Having been a roleplayer since the age of twelve, it has always been my intention to bring the joy of gaming to my three children. Being that they are fairly young (six, four, and one), I’ve waited till I felt the time was right. All of my children have played board games, card games, or some form of a child’s tabletop game. But none of them have played an actual roleplaying game with me… until now.
With my oldest daughter just turning six and my son at four and a half, I felt the time was right to introduce them to the world of roleplaying. After reviewing many, many different roleplaying games targeted at children their age, I settled in on Hero Kids. Being that it was one of the few games targeted towards children as low as four, I felt it would be a perfect match for my two little adventurers.
The game is extremely simple to setup. I literally purchased a PDF of the book, reviewed it and the adventure for about thirty minutes, printed out the necessary character sheets and adventure material and I was ready to go. If I hadn’t run out of printer ink, the whole setup would’ve only taken a little over an hour.
I wanted this experience to be very personal for the kids so I spent all day building it up. I reminded them constantly that after dinner the two of them were going to play a board game with daddy. I challenged them by saying I wasn’t sure they would be able to beat me, which really got their competitive spirits going. When the time came, I setup our coffee table, brought in two small chairs and made everything perfectly sized for kids. This was their moment, after all. After watching me set everything up, they couldn’t wait to play.
Since I had both a daughter and a son playing, I separated the male characters on one side and the female characters on the other. Both of them saw this and instinctively knew where to sit. My son quickly chose the Warrior class and immediately named his character Justin Time (I thought that was hilarious). My daughter took a little longer in choosing her character. She wanted to know what the powers of each character were and what they could do. She eventually chose a Warlock and named her Ailah.
I began by explaining to them that they were young children that protected a village in The Brecken Vale and showed them the area on the map. I immediately shot to the beginning of the adventure and informed them that the Innkeeper’s son, Roger, had been captured by some stinky (emphasis on stinky) rats and they, Justin Time and Ailah, needed to rescue him.
They both seemed unsure as to how they were going to do this, until I placed the first map of the area underneath the bar in front of them. I put their two characters on the map as well as three rats and explained the task that laid before them. I told them in order to save Roger, they needed to defeat the rats and continue looking for him.
My son immediately started with what would become a running theme for him the whole night. First, he won initiative (which he did every single combat). Second, he rushed in to “kick the rat in the [insert random body part here].” When he successfully defeated the rat, I took a suggestion from Hero Kids and simply had it scurry away rather than kill it. I felt this was one of many good recommendations the main book gave, as I could tell that he was getting amped up each time he defeated a monster. I didn’t want him walking into Sunday School and telling everyone that he slices and dices things in half with his dad.
My daughter followed up by what would also be a running theme for her the whole night. She started casting spells. Her first spell was to turn herself invisible because she didn’t want the rats to see her. Her second spell was to blind the rats because she didn’t want them to see her brother. I did some on the fly rules for this and she pretty much did that the entire night. I think she only used her spells to actually damage something once but this left plenty of blind rats for Justin Time to mop up.
The two pint-sized adventurers plodded through the dungeon blinding various rats and kicking them in random areas of their bodies. At one point they came to a T-intersection where they had to make their first major decision. Which way do they go? My daughter suggested they split up and both take a separate section of the tunnel. This is where I politely spoon fed them the first lesson of gaming, “Don’t split up the party!” They agreed that they didn’t want to fight any stinky rats alone and picked one section of the tunnel to go to together.
In this area, they located a pool of water but no rats (I took them out of this area to speed things up a bit). They were confused but I started gently prodding them on what they could potentially do in the room. My son decided Justin Time would go into the pool of water and see if the boy, Roger, was swimming in there. I rewarded his curiosity with a gold coin. My daughter then immediately decided Ailah would jump into the pool and informed me that she had found a gold coin too!
After this discovery, they backtracked and made it to the final cavern where they discovered two additional rats and the dreaded king rat! They were so excited and quickly dispatched the first two rats. My son was stunned though when he successfully hit the king rat and he didn’t go down in one shot! Which prompted my daughter to, of course, blind the king rat… and then shrink him… and then turn him to ice.
Thus ended their adventure. They defeated the king rat by beating him silly, blinding him, shrinking him and turning him into ice. Additionally, they ran off the rest of the king rat’s minions and rescued Roger. After which, Roger invited them both to eat ice cream at the Inn for the rest of the week for free.
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
This first gaming session with my kids was fantastic. They had fun, I had fun, and everything pretty much went how I always hoped it would be, ONLY BETTER. Their personalities really showed through with my son’s reckless abandon towards things and my daughter’s more cautious and thought out approach. I think my favorite moment of the night was when I addressed my son by his real name and told him it was his turn. He promptly jumped out of his seat, ran over to me and whispered in my ear, “That’s not my name, I’m Justin Time.”
If I had any suggestions for adults that are considering running a roleplaying game for young children, they would be the following:
1) DO IT! Stop waiting, pull the trigger, and just do it! It cost me about ten bucks to purchase the PDF and the materials I needed to do so. If you add the reading and setup time, the entire process of gaming probably took slightly over two hours.
2) If the children are in the four to six age range, only play with two to three children maximum. They’re going to need the constant attention and you don’t want them waiting very long. Keeping the numbers low means they each get more attention.
3) Aim for somewhere in the thirty to sixty minute time range for the entire session. I think our session was about forty-five minutes and they were just starting to get a little restless. I removed two combat encounters to keep the adventure in that time range.
We’ll definitely be playing Hero Kids again as both of my children are already asking for more. As I stated earlier, the game is extremely easy to learn, play and there are ample supplements out for the game at a very low cost. After playing our first gaming session together as a family, I can definitely tell you one thing… I can’t wait for our second session.