RPGs with Kids

I recently shared pictures from an RPG I ran for my niece and nephew during thanksgiving week.

I tried running Dungeon World for them last year, which was a bit too tricky of a rule set for them at the time. This time, I decided to start with Risus, a very simple system that uses ratings called “clichés”.

Since we play Team Fortress 2 as a way to hangout and talk, we decided to set the game in the TF2 setting and use the TF2 classes (scout, soldier, pyro, demoman, heavy, engineer, medic, sniper, and spy) as our clichés. Having this pick list gave them enough, but not too much, variety to choose from.

I used a semi-standard Risus setup of starting ratings at 4, 3, 2, 1 (for the total of 10). I also told them their agency would give them 1 basic weapon and 1 tool, or 4 tools. They both chose the first option. (Maybe I should have made it 5 tools, as it didn’t seem like a hard choice but for them.) They also picked code names and their “real names”. I encouraged them not to have the same things as each other in 3 and 4. Their characters started off like this:

Codename: Z7 Real name: Megan 4: Engineer 3: Scout 2: Spy 1: Heavy Basic Weapon: shotgun Tool: Wrench

Codename: H6 Real name: Jace 4: Heavy 3: Pyro 2: Scout 1: Sniper Basic Weapon: rifle Tool: binoculars

We didn’t have enough d6s, so I used d10s. I also used the Risus variant where you look at the best die in the roll, instead of the total. To play, when they wanted to do something interesting with an uncertain outcome, I asked them to describe it, told them which of their cliches was appropriate, and gave them a difficulty between 6 and 10. I also brought in the Risus conflict rules, again using versus instead of totals.

I also brought in “bennies” to the system, in order to give us a little more flexibility. I awarded them 1 at the start of their mission, and told them they’d get another any time I thought they did something really interesting or clever. They could give me a bennie when they failed a roll and wanted to re-roll it. However, when I got a bennie from then, I could put it back in the pool to add a twist to the story. (In retrospect, I could have instead set it up where I “pay” it to whoever was affected by the twist, but this gets complicated when it could affect both of them.)

I did one more piece of prep. I marked up a pile of note cards with “standard exits” at each cardinal direction and various paths connecting them.

To play, I asked them to pick a card (from a face down spread). I added some more rough drawings to this card to turn it into their headquarters for their agency (which they decided was called the “Adventurers Agency”).

They were given their mission: to shut down the Mann Co factory that was producing robots that were being created and sent out to take over the city. They were also warned that some of the robots had been designed to look like humans! They were able to requisition a little more equipment, based on the mission. They ended up with a stun stick (with 3 charges), 1 stick of dynamite, and x-ray googles that could look through a nearby surface and maybe detect false robots.

The rest of it played out through the story. When they traveled “off a card” on our map, I had them pull a random card to place in that direction they went, and I added a few more light details to that section of the map that was being built out. I had decided at the beginning which one would represent the final factory, but of course I provided a lot of challenges to them along the way.

The finale was when they ended up using the stick of dynamite to disable the power supply for the plant. We had a lot of fun, and they keep asking to do another mission!

I’m happy to answer any questions about how I setup or ran this!

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