Creating an RPG campaign for children, Part I

Here is a not-too sophisticated map of my 7-year-old son's campaign world, 'The Land of Good and Bad.'

This is a multipart series on worldbuilding for a children’s RPG campaign. The second installment can be read here.Miniatures and gaming have been part of the background of my 7-year-old son’s home environment for his entire life, but his interest in what RPGs and wargames actually entail has piqued in the last couple of years or so. Initially, I introduced him to very episodic, skirmish-style games, such as brief scenarios for Kids, Castles and Caves and Song of Blades and Heroes. He enjoyed those games, although some of the more tactical elements of both games were beyond him at the time. He and I were talking yesterday about the concept of a campaign – an extended adventure that only ends if you want it to, and during which heroes become increasingly powerful, in order to take on ever more powerful enemies.He was sold on the idea in about 30 seconds, but that was the easy part.

The difficult part was to come up with a way to mimic the experience of playing an RPG, while keeping mechanics and tactics at a level that he could easily understand.  Clearly, this required a light rules system – I’m using Dungeon Squad! in this case – that will feel like an RPG but won’t tax his young mind with complicated math or battle tactics. He’s learning single-digit addition and subtraction in school, after all.

I thought it may be fun to take the lad through the steps an adult Dungeon Master uses to create a setting for the campaign. We fired up an old version of Campaign Cartographer 2 and set to work developing a small continent, a few hundred miles across. It was a useful learning experience for the lad, as I was able to teach him about how different landforms give rise to or are impacted by others, and why settlements end up where they are in the real world.

We also talked about the major villains that would plague the land – a dragon-riding wizard and a group of pirates – and set aside some appropriate terrain for them to reside: the wizard as king of a lost city in the mountains, and the pirates in a sheltered cove along the eastern coast.

We didn’t name anything but the continent itself. It is called, “The Land of Good and Bad,” a highly descriptive, but not very poetic, title invented by my son. We plan to work on it more this weekend, so future blog posts will be dedicated to this experiment as time passes.

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6 comments on “Creating an RPG campaign for children, Part I

  1. burnedfx says:

    I’ve never thought about going through the process of Dungeon Mastering with the girls (ages 9 and 13). Although, I recently collaborated with the 12 year old, when we set up our second campaign. Her help was focused on known character knowledge.

    Do you plan on running the game or is he going to be a player?

    I look forward to reading your further posts on the subject and thanks for sharing.

    • Alric says:

      Thank you for your visit and comment.

      I plan on running the game, but I wanted the lad to be a part of the creative process. I don’t want my son to grow up to be one of those players who expect the DM to entertain them, and I’m hoping that making him part of the process early on will help him take ownership of his share of the story as he gets older (if he decides that this sort of game is for him).

      I’ll let you know how it goes; we’ll be finishing up the map this weekend.

  2. [...] of creating a campaign for kids? Check out this new article (the beginning of a new series) from Alric @ The RPG Athenaeum. I love getting a kid’s creativity into campaign and world building… Major villains, [...]

  3. [...] This is the second post in a series about creating an RPG campaign world for children; the first post can be viewed here. [...]

  4. [...] to playing out battles using the Dungeon Squad! rules. The first article in the series can be found here, while the second is [...]

  5. [...] Creating an RPG campaign for children, pt. 1 (http://rpgathenaeum.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/creating-an-rpg-campaign-for-children-part-i/): The first of three posts on planning a campaign for kids, using as an example the campaign the author created for his 7 year old son. [...]

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