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TOP Six Games to introduce your kids to role-playing

Playing 1 year ago

Matt Thrower writer
Matt Thrower Parent. Gamer. Coder. Writer. Bath, Bath and North East Somerset, UK
When I was eight, I discovered a book about Dungeons & Dragons on a market stall. It made me a lifelong devotee of hobby gaming in all its forms.

Last year saw the release of the fifth edition of this venerable role-playing game. Since my eldest daughter was also eight, it seemed a sign that it was time to introduce her to role-playing. What I didn't expect was that her younger sister also wanted in on the game, and that it would prove a huge hit. So much so that weekend gaming sessions have become a regular family activity.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Pretending to be someone else in a fantasy world comes as naturally to kids as breathing. They do it every time they play with one another. Having an adult join them in that magical place was an unforgettable experience for all involved.

D&D is too complicated for children. But this edition has a Starter Set with the rules stripped to essentials. It also includes characters to play, and an excellent adventure to run. This is what I introduced to my kids, and it's full of tips for new players. So long as they have an adult to guide the game, it's a great starting point.

Some people may find the rules off-putting. Its medieval setting also presumes a certain level of violence. So here are five more suggestions for family-friendly games.

Little Wizards
The most recent is Little Wizards, a game tailor-made for young players by an acclaimed designer. The rules are simple, and there's lots of hand-holding to help new players into the game. Best of all, it encourages child-friendly resolutions. Failing a task results in silly or embarrassing effects, for instance, instead of penalizing the player. And while there's no need for combat, if it happens then it's of the cartoon slapstick variety.

The game is set in a magical two-sided land called Coin, with lots of fantasy tropes and adventure hooks. There's even a system of magic schools to lure in Harry Potter fans.

Mouse Guard

If you want something more involved, try Mouse Guard. It's more complex, but written in a conversational style with lots of advice for newcomers. What makes it a great family game is the setting: a medieval world without people, but with a society of sentient mice.

Based on a comic book series, the game fleshes out this anthropomorphic world in rich detail. Adventures often revolve around challenging and exploring beliefs. So enterprising parents can make it educational, too.

The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men
Role-playing is all about imagination, and for something more bizarre, check out The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men. In this game you create a character by literally baking one. And after magical adventures in the twelve days before Christmas, when objects come to life, the players get to eat their character sheets.

Faery's Tale
For those who'd like to stick to more traditional fairy tale, Faery's Tale might fit the bill. The game allows players to waltz through lots of classic story fare, including adventures based on tales like The Frog Prince and Jack and the Beanstalk. It also includes lots of advice on running games for younger players. I'd recommend it just for having a monster list that includes bumblebees as a potential adversary.

Happy Birthday Robot
Finally, for storytelling game with almost no rules at all, there's Happy Birthday Robot. Players gather to tell a story, starting with the titular event. Then they roll a fistful of dice with ANDs and BUTs on them (you'll need to make some with ordinary dice and stickers) and use these joining words to build the story. The results are often charming, hilarious and educational. It's not typical role-playing, but it's great for families, and a fantastic introduction to collaborative stories.

Most of these games are available in electronic format from DriveThruRPG. Whatever system you choose, the magic of role-playing is it can go wherever you and your family want it to. Pick one, and wait to see what incredible adventures await you in your living room.

Do your kids like playing role games? How about you? How do you break the ice with them and create their first introduction into roleplaying games? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Image courtesy of Across the Board Game

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