I’m making a serious effort to get my kids into RPGs, but it hard to get the time to get the plots together. Can you recommend any well fleshed out ones, something to make the DM’ing easier?”
This was a real question, and although I gave my friend an answer, the more I have thought about it the more I can relate to the sentiment. We are all really busy; time is a premium, even those of us who want to spend every waking moment immersed in our games mostly can’t, so if you are a busy, working parent what hope is there that you will be able to find the time to prep a game for your kids and their friends. Well there is some good news and some bad…
Firstly lets get the bad out of the way. There is no real alternative to a well prepared game, even if your players trash your plot in the first session, the time you spent putting it all together usually means that you have the creative mental material to hand to be able to cope and keep the game on track. If that is what you want to be able to do you are going to have to put in the time. There is no magical way around it so, no more “X-Factor” for you, switch-off “I’m a Celebrity”, put down the Xbox/PS3/Wii controller and get prepared to put in the effort. In general I have found that for a single four or five hour session I need at least an hour to make sure I’m up-to-speed with the material, and that assumes that the material exists and all I need to do is read it. If you are aspiring to your own scenario or campaign then be prepared to double up and put in at least as much effort as you expect to spend playing with your group.
But now lets focus on the good news, because there are some shortcuts and tips that I can suggest for you.
STARTER SETS – If this a new thing for you and your kids then one option is to look at the starter sets – the latest to hit the stores is the Pathfinder Beginners Box, you can almost play it from cold with just a little background reading to become familiar with the mechanics. Everything is ready prepared and presented for “Beginners”. It is true that these types of game never quite have the depth that a full-blown game, but for dipping your toe in the water and for first time groups it’s a great place to start. Similar products exist for Dungeons & Dragons and in one form or another for other mainstream games.
KEEP IT SIMPLE – You could save a lot of time by trying a game system that is really light on rules, the 1PG series from Deep 7 are great examples (available from the Precis Intermedia Games website) The mechanics of the system can be learnt in minutes and character generation takes only a few minutes more. Each game comes with a bunch of plotlines so you really have everything you need for a sessions gaming. These games work well if you are an experienced GM who just doesn’t have the time to read a detailed scenario – if you can improvise and tell a good story then this is everything you really need.
OUTSOURCE THE HARD STUFF – Find someone else to run the game and just play it along with your kids. Local games clubs are a fine place to start, something you can do with the kids that will get them to meet new people as well, and you get to play – it’s a win win. Alternatively, if your kids have played games before then why not consider asking one of them to run the game for you? Honestly you would be amazed how many roleplaying parents I can think of would never have considered this. The kids love it and yes you still get to play the game with them – you might end up paying for a bunch of scenarios and sourcebooks, so be warned!
USE ESTABLISHED GAME WORLDS – A good shortcut is to play a game that is based on TV, film, book, comics or something similar. Where there is already a well established familiarity with the basic back story and what is possible. Examples are things like Star Wars, Marvel Super Heroes, Buffy, Serenity, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf or even Harry Potter. If you already have the basic background clear in your players minds then the roleplaying can be much easier to work with. Yesterday I touched on “Meddling Kids” a great RPG that fits this category nicely, we already know what to expect from the plot before a single dice is rolled.
CHOOSE CAREFULLY – Finally, if your players are already comfortable with the rules and mechanics then you just need to pick your scenario or material carefully. Find something really well presented with a solid plotline. If you are playing D&D or Pathfinder then something like the Blackbyrne Publishing scenarios should do the job nicely. Whilst you can always be more creative, scenarios like these can largely be run from the page, there is sufficient descriptive flavor, all of the statistics are to hand and you don’t need to be cross referencing half a dozen source books. There are loads of scenarios that fall into this category, and many like those from Blackbyrne Publishing are really very good, you just have to look carefully.
So in summary I have to admit that roleplaying with your kids isn’t like getting out the Scrabble set and just having a quick game. It takes more than that. But, if you are reading this then you probably already appreciate that the effort you put in does give its own rewards. Roleplaying is a hobby that has given me over twenty years of great fun and has introduced me to some of my best friends, it has led me to read hundreds of books and to write my own material (and even get some published). Time spent on roleplaying with kids isn’t the same as playing a simple game, its much more than that, it is an investment.
I hope that helps, and I promise that in tomorrows post I’ll get back to the games themselves.