Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gaming with your Kids

Gamemaster and Awesome Dad, James Walls and family

When both I and the roleplaying industry were young, the world, particularly the religious world, fought against the emerging industry for a variety of reasons, all of which were born out of ignorance. I was first introduced to gaming at 8-years-old and by 14 my reading and math skills were at the high school, and in some cases college, levels. Gaming encouraged us to do what every teacher wanted us to do--read more, read broadly, and solve math problems, and it did it by making them fun.

I've said many times, gaming, and roleplaying specifically, exercises both sides of the brain in a way few other activities can. Running a solid roleplaying session involves improvisational acting, knowledge of dramatic pacing, and a grasp of storytelling rules. It takes an understanding of mathematics, game mechanics, game balance, and rules systems. Game prep can involve a range of computer skills, artistic abilities (from painting to building Lego sets), and research into engineering, forensics, mythology, politics, physics, biology, astrology, religion and more. Not to mention knowing what kind of people your players are and balancing personalities to make the game fun for everyone. All of these skills become so interdependent it's hard to see where one stops and the next starts. But the part that makes gaming the best pastime on the planet, especially for kids, is that none of those skills are required to play.

When I started gaming, I didn't understand roleplaying. My friends and I got rules wrong all the time. We didn't understand sociology or physics or biology or forensics. But after playing a few games, we wanted to understand, so we read. And read. And read. If we didn't know what a dirge was, or a portcullis, or the difference between enervate and innervate, we looked it up. If we wanted to make a better, more efficient superhero, we learned the math behind the rules and tweaked it to turn our imagination into 'reality' in the game. But because we didn't have to do any of that to start playing, we could do it at our leisure. We could learn at our own pace--which was often very fast. 

That's why I love reading posts about parents gaming with their kids. Parents who game with their kids understand that fun inspires--that games change lives.

Elsa, Anna, Milo and Tanto, the reimagined stars of James Walls' "Disenchanted Tales"

The Adventures of Leaf and Spike

Evan Sass' son (K) and daughter (Z) created superhero characters recently using the Mutants and Masterminds-based DC Universe Quickstart Rules. "It was amazing to watch them come up with their origin stories," he writes. "The kids (the real ones) are bouncing off the walls with excitement, and we have yet to even play the game."

Check out their awesome backgrounds for yourself:

"Z['s character] was a deceased laboratory mouse who Government Scientists combined with a dead girl for Unknown Reasons to create a living, now-runaway, wisecracking, shapeshifting mouse / girl with a deep distrust of scientists and some stolen “Itech” glasses that are sort of like Google Glass (which she’d never heard of). Her mouse’s designation in the lab was L34F, so her name is Leaf.

"K’s superhero is a nine year old scientist who created a living Ewok when he was four, using his Junior Scientist kit. He made more Ewoks, and they built him an awesome secret headquarters in the woods. Meanwhile, they also made him a flying battle suit loaded with blasters, mini-missiles, and force field projectors, using Lego Mindstorms. In the suit he can fly 250 MPH, and go into space. In his HQ, in the giant hangar, is an entire Ewok tree village made out of Legos. He now has 210 Ewoks, who like to go shopping. Yub-yub! His name is Spike."
I smile wider every time I read that; I think it's the hilariously specific "210 ewoks". I want a podcast of those games.
James Walls has been running a Numenera campaign with his daughters since January of this year. The girls created characters based on Anna, Merida and Elsa from the movies Brave and Frozen. Numenera is a science-fantasy setting that takes place so far in the future that advanced technology is seen as magic, so the opening line to each of James' entries starts with "A billion years beyond 'once upon a time'...:

"Crockosnaktopus!" This bizarre Numenera villain is named Ursula.
Session 2: "A billion years beyond "once upon a time", Elsa, Anna and Merida rode their Snow Lopers Sven, Cutey Pants and Fred across the snowy/sandy desert of Matheunis in search of their friend, the cryomutant Olaf."

The collection of quotes at the end of each entry are priceless:
  • "You go down the dark alley and hear the jingling of bells behind you."-James, describing an impending ambush.  "It's SANTA CLAUS!"-Daughter
  • "He doesn't have a high 'courage-ness' or whatever it's called."
  • "You better be tweeting that we got three 20s!"
  • "Crossbows are not supposed to be pretty...they're supposed to be deadly and gross!" -Anna's player didn't  want Elsa to decorate her newly repaired crossbow with glitter.
James' game opened my mind to the possibilities of gaming with my own daughter. Inspiration for RPGs can come from anywhere and letting your kids play their own versions of their favorite characters in an entirely new setting like Numenera is flat-out awesome. [BTW: Milo from Atlantis and Tanto from The Lone Ranger join the game around session 13]. Not only that, his use of Legos as minis brings a sense of fun to the game that 2D maps and metal minis can't.

Thank you, Evan and James, for bringing fun and inspiration to your kids and sharing that fun with the rest of us.

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