Guest Moose Jae joins us for part two in his series looking at different tabletop RPG systems. You can find part one here.
Let me tell you about Rocket Steel, a hero known throughout the world for two things; he had rockets and he was made out of steel. It makes sense, especially in the eyes of a kid in elementary school, and as far as heroes go, could have totally been incorporated into any game of super awesome heroics. It was a game of two, where each night before dinner, I created all manner of dastardly villains for the kid to fight, and he responded with epic punches to the face.
At the time, I was running a Shadowrun campaign, which is not entirely kid friendly. The kid wanted to participate, to be a part of the communal story telling his dad loved so much, so every time we got together I ended up running an adventure of Rocket Steel before the kid went to bed. Using a variant of a percentile dice, the game created an environment for the kid to tell stories, and roll a fistful of d10’s. But there was also something more, hidden amongst the cartoon violence and comedic action sequences. It taught him a little bit about thinking outside the box, and that every action has consequences. It was by no means deep or profound, but as we gamed his ability to find unusual solutions amplified, much to my own narrative’s chagrin.
Every ten to fifteen minute session was packed with enough excitement to amuse the adults, but more importantly, it entertained its target audience of one. And every week, while my unfortunate shadowrunners faced the web of corporate conspiracies, the animated adventures of Rocket Steel played on in the background. It was fun, it was light, and there was only the vaguest semblance of a plot, but I found myself loving every minute of it. Using your imagination comes easy for kids. Hell, a lot of us started playing tabletop rpgs when we were kids, so finding games to play with your kids makes total sense.
Cat: A Little Game about Little Heroes
Small, system light games are great for roleplaying. Forgoing complex mechanics, they focus on storytelling, which works well with an elementary school aged audience. In Cat, you play a cat, protecting unsuspecting humans from monsters and boogeymen, and where you can also travel to the Kingdom of Dream where anything is possible. It was created by John Wick, the creator of 7th Sea, and Cat retains similar design elements in character creation and the game’s mechanics.
What makes Cat great for kids, and anyone else looking for a rules light game, is the setting. You’re a cat, nine lives and all. Each of your five traits correspond to specific aspect of being a cat; claws, coat, fangs, legs, and your tail. Specifically your tail, which is the source of where all cats’ magic comes from. Yes, cats are magical beings, protecting the world of men from the hidden nightmares that lurk in the shadows. Whether it’s hiding in plain sight or landing on all fours, Cat equips you to be the furry badass you always knew you could be.
So why does this work for kids? Cat is a rules light game, and all you need to play is a copy of the rules, a character sheet, and some d6’s. But that’s only part of it. Cat is all about facing down nightmares and adventuring in a realm where dreams are reality. It helps kids face down the things that scare them through a fanged and furry avatar, and allows them a place to explore their creativity and imagination. Running Cat takes a little bit of prep on the GM’s side, but a lot of it can be run on the fly to adapt to the player’s’ actions. Plus a .pdf of the game runs $5 online, and is an excellent addition to any game library.
Princesses & Palaces
Twenty-four hours ago I didn’t know this was a thing. Now all I want to do is play it. Princesses & Palaces was created by Reddit user futureslave as a means to play a tabletop rpg with his daughter and share with her his love gaming. Keeping in mind the fundamentals of math and language skills, the game’s primary focus is instill that sense of wonder that comes from sharing in a world of imagination. This is not a game about winning, but rather a game about having fun and telling stories together.
There’s a lot I’m loving about P&P, part of which stems from the creation of the palace. Yes, we’re talking cardboard architecture at it’s finest, with no limitations to its size, layout, or color scheme. I’m planning on a heavy application of glitter, painted rainbows, and some cotton ball clouds. Once the palace is completed, you have the setting where all the player activities occur, which mostly revolves around finding treasure, fighting goblins, and doing cool magic spells. That’s it. That’s that game, and it’s about as awesome as a Tiara of Flying.
Princesses & Palaces uses a full set of dice, ranging from d4 to d20 and ensuring that there will be math. Running it will require a little bit of prep work, but each session should run between one to two hours. I love the idea of building the environment alongside drawing your princess, and the fact that this game is free should entice anyone with kids to check it out. While it’s tone and setting are geared towards Princesses, which is awesome, this game can be modified to be run with any potential Princes.
Sometimes stuffed animals make the best gaming avatars, especially when they’re your stuffed animal. Mine is a 36 year old stuffed raccoon missing a nose. Yes, he is as awesome as he sounds, and he came alive in every session he was a part of until his inevitable betrayal of the party and subsequent retirement to Santa’s workshop. I didn’t know I could love a game about stuffed animals until I played it, and now my co-GM and I have created a vast, albeit insane environment for us to embrace our inner child.
Fuzzy Knights is a modified version of the HackMaster system, in which you attribute points to your fuzzy’s skills and abilities. Their equipment for each session is based upon whatever you can find around the house, which includes using aluminum foil and soda cans for armor. I would have been crazy about this game as a kid, and I’m pretty crazy about it now. Everything about it screams fun, from the use of stuffed animals to the simple d20 mechanic.
If nothing else, Fuzzy Knights is a light game that allows players to take on the mantle of a beloved toy. I often imagined all the adventures Rocky — my raccoon — had when I was a kid, and his being part of a secret world I knew nothing about. With a lot of humor, and a light rules setting, this game is easily accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. It was created by Kenzer and Company, the group behind Knights of the Dinner Table, and is full of the humor, and a little of the horror, they’ve come to represent. It’s available for $7.99 on their website, alongside a slew of supplements and rules for the Fuzzy Knights LARP. Yes, LARP.