Kids RPG: Lessons Learned II

Session 2 was much more challenging than the first session. There were more kids at the table, and attention tended to wander toward bathroom humor. Huh. That sounds like some adult groups I've played with. This session's lessons seem simple, but have a big impact.

And if all else fails, throw hordes of
negative energy squirrel ninjas at 'em.
1) Step up the pacing
I tend to let the game happen, letting the players control things rather than driving the action. With shorter attention spans, I got wandering attention and loss of players down irrelevant ratholes. So I need to push a little harder to keep them focused. Note to self: pay attention and do it faster next time.

Kids play for a living. In order to keep the game more interesting than things they would invent on their own, keep the pace of the action fast and keep them making decisions. Reacting to an immediate threat is easier than deciding a direction to explore.

2) Lean on the rules to maintain order
In order to keep the pacing going, I gave each player a limited time to decide what they were doing before jumping to the next player. I'd come back to check on anyone I skipped so everyone had something to do in a turn. I strongly enforced initiative and only doing one thing per turn to curb the tendency to hog the spotlight.

I think that worked out pretty well once we got into it. I think it took me too long to get to that point. I almost lost them to their own devices and fisticuffs over a glowing staff before they united against a common enemy. I almost lost my patience as I had to shout to make myself heard above the 3 simultaneous conversations happening. I gave them too much space to fill before focusing on the situation at hand.

3) Give information explicitly
Too subtle? Hm. You're right.
Since the party basically marched into a cave full of orcs prepared for war, they were going to be overwhelmed if they decided to stay to the bitter end. I don't know what I was thinking trying to drop hints that there were more coming instead of just telling them "You guessed there were 20 orcs here, but you were wrong. Right now, it sounds more like 50 orcs coming at you, and if you stay you'll be captured or killed."

Lesson learned.

4) Take a break if needed
It's a game. It's supposed to be fun. If there's no fun happening, or if there's no game happening as everyone makes their own fun, take a break and regroup after everyone gets their yayas out.

5) Nobody spent luck points this time
I just realized that they could have spent luck and changed the game significantly. I think they may have still lost in the end, but it would have made the game more interesting. Next game, challenge them more and remind them that they have the power to rewrite the game reality a bit.

This session was a harder game to run, but I had a certain amount of control that I didn't exercise at first. I'm interested in finding out their reaction to retreating from the warband cave instead of standing their ground and thinking they were invincible against any odds. I've got the next game scheduled in April, so stay tuned for more.

Onward and upward!


  1. Points 3 and 4 are vital. I find that with kids I just tell them everything and then follow them around "There's a cave up there with 50 orcs! They're raiding our sheep pens and we need your help! Help us please great heroes!"

    And yeah, short sessions where all players want to play again in a few days is way better than a frustrated GM trying to corral kids who are done playing and now might not want to play again.

    1. Agreed. Subtlety has no place in a game for the under-10 set. I haven't given them all the information in a scenario, as I tend to have them make up pieces of it as we go along, and I have a hard time not giving them some sort of twist to think about, like capturing the surrendered orc instead of killing him in the first adventure.

      And taking breaks comes back to what I think is the most important skill at the table: listening to everyone else and adapting so everyone has fun.

  2. I think I never got around to G+ing about it, but at Thanksgiving my nephew (13) and niece (10) insisted I run a game for them. They’ve never played RPGs and of course I didn’t have anything with me, so we did an off-the-cuff thing involving them as student wizards-types (he was a magical gizmo maker and she was a fire elementalist type). I used a deck of cards for a randomizer. Some lessons from that one:
    * They don’t know RPG memes like “don’t split up” and they know that heroes split up in books all the time. Once there they were willing jump into bad situations when on their own, even when told the baddy is a match for both of them.
    * Conversely, they were better than many adults I’ve played with in knowing when to run away and hide. They imprisoned themselves to avoid the bad guy, figuring he’d get back to his evil-doing and they could sneak back out later.
    * They wanted to defer to authority. After spotting the bad guy they wanted to go run get the bigger good guys. Maybe they’re too well behaved as kids. They had to have a driving reason why they have to engage with the plot right now rather than later. Honestly, failing to get the obvious authorities is a plot hole in so many RPG games that it really perhaps counts more as a RPG meme.

    Anyway, I like this line of blog posts and I'm looking forward to more!