It’s Teach Your Kids to Game week over at ReachThruRPG, and as we game as a family, I thought I’d add my 2c-worth. I was introduced to the infamous Red Box Book Set 30 years ago at the tender age of 13 or 14 by a friend in the village in rural England. I only remember playing a couple of sessions with him before I started my own group, DMing AD&D until I left school for university just at the time when Dragon Warriors came out. I tried a couple of sessions with the new system and found it much the better game due to its simplicity, but I didn’t play at university and my books spent the next 28 years gathering dust. Occasionally I’d get them out and fondly flick through them wistfully, never daring to dream that one day I’d be able to dust them off and take my own kids on that magical adventure that is called role playing.
The turning point was a TV series that we started watching as a family two years ago. The kids (and wife) were glued to the box every Saturday to watch the BBC’s excellent Merlin series. Once they were obviously hooked, I tabled the idea of playing through our own adventures. I wrote up a couple of characters that I thought the kids would be able to identify with – a young knight and his magically gifted twin sister (as they are – without the magic bit). I constructed a simple scenario with the old Dragon Warriors rules that I’d bought years ago and never really played through, and we had a great afternoon.
The next adventure introduced a further character, played by my wife, and a few weeks later we picked up a neighbour and good friend. We haven’t looked back.
Right from the age of 8 we played with full rules in an involved setting with things going on in the background, clear aims (rather than just dungeoneering), good guys, bad guys, monsters, magic, the lot. We’ve never dumbed things down for the kids. My wife and I are both academics and have always tried to speak to the kids as equals who simply don’t know as much as we do yet. When they needed help I explained things as simply as I could and let them make the decisions.
Our gaming sessions were about 3-4 h to start with, and have got longer over time. The game system has changed from Dragon Warriors to Savage Worlds, which I think suits us a lot better; me because I find it easier to keep a handle on all the rules rather than having to delve into rulebooks all the time, them because of the increased focus on miniatures and the comic-like feel to the system.
Recently we started a second campaign – 50 Fathoms. The rationale for this is that we’d picked up two more gamers, a colleague and his wife, incorporating them into our Legend setting. It turns out that they can’t make it as regularly as the rest of us can and so we wanted to start something new to fill the other sessions. I gave the family the choice of what genre as I wanted them all on board. Pirates was the overwhelming favourite and so I went to the obvious choice for a SWer. For the first time they designed their own characters, including backgrounds, hindrances and secrets. They love our sessions. It’s good time together, building great family memories in the winter months (none of us enjoy playing when the sun’s shining outside and there are mountains within an hour’s drive).
The kids are 10 years old now. Who knows how long they’ll still be interested. But it’s great fun while it lasts. The next challenge for me will be what to do when they start inviting their friends, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Maybe we’ll end up being chased out of our small Bavarian village by enraged parents with torches and pitchforks, but I don’t think so 😉