Gaming at the Kids’ Table: The FirstFable RPG
  • Gaming at the Kids’ Table: The FirstFable RPG



    Here at EN World, I will be discussing all-ages tabletop role-playing games, board games, or card games. Does it engage the players at the kids’ gaming table? Would it cut it at the adults’ table? Is it genuinely fun for every age? FirstFable is a tabletop RPG designed to introduce 8- to 12-year-olds to fantasy role-playing. Written by Matthew McFarland and developed by Sean Patrick Fannon for OneBookShelf, Inc. (owners of DriveThruRPG and RPGNow), it contains the character creation process, Challenge system, advice to keep the players engaged, a print-and-play adventure, in-game rewards, character sheets, and all for the perfect price – free!

    Character creation is covered over two-and-a-half pages featuring four core classes – Animal Keeper, Faeries Princess (or Prince), Knight, or Pirate. Each class has:

    • three preset stats (Strong, Fast, and Smart)
    • three Shines (specialized skills conceived of by the player)
    • one player created Weakness
    • one Special Thing (magic, animal companion, etc.) agreed upon by the player and GM


    The next five pages cover the system. FirstFable is wargaming-lite with all Challenges and Fights decided by a dice pool of d6s (stat + Shine +/- etc.). Rolls of four or higher are a success (Star). Non-combat Challenges require at least one Star. To resolve combat, each side rolls their pool and compares, with excess Stars becoming damage. They have a power progression mechanic, if every die is a Star, permanently add a d6 to a Shine.

    The book encourages fast paced adventures built from the players’ input. To illustrate, they include The Hunt for the Wild Guffin adventure. This quest involves five encounters from chases to a riddle before a resolution that offers a light moral choice.

    Does FirstFable win the kids’ table? Yes. Its simplicity is its victory. Mechanically, it is a straight line instead of a labyrinth of rules.

    Is it perfect? No. It lacks a mechanism to promote player cooperation or reward role-playing. Encouraging the preteen players to work together could elevate this product. As well, the Faerie Princess is the only class with an assigned gender and she has the lowest Strong stat. By baking-in a gender stereotype, this class could harm the experience for some GMs and players.

    That noted, for two or three sessions before your players transition “to a larger roleplaying game system,” FirstFable is a satisfactory launchpad. If they enjoyed FirstFable, it was released under the Creative Commons License allowing anyone to create new content. Gamers grow from players to creators and this system supports that metamorphosis.

    Would the FirstFable Guide Book work at the adults’ table? No. Its power progression mechanic has no check on it. After a few good rolls, a player will have a dice pool requiring every Yahtzee set in the neighborhood making Challenges certainties and creating one-sided Fights. However, the game lets children dip their toe into the RPG waters without having to learn 200+ pages of rules. FirstFable is a chance to introduce children to a lifelong love of gaming.
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    Comments 17 Comments
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Great idea for the column. I look forward to more!
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
      Great idea for the column. I look forward to more!
      Thanks! I hope to find some great all-ages games.
    1. dracwn's Avatar
      dracwn -
      Always trying to figure out what that bridge game between Shoots and Ladders and D&D might be. Looking forward to reading about more potential games to fill that particular void!
    1. Doctor Futurity -
      I've always felt that the original Basic Dungeons & Dragons was the best kid-level entry into the field, probably because of my personal experience with it as a kid. I had grabbed No Thank You, Evil! last year to introduce my son to gaming, and it revealed that it worked well from a visual standpoint, with some "scalable" mechanics to allow me to customize for age, which was nice. I've now run both that and D&D Basic for my son....in running the latter having nice maps to lay out with figures was extremely effective at getting his attention, but NTYE had some advantages as well with trackable markers, polished and illustrative character and monsters cards, and so forth.

      Anyway, what I've learned (from my kid, at least) is that lots of visual aids work great for younger kids (he's 5). Scalable rules also work well. D&D Basic is in fact a great tool for teaching some basic math and reading skills at his age.....but the original book made more sense to my ten year old self and is shockingly bereft of monster illustrations, which was okay in 1981 but pretty much a condemnation of the product in 2017.

      I haven't seen First Fable, but did want to comment that while I think any game like this ought to provide tools for the player to make the character they want (i.e. Basic D&D style), kids in fact are very concerned about appropriate gender role distribution....parents might be freaking out that the kid wants to be a girl fairy princess, but from the kid perspective this is very natural. Where things get tripped up is when parents try to control what happens if the boy wants to pick the girl fairy princess role, for example.

      My kid loves to role-play all the time, and he is obsessed with Girl Ghostbusters as he calls it. He has no problem with the idea of playing role of Abbey or Patty, for example.....but he gets very concerned if I say "I'll play Stantz" when he asks me to pick a role in his game....and the reason, of course, is because the Girl Ghostbusters don't work with the Boy Ghostbusters. But not because of the reason a parent will think (boys don't play with girls, though that is a factor in other social issues with kids) but because the boy Ghostbusters aren't in the girl Ghostbusters movie. 5 year old logic, remember!
    1. spiggs18's Avatar
      spiggs18 -
      Hey have you guys covered No Thank you Evil by Monte Cook Games?
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by spiggs18 View Post
      Hey have you guys covered No Thank you Evil by Monte Cook Games?
      It's the first article in this column. Though I have covered that game in other articles.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Futurity View Post
      I've always felt that the original Basic Dungeons & Dragons was the best kid-level entry into the field, probably because of my personal experience with it as a kid. I had grabbed No Thank You, Evil! last year to introduce my son to gaming, and it revealed that it worked well from a visual standpoint, with some "scalable" mechanics to allow me to customize for age, which was nice. I've now run both that and D&D Basic for my son....in running the latter having nice maps to lay out with figures was extremely effective at getting his attention, but NTYE had some advantages as well with trackable markers, polished and illustrative character and monsters cards, and so forth.
      Doctor Futurity -
      Reviewing Basic D&D is one of the milestones for this column. I am interested in reviewing the 1981/Tom Moldvay edition. Is that the edition you and your son played?
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by spiggs18 View Post
      Hey have you guys covered No Thank you Evil by Monte Cook Games?
      spiggs18 -

      Thanks for the suggest!

      As Morrus already pointed out, No Thank You, Evil has already been reviewed on EN World (link below). Instead of doing another review of the game, I'll talk with my editor about approaching this from a fresh angle - interviewing the creators or Monte Cook Games' next steps for the franchise. Thanks to you and Doctor Futurity, No Thank You, Evil is on my to do list.

      http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...Thank-You-Evil!
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by dracwn View Post
      Always trying to figure out what that bridge game between Shoots and Ladders and D&D might be. Looking forward to reading about more potential games to fill that particular void!
      dracwn -

      That is what I hope to find with this series, the bridge game. My other quest is to find the game that you don't have to outgrow. It may be a tall order, but I'm hopeful. :-)
    1. freeAgent's Avatar
      freeAgent -
      Thanks for the overview/review of the game! Maybe a new category/tag could be created for "children" or "young gamers" so it would be easy to find all the related content quickly.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by freeAgent View Post
      Thanks for the overview/review of the game! Maybe a new category/tag could be created for "children" or "young gamers" so it would be easy to find all the related content quickly.
      freeAgent -

      I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    1. Doctor Futurity -
      Quote Originally Posted by Egg Embry View Post
      Doctor Futurity -
      Reviewing Basic D&D is one of the milestones for this column. I am interested in reviewing the 1981/Tom Moldvay edition. Is that the edition you and your son played?
      It is, yes (red cover, "Morganwolf" edition as I think of it)! I still have the original 1981 edition and a nice clean copy I snagged on Ebay. I'd love to see the review.

      The other classic I plan to introduce my son to is Gamma World, which ironically was the RPG that I "figured it all out with" first after which I then went to D&D.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Futurity View Post
      It is, yes (red cover, "Morganwolf" edition as I think of it)! I still have the original 1981 edition and a nice clean copy I snagged on Ebay. I'd love to see the review.

      The other classic I plan to introduce my son to is Gamma World, which ironically was the RPG that I "figured it all out with" first after which I then went to D&D.
      Doctor Futurity -
      Thank you. I'm glad that we're interested in the same version! :-)

      Gamma World. It would be too sweet if your son had the same ah-ha RPG moment from the same game! I'm rooting for you!
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      Great idea for a series. I look forward to reading your thoughts about Hero Kids and No Thank You, Evil!

      I also hope that you not limit this series to just game systems, but also cover adventure series, such as those by Playground Adventures's Afterschool Adventures series (e.g. Pixies on Parade, Adventures in Wonderland)
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by MNblockhead View Post
      Great idea for a series. I look forward to reading your thoughts about Hero Kids and No Thank You, Evil!

      I also hope that you not limit this series to just game systems, but also cover adventure series, such as those by Playground Adventures's Afterschool Adventures series (e.g. Pixies on Parade, Adventures in Wonderland)
      MNblockhead -

      Thank you!

      Hero Kids and adventures and board games and CCGs, anything designed for children that we can play and discuss. I want to look at more than just the rules. I'm glad I am not alone in that. :-)

      Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer
    1. LadyKali's Avatar
      LadyKali -
      Quote Originally Posted by Egg Embry View Post
      MNblockhead -

      Thank you!

      Hero Kids and adventures and board games and CCGs, anything designed for children that we can play and discuss. I want to look at more than just the rules. I'm glad I am not alone in that. :-)

      Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

      I'm happy to provide comp copies of our After School Adventures or other books for your review.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by LadyKali View Post
      I'm happy to provide comp copies of our After School Adventures or other books for your review.
      I would be very interested in checking these out. Thank you for the offer!

      Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer
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