Do you have small children? Kids that are too young to start playing pen and paper role playing games because they cannot read yet? I've got a solution for you, keep on reading.
My son got interested in dragons and mythical beasts very early on. Since then, I've been waiting for the day I will introduce him to pen & paper role playing games. By the time he was 4 (he is 7 now), he could read dices and do simple counts with his fingers. But that was still not enough for most pen and paper games. Even "kids" RPGs rely on additions, character sheets and projecting yourself into a different world. My son was still to young for that.
Still, I couldn't wait. So I decided to roll my own game with my own game mechanics, based on the stories we create together. After goofing around with dragons and fantasy, I realized this was a world he didn't know well enough yet. He was struggling with projecting himself into a foreign world and couldn't find corresponding actions. So I decided to reduce that complexity to its bare minimum:
- Known animals
- In a know environment
- With plastic figures to help the projection (thanks Niko for the 3D Prints)
So the only thing that remained new for him, were the game mechanics. And those are very simple:
I narrate a story and we roll d6 dices to decide if an action will be successful or not.
We settled to play with in a well known environment, a forest. And we picked 5 well-known animals:
- Bear cub
I play the role of a game master and player at the same time. Thus I can influence the story from outside and inside at the same time. I let him pick a character first. I then pick one myself. I often pick the opposite in size and agility. It helps me better handle some situations. As a game-master I only narrate the big lines of the story and call the dice-rolls.
And therein lies the real fun. My son comes up with the action and my character plays along with it. When we are stuck, my character can makes suggestions. As a game master, I try to push back on those actions by setting an arbitrary threshold:
The fox wants to climb that tree? Roll a 6 to succeed, foxes are not good climbers...
The squirrel wants co climb that tree? Roll anything else than 1 to succeed.
If he indeed rolls a 1 as a squirrel, I have to come up with a good idea on why he failed. The silliest and funniest the better. I could for example say:
At the very moment you start climbing, a gust of wind makes the tree cracking over your head. You jump on the side to avoid the falling branches and decide it is too dangerous.
You climb 2 meters. You realize there are itchy pine-processionary-caterpilar everywhere on the bark. You prefer to climb back down.
When you arrive on the first branch, you discover a hole in the bark and a nice smell of nuts comes out of it. You put your head in the hole and discover an old reserve you made and had totally forgotten about. No way you are going to continue climbing that tree... or this adventure. You NEED to bring this home NOW!
Some of the actions he would like to do can thus fail. He then has to imagine an alternative. This is the biggest part of the fun. Coming up with threshold and reactions on the fly and pushing his creativity a little bit... but not too much.
The forest is pretty normal. I use elements of a forest we often go walk into. Unless stated otherwise, the animals are never aggressive with one another. But they fear the humans.
There are a few key animals that I introduce into the stories. The old owl is a wise figure that can explain things. The old bear is a very strong character that I use in extreme situations. For example when hunters are around. The eagle can go explore the forest from above, etc.And that's it. You're ready to play.
The stories are very short and can be played in 10 minutes... or expanded as will. The scenarios are thus very basic. You can work with them, mix them up or use them as a starting point and create your story:
- First days of winter, the young animals see ice for the first time
- A wolf cub breaks through the ice on a lake, the other animals pull him out of the icy water
- It's been raining for days, the rabbit's den is now on a small island. Let's save the family from the rising water.
- The poachers captured a wolf cub. He is in a cage on a cart on the side of the camp. At night, the animals organize a rescue party.
- A fire has broken out in the forest. All the animals have to cross the river.
Changing some details, rolls and characters allow you to play those scenarios again and again.
If you come up with other scenarios, I'd love to know about them! My daughter is now 3. She will be ready to start with these stories soon.
My son started school this year and will soon be ready for more. Any idea what I should start with?
Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash