[WotC] D&D for kids

edited April 2010 in Story Games
Mr. Teapot (Nick Wedig) posted this over in "Stuff to watch": http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dnd/monsterslayers
It got three replies, so I guess I'm gonna unpack it here a little bit more...

My train of thought:
1st reaction: "Great idea!"
2nd reaction: "Oh dear, it's WotC..."
3rd reaction: "downloading..."
4th reaction and subsequent:
-they promise to teach co-operation and leadership skills to kids, but there's absolutely nothing in there connected to the famous 4th edition group dynamic...the only thing anywhere near co-op is the thief's ability to deal extra damage if he's standing opposite another hero, with the monster in between
-the production value is abysmal, given the company. the tokens were made in effin MSpaint
-they imply rolling a 20 on a d20 is equally likely than rolling three sixes on 3d6
-the monster art is supercute. If I was a kid and the DM told me to kill that thing, I'd break down and cry.

:sigh:

You know what someone should do? Make a deal with Penny Arcade to produce a Lookouts RPG for kids.

Comments

  • Posted By: Teataine
    You know what someone should do? Make a deal with Penny Arcade to produce a Lookouts RPG for kids.
    Upon seeing WotC's thing, John Harper ran off and started making something cool.
  • I see a lot of negative reaction to this. Has anyone actually played it with a group of kids? If not, how can you know if it works for kids or not? I dunno, I want to try it with mine before judging it.

    And kids have been beating down supercute monsters since at least 1996 with the start of Pokemon. I don't think they'll have any problem with the art.
  • edited April 2010
    Here's the first four pages of my thing, The Wildlings.

    http://www.onesevendesign.com/wildlings/wildlings.pdf

    It's edging a bit older-kids than WotC's thing and it's not quite what I had in mind when I started. But it's headed somewhere.

    For a D&D starter, I would have done everything differently than WotC did. I may still have to make that damn thing, just to show them how it's properly done (hint: achievement badges for "helping every other hero," "doing the most damage," etc.) Also, when you miss, you can either take an XP (you learned something by failing!) or give the next hero to act +2 to their roll. Bah. I am gonna have to write that damn thing.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Erik_BattleI see a lot of negative reaction to this. Has anyone actually played it with a group of kids? If not, how can you know if it works for kids or not? I dunno, I want to try it with mine before judging it.

    And kids have been beating down supercute monsters since at least 1996 with the start of Pokemon. I don't think they'll have any problem with the art.
    The supercute monster comment was a joke really.

    As for "does it work for kids", I'm sure it does, it's just an underwhelming product (with terrible production values for a company like WotC), with several spots of outright lousy design, that doesn't deliver on its agenda. It's just a little trial adventure with the core D&D mechanic bolted on, with everything else thrown out for simplicity.

    How does it pretend to teach about cooperation and leadership, if it doesn't assign a leadership position, or reward cooperation? Its math is wonky? And what does it teach when all you do is kill things locked in cages? It also mentions problem-solving and creative thinking, whereas the adventure seems to be a mix of railroading and A or B choices.

    [edited original post for link]
  • Posted By: TeataineAnd what does it teach when all you do is kill things locked in cages?
    No kidding! If I tried to play that with my daughter, she'd be trying to rescue everyone. OR, she'd want to play the dragon. (She ROCKS!)

    Hmmm... maybe we need a new thread where we can all toss in some kid's-intro ideas. I like where John is coming from with Wildlings.

    Q
  • John - Don't stop now! Wildlings seems like a really good start. I would try to play it with my friends kids. I would assume that you cannot roll the same spirit twice in a row unless you have left the conflict somehow. A couple of monsters would be cool and some things that were a little less lovey dovey. I'm not sure telling the kids that the child is probably dead is such a great opener, but to each his own.
  • Posted By: TeataineAs for "does it work for kids", I'm sure it does, it's just an underwhelming product (with terrible production values for a company like WotC), with several spots of outright lousy design, that doesn't deliver on its agenda. It's just a little trial adventure with the core D&D mechanic bolted on, with everything else thrown out for simplicity.
    Gotcha. Was just wondering, cause a lot of times what we think kids like, they don't.

    My kids of 8 and 5 seem to like:

    - To do things, both narratively and physically while playing. From rolling dice to jumping over a rope to represent hopping between buildings. Once I bought a large cloth painting tarp and spread it out on the floor. I drew a rickety bridge in thick sharpie with planks missing and had them cross it however they wanted.
    - To control the story. They fight for the right to narrate. This becomes interesting as the 5 year old is a girl, and her narration tends towards one end of the spectrum of fantasy and the 8 year old's towards the other.
    - To help people versus to get things. They don't care about treasure.
    - They don't like backstory. At all.
    - When they are engaged, they are 100% engaged. However, no matter how engaged, after 45-60 mins, they are done. Moving on.

    Just some thoughts. How do your kids play?
  • edited April 2010
    Well, I don't have kids of my own but I have two nephews and two nieces between the ages of 5 and 9, with whom I often play. Not RPGs, but we do a lot of pretend. They all love to be pirates. The eldest girl is more interested in pretending to be a cook or "housekeeper" which I find interesting if not amusing.

    The engagement issue is definitely there. When they get into something, they won't drop it and will pursue it without pause. But you never know when that switch is going to flip and they'll just wander off to do something else.
    They love to boss the fiction and others: "I'm the captain!". And when you suggest and alternative course they're often "No, silly, it doesn't go like that, it goes like *this*!". So basically, they already have their fiction set straight in their heads and have trouble sharing/compromising it. When it overlaps it's great, but arguments can pop up very easily. The other day we built this...square out of old bricks. And some of the time it was a fortress and some time a ship and some time a house. And the pile of cut grass kept switching from being our bed to being our lunch...And they kept arguing which was which and *when* it was which. Also, no patience for sitting down and just talking. Something has to be going on.

    Another interesting thing was (although I have no idea how it relates to this thread), I tried to tell them a story, and they corrected me and asked me questions as kids do, and it got even more confusing because suddenly it was not clear at all whether we were pirates going after a treasure, or pirates resting and telling a story about how they went after treasure or pirates assaulting a fortress...it got all mixed up, the real world, the play pretend world, the world in the story.

    /random ramblings off
  • Posted By: John HarperHere's the first four pages of my thing, The Wildlings.http://www.onesevendesign.com/wildlings/wildlings.pdfFor a D&D starter, I would have done everything differently than WotC did. I may still have to make that damn thing, just to show them how it's properly done (hint: achievement badges for "helping every other hero," "doing the most damage," etc.) Also, when you miss, you can either take an XP (you learned something by failing!) or give the next hero to act +2 to their roll. Bah. I am gonna have to write that damn thing.
    My seething envy tells me your ability to make .pdfs should be taken away. But not until you're FINISHED this one.
  • Posted By: John HarperHere's the first four pages of my thing, The Wildlings.
    Oh dear LORD! I wish I had your capacity for quick game design. I mean, this whole thing popped up not even 24 hours ago!
    Looks fabulous, btw. Now I must settle my seething envy, and get back to work on my own projects.

    I wish I could even FINISH one of my projects.

    'Cuz now I wanna try out Wildlings.

    Posted By: Erik_BattleI see a lot of negative reaction to this. Has anyone actually played it with a group of kids?
    As for this, my regular gaming group has a bunch of younglings who are learning the ways of the gamer (including a 2-year-old who already manages to roll more natural 20s than we do). They'd be kinda miffed that they couldn't create their own character (since their imaginations are much more vivid than WOTC...my godson would be saying something about wanting to play a Monkeyman Ninja...), and that there isn't some way to pick their own weapons or spells. They may be kids, but they like crunch. And also, considering they grew up looking at normal game books, and have been spoiled with video games, yeah, they'd want much better art. They'd want something closer to a comic book.

    Now that I think about it, there was a Japanese game based on the anime series Fortune Quest that would fit the bill for a good kids' RPG. It had sample characters as well as make-your-own characters, no set races, no set classes, and there were a bunch of punch-out cards with equipment, spells, and monsters, so it had a bit of the collectible card-game feel. AND it had cut-out masks of different characters they could wear. Now THAT is catering to the younger generation.
  • Nice work, John. Totally excited to see where you're going with this (and to play it, when it gets to that point). I don't know what's up with all the kvetching and self-denigration. Game design is easy (and challenging) and fun once you actually start doing it, yeah? The main issue is just finding the time and energy.

    I guess I'll throw my hat into this ring too. I'll see what I can put together by this weekend.
  • I'm hyped for Wildlings - it's definitely the indie version of "Monster Slayers" and much cooler in design and execution.
  • Oh hey, totally coincidentally, I was in the game store today and there was the new Lone Wolf Multi-Player Gamebook from Mongoose on the shelf, and I picked it up because it looked pretty cool, actually, and reminded me of my formative pseudo-roleplaying experiences.

    I only flipped through it a bit just now, but it looks way, WAY better than anything I've seen from WOTC as far as kids games, even though it does build on some prior experience with Lone Wolf books. It's kinda like if Joe Dever wrote Mouse Guard, which is pretty cool, even though it obviously has some retro values and mechanics derived from the solo gamebooks. Like, you're still supposed to use that stupid random number table and cross check the result on a table with your associated stat.

    But the included adventure is somewhere in between Lone Wolf and Mouse Guard. I'm totally serious. Like, you have set battles and set rolls you have to make that aren't battles (like jumping across the rooftops chasing someone). And the part that's super genius -- yes, I realize this may be the first time anybody said that about a Mongoose product -- is there are actual, real, meaningful choices for the players to make, since -- in the Lone Wolf tradition -- it's a highly branched railroaded path instead of just a straight line from here to there. Like, in the GM's instructions it's like "read this passage and then ask the players what they do. If they do X, turn to page 68. If they do Y, turn to 77."

    I'm actually really interested to play through it, preferably with some other folks who grew up with Lone Wolf, to see if it's actually fun and dynamic in play, rather than just being a retro Lone Wolf fanfic tool (which is already pretty sweet, I have to say).
  • For anyone interested in designing for kids, I recommend checking out "Roleplaying with Kids" by Technomancer Press. Some of the observations in there (particularly by Sam Chupp) about what kids want were pretty surprising to me. Like complexity being good, rather than complexity being bad, so long as it's logical and masterable. Adults who game with kids all the time may know these things.
  • I really need to pick up that book, Ben.

    I suspect Sam is at least partly right on that point. It shouldn't be too much shock that mastery is important in that age group. I wouldn't read too much into the "logical" part, though. I think that it could lead to a rather narrow view of organized thinking and rising to challenge in a social context.
  • I'm over-simplifying Sam's essay, but here's a more detailed quote, which I think is enlightening:
    Kids like complex systems that have their own kind of symmetry.
    ...
    Mastering the core knowledge of facts for a game makes a kid feel somehow powerful, in control. Yet the system has to make sense somehow; you can't just have random willy-nilly facts. You have to have an organized taxonomy, something that makes internal sense.
  • Posted By: Ben RobbinsFor anyone interested in designing for kids, I recommend checking out "Roleplaying with Kids" by Technomancer Press. Some of the observations in there (particularly by Sam Chupp) about what kids want were pretty surprising to me. Like complexity being good, rather than complexity being bad, so long as it's logical and masterable. Adults who game with kids all the time may know these things.
    Sam's a great guy. I'll look into that book since I didn't know he'd contributed. You may also want to check out his Yahoo group kids-rpg. Its a little slow but there is some interesting discussion.
  • My reaction to "Monster Slayers" was also to be seriously underwhelmed. I didn't read the thing in detail; but a cursory glance gave me many of the same impressions as already expressed in this thread.

    Personally, I'd just ignore this cruddy little WotC thing in favor of a hacked Happy Birthday, Robot!. It isn't difficult to hack it for another flavor - such as fantasy or some such.
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