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Helping kids to act in character and not use player knowledge

marv

Explorer
Any tips on helping kids to not use their player knowledge and view their action choices through the knowledge and motives of their PC?

I have 8 year old boy/girl twins. My daughter clearly understands the concept. For her it’s obvious and she will even talk in character. But for my son, it’s as if I’m asking him to solve a calculus problem.

He gets quickly defensive, angry and frustrated if I disallow usage of knowledge his PC couldn’t possibly know, despite me trying to introduce this concept slowly and gently.

Likely this just a cognitive development stage issue but if anyone has some tips to help, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks in advance
 

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ccs

40th lv DM
He's 8. He'll eventually catch on/figure it out. But for now? Just roll with it.

Maybe reward the group in-game whenever he manages it. Everyone heal 5hp, get extra xp/GP, inspiration pts, etc Specifically call out & reward it when it happens.
(yes, like training a dog.... Do a trick - in this case "play dumb" - & get a treat)
 


MarkB

Legend
Player/character separation can be a stumbling block even for some adult players. Sometimes it's a mental block, sometimes it's just preference - just because people want to play around in a fantasy / sci-fi setting doesn't necessarily mean they want to invent a whole new viewpoint and character for themselves.

Maybe just work around it for now, and see how it develops. If, as you say, your daughter is ably doing this in-game, as are you, he'll gradually catch on through observation rather than having to try and do it himself before really knowing how or why.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I wouldn't worry about it. Even adults have different levels of engagement with this sort of thing, and various tolerances for separating 'player knowledge' from 'character knowledge'. If you and your daughter are modelling the play style you prefer he'll either get there or he won't. I have similar issues with my kids, but the two in question are both mid-teens. C'est la vie.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
I'm curious about what type of knowledge your son is making use of.

For younger kids, I often design scenarios to make use of their real-world knowledge—like old-school "player skill" adventures with puzzles and whatnot to solve. You could explicitly embrace his current play-style and allow him to play himself with powers. Maybe his sister's character is local to the game world, but your son gets sucked through a portal from the real world. Best of both worlds?
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I'm no child development specialist, but I understand that kids take cognitive leaps-and-bounds that can be observed in as little as one year of development. An 8-year-old might simply lack the mental tools for roleplaying (among other things). Tell him how to hammer all you want, but if he doesn't have a hammer, not much is going to happen.

This is why we see age recommendations on games. I suspect that those recommendations are for the general populace, so individual kids will still be too old or young for certain games.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't see any benefit from separating this information, so I wouldn't spend my time on trying to teach him. He'll do it if he wants to do it. I have found that focusing on this too much hurts the game rather than helps it and the need to do it frequently comes from how the DM is presenting the game anyway. So, as was said upthread, I wouldn't worry about it.

As far as acting in-character, as long as he is making decisions that are moving his character and the adventure forward, then I'd say you're good and, arguably, in a better place than a lot of adult players I've seen.
 


Tonguez

Hero
7-10 is the concrete operational period of child mental development when children are starting to apply logical consistency to perspectives other than their own (younger children are egocentric, they can roleplay but see things from their own perspective).

At 8 decentration, the ability to see the world through somebody elses point of view, is only just developing and that seems to be the issue with your son, he’s not seperating his point of view from that of his character because his characters pov literally is his pov.

I would just let him play ‘himself’ but if its really important to avoid player knowledge then perhaps use visual cues or write down a list of what the character does and does not know and how the character might react to the world, reward him when he sees things from the characters pov.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Any tips on helping kids to not use their player knowledge and view their action choices through the knowledge and motives of their PC?

I have 8 year old boy/girl twins. My daughter clearly understands the concept. For her it’s obvious and she will even talk in character. But for my son, it’s as if I’m asking him to solve a calculus problem.

He gets quickly defensive, angry and frustrated if I disallow usage of knowledge his PC couldn’t possibly know, despite me trying to introduce this concept slowly and gently.

Likely this just a cognitive development stage issue but if anyone has some tips to help, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks in advance
Why are you presenting situations where player knowledge matters in a way that it must be ignored? This seems like a design problem on the GM's side rather than a player-side problem. It's trivial to design so that player knowledge doesn't matter, so not do that?
 

marv

Explorer
Some great replies! Thank you all and especially a shout out to Tonguez, who had some excellent specific advice that might work.
To clarify, I never get mad about this. Where this gets in the way is that it’s preventing him from doing any kind of role playing. Instead he’s thinking of it more like a video game (Minecraft).
I will be patient with where he is at, try to help him visualize what his character sees and knows (and doesn’t know) and reward him when he acts “in character”.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Some great replies! Thank you all and especially a shout out to Tonguez, who had some excellent specific advice that might work.
To clarify, I never get mad about this. Where this gets in the way is that it’s preventing him from doing any kind of role playing. Instead he’s thinking of it more like a video game (Minecraft).
I will be patient with where he is at, try to help him visualize what his character sees and knows (and doesn’t know) and reward him when he acts “in character”.
If you're playing D&D 5e, roleplaying is defined in the PHB as "...literally, the act of playing out a role. In this case, it's you as a player determining how your character thinks, acts, and talks." It then goes on to talk about active and descriptive roleplaying. If you're using some other definition of "roleplaying," it might be worth taking a look at what he's doing through D&D 5e's lens instead if that's the game you're playing.
 

I'd try to avoid situations where there is a strong need to separate player and character knowledge.

It's impossible to eliminate those, though, so I think when it does happen, instead of correcting it, simply allow it. But maybe ask " How does Ragnar know that?" This points out that Ragnar may not know something, but also gives him the opportunity to come up with an idea. If he can't, then don't worry....supply one yourself and move along.

I'd also suggest prompting in that way as well....put the idea in his head that he and his character are different by saying things like "What does Ragnar want to do?" or "Ragnar takes 12 points of damage from the vicious orc's axe" instead of "what do you want to do?" and so on. This may help establish the distinction in a very basic way, which may help to get things started.

That's probably the steps I'd take, but I'd still apply them gently and sparingly unless they seem to help.
 

As an aside, I watched the Christmas themed D&D episode of Big Bang Theory last night. Every encounter they showed involved player challenges not character challenges (outside of some combat rolls).
 


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