Wednesday, May 2, 2012

8 Tips for Playing RPGs with Kids

So, your kid is maybe 6 or 7 and ready for his or her first dungeon adventure. Here are some things I've learned.
1. Expect short game sessions of 1-2 hours.  If kids want to play longer, keep their energy up with a movement break in the backyard or at the park.
2. Mixed groups of parents, older sibs, and kids work best. Make it a family activity. Parents can mentor their kids, sure, but more importantly, it's awesome when kids get to "rescue" their mom or dad or turn their brother into a toad!
3. Kids love using manipulatives to keep track of their characters' stuff. Pennies, poker chips, a 3 x 5 card for each piece of gear. I just ordered a plastic "pirate gem assortment" and a few hundred plastic gold coins to allow my players to keep any loot they find in a little drawstring moneybag. And don't be an idiot about leaving small plastic parts around for toddlers to choke on.
4. Make drawing a meaningful part of play -- have players draw pictures of their characters, the monsters, the dungeons, and reward them with loot or experience points. It's something to do while you're waiting for your turn. We have a table rule that if you illustrate a piece of gear like a cool sword or wand on a 3 x 5 card, you get a bonus whenever you use it. (This rule is actually codified in Dungeonteller).
5. Try having kids build their characters with Playmobil figures or Lego. At 2 to 3 dollars US each, a poseable Playmobil figure is cheaper and more durable than a metal miniature. You can swap out heads, arms, cloaks, weapons. I've only recently realized the possibilities. (See the accompanying photo).
6. Don't sweat continuity breaks. You don't need to keep things absolutely consistent between game sessions. We have characters pop in and out, with the classic explanation that heroes are occasionally kidnapped by fairies and then returned.
7. Kids love it when their character finds a pet. Pets don't have to have much of a mechanical effect on the game -- they add a cuteness factor and make the game cozier and more accessible.
8. Character death doesn't have to be the end result of a botched encounter. Characters can be captured, forced to pay a ransom, or simply run away. Use your own parental radar to adjust how grim you want the game to be.

Would love to hear your experiences!


  1. Last year over on (a content mill website but whatchagonnado), Michael Tresca developed an RPG for kids called Crypts & Things that relies upon Playmobil figures:

    I pulled all the posts into a PDF for personal use, but I need to get Tresca's permission to circulate it.

    1. Thanks for the link -- I hope it gets more widely distributed!

  2. Hey, good tips. I just posted on my blog about a game that's been ongoing since about last Nov.

  3. Great advice, now if I only had some kids to play with...

  4. When you say kids, do you mean to say like 4 or 5 years old? or something like 7 and 8 years old. Usually, 8 years old and above are like RPG games professionals already. They know how to play the game even without the guide of anyone.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I was writing about 6- and 7-year-olds. You're right about older kids.

  5. Hi all...
    I am playing rpg stories with my son for about 2 years, an now he is 7.5 years old.. I started with knights and pirates, very simple with only 1 six-sided die (1d6) for hit and we play full stories with intergated charactes and rules most like normal AD&D s FUN FUN FUN !!!


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