While exploring the “Musings of the Chatty DM” blog yesterday, I happened across this post, describing an open game license fantasy role-playing game system designed for children. The system, called Kids, Castles and Caves (KCC) and e-published last year by Brave Halfling Publishing, features bare-bones combat and treasure generation systems, simplistic rules for advancement to the third level of experience, ready-to-play characters and sample maps for use with the game. For ease of play, all random rolls are resolved with a single toss of a six-sided die.
Author John Adams indicated that the intent behind the product was to resolve his children’s desire to share his interest in role-playing, in spite of their being unable to count to 20…or even to 10. What he produced admirably walks a fine line: the space between providing a true role-playing experience and scaring a youngster with fantasy that seems a bit too real.
I purchased the complete “bundle” of KCC products at RPG Now for around $8 U.S., which included the rules system, a zip file with more color battle maps than I’ll ever need, and plenty of paper miniatures scaled to approximately 1:72, or 25 mm.
The quality of the full-color art on the miniatures is high, and represents numerous iconic D&D monsters, such as the gelatinous cube and rust monster, along with standard fantasy foes such as orcs, goblins, ogres and trolls. While it is easy for a dungeon master to identify these creatures, they all appear more “ugly” than “scary,” if I may quote my four-year-old.
My son and I finished our first game of KCC a few hours ago and, strangely enough, the fun began with our assembling the miniatures. They needed to be cut out, folded and glued. A nice option presented with the minis was the potential to assemble standard, two-sided “tent style” paper minis or triangular minis that showed the chracter or monster from three angles instead of two. My son decided that, since I had printed the minis out with only black ink, that they needed to be colored. We spent about an hour working on the minis, and my son’s excitement about the game continually increased during that time.
I opted to make use of a wet-erase, vinyl battle mat with one-inch squares for our first game, instead of the battle maps provided. A dungeon master could also use the line of D&D Dungeon Tiles with equal ease, although there is nothing wrong with the battle maps as presented.
Siezing a plastic Easter egg filled with candy for the upcoming holiday, I decreed that an evil giant had stolen Easter, and nobody would get any candy until my son got the egg back from the giant. My son chose to play an elf from the characters provided, and I chose a cleric to back him up; the two heroes set off into the giant’s subterranean labyrinth.
The heroes faced off against a goblin and his pet giant rat, a giant snake, an evil spider and finally the giant. The combat system is very easy to learn, following the steps below:
- All combatants roll initiative on 1d6 (some pleasant first-edition memories came back with that step)
- Each combatant may choose between attack, move/attack, walk carefully, run and search actions.
- Attacks are rolled on 1d6, plus any modifiers for magic weaponry or class. Modified rolls that match or exceed a target’s defense score inflict 1d6 damage, plus modifiers.
- When all combatants have acted, roll initiative again.
Although my four-year-old needed to be told when to roll and what he needed to roll in order to hit or knock out a target, a child only a few years older could probably follow the procedure with ease and, as Adams suggested, combat resolution is simple enough to allow 10-year-olds to create and run simple adventures for their friends.
The available characters cover the gamut of fantasy archetypes, including cleric, dwarf, elf, fairy, halfling, knight and wizard. The fairies – which are always girls, according to the rules – dislike combat, can turn invisible and can put mosters to sleep by tapping them with their magic wands. All of the other character types are accurate stereotypes of how such characters are played in the “grown up” versions of the game.
Lastly, the character advancement system is simple and paced for characters to earn a level in about an hour, which pushes the attention span limit of most children. Mine, of course, wanted to play again after the first hour, presumably because he was 15 minutes from bed time.
With any product, the proof is in the play, and my four-year-old was clearly “in the moment” while playing this game. He made the motions of drawing back a bow and arrow before rolling to hit the giant; he flexed his muscles following every successful hit; and he even offered my cleric one – exactly one – of the Skittles fruit candies hidden in the giant’s plastic Easter egg, in recognition of my character’s contribution (which also brought back memories of playing first edition, and its none-too-fair “treasure shares by level” option).
Adams did a superb job in accomplishing his stated task of creating a fast, fun, easy role-playing game system that wouldn’t scare kids. And the $8 price tag is a great value; we got our money’s worth during the first evening of play.