling to torch an ogre with a fire bolt, even if you have no idea how to do it, is exciting. Which one will kids talk about between now and the next game?

2) Make Simpler Character Sheets
What I had would be appropriate for adult gamers, but the skill list got in the way. So I'll remove them and keep just the relevant trained skills for next time. If I can fit characters on 3x5 cards, I'll do that. The less there is to look at, the better off we'll all be.

3) Prepare, But Be Flexible
Now that they know they can control the world with Luck Points, I expect there will be a run on spending Luck Points next game. I'll need enough structure to get them oriented, since they immediately ran amok with the village name and deciding what to do next, but I'll need to be able to change anything at the drop of a Luck Point.

4) Use Glass Beads As Luck Point Tokens
I found a stash of glass beads that I picked up years ago at a yard sale. I washed them and picked out the mirror-finish ones to use as Luck Points. This gave everyone the visceral feel of receiving something when their die exploded twice, and of spending something when making changes to the story. I will do this again, though I may need more beads if I have a full table.

5) Stay Flexible With Initiative
I had visions of using the Marvel "act, then decide who goes next" initiative system. I'm not sure they're ready for that yet, so I'll keep with going around and getting everyone's move, then ordering it as logically as possible, rolling dice to break ties. It seemed to work fairly well last time without too many interruptions, so we'll stick with next time.

6) Let Them Think Fairly
I may have overstepped my purview as GM last time a couple of times, but then again I'm dealing with 6-8 year olds. I stepped in when one of the youngest players wanted to kill the orc that surrendered, and I suggested that they take him back to the village to face justice. I also gave some structure to the treasure division process. They were tired after 2 hours of gaming, so I can understand things getting a little heated while divvying loot. I kept asking, "Do you think that's fair?" and I think they caught on after the first few times. Part of me wants to step back and let them sort it out, but part of me fears a Lord of the Flies solution which wouldn't be good for anyone. I'll keep an eye on myself in these situations and make the best calls I can.

7) Don't Make It Too Easy
Yes, I fudged exactly once. I didn't want to kill my daughter's character during the second round of combat, so I'll plead guilty to that one. Once that luck point was spent to give the orcs clubs instead of swords (losing the +2 for skill and a point of base damage), the combat really turned in the party's favor. I'll need to get a little creative with challenges for next time. This adventure was a complete muckle in 3 acts, and I think that worked for a first adventure. I'll need to ride the Wizard's player to keep track of Mana spent, letting him decide between flashy and pragmatic. There's more to balance here, so suffice to say I'll try some new approaches next time to challenge them, and maybe work a little more toward non-combat intrigue.

Anything you've discovered that you can add to this list?


  1. Good advice for GMs of all ages, actually.

    It also helps that the kids are getting exposed to things they'll have to deal with as they get older. Showing mercy and compassion, saving for a rainy day (or a phase to evade), and giving them a challenge (so they know not to quit when it starts getting hard) are all valuable life skills.

    When are you getting them hooked on V&V? All kids love superheroes!


    1. Issue: I don't have V&V. I may be able to scrounge a PDF from somewhere, but right now I don't have it.

      If I was going to do something gonzo for kids, I'd probably do the D&D 4e flavor of Gamma World. It's fairly lightweight and powers keep swapping out, so I think it'd fit. Or I bet I could hack some superpowers for it if the backgrounds and mutations don't click right away.

      For something a little more serious and adult, the Cortex-based Marvel is flexible as hell, and it runs much smoother than it reads. But it gets into emotional stress, and I'd like to steer clear of that for kids.

  2. Nice article.

    Ran a game with my just turned 4 year old yesterday. Used stacks of lego for HP and damage. Just compare stacks and subtract. Can't wait till she starts reading. She loved it and we had to play out the battles several times.


  3. I can't add anything particularly useful except thanks. There will be a point in the future when I play RPGs with my son (he's only 3 at the moment), so I see this as a fascinating window into my future!