Creating an RPG campaign for children, Part III

The lad's intrepid band of heroes is crossing the peak of a snow-capped mountain, where they are outnumbered by frost zombies.

This is the third installment in a series about designing and playing an RPG campaign with my 7-year-old son, from setting design to playing out battles. The first article in the series can be found here, while the second is here.

After three sessions of play using the free Dungeon Squad! rules, the lad’s campaign is starting to take shape. His character was approached in his home town of Tiny Village by the village elder, a fellow named Sedgewick; the elder asked if the hero would deliver a message to the tower of the wizard Snevlin, which is located across the mountains. Sedgewick warned that it would be a dangerous trip, and that the hero should round up a few friends to help him fight off the dangers. After recruiting an adventuring party, with members named after the lad, his favorite stuffed animals and Mom the Deadly (playing herself in this drama), the group set off for the mountains.

At the outset of this project, one of my goals was to keep the lad involved in the creative process, and so I allowed him to select foes from my miniature collection. Using the figures as a guide, I crunched up combat statistics for the beasties using other Dungeon Squad! monsters as a template.

While we did play one battle on a printed poster map from a D&D module, I found that the lad had more fun when he had an active role in designing the battlefield. We used D&D Dungeon Tiles, particularly from the Wilderness Master Set and the Witchlight Fens supplement. Usually, my son had as much fun creating the battlefields as he did playing the game. The only exception was when the party was crossing the mountain’s snow-capped peak, and we used the Caverns of Icewind Dale; he enjoyed the tiles even more than the battle on that occasion.

Time for an important note to self: the greater my son’s role in creating the game, the more he seems to enjoy it. At this point, I don’t know if that is true for most children, or if my son is a born gamemaster and inclines toward that side of the screen (chip of the old block and all that).

At this point, the lad seems more interested preparation for and playing battles, an interest I’ll feed by asking his help in determining combat abilities for monsters, which have all been homebrewed thus far. I’ll try adding more story elements before the next report.

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3 comments on “Creating an RPG campaign for children, Part III

  1. Your comment about the child being involved in the creation of content mirrors my own experience with our child. I also think it makes sense, since anyone who has been around elementary aged kids playing pretend, one of the first conflicts to come up is, “but that’s not the story I want to tell…”

    What I think is more telling is how children illustrate what many adlt gamers have lost. The greatest pleasure I had in early gaming waste shared experience of creating a campaign from the skeleton I laid before my players. Many adult players I play with now want to relegate that to the DM, and it’s a tendency which I have a hard time overcoming.

    These are a good set of articles, and they inspire me to return to gaming with my daughter.

  2. Alric says:

    Thank you for your visit and the kind words.

    You’re right about how adults seem content to have the game master do all the imagining for them. I hadn’t thought to compare my son’s ready imagination to the cerebral laziness of some players, but now that you mention it, the contrast is pretty obvious.

    And have a great time gaming with your little one!

    • Will Coleman says:

      There’s a blog out there about how to restore agency and make the pcs think about how they are going to solve problems. This might not quite be the “story creation” you’re talking about here, but it goes a long way to having them immersed and involving and doing that whole “rise to the occasion” thing heroes are supposed to do. (warning: this blogger does not like 4e and his agency theory has some things to say about it.)

      http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/p/index.html

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