NewbieDm, of the blog of the same name recently contacted the stew and asked us to take a look at his PDF product rpgKids v1.5. RpgKids is intended as an introductory RPG for children ages 4-7 and my daughter is 10, but I jumped at the chance to review it because I’m desperate. I’ve tried several different systems to introduce my daughter to RPGs and nothing has stuck. She’s shown some lackluster interest in a few other systems, and really enjoyed painting her own mini with daddy when he was painting one of his own a while back, but nothing has panned out. Nothing until rpgKids anyway. So here’s why I loved the system, why my daughter loved the system, and why you and your child will too.
Let’s start with what you get for your money. For only $2.99 you get the game’s rule system, including a section on designing adventures for rpgKids, a sheet of character record sheets, a sheet of 32 adorable character and monster tokens, a blank sheet of 1” graph paper for drawing your own encounter maps, and an introductory module, “The Lair of the Frog Wizard”. Altogether it totals 24 pages. For the cost of a cup of coffee, that’s really good, especially when you’re buying a lifetime of quality time with your child.
Say hello to Mrs. Slithers. My daughter’s going through a snake phase and as soon as she saw Mrs. Slithers in the collection of brightly colored and kid-style counters that come with the game, she wanted to play her. I was initially resistant. The snakes are enemies, not playable characters, but that’s when the simplicity of the system came to my rescue. You see, in rpgKids, characters are Sword Fighters, Wizards, Archers, and Healers. Each one has it’s own special rule, but are otherwise the same. Monsters, likewise, are melee monsters, magic monsters, and ranged monsters, which correspond exactly to Sword Fighters, Wizards, and Archers. Thus, there’s no stat difference between Mrs. Slithers, a melee monster, and a sword fighter. So why NOT let Sara play Mrs. Slithers? No reason. In fact it worked out really well, since I had only two test players and the module included with the rules is designed for four. Sara played Selena the mage and Mrs. Slithers, her familiar, and her mother played a sword fighter named Sue and Loraine, a healer.
I mentioned above that the included module was for four players, but modifying it would have been very easy, and it tells you how in both the module itself and the section on building your own adventures in the rules. The entire rules system is fast and light and an amazingly easy pick up game. Scribble a map, grab some tokens and you’re ready to play! Character creation takes less than a minute, and encounters take around 15 minutes each.
Despite the simplicity of the system, or perhaps because of it, rpgKids really encourages tactical thinking. Character and monster’s special abilities have enough impact that without lucky dice rolls, a few tactical decisions will swing a battle, as will efficiency of resource use. This may not appeal to all players, since without tactics and resource allocation teams of equal numbers are evenly matched and battles come down to luck, but it’s not difficult to change the contested rolls to DC based rolls and adjust the DCs wherever works for you if tactical combat isn’t your thing. The system is also very forgiving. Encounters are quick, and little changes between encounters so if things go poorly, backing up to the beginning of an encounters is very easy.
What about Role-playing? What about Storytelling? How does rpgKids encourage these? Like old school RPGs, it encourages them by getting the heck out of the way and letting them happen. RpgKids is mainly a simple framework for tactical combat, and makes no demands on what happens between those combats. If you want to have diplomatic encounters where the PCs role-play with NPCs, how much you do it and how is entirely up to you.
I’d recommend rpgKids to any gamer who wants to introduce their children to RPGs, even if they’re a bit outside the recommended age. It’s simple fun and easy, and lets your children see the fun of RPGs without complicated mechanics getting in the way.