RPG ideas for a 5 year old

Panthanas

Visitor
My oldest son is 5 years old and loves to sit at the table when I'm running my D&D game. He wants to have his own book, mini, dice, and character sheet, which I provide but he's not really playing in the game. No one has actually said so, but I think my players get a little annoyed by this sometimes, especially when my son wants to move “his character” during the combats.

Now, my son seems genuinely interested in playing, which is why I let him “play”, but he does notice that he’s not actually involved.

So my question is: has anyone found a way to allow a child about my son’s age to “play” in the game without hindering or distracting the game so he doesn’t feel left out?

Additionally, I have thought about running my son through his own simplified D&D game. If anyone has done something like this for children about 5 years old or so, how have you done it?

Also, if there has been a thread about this subject already, I apologize.


Thanks in advance for any and all help!
 

Lord Xtheth

Visitor
I would suggest taking a "Green Ronin" approach and let him play a little game with you using only a D20.

Keep things happening. A 5 year old, from what I know will be distracted and loose interest easily, so adapt as well as do a little bit of "leading by the nose" Ie. "You walk into the room, you see an ork, you should attack it!" not "what do you do?" like normal.

Also, keep things cute and "kiddy". Make somthing like a "Blues Clues" adventure he can play through. Keep combats to a minimum, unless of cource he wants more fighting.

Allow him to make a few of the "DM desisions". If he wants to say "I walk into the room, and see treasure!" let him find the treasure.

Thats all I can think of right now realy. I hope it helps a little.
 
I've tried doing things like letting them play the familiar, or roll the big d20 for me instead of my rolling. They get bored quickly. I would suggest that you're better off with some one-on-one roleplaying later. Robin Law's Faery's Tale RPG works well for young kids, according to my friend Geoff who has a 6 year old and an 8 year old.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
In terms of having your son play at the table with the rest of the group, I think that may be more of an issue with the group's tolerance for the distraction than anything else. I love kids and have one of my own. But when my group gets together for our game nights, that is our "guy time" and it's generally understood that the kids are not part of it.

However, if the group is cool with involving him and you need a simplified ruleset then I can give you a recommendation: Game In A Jar. My 7 year old daughter (some here at ENW know her as "Samantha the Red") designed this game herself (I give a bit of guidance but the core of it is really all hers) and she's run it several times at the NC and DC Game Days. It was built to emulate a vaguely "Harry Potteresque" game setting called Redhurst Academy of Magic that I bought her at GenCon this year.

Anyway, the rules are very simple and fairly adaptable. Feel free to use it if you like. And if you have any questions then I'm happy to answer them.
 

Attachments

grodog

Adventurer
So my question is: has anyone found a way to allow a child about my son’s age to “play” in the game without hindering or distracting the game so he doesn’t feel left out?
I'd do a game for just him, that way it's at his speed, and the other players aren't irked if you have to slow down for your son.

Additionally, I have thought about running my son through his own simplified D&D game. If anyone has done something like this for children about 5 years old or so, how have you done it?
My son Ethan is 4 1/2 and since he was 3 he's been interested in painting minis (I have some old Citadel/GW plastic figures he paints), the dice, the maps, and the game (but in only in concept/theory---his attention span doesn't really hold out for long). As a way to have a little bit more engagement, and some structured remembering to improve the next time, we've "played" some of the Endless Quest books: we map them out as we explore, and he makes the choices (good or ill) as we play. We probably started that when he was ~3 1/2 or so, but we haven't played an EQ book in awhile, since even that was a bit too much for Ethan's attention span, so mostly we paint minis together every 4-8 weeks.
 

Vorput

Visitor
There's been threads on this from time to time- I was only able to track down this one

http://www.enworld.org/forum/story-hour/237053-gaming-my-daughter.html

In combat situations- feel free to give him an NPC of some kind. It seems as long as you ask what he wants to attack (particularly if they're using a ranged weapon/spell), and have him roll his own dice- things will be fine.

My own experience was with an 8 yr old, and he caught on well enough to play a full 3.5 session- as long as we handled most of the mechanics.
 

mmadsen

Visitor
From my experience, a precocious six-year-old can learn the rules well enough to play the game, but a child won't "get" a lot of things that adults take for granted, and what makes the game interesting for the adults won't be nearly as interesting for a child.

By age 10 or so, a precocious kid can play the party's barbarian. A 10-year-old's tactical thinking is shockingly rudimentary, but that's fine for playing a half-orc.
 

Xath

Moder-gator
In terms of having your son play at the table with the rest of the group, I think that may be more of an issue with the group's tolerance for the distraction than anything else. I love kids and have one of my own. But when my group gets together for our game nights, that is our "guy time" and it's generally understood that the kids are not part of it.

However, if the group is cool with involving him and you need a simplified ruleset then I can give you a recommendation: Game In A Jar. My 7 year old daughter (some here at ENW know her as "Samantha the Red") designed this game herself (I give a bit of guidance but the core of it is really all hers) and she's run it several times at the NC and DC Game Days. It was built to emulate a vaguely "Harry Potteresque" game setting called Redhurst Academy of Magic that I bought her at GenCon this year.

Anyway, the rules are very simple and fairly adaptable. Feel free to use it if you like. And if you have any questions then I'm happy to answer them.
You should also check out Rel's Samantha the Red story-hour. It's just full of great ideas for running games for kids.
 

Panthanas

Visitor
Thanks for the replies! You all are awesome and I'm positive my son will think so too!

If anyone else has more to add, please do.

Thank you all!
 

Angrydad

Visitor
The key part of running a game like this is patience and a little more DM direction. However, if your son is adding a lot of his own ideas, like the "I find treasure!" sorts of remarks, don't stifle him. It's basically his way of telling you what type of game he wants. My brother and I started playing when I was 10 and he was 7. At that age our "game sessions" were really more about collaborative storytelling than dice. We didn't even have a d20 or know what it was for until a year or so later, when we got the AD&D 2nd ed. PHB and DMG for Christmas. Before that, it was merely my brother telling me how his character reacted to the situations I presented. There were many a late school night as we lay on our bunk beds telling this story until the wee hours.
 

S'mon

Legend
I think you should run a separate game for him, probably using a simple system like Basic D&D or completely freeform (freeform worked fine when I was a child!), and not requiring him to know any rules to play. He can join your main group later. Simple, dramatic adventures and a chance to shine. 5 year olds get discouraged easily if their PC is killed.
 

Engilbrand

Visitor
One of my friends was just running a game for his 10 year where the kid was playing a Dragonborn Ranger. Rich just tacked on an NPC Cleric and went with it. He then added the 6 year old. Things are still working fine. 4e is a marvelous system that is full of complexities, but still easy enough for a child to grasp the basics. Sit down with him and maybe even some of his friends and run a game for them. It shoud be fine.
 

SilverSnake

Visitor
My 8 year old daughter played an elven ranger in KotS, and did a pretty good job. When she was 5, I don't think she would have handled it so well. We started her out much like your son, on the side with her own dice. We had to keep the minis out of her reach or she'd play with them all, which was very distracting. About a year ago she started actually gaming with us, and played in a Mutants and Masterminds game as a 7 year old girl where one of her abilities was a random uncontrolled teleportation. We used this anytime her attention span got the better of her.
 

Abciximab

Visitor
There's been threads on this from time to time- I was only able to track down this one

http://www.enworld.org/forum/story-hour/237053-gaming-my-daughter.html

In combat situations- feel free to give him an NPC of some kind. It seems as long as you ask what he wants to attack (particularly if they're using a ranged weapon/spell), and have him roll his own dice- things will be fine.

My own experience was with an 8 yr old, and he caught on well enough to play a full 3.5 session- as long as we handled most of the mechanics.

Yeah, that's my thread. We've graduated to using dice (She's 5 now and my son is three). My son just loves to move the minis around, but will roll the dice from time to time. We use a very simple character sheet and almost everything for the characters succeeds on a 10 or higher and fails on a 9 or lower. The monsters (to give the players an advantage) needs an 11 or higher. She uses a lot of magic (basically anything she can think of, works a lot like the various polymorph spells)

We played a simple version of 2 old Dragon mods combined, "A Way with Words" (About a hunt for a gnomes lost poetry book) and "Old Man Katan and his Incredible (Edible) Mushroom Band" about problems in a swamp. They both did well, and managed to get through the whole adventure in one sitting and a lot of kobolds were changed into flowers before they were finally convinced to surrender the book.

Both mods had enough humor and interaction to keep them interested. The only thing I had to do was shorten the boxed text significantly. That's one thing I learned quick with young players, keep it short, interesting and to the point.
 

Silver Moon

Visitor
I would strongly suggest that you try the game Fuzzy Heroes. It is designed to teach young children the mechanics of minatures gaming and is also a lot of fun to play with them. It uses their own toys as the miniatures.
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
In terms of having your son play at the table with the rest of the group, I think that may be more of an issue with the group's tolerance for the distraction than anything else. I love kids and have one of my own. But when my group gets together for our game nights, that is our "guy time" and it's generally understood that the kids are not part of it.

However, if the group is cool with involving him and you need a simplified ruleset then I can give you a recommendation: Game In A Jar. My 7 year old daughter (some here at ENW know her as "Samantha the Red") designed this game herself (I give a bit of guidance but the core of it is really all hers) and she's run it several times at the NC and DC Game Days. It was built to emulate a vaguely "Harry Potteresque" game setting called Redhurst Academy of Magic that I bought her at GenCon this year.

Anyway, the rules are very simple and fairly adaptable. Feel free to use it if you like. And if you have any questions then I'm happy to answer them.
Up until I read Game in a Jar, Vincent Baker's Cheap & Cheesy Fantasy Game would have been my recommendation for gamers who wanted a 'kid friendly' system — but Game in a Jar manages to do more, with fewer potentially confusing fiddly bits. In fact, Game in a Jar really puts most 'kid friendly' RPGs written by adults to shame.

I think the problem may be that adult game designers write stuff based on what they think will work well for kids, or what they think kids want. Rel's daughter is a kid, and what she put together in two pages is packed with more play potential and simple elegance than pretty much any RPG that I've seen an adult write for children.

At any rate, Game in a Jar is pretty clever and seems to be a great 'gateway' game.

[Edit: Started a thread over at Story Games about Game in a Jar for further discussion in the context of kids designing games for kids and how far off the mark I feel that adults have been, after my reading of Game in a Jar.]
 
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S'mon

Legend
BTW my own son is 17 months so still a little young for RPGs, but I remember playing a simple miniatures combat game with my 3 year old cousin. He took great pleasure in trashing my army the first time, and wanted to play again. When he lost the second time he lost interest, though.

Suggestions:

Don't railroad, let the player decide whether to attack the orc. Offer helpful suggestions if requested, though.

Don't kill his PC unless he's deliberately doing stupid get-killed stuff. Warn him "You know a red dragon like that could easily kill you". If he acts like the hero of a movie or book, he should prevail. Fun should come primarily from exploration and the (player lead) story, not risk of death/failure.

It doesn't need to be about plush toys and niceness. 5 year old boys love vicariously killing (nasty) things. So do many 5 year old girls.

Edit: Whatever you do, don't ask for advice at rpg.net. They'll tell you to play Grimm, World of Darkness: Innocents, and other such "You are a helpless child in a world of horror" games. :\
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
They'll tell you to play Grimm, World of Darkness: Innocents, and other such "You are a helpless child in a world of horror" games. :
Children in Grimm aren't helpless. They can use their imagination to alter reality. Of all the game world's denizens, they alone can do this, making them most powerful denizens of that setting.

Games of horror do not preclude powerful PCs and Grimm is a great example of this. That said, unless the GM de-emphasizes the darker elements of the game, I wouldn't play it with pre-teen children.
 

Kirnon_Bhale

Explorer
I recently played a game with my three sons... You can find how I did it here.

Essentially it would seem that I had a very similar idea to Abciximab. I also pretty much tried to roll with whatever my boys imagination conjured. No books were harmed in the course of our game.
 

Panthanas

Visitor
Wow. Great advice everyone! I truly appreciate it.

I think you should run a separate game for him, probably using a simple system like Basic D&D or completely freeform
Well, yesterday after reading the first replies I decided to give this a whirl. I did make it simple and wanted to keep it more freeform. My oldest son (Gabe) likes having a book, character sheet, dice, mini, and battlemap since this is what he sees my group and I using. I use initiative cards that are basically distilled character sheets, so I printed off some and gave him one. Now, his 3 year old brother (Declan) wanted to play as well, so I set them both up.

I have some 3E PHBs, which look close enough to my 3.5 PHB, so I let them use those. I asked them both what they wanted to be when they played. I offered some suggestions, like being an elf, dwarf, or human and pointed out each one in the book. Both settled on human. Then I asked if they wanted to be a wizard, warrior, or sneaky guy (rogue). Gabe wanted to be a warrior and Declan said he would like to be a wizard.

Once this was decided, Gabe quickly flipped to the equipment pages and both he and his brother began choosing his weapons. We were just about done when Gabe stated to Declan, "You're a wizard! You need a wand!" So, I totally stole Abciximab's idea from his Gaming with my daughter thread, and gave Declan's character a wand that could make things his friend or turn things into a frog. The only thing left now were names. Gabe chose "Swordy", which, by the way, is the name he uses when I let him sit at the table during my regular game. Declan decided he wanted to be called "Knight-Wizard", so I put their names on their character sheets and we were just about set. They both chose a mini, I gave them both 1 twenty sider and 1 six sider, and they were ready for adventure!

Now, I have to thank both Vorput for finding/linking and Abciximab for writing the Gaming with my daughter thread because I stole not just the idea for the wand(s), but pretty much the entire story as well. I told them they were knights in the service of a beautiful queen and that some grumpy goblins stole the queen's fabulous unicorn and it was up to them, as brave knights, to find and rescue the unicorn.

It went by pretty quickly, but both boys were very very happy that they had such an adventure! As soon as it was over they wanted to go off to their toy room to reenact the whole thing! Now I'll have to make up something for another time or find more stuff to steal! :D Maybe from Rel's Samantha the Red story-hour (Thanks to Rel posting it and Xath for linking it) and Kirnon_Bhale's post (here)

Once again, I thank you all for the great ideas! I think I'll have a way to keep the boys from going stir crazy during the upcoming winter weekends now!
 

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