Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tabletop Role-Playing Games for Kids

So if you couldn't guess already, we love games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, you name it! So needless to say, we play games with the kids all the time. It's a wonderful experience for everyone, the kids have fun and learn while they are playing! (They probably don't even realize, either!) So far we have only introduced them to board games and card games, with a heavy preference on board games, but I think that will change once we pick up a few card holders.

Below you'll find our top choices for RPG's for kids. These are the games we are looking at and plan to introduce to our kids. We are going to start with Hero Kids, since it fits our age range and is perfect for beginners, but you will find a few other options for older kids too. I absolutely encourage you to check them out, because chances are your kids will find an RPG that they like!

Hero Kids is an RPG (role-playing game) for kids. It's like Dungeons and Dragons for a younger audience, and it's perfect for kids as young as 4! I know some 8 year old's play D&D with their parents or friends. But Hero Kids is much more suited to kids, without a million different books, not to mention all the crunchy rules. But that isn't to say that there isn't a lot to do. Because there is PLENTY! There are several adventure guides, two major settings (fantasy and space), and plenty of extras, like character, equipment and pet cards, coloring pages, and more. Most of the adventure guides are available as a PDF download, while the main core book for the Fantasy game is available in a softcover book, which can be bought from Drive Thru RPG. And you can find them on Facebook. Best suited for children ages 4-10.

For children who loves faeries - Faery's Tale
Faery's Tale is an enchanting role-playing game best suited for children 6+. Play as a faery and learn about faery lore while exploring a magical world! You can create your own characters and adventures, or use the ready-to-play adventures!

For children who love wizards and magic - The Little Wizards
The Little Wizards is a storytelling role-playing game that take your children to a magical world. This is a great starter game and perfect for the whole family. Both parents and children will find the characters, story and world engaging. And, one of the awesome things about this game, is that it actually comes with suggestions on playing with your youngsters! It also helps that this game was created by some of my favorite game designers. This game comes with 3 ready to play adventures that will let you jump right into the world of Coinworld. Great for children 6-10.

For children who love superheroes - The Supercrew
Supercrew is a role-playing game in the form of a comic. Players will read through the comic and play themselves, but with superpowers! You can choose whatever power you want. Your imagination and creativity lets you become your own superhero! What's not to like? The rules are simple to understand and this game is best for children 6+.

For children who love the antics of Aang and Sokka- Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a game about helping people and getting into trouble along the way. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Little Prince, and Kino's Journey will love this game. You'll play as pilgrims who are asked to help the people in the village below. They also get into a lot of mischief. This is definitely the type of game to play if you want to tell a "coming of age" story for the characters (and players involved).

For children who love animal-based fiction - Woodland Warriors
Woodland Warriors is a classic medieval fantasy themed RPG for children and adults. You'll play as different types of animals (mice, hedgehogs, badgers, etc.) and fight to protect their homes against the evil rats and weasels (why are rats and weasels always portrayed as the bad guys?). Chances are your children can even create characters and stories similar to ones they have read about (like Warriors, Seekers, Redwall, etc). There was no age range on this, but I would assume 6-8+.

For children who love monsters - Monster Island: The Game of Giant Monster Combat
Monster Island is a game for children who love face offs. In a huge way. If you're a fan of games like King of Tokyo or King of New York, then this is the RPG for you. You'll each be playing a giant monster, like Godzilla, a kaiju, or King Kong. Whatever you fancy playing. Players will face off against each other to see who is the mightiest. Best for children 8+.

For children who love The Wizard of Oz - Adventures in Oz
Adventures in Oz is the fantastic journey beyond the yellow brick road. You'll be able to create your own characters and your own story line. One player will have to play the Narrator, who will play the NPC's (non-player characters), the Wizard and tell the story for the PC's (player characters). The rule book is available at DriveThruRPG. Best for children 8+.

For children who love mermaids - Mermaid Adventures
In Mermaid Adventures you will play the residents of Atlantis, the city beneath the sea. This game is based on The Little Mermaid, with a mix of Hook and Stardust. You can choose from many different types of characters, like fishfolk, octofolk and sharkfolk, among others, and each have their own characteristics. Mermaid Adventures is perfect for the whole family!

For children who love bugs - Infestation
Infestation is a game about bugs and heroes. The bugs gain intelligence from an event called The Awakening. You'll play as bugs exploring the house, overcoming obstacles, and inevitably fighting for control over the house. Infestation is perfect for the whole family, and you can play one of 12 bug species, or create your own! The rules are easy to understand and comes with two complete adventures to get you started. Infestation is available as a download on DriveThruRPG.

For children who love mythical creatures - Myth Camp
Play your favorite mythical creatures who go off to summer camp! This RPG game is based off of the book Camp Myth, a young adult series by Chris Lewis Carter. But you can probably tailor it to a Percy Jackson game, focusing on kids at Camp Half-Blood. There are 10 races to choose from, or 13 if you also pick up the Care Package download. Great for children 6-8+.

For children who love mythological gods - Part-Time Gods
Each player will take the role of a regular mortal who has been imbued by the power of a god. It's their responsibility to use their divine power for good, but they have to keep in mind that their soul hangs in the balance. They can either give in to the power and leave the mortal world behind, or they can hide their power and use it only when necessary. You'll have to figure out the balance yourself. There are many character options, plenty of bad guys to choose from, and the rule book actually includes detailed views of the world from the eyes of the gods. As far as playing with gods, I'm more familiar with games like Exalted and Scion (fabulous games, but with many rules). I'd guesstimate that 8-12+ would be best. EDIT: This game does contain some adult themes, so definitely look it over before introducing it to your child. We would keep the rules and over-all theme, but definitely omit the "adult content."

For children who want to play a dungeon crawl game - Dungeon World
Dungeon World is a classic fantasy adventure, full of fame, gold and glory! And while D&D is very rule crunchy, what I like best about Dungeon World is that they have simplified the rules and put a huge emphasis on the storytelling aspect of the game. I'd say this game is best for an older crowd of kids, since it does involve beating up monsters.

Here is a free download for The Heroes of Hesiod: A Monster Slayers Adventure, which is a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons for kids (6+). And for those kids who are dead-set on playing Dungeons and Dragons, here are some suggestions from a father whose 12 year old is the GM: Gaming with the kids. I'll be taking notes, too, for future games! There are plenty of videos on YouTube that teach you how to play RPG's with kids, too.

Reader's have commented and have a few suggestions of their own: MichtimDoug Anderson's Dungeon Teller, and Witch Girls Adventures. I'll be checking into them and adding them to our list!

So why RPG's? They are imaginative and engaging, promote a wide range of skills, and fun! It gets kids together to play with their friends and family members. It lets them use their imaginations to build characters and a world-setting. And there are so many settings to choose from, so the creative elements are endless!

Skills your children will learn:
Math skills
Reading skills
Writing skills
Cooperation and leadership
Creative thinking
Social and communication skills

I only shared a handful of RPG's, but there are many, many more out there for kids. Here are a few that Wil Wheaton would suggest to play with your kids. It's worth checking out! If you think your kids will like to play an RPG, get them involved! Let them look through the different settings. Show them some play-through games on YouTube. Let them choose a game that appeals to them. 

Here are my own suggestions:

- If your child likes to tell their own stories, they are ready! Start them off with simple storytelling games. Use pictures or props if you need, but really all you need are a handful of people to create a story together. Sit in a circle or around a table, decide on characters and the setting, and begin the tale. Or you can randomly choose a player to begin the story, who decides which characters, places, and/or events they want to take place. They can either willingly pass on the story to the next player, or each player can have an interruption card to use and take over the story.

- Being able to read definitely helps, but is not necessarily required. You primary want to focus on the storytelling aspect. However, if you are playing with a group of 8-12 year old's, they may be interested in reading the rule book on their own. I would definitely dedicated at least one or two sessions to sit down and discuss the rules, the setting and story you intend to play, and going over character creation together. Pro tip - create characters who will work together. Yes, it's perfectly fine to create a character who is a loner or doesn't get on well with others, but they need a reason to be part or the group and stick with it. Otherwise, why are they there? They will just hold the group back.

- Aim to have fun. Be flexible with the rules, especially with younger players. Remember that they don't have the same capacity to remember a hundred different rules. So keep the rules simple.

- Try to keep play time to a minimum, because younger children have a shorter attention span and you don't want to play with a group of grumpy and bored kids. So for 4-5 year olds, play for up to 30 minutes. For 6-10 year olds up to an hour. 12 year olds may be up to playing for multiple hours. But you are the best person to judge how long your child will stay interested, so tailor the play time to their needs.

If you're planning on playing one of these games, you'll need a few tools: 
Dice - So, if you're new to gaming, I highly suggest picking up a Pound-O-Dice from Chessex. Amazon has the best price, and it has enough dice to start off your collection. It is a random batch, but usually it's pretty balanced. It's around a hundred dice, which is a pretty decent bargain, considering sets usually cost $8-13, if not more. 
Loose-leaf paper - For story notes, keeping track of stats, etc.
Pencils - Don't be silly and use a pen. There will be so much erasing...

Optional tools:
Maps - Maps may be required for certain games, but most storyteller system games don't use them. Dungeon and Dragons type games do, however. You can make your own by using 1 inch graph paper (each square represents 5 or 10 feet). Some games come with pre-made maps that you just have to print out or you can draw out your own.
Mini's - Players love mini's of their characters. For some players, it helps them visualize their characters. They are used to represent where they are on a map.
Costumes - Not exactly needed, especially if you are just sitting around a table, but some people play more in character when they are dressed for the part. My kids usually dress up when they want to pretend to be something specific.

If you aren't quite ready for a role-playing game, but still want to play a storytelling game, here are a few game suggestions:
Rory's Story Cube Complete Set - Original - Actions - Voyages ~ Each player will take turns rolling a handful of dice and telling a story based on their roll. Each side of the die has a picture on it, so you need to incorporate it into your story somehow. But you don't have to match it perfectly. If, for example, you rolled a sheep, that doesn't mean your jungle adventure suddenly has a sheep in it, because it could just be a different animal. Or a lightning bolt doesn't need to be a spark from above, but instead it could be some form of electricity, like charging a power core.
- eeBoo Tell Me A Story Cards - Fairytale Mix-ups, Mystery in the Forest, Animal Village,Volcano Island, Little Robot's Mission, Circus Animals Adventure ~ These cards are simply amazing. There are plenty of cards, tons of ways to play, and lots of different themes. Little kids, especially preschoolers, will adore playing this game. Our favorite way to play is to shuffle the cards and hand each play 3-5 cards each. In turn they will flip over their cards and tell a story about them. Or we will only play one card at a time and when we are finished describing the new character or scene, play continues to the next player until everyone is out of cards. The last player is then able to finish the story however they want. We try to play enough times that all the kids get to end a story.
- Once Upon A Time ~ This is one of my favorite games. It's best played by kids who can read, since cards are usually kept hidden. You can absolutely play open-handed with a group of younger kids, so parents can read their cards to them, or simply talk quietly and "forget" what you read. Some of our storytelling methods were based on the rules for this game. It's so fun to create a fairy tale with a group of friends!
- Story Time Dice by Imagination Generation ~ Uses a wider range of dice and each die represents a part of the story, like heroes, villains, settings, tools, etc. Roll the dice to create the perfect story and then share it with the rest of us! There's also a dice guide and a play book with game suggestions.
- Munchkin ~ Ok, not exactly a storytelling game, but it absolutely can be. It has many of the components of a D&D game, without the enormous rule book. Players can be different races and classes, collect armor and weapons, boot down doors and battle monsters, work together or gang up on each other, and level up to win. You can add in your own storytelling aspect by describing your actions, which is a good way to practice "stunting." It also familiarizes new players to the types of items, classes and races often found in RPG games.

Have you ever played a role-playing game with your kids? What did you play? Did they like it? What suggestions would you have for new or experienced families looking to start playing RPG's with their kids? Share your suggestions and advice in the comments!

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