Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Gaming with kids - part three

Hey, it's still here! Real life has just been absolutely terrible recently, but only in the extent it has eaten into my spare time, I'm perfectly fine. I have had this post unfinished for quite awhile, and even thought I'd lost it, but here it is, found and finally posted!

I apologise if it's a little rushed and disjointed as I justed wanted it out there after all this time.

I'll update you all later on on my current aims and projects, as always new ones and old ones and nothing finished!

So the next topic is in my opinion the biggest, and that is setting.

When you talk to kids I find that they are more excited about, 'being musketeers like D'Artagnan,' or, 'being wizards at Hogwarts,' than they are at say, 'let's play Dungeons & Dragons or Fate!'

I believe if you can enthuse your kids at the start, as long as you handle it correctly, you are onto a winner before a die is cast.

But how do you get your kids enthused in a proposed game?

Well, here are my tips:

We've all done it, how many Star Wars hacks are there? Probably about the same number as RPG systems.

There are some advantages and pitfalls here, the advantages are that the kids don't have to be told what an AT-ST is, but the disadvantages come when they meet with Luke or Leia, or even want to be Luke or Leia.

This is not ideal as it can limit the breadth of the story, your kids know what happens to the characters in the end, so it is best to try and steer them to wanting their own character.

And of course one of the best words to use is 'like', do you want to play a Jedi like Luke, or do you want to be a super-spy like James Bond? That one word if used properly can lead them to wanting their own character, especially if  they are cooler, better equipped and more skilled, but remain tied in with the inspiration.

If that doesn't work, and it is sometimes best not to push too hard, then you can try and work around a period of unknown time. So maybe you play the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, or that and Return of the Jedi?

Better still create an entirely new time that your kids will know nothing about, there's plenty of scope in the Clone Wars, or beyond episode 6 or before episode 1.

Take Hogwarts, it is possible to play in a time in the future. Maybe there is somebody that they don't like, just maybe that person is somebody that has the potential to be another Voldemort? Can they stop him before he fulfills that dark legacy? Do they even know that he has turned to dark magic?

Whatever you decide, there should be an angle you can use that keeps them separate from the canon, but allows you to use the same richly crafted world (or universe) that your kids already love.

OK, so want to game with your kids and you'd love to take them on a swashbucking epic, or an anthropomorphic fantasy adventure, but how?

The secret here is to find transferrable inspiration. Why do you want to do that? What goal do you want them to attain? What inspired YOU?

I find with kids there is no harm in revealing the campaign goal, this is somewhat related to my fun topic last time, they know they have to defeat the evil Skullitor (see what I did there?) so they can stay on track themselves.

Kids are very goal minded, for instance ask mine to put on their shoes as quickly as possible and they'll skip as many steps as they feel they can get away with, like putting on socks.

We know Luke has to defeat the Emporer as soon as we learn of him, but it is the getting there that is important, the grandiose adventure. So feel free to reveal as much as you feel able.

If they can see that goal, defeat the hideously evil bad guy (or girl), they may well get enthused too.

Pictures are a great help too. Nowadays a simple search on Google can reveal pretty much what you are after in a few seconds. Use this resource to its maximum, when you see a cool picture, like simian martial artists, that just clicks, grab it and show your kids when you are ready.

I'm not going to pretend this will always succeed, but just once in a while you will show them something and they will say 'cool!' to which you say, 'would you like to play a game where you're a monkey battling battling evil forces using their amazing martial arts skills?' and every once in a while you'll get a positive response.

There are other methods of course, reading a book to them, watching films or TV is great, and possibly the best way. They'll appreciate the time you spend with them, you'll watch something that's probably surprisingly good and you'll learn about the world at the same time.

Take for instance a show I watched with my kids called The Secret Show. It's a spoof spy-fi comedy cartoon sadly no longer aired or available on DVD (apart from a few episodes). It's ripe for gaming, there's a formulaic plot that's usually bizarre, like exploding bogeys. There are recurrent characters and you can push the two stars off to one side and subsititute your own kids, a winner! Actually if you ever get a chance, definitely watch it.

Know your topic!
Finally, whatever setting you choose you need to be aware of what may come up, especially in an established setting that your kids know really well, I'd never run Hogwarts for example, I've just not seen enough of the films or read the books, but The Princess Bride or Star Wars? Sure I'd run those.

Making it up as you go along
OK, so this is an additonal finally, but as solo players this should be second nature to most of us, and playing with your kids is a real opportunity to lead them from within while retaining GM-ing duties to some extent and surprising yourself. In my opinion there is also a case for a GM character in a pre-planned adventure too. I believe Meddling Kids RPG goes down this approach.

If you've gamed with kids what lessons did you learn, what went well or badly?

Until next time Steve