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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: lumpley on February 26, 2004, 10:53:42 AM

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on February 26, 2004, 10:53:42 AM
Sebastian, my 7yo, read the back of my big Pendragon book.  He explained it to me last night at dinner.  "It's like Universalis," he said, "only you have to have one character and it has to be a knight.  Also one person has to be the 'game master,' who tells what happens, and you tell how your knight responds.  Can we play it?"

Elliot, who's almost 4, said, "um, a grownup should be the game master." He has a great, matter-of-fact little voice and he nodded solemnly to let me know he'd been weighing it out.  "It should be you."

I about died of joy + cuteness.

But no way we're playing Pendragon, I mean come on.

"Tell you what," I said.  I took down the dice and scared up some 3x5 cards.  I've been toying with this mechanic in my head and this seemed like as good a time as any.  "You'll roll a bunch of d6s, like this many, depending on what your knight does.  I'll roll a d4, a d6 or a d8, depending on how serious a challenge it is.  Every die of yours that comes up less than or equal to - you know this symbol, less than or equal to?  Cool! - anyway if I roll a 3, all of your 1s, 2s and 3s are Hits.  Sound good?"

"Sure..." Sebastian said.

"Now if you get three or more Hits, that's 'you win victory.' If you get two Hits, that's 'you can buy victory.'  If you get one Hit, that's 'you can buy a reroll.'  If you get no Hits, that's 'you can double-buy a reroll.'  Sound good?"

"What's it mean, 'double-buy'?  Plus this is boring, can we just play already?"

"In a sec, in a sec, we have to make your knights."  And I was going - you think this is boring, you oughta see Pendragon!

I made a little character sheet on a 3x5 card: a name slot; two pairs of opposed personality traits a la Pendragon (Bold-Careful and Kind-Strong); a shield outline to draw in; two Stats (Hale and Alert) with checkboxes beside them for taking damage (that's the "buy" in the resolution mechanic); a very short list of skills (Sword, Shield, Travel, Lore, Hiding - and Shield is probably redundant, I should erase it).

"Do we have to be human knights, or can I be, you know, a knight from mythical times?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"Can I be a shapeshifter?  No actually, can I be a Grugach knight instead?"  (We've been reading the Black Cauldron, and I've told him a bit - as much as I know, really - about Alexander's source material and where his idea for Gurgi came from.)

"Sure!"  I said.

"Can I be a mermaid knight?" Elliot said.

"Well, if you're a mermaid knight, that means the game has to happen in the ocean.  Is that okay with you, Seb?"

"No, not really."

"Can you choose another kind of knight, Elbow?"

"Can I be a Woodland Hobbit knight?"

I was like - a Woodland Hobbit knight!  How cool is that!  So I said "of course!"

I'd already written "Shapeshifter" on Seb's sheet's skill list and added "Grugach" after it.  I wrote "Woodland Hobbit" on Elbow's, then "Invisibility" to match Seb's "Shapeshifter."  Undeveloped magical potential, I thought, and when Sebastian asked, that's what I told him: "shapeshifting is something Grugachs can learn to do, and turning invisible is something Woodland Hobbits can learn to do."  And he was like, "slick!  I can't wait!"

Then was the time to divvy dice.  I told Seb how, then asked Elliot questions and assigned his dice for him.  Here's how:
- Each of the personality pairs has to add up to 3.  Seb chose Bold 1-Careful 2 and Kind 2-Strong 1.
- The two Stats have to add up to 5.  Seb chose Hale 3 and Alert 2.
- Choose one of Sword, Shield, Travel and Lore to be your fave, it gets 3.  Choose one to be your least fave, it gets 1.  The others get 2.  Hiding gets the same as your Careful.  Grugach and Woodland Hobbit get 3 and Shapeshifting and Invisibility get 0.  Seb chose Lore 3 and I forget what else.

Sebastian named his knight Woodthorn.  Elliot named his knight Cauldron-born Woodthing.

Elliot drew a dragon on his shield, then circled everything on his sheet with blue marker.  Sebastian drew three green leaves on a brown field with green specks.  They both stuck the tips of their tongues out of the corner of their mouths while they were coloring their shields, which they learned from Meg.

And then ... we played.  Which good grief if it isn't going to take a whole nother post to tell!

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2004, 10:56:51 AM
You, my friend, are playing a slightly pervy version of Prince Valiant.

No lie.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on February 26, 2004, 10:57:25 AM
edit: I invented Prince Valiant?  Sweet!  That makes me happy.

I took a sheet of paper and drew a little squiggly double line at the bottom left, for a road, with some loops around it for trees.  "You two are down here, on this road through the woods," I said.  "Now where are you going...?"

I wrote a list of ten random destination features on a 3x5 card and had each kid roll a d10.  "Fortress" and "cliff," I said.  In the top right of the map, separated from the road by vast blank whiteness, I drew a little fort on a cliff.  "Fort Grimm," I wrote.  "Now why do you have to get to Fort Grimm?  Do you have news they need, or are you carrying medicine, or what?"

"We're warning them of a battle!" Sebastian said.

"But not a bad battle," Elliot said.

"A bad battle!" Sebastian said.

Elliot looked worried.  Uh oh, a bad battle.  Those kids are so cool I can't even tell you.

So their knights made their way up the woodland road.  I rolled on my little table that they came to a town, so I had both kids make a Travel roll: Alert + Travel vs my d8.  Seb got one Hit and Elliot none, so I said, Donjon-style, "okay, Seb, tell me one fact about this town you're coming to."

"It's Laketown!" he said.

So I drew a little oval and some buildings and called it Laketown.  And that's how the game went.  Every time I couldn't think of something, I had them roll Travel or Lore and tell me one fact per Hit.  Turns out there was something in the lake smashing the Laketowners' boats, and since they have to cross the lake to continue on to Fort Grimm, they have to deal with the thing.  Seb contributed out of a roll that Bard of Laketown had seen its face and it was a troll's face, and before we knew it they'd found out (InSpectres-style) that it was a River Troll who'd been made enormous by a curse, and if it ever fails to smash a boat it'll revert to its normal River Troll size (about the same size as a Grugach or Woodland Hobbit.)

We called it a night with the two knights scheming how to make a boat the troll can't smash.

The resolution dice worked just fine.  When they wanted to accomplish something, I had them roll all their appropriate dice, including the personality dice when they did something Bold, Careful, Kind or Strong.  The roll told us whether they won outright, or had to choose: give up, or else buy victory or another chance.  Seb's knight Woodthorn, for instance, tried to shapeshift into a fish to get close to the giant troll, but only got one Hit - Sebastian went back and forth but finally decided to buy the reroll.  He marked one of his Hale boxes to show that he was tired (from now until he rests, whenever he rolls Hale, he swaps in a d8 for one of his d6s).  He won the reroll clean.

At the beginning of every session I'm going to have them add one die each to their character sheets, wherever they want it.  And you can bet that whoever cursed the River Troll will show up in person, sooner or later!  Elliot also wants a dragon, so we agreed that there's one in the Grimm Mountains somewhere.

An observation: Sebastian wants to envision a complete solution and enact it start to finish, instead of trying something and building on its success (or making the best of its failure).  It's really fun to watch his problem-solving muscles work, but the game doesn't reward extensive planning sessions.  I expect he'll get the hang of it, but if he starts to find it frustrating I'll have to reexamine the resolution mechanic.

Another: Collaborating genuinely across such age gaps isn't easy.  It's easiest for me, of course, what with the wisdom of maturity and all, plus the game's Techniques actively take power away from me and give it over to the kids.  It's very hard for Sebastian to collaborate with Elliot, because Elliot wants an airplane to land to take them across the lake and Sebastian's got a nice, strong vision - which, among other things, no airplanes.  To Elliot's credit, he suggests things without getting attached to them, so when Sebastian vetoes his airplane as setting-inconsistent he doesn't take it personally.  Sebastian's more frustrated by it than he is.

A third: Elliot wants to avoid in-character conflicts - he's only a teeny kid, after all - but Sebastian wants 'em and wants 'em to challenge him.  He wants something to be at stake and he wants his character to win, absolutely, but he doesn't want it to be a giveaway.  I think that's wicked cool.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Valamir on February 26, 2004, 11:35:03 AM
Sebastian, my 7yo, read the back of my big Pendragon book. He explained it to me last night at dinner. "It's like Universalis," he said, "only you have to have one character and it has to be a knight.

Pendragon is like Universalis, only with one character and a GM...

THAT my wicked cool :-)

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Simon W on February 26, 2004, 11:38:15 AM
Sounds great fun. Now where can I borrow some kids from? (Ooops, that sounds bad).


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: GreatWolf on February 26, 2004, 11:44:02 AM
I've been roleplaying with my children (ages 5,4,2) using the Pool, which has been working quite well.  I've had to enforce a bit of "my guy-ism" to avoid the problem of the big sister dictating all the action.  ("No, Arianna.  You can't say what Isaac's guy is doing.")  But, in general, I've been trying to allow a large amount of freedom to my little players, and they have been doing quite well.  We also took a sheet of posterboard and drew our provisional map (including the blank areas that we will continue to fill in during play).  And, of course, we have some character sketches, including two of the monstrous, four-armed, fire-breathing Fiends.  For some reason, the children enjoy cutting off all the arms off a Fiend before they finish it in combat.  I'm not quite sure what to think about this....

In general, Vincent's observations sync with what I've seen, but I hope that, over time, the children will learn more advanced techniques (like the infamous Kubasik "trouble-magnet" PC).  For now, they are excited to be playing a game with me, and that's good enough for me.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Zak Arntson on February 26, 2004, 12:32:02 PM
Quote from: lumpley
Collaborating genuinely across such age gaps isn't easy.  It's easiest for me, of course, what with the wisdom of maturity and all, plus the game's Techniques actively take power away from me and give it over to the kids.

Age gaps can be tough to handle (something I experienced with my niece and nephew, whether it's Shadows or Pokemon Monopoly), which makes an adult moderator nearly required. I'm glad to see your game giving power to the children; people (kids, especially) are imaginative by nature, and by forcing them to be active (rather than the traditional player character as reactive agent).

So what am I saying? Bravo. Oh, and the bad battle bit is priceless.

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Christopher Weeks on March 02, 2004, 11:15:37 AM
I enjoyed reading Vincent's experience, so I thought I'd share mine.  The other day, I ripped him off and had some fun doing it.  I used large chunks of Vincent's ideas, modified them to fit our situation and started playing a little game with my son, Garrett.  He's nine.  At 27 months, my daughter's not yet up to the challenge, so I had only one kid...but I'm thinking about arranging a game with a couple of G's friends.

We were in no way focussing on knights, so I generalized some stuff.  I also just changed some stuff for the fun of it.  I had two sets of opposed personality traits that each got three points spent, just like Vincent.  My pairs were: Daring & Trust and Caring & Just.  And then I set up four generic stats: physical, mental, spiritual, and social, that had ten points to allocate.  I figured that the nature of the game would be largely defined by how Garrett allocated those ten points.  I was right, so far.  He chose P4, M4, S1, S1.  And I used the skill system of one three, one one and the rest twos, for the skills: sword, bow, travel, lore, survival.  Garrett and I discussed the breadth of these skills and decided that the names were generalizations and that since most actions had to apply to one of these categories, we'd just figure it out as we went along, but e.g. a fistfight would use the sword skill.

The final difference is that I replaced Vincent's "undeveloped magical potential" with three "Magic Words."  These are words that the character might be able to use magically.  They might be the subject of some magical effect, or they might increase or decrease other magical effects.  If you picked the words fire and time then you might be able to generate magical energy for altering time by setting a forest fire and 'casting' near the blaze, or you might just use it to create a small fire...or whatever.  I tried to emphasize the multi-faceted role that the MWs played when discussing it with my son.  Also, I specified that it could be any word at all, but that the might be hard to apply.  Garrett chose Water, Jump and Life.

I also stole the list of place-words idea.  We each came up with a list of ten words that might have to do with places that our game could visit.  We ended up with a few adjectives and many nouns.  So I sorted them that way and we brainstormed a few to fill the list out to ten adjectives and 20 nouns.  I was a little dubious about a few of his words, but I took them and figured it would be our challenge to make them make sense.  We ended up with: A) orcish, evil, magic, misty, dark, haunted, holy, adventure(?), dangerous, high N) castle, fence, farm, plain, woods, cliff, fortress, town, lake, river, road, chasm, hills, crypt, animals, babies(?), mountain, bridge, pond, swamp.  The idea was that when needed, I'd use the chart as a random place/event generator.  But I was really dreading (in an amused way) an encounter titled, Adventure Babies!

And then we started much like Vincent describes.  I started a little road drawing on the lower left of a sheet of paper and we randomly generated a goal.  It turned out to be Misty Chasm.  (Sadly, I'm not sure how to draw a chasm.)  I asked Garrett why his character was going there and he said he had to deliver a letter.  (This has been a common starting point for our (typically systemless) RPGs over the past couple years.)  I asked, with eyebrows raised "you're delivering a letting to Misty Chasm?"  And with no delay, he informed me there was a town on the edge of the chasm and he was to deliver to the mayor.  So a few little house icons entered the map next to the chasm and we started.

The system of die mechanics was just lifted completely intact from Vincent's note.

But it was a slow start.  I gave him a travel roll, he got a bunch of hits, I asked him to narrate what his character found.  Blink.  Blink.  "Uh...a horrible smelling...misty fog..."  OK, does anything attack you out of the fog?  "No."  Does it make you sick?  "No."  OK, so I roll a d20 and a 20 means swamp, so I draw in the stinky mist swamp with a path leading out the other end.  So nothing happened and we moved on.

Actually, I left something out.  The very first thing the boy did was to try to jump all the way to the end.  Jump is one of his magic words, so I gave him two dice for daring and a die for Spiritual, and I rolled a d4.  He didn't get any ones, like I did, so he simply failed.  He asked what would have happened if he made it and when I told him he'd have delivered the letter, he was appalled.  I explained two things.  First, if that's not the kind of story you want to tell/play, then don't!  And second, that's not a big deal...we'd just start with a new sheet of paper and nothing really would have been lost.  I think the first point took only very slowly as we were playing later, but he accepted the second and we moved on.

He wanted to roll again, got only one hit, and told me that the road curved.  OK, I drew a ~90-degree bend to the left.  "Not that much!"  Sorry kid, you only got one hit :-)  I expected him to balk, but he thought that was really cool!

So he rolls again and gets no hits.  I roll Dark Mountain and draw it on the map with the road starting up the mountain.  I ask if he's being careful and he says "oh yeah!  I'm not letting any mountain trolls get the drop on me."  So of course, the mountain troll that came grumbling out of the cave at his approach was easy to spot.  I really expected him to try to kill it...he's a violent little cuss (a boy after my own heart...).  So he draws his sword and backs around it.  A roll with two hits allows him to buy a success so he endures some mental fatigue but avoids a confrontation.

Things are still going slowly.  He hasn't warmed up to narrating a story and I'm not sure how to engage him.  At this point I'm not really looking forward to just generating random locations for the next hour.  But it starts to get better.

I suggest that it's been all day and the sun is going down and he decides to press on.  OK, the stars and moon are providing some light, so that's fine.  He rolls again, gets a bunch of hits (maybe five) and describes the path going through some woods, and coming to a large clearing with a giant oak in the middle.  Hey...that's cool.  But wait.  He also hears tiny high-pitched laughing.  He can't find the source upon cursory examination, so he goes to sleep.  I narrate a surreal dream in which he's rowing a boat across a big lake and fish are jumping out parallel to his travel and fading into the water as soon as he tries to focus on them.  There was more, but basically I was trying to weird him out.  He wakes up to find sixtysix little laughing mice crawling all over his body.  Together we narrate him jumping up and sweeping them off and discovering that they follow him in a harmless swarm right up to the edge of the overhang of the Oak's foliage.  It was a nice period of interactive narration and I think the start of him getting into it.

He stopped the game at this point to ask for two rule changes.  The first is that he only gets to narrate one fact for every two hits on the travel roll.  It turns out that he most likes defining a little bit and making me surprise him within the context of his initial specifications.  OK, that's fine.  The other rule request, which I didn't like but which we resolved amicably, was that he could use his hits to roll on my table instead of making stuff up.  Once I figured out what he wanted, he was happy to just get to be the one to roll and interpret the results.  So we ended up with an alternative distribution of game-duties without changing the rules.

We had one more set of events before calling it a night.  G narrated a bend in the road again and rolled babies.  Babies!  I asked him why are there babies at this bend in the road.  I was stuck.  Again, without pause, "because there's a town here that's been sacked and the babies without families have been put outside to die.  Hot damn!  That's pretty gruesome.  So I asked him what he wanted to do about it.  "Nothing."  Nothing?  "Well, it's none of my business."  OK, but you notice that one of the crying who's next to two others that have already died of exposure looks just like Maddy (his eight-month old half sister).  So he stops and tries to soothe the baby...but he can't.  (Caring, Social, and Lore are all one and he gets no hits and doesn't want to waste his stats double-buying a reroll that will also fail.)  So he enters the town and kills four of the raiders that are hanging around hurting people and stealing stuff, in two seperate encounters.  One time, he attacks three of them, but from surprise, rolls very well and we take turns narating the battle blow by blow.  Even knowing that he's going to win, it was fun for both of us and I got to surprise him by killing one of the raiders with a peasant-driven pitch fork from behind.

And that's where we stopped.  He's still in town, there are more raiders than he can reasonably hope to cope with, there are dying babies out on the road, and he feels invested but desperate.  We've discussed it on three seperate to/from school car rides so far, but we were unable to get back to it last night.

Either with general players, or more specifically with kids, I'd be interested to hear experiences in increasing the comfort level with active narration.  I think out biggest hurdle was getting G into the driver's seat and I wonder if I fumbled it or if it just takes a bit of practice.  Maybe an hour (or whatever it was) is just a cheap investment to get going.

Thanks Vincent...maybe we'll have to give KPfS a try.  ;-)


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Andrew Norris on March 02, 2004, 12:01:10 PM
Damn it, this thread make me want to hurry up and have children already.

I have a co-worker who tends to do this sort of thing with his sons, so I'll have to ask what system he uses. He's told me some really cute stories over lunch that sounded like a Gamist take on this stuff.

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on March 02, 2004, 12:34:28 PM
Chris!  Way cool.

Sebastian had trouble with more than 1 or 2 facts too.  I had his Lore rolls just max out at 3 facts, but even that was too many.  We ended up mostly collaborating on "his" facts, with me suggesting things and him having final say.  Making it 1 fact per 2 hits makes lots of sense to me.

I dig your magic words.  If in the future anybody plays a wizard, that's how I'll work it.

Here's my unasked-for suggestion for the stinky mist (or whatever): make it into a roll.  "Do you get out of the stinky mist safely?  Roll Physical + Travel, I'll roll a ... d6."  d6!  Pretty scary for stinky mist.  Wonder what's up?  If he wins victory, that's good and you can move on.  If he has to buy victory, figure out then what that means - is he gagging from the smell?  Is it making him sleepy?  Does he have to fight shadowy, misty forms?  And if he loses, same thing, but you'll be looking for a follow-up conflict - shadowy, misty forms push him back and back, how does he want to deal with them?  Or else he passes out and wakes up ... where?

In other words, even when the player's establishing facts, it's the GM's job to provide adversity.  Just be on constant lookout for something to be at stake, and when you spot something, pounce!

But whatever, I'm just blathering.  I think it's wicked cool that you played.  The resolution mechanics work pretty well, don't they?

With luck and not too much homework, we're going to play again tonight!


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Jeph on March 03, 2004, 04:18:47 PM
That's a neat little system you've got there Vincent. Might it be more logical to have fixed target numbers (or whatever you call them in a rollunder system), instead of an opposed die roll? IE, replace deefour with TN 2, deesix with TN 3, and deeeight with TN 4. It would make it easier for Joe Average to play with his kid (needing only deesixes for the wee laddies and lassies), and might knock half a second off of S&H time.

Of course, rolling dice is fun in and of itself. The progeny can't have all the fun, can they?

With luck and not too much homework, we're going to play again tonight!

Do tell. :^)

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on March 04, 2004, 08:13:12 AM
Might it be more logical to have fixed target numbers (or whatever you call them in a rollunder system), instead of an opposed die roll?
Yes, yes it might.

This is kind of dorky, but what I really want are three coins, an easy coin, a hard coin, and an in-between coin.  The easy coin would have 4 on one side and 5 on the other, the in-between coin would have 3 and 4, and the hard coin would have 2 and 3.  They could be green, yellow, red!  I'm'a make some for next time.

So yes, we played again.  Instead of preventing the enlarged River Troll from smashing a boat, thus breaking the spell, they lured it into shallow water, caught it in a net, and handed it over to the guards of Laketown.  They pressed on up the river and dealt with some shrunken Forest Trolls - down from ten feet tall to six inches tall - who'd taken over a ruined temple and were going to sacrifice a mouse on its altar.  The kids enjoyed it a lot - they went to bed crowing about how they'd rescued the mouse and talking like the trolls in miniature voices, "we eat squeaker! we eat squeaker and KILL squeaker!"  But it was a bit lackluster for me.  It didn't have the zing that a story oughta, even a story for kids.

I scanned our character sheets and some stuff:

Before next time we play, I'm going to go over the scenario creation rules in Trollbabe again.  This game's missing something and it might be them.  (Or hey, maybe a conflict map like in that Robin Hood game...?  I'll report later.)


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: W. Don on March 04, 2004, 09:11:39 AM
Wow, Vincent. I just want to echo all the "I wanna a kid now" sentiments above. So uhm, I wanna a kid now, too.

Not to reduce your 7yo to a statistic of sorts, but doesn't all this support the whole idea of Simulationism being a learned mode and that Gamism and Narrativism are more natural human inclinations.

Show a kid GURPS and he'll choke. Show him InSpectres and he'll get it right away.


- W.

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: RaconteurX on March 04, 2004, 06:52:53 PM
Very cool, Vincent. Yes, it appears you have invented a pervy version of Prince Valiant (or Underworld; the coin mechanics are eeriely similar), but that is an immense compliment as far as I am concerned. I also concur with Ralph regarding Sebastian's "summary" of Pendragon... wicked cool. :)

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Doyce on March 14, 2004, 08:30:13 PM
And just to contribute a possible method of between-game improvement:
 - Traits probably can't be raised (maybe: might have to think about that in terms of really long-running games), but the 'balance' between each pair can be altered at the end of stories (I could become less Bold in favor of more Careful, for example.)
 - Skills and your 'career' rating can be raised like so: At the conclusion of a storyline check skills for improvement in whatever order you like by rolling Nd6 and having all the dice come up greater than or equal to N (where N = the current score).
    Example: I have a Sword skill of 4.  When checking for improvement, I must roll 4d6 and all four dice must come up equal to or greater than 4.  The theoretical, highly unlikely maximum for a skill is thereby set at '7'.
 - (Optional) Stats can be raised by rolling for improvement as above, but the improvement check must succeed twice.

If any skill or stat improvement check succeeds, no more checks for improvement are allowed.  No more checks are allowed if all skills and stats have been checked and none improved.

(Optional) You do not have to check every skill -- if you've tried all the skills you think are appropriate for improvement from the last story and none improved, you are not 'forced' to check skills you do not think would or should improve.  Players who opt to stop checking for improvements before success might (for example) get one (and only one) additional try on a stat or skill they've already tried and failed to improve, or some other bennie from the GM.

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: DannyK on March 15, 2004, 05:37:19 PM
Just to add fuel to the fire -- I've got my own 7 year old, and he's been peeking over my shoulder when I read Nobilis.  "Dad -- what are Miracle Points?"

For the heck of it (and after some nagging), we went through character creation.  He decided to be the Power of Clouds.  

It was absolutely no problem for him to understand the concepts of Aspect, Domain, and Realm; Spirit was harder to explain, but when he got it, he immediately maxed out in that stat.  

I haven't tried running "Nobilis Jr." yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  We're going to read Howard Fast's Robin Hood soon, so then maybe we can try the "pervy Prince Valiant" that was mentioned above.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on March 17, 2004, 10:13:57 AM
Again with the mis-sized trolls!  This time they're two Rock Trolls taller than trees.  (Rock Trolls are normally just a bit bigger than humans.)  Our knights Woodthorn and Cauldron-born are sleeping, but enormous booming footsteps and a roaring flame - a whole tree one of the trolls is carrying for a torch - wake them.

The smell of little woodland people like our knights makes one of the trolls sneeze.  Sebastian's knight Woodthorn shapeshifts himself into a breeze to escape, but (failing the roll) when the troll tries to sniff him out, he gets sucked into the troll's gargantuan nostril!  There when he talks, the troll thinks it's his own brain talking to him, which turns naturally into high comedy.  High comedy for a 7-year-old means snot and punching.

The trolls have one of Bard of Laketown's lieutenants in a sack, and while Woodthorn keeps the two trolls punching and insulting each other by masquerading as one troll's inner voice, Cauldron-born climbs up and cuts the sack open and helps the lieutenant escape.  In the end, the wizard behind all this troll size mayhem shows up (his first appearance onscreen).  He figures that the trolls' captive escaped somewhere along the way, so he leads the trolls back the way they came to look for her.  (Woodthorn at last let himself be sneezed out, in the requisite great huge glob of troll booger.)

Play was much zingier!  At the beginning of the session I introduced a new mechanic: the Trouble Map, which I scavenged from a Robin Hood game I was working on a bit back.  (I'll link to it sometime.)

The Trouble Map
On one card, write "Trouble Map part 1."  Draw four boxes on it, and label them in big letters: "Woodthorn's In Trouble!" "Cauldron-born's In Trouble!" "Squeaker's In Trouble!" "Bard & Laketown are In Trouble!"

On a second card, write "Trouble Map part 2."  Draw four boxes on it too, and label them: "The Goblins Cause Trouble!" "The Wizard Causes Trouble!" "The Trolls Cause Trouble!" "The Dragon Causes Trouble!"

Every time the knights accomplish something (crossing the lake, rescuing Sqeaker from the miniaturized Forest Trolls, rescuing Bard's lieutenant), give each player a stone.  The players have to put their stones in the boxes, whichever they like.  (They'll also be able to add new boxes, but we haven't talked about that yet.)

I started the session by having both kids place two stones each, for their two previous accomplishments.  They put 'em in the Goblins, the Wizard, the Trolls, and the Dragon.

Whenever you the GM want to, pull a stone off the Trouble Map and make something bad happen, according to which box you pulled the stone out of.  "Make something bad happen" means: launch a scene, or add a complication to the scene you're in.  For instance, if Sebastian puts a stone in "Woodthorn's In Trouble," I can later pull it out again to open a scene with Woodthorn being captured by trolls, or whatever I like.

In play, I pulled a stone out of "The Trolls Cause Trouble" to launch the scene with the giant trolls, and then I pulled a stone out of "The Wizard Causes Trouble" to bring the wizard into the scene.

So that shares out the story duties well.  There's a connection now between what the kids want from the game and what I give them, instead of me just guessing.  It's a lot the kind of zing I was missing - presuming that it continues to go well and works in future play and etc.


Doyce: that sounds like Pendragon!  I'm just going with: at the start of every session, add a die to any one thing on your character sheet.  I don't mind if the paired traits increase in sum.  So far the kids've been prioritizing their magic: Woodthorn's Shapeshifting and Cauldron-born's Invisibility.

I think it's so funny that Elliot named his knight "Cauldron-born"!


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Christopher Weeks on March 17, 2004, 11:19:11 AM
Vincent, you should run this at GenCon.  There's a significant lack of suitable RPG opportunities for the tots.  And I wonder how many folks would actually buy a game that was designed to be cool for might even make some money.

I ended up having to ratchet down the intensity of our game.  Garrett was upset at being unable to save the babies and just left in frustration-borne faux indifference.  

Our second session ran pretty boring until we got to scene near the upper right corner of the page in a haunted woods.  He was attacked by vine zombies which were slow and defeatable, but too numerous to conquor.  I gave him a couple opportunities to run away, but he just couldn't seem to leave the battle unwon.  They subdued him and tied him against the great cedar -- right in front of the bone pit where their undead god slept.  He started to clue in as the surface of the bone pit started shaking and rippling.  By the time the giant skeleton assembled from various and sundry human and animal bits (like some of our LEGO Bionicle monsters), he was prepared with an action.  But boy was it a desperate attempt.  He activated one of his magic words, Jump again, and rolled some crazily effective dice.  He sprang into the treetops and ran tree to tree to get away.  The undead god was mega-pissed and broke apart many of his minions in the ensuing tantrum.

We quit once he was away and he hasn't asked about playing again.  I'm not sure what that means.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: DannyK on March 17, 2004, 02:23:03 PM
Those are very intense images for a imaginative child; perhaps they are past his comfort level.  I say this because I know my son gets very wary of reading or watching things that he thinks might give him nightmares.  Perhaps he was taken aback at how intense the things you thought up together could be.  

(Edit: this is not a criticism -- those are some very effective, very creepy images! )

 I figured that I'd either keep combat minimal and non-graphic ("so the King of Clouds knocks out all the guards and ties them up.  What then?") or cartoonish.  

Speaking of cartoonishness, my son is very fond of the Captain Underpants stories -- if someone could make a lite ruleset that would let him take on the role of one of the protagonists, he'd love that.  


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: lumpley on March 17, 2004, 02:31:44 PM
DannyK!  I've been working feverishly for long nights at a stretch trying to figure out how to make Flip-O-Rama (TM) into a resolution mechanic!

No luck yet.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: MPOSullivan on March 18, 2004, 01:05:29 AM
Vincent, from the way you described everything i totally imagine your kids as the two Darling boys from Peter Pan, british accents and everything.  And Peter Pan is my all-time favourite book, so i'm saying you've got rad kids.  And the same with you and your child Chris.  It's nice to see gamers pulling their kids into the scene.  

this totally gives me a lot of happy.  i want to have kids have them play in my games now.

then again, the games i've made i've described loosely to my gamers as "Teenage Vampires that are like the X-Men", "Reservoir Dogs, the Game" and "The Prisoner on Crystal Meth and with a Latex fetish".  i don't think my games are good for minors.  ;-)

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Christopher Weeks on March 18, 2004, 03:10:03 AM
Quote from: Zathreyel
then again, the games i've made i've described loosely to my gamers as "Teenage Vampires that are like the X-Men", "Reservoir Dogs, the Game" and "The Prisoner on Crystal Meth and with a Latex fetish".  i don't think my games are good for minors.  ;-)

We're generally over-the-top liberal parents.  My boy is comfortable with sex and cinematic violence.  cut to a little story...

He was seven when the LOTR movie came out and we all went.  He loved it.  But when the lights came up afterward, this 40-something lady came over and asked G if he liked it.  He nodded.  Then she asked didn't he think it was too violent?  He turned to her in wide-eyed earnest and said, "it wasn't violent enough."  I think he was going to compare it to the book, but she got this sour expression on her face and backed away quickly.  It was too funny (funier in person than in retelling).

back to topic... He likes Aliens, but my wife has her foot down on Reservoir Dogs.  And I guess I agree.  My stance is to steer him away from some movie until he seems ready.  I'm not sure I see a problem with your other source matirial (so long as you don't have to personally enjoy crystal meth and latex to dig the games)...but it may just be me.  I'm much more troubled by the overwhelmingly juvenile portrayal of sexuality than the commonality of violence.

And I'm interested in how these topics relate to kid-based RPGs.  I keep thinking simple mechanics, but not plots are the Thing.


Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: MPOSullivan on March 18, 2004, 03:40:00 AM
i have tried making a kid's game, one that allowed players to create their own fairy tale characters in a fluid, dreamlike environment.  it seemed to work fairly well, though i never got the opportunity to run it for my target audience, the five to nine year old bracket.  When i did run it though, i did get some great characters.  One player created a young adventurer that could soar through the air, but had a curse levied upon him that his feet could never touch solid ground.  Another played Udo, King of the Mushroom People, who was, in actuallity, a one and a half foot tall mushroom who wore a crown and weilded a great sword even though he had no arms or hands with which to hold the blade.  

i found that having a system that was fluid and allowed players to create any various thing that popped into their head was the most important thing and, when teamed with simplicity, allowed for the best kind of gaming from younger players.  the system i used for the game above was, as always when it comes to me, card-based and had little in the way of statistics.  instead, players used a couple of lines of descriptions, boiked them down into a couple of assets and abilities, and we were off and running.  

the games i mentioned above i definetly was not suggesting for play by younger people out-right, i was just mentioning that i think my games lean towards concepts in play that are a bit more "adult" in nature.  The "teenage vampires" one is called INTHEBLOOD and it's all about being a teenager and going through changes and dealing with sex and sexuality, and tossing the fact that you are a vampire into that mix, basically using the vampire as a metaphor for change and growth and childhood rather than aging and death.  The others are a crime RPG and a weird sci-fi, greek epic melange that plays alot with identity and a little bit with gender theory.  No Crystal Meth or Latex required, i swear.  ;-)

but, along those lines of violence and "adult" concepts, kids generally have a much higher tolerance when it comes to violence than most adults expect, at least when it comes to entertainment culture.  I think that this is mainly because they understand that it isn't real and it simply makes things more, i don't know, vibrant and such?  younger people don't yet have a grasp of full human emotional ranges and, as such, grab onto plot lines more easily when things are shown and not implied.  thus, kids tend to like action movies more than romance movies.  not because the romance movie is "mushy and gross" (well, maybe a little... ), but because the action movie communicates in broader, and much more visual strokes.  they understand visually that, for these characters, there's a lot on the line.

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: Doyce on March 18, 2004, 09:57:49 AM
Quote from: lumpley
Doyce: that sounds like Pendragon!

Which is funny, since I've never read it -- funnier still since that's what your son was asking about to begin with.

Pervy Prince Valiant meets Pervy Pendragon... assuming you've ever read either!  Stand by for Adventure!

Title: Prydain, the Hobbit, Pendragon ... Fun for Kids!
Post by: RaconteurX on March 18, 2004, 08:42:15 PM
Quote from: Doyce
Pervy Prince Valiant meets Pervy Pendragon... Stand by for Adventure!

Sounds like HeroQuest to me. :)