[Faery's Tale] The Moppets' Intro to RPGs

edited December 2011 in Actual Play
Long post here. Can’t help it. I’m a proud geek papa, and I have to share.

Tonight I ran my first mini-session of Faery's Tale with my two daughters. I’d been talking with them for years about roleplaying, but though they expressed interest, they weren’t really motivated, and I didn’t want to push. We’d even made characters a couple of times, but nothing ever came of it because their enthusiasm was lukewarm.

Then this last weekend, out of the blue, my youngest moppet asked if we could play Faery’s Tale. It had been awhile, years really, and both girls wanted to make new characters. My outward reaction is cautious enthusiasm. Inward reaction: glee!

A bit of background for the demographically-inclined: Elder Moppet is 11 years old, in sixth grade, and has been into Gothy stuff lately. She is a terrific writer and highly imaginative, a huge fan of Raven from the Teen Titans Go! cartoon. She laughed in disbelief at her previous Faery’s Tale character, a Disney pixie type. Junior Moppet is 7, in second grade, a natural actor and comedian who narrates the dialogue and exposition of her stuffies and action figures when she plays with them. Both are huge comic book fans (DC), readers and fans of fantasy and steampunk. As a Geek Dad, I feel I’ve been doing my job right, thank you very much.

Character generation turned out to be a snap. They both went straight into their concepts, and before I knew it, I was sketching their gear and clothing. The mechanics of Faery’s Tale are pretty light, so chargen went quickly, mostly a question of choosing Gifts (essentially Feats or Advantages). They really did just spin their character concepts out of thin air, fully fleshed out.

I started off by reading the different kinds of Faeries they could play. To my surprise, they went right over magical flying pixies and chose sprites, the warrior breed of faeries in this game.

Junior Moppet said, “Daddy, I want to a sprite with a silver needle sword and a bottle cap shield who rides a mouse friend like a horse. She’s tough and acrobatic, like Batman. Her shield is all scratched up from lots of fighting.” She likes the idea of being grim.

Elder Moppet wanted to play someone with something to do with ravens and dark Gothy cool, so she selected a “shadow sprite” who could sculpt shadows and shapeshift into a raven. Her main props were a white thorn dagger that had a bit of red sea glass as a pommel, and a old bronze faerie key she wears as a pendant. She’s the only shadow sprite in the forest, maybe the world.

After some nosing around in the SG Names book and bouncing ideas off each other, they picked Thistle and Shadowlock, respectively.

Thistle (Junior Moppet)
Sprite Warrior

Body 4 Mind 2 Spirit 3 Essence 6

Edges: Hardy, Empathy, Acrobat

Shadowlock (Elder Moppet)
Shadow Sprite

Body 4 Mind 3 Spirit 2 Essence 4

Edges: Brave, Lore, Sneaky

Tonight we embarked on their first adventure. I completely winged it, and focused on asking a lot of leading questions to help them come up with specific ideas. I wanted to get past, "What do you do?" because that can be intimidating for beginning players, not to mention ones who were kids. I also remained mindful of giving out Essence to reward constructive behavior.

Thistle comes to meet Mouse at the creek, but Mouse isn’t there! She hears an angry squeak, and after a die roll or two to illustrate the mechanics, she locates Mouse on the other side of the creek, being roped and dragged off by a pair of mean goblins!

Here’s where it goes to the awesome for me.

Junior Moppet narrates that Thistle sees a willow branch stretching almost across the creek, so she makes her way across it. As she does so, it’s bending closer and closer to the fast-moving water. Before she reaches the other bank, it bends sharply and dumps Thistle into the creek! Thistle is hardy, so she holds her breath and struggles to get her hands on a rock, and then she’s able to haul herself out of the creek onto the shore. But...Mouse and the goblins are gone. She sees light tracks in the sandy dirt, but before she can follow them, a breeze blows them away.

I haven’t said anything yet. But I’m already dealing out the glass beads we’re using for Essence like they’re cheap Halloween candy.

At this point, Elder Moppet, who has been watching and thinking about not playing tonight, decides she wants to play. So in drops Shadowlock in raven form, and a detailed introduction scene unfolds. This did not go without problems. All very cool on the one hand, but inter-sisterly dynamics complicated the exchange. Elder Moppet tends toward being controlling and critical, and Junior Moppet has a temper. Both characters are, on the surface, conceived as loners. Some disagreement ensued as EM tried to make statements about how Thistle perceived Shadowlock, and JM naturally resisted this intrusion and blew a fuse.

I smoothed things over by pointing out that this was an origin story, and that they would become friends eventually, and further that they needed to respect the idea that only the player got to decide how her character reacted to something, unless dice were involved. That explanation seemed to mollify them, and so we continued.

Shadowlock used Lore to declare (under questioning from me) that the goblins were likely taking Mouse to a hideyhole that led to the underground Goblin Kingdom, where the goblins took woodland animals to labor as slaves. And as luck would have it, Shadowlock had seen the direction the goblins had taken when she was aloft in raven form. Essence to her for being helpful. In future, I'll probably use Essence to reward her when she doesn't criticize her sister's choices. Just as I'll award Essence to Junior Moppet for keeping calm when she's feeling frustrated.

Right. So the grand pursuit commenced. Each of them wanted to describe how cool their characters were as they ran through the forest. I prompted them to use their Edges as inspiration for style and added some sample description myself. Thistle ran more like parkour, with acrobatic moves and flips. Shadowlock ran silently and gracefully beneath the shadows of the trees. They were both happy with this and embellished with Shadowlock fading into shadows and Thistle using her needle sword sort of like a springboard (and snatching it up at the last instant after going airborne).

By now, it’s almost bedtime, so I started looking for a beat on which to end this “chapter.” I described a pair of standing stones in a glen, weathered and carved with ancient spirals. Through the tall blades of grass, the two faeries glimpse the goblins hauling Mouse to the base of one of the stones.

Elder Moppet then narrates that the opening to the tunnel to the Goblin Kingdom lies hidden at the base of the stone, and Junior Moppet chimes in, “And then, just as we see Mouse, the goblins drag him into the tunnel, and they vanish!”

I nod. “End of chapter.”

Moppets: “Awww...” But they’re excited. I’m excited too, not to mention happy and proud at how much adversity they introduced. I literally did nothing but set the initial scene and add some environmental description.

I should note Thistle doesn’t have her shield or her fish scale armor, just her needle sword. And next session? Assuming they venture into the tunnels to fight goblins...

Moppets’ first dungeon crawl.

So happy I’m gonna ‘splode.


  • *hands Hexabolic a handful of beads* You forgot to give yourself some for being a cool geek dad. :-)
  • Seriously freaking awesome. Say, I'm out of state at the moment, but when I get home, I want to treat my brother's girls (ages 7-11) and son (age 5) to a game of Faery's Tale. Any tips earned from your success (or better yet, where you failed)?
  • Nice A.P.
    Your commentary on how the game went (as in, how the sisters played the game) was as appreciated as the game itself (as in, the fiction created by the game.)
    I'm glad you had a good time with it. Thanks for sharing.
  • edited December 2011
    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

    We've only had about one twenty-minute session, so I don't yet feel like I'm at all authoritative on this subject. Let me see...

    Giving out Essence as a reward for cool creativity or positive interaction among players has a huge impact on encouraging constructive play. Both moppets seemed to enjoy collecting Essence, though I had to mention to Junior Moppet at the end that it wasn't a competition, and that gloating about her stash of 9 Essence compared to Elder Moppet's 6 wasn't kind. Giving out Essence as a reward for being good losers or for narrating failure and complications seems to help. And I gave Elder Moppet Essence for being helpful (not that she isn't generally, but in the context of the game, it seemed important).

    Helping the kids by offering suggested descriptions of setting and action to make their characters feel cool and awesome is key, just as with adult players. They really liked my details about how they ran through the forest, flavored by their Edges. And once they got the idea, they were quick to embellish. Helping them remember the enormous scale of the world compared to the inch-high faeries provided a huge dose of awesome.

    Being an appreciative audience and getting excited by their choices is also important. A big part of the adult-child dynamic, especially with parenting, is validation.

    Kids are likely to be more volatile with their feelings than adults, especially if they're siblings. I didn't account for that coming in, so our bumpy moments arose when they stepped on each other's creative agendas. Each was prickly about the other making statements that infringed on "her" faery. Junior Moppet is determined to have her grim Thistle be "like Batman." Elder Moppet doesn't grok that, so she kept trying to offer other superheroes that she thought would be more appropriate.

    I think it's going to be important to stress that they each have their own niche and slice of awesome, and neither needs to be awesome at everything. This understanding may prove tricky in practice when one girl wants her faery to be the goddamn Batman.

    When they roll and fail (which hasn't happened yet, since we had two dice rolls that were more pro forma to illustrate the mechanic), it has to make their character look cool--and may need Essence to be thrown in to salve any disappointment.

    Visual aids, I suspect, will be pretty important to making play clear and concrete. Kids, especially the age of Junior Moppet, really groove on props and pictures. Elder Moppet came home from school yesterday with pictures she'd drawn of both characters, including Mouse, and Shadowlock's house (inside and out).

    Really listen to what they think is cool. It's funny, but much, if not all of this advice applies to grown-ups, but it's so much easier for me to see and apply it when I'm playing with my own children.

    Oh, and be ready to let go and do something else at the drop of a hat. If the kids get frustrated, it may be easier to shift gears into an entirely different activity rather than keep pushing on the roleplaying.

    Oh, and Joseph, if you have a five-year old playing, don't be surprised if the dice and abstract mechanics prove hard for him to connect to the fiction. I did run a game with Elder Moppet and a friend years ago, when she was five or six, and both girls were up running around the room and getting under tables to show how they were hiding from the woodcutter, etc.
  • edited December 2011
    Cool. For comparison, I'll throw in some of my Faery's Tale experience from my ConQuest 2006 Report. It was a little tricky working with five kids of varying age - only two of whom I knew - but still a lot of fun.
    With Polaris cancelled, I had a little more time to prepare for my second young persons game. I had been debating running either John Wick's Cat or Faery's Tale, and I went with the latter in part due to support. There were two introductory modules: a "Jack in the Beanstalk" in the core book, and a downloadable module "Tournament of the Fey". Neither of these appealed to me, so I mostly improvised. I wasn't on the schedule, but I talked to the kid's room organizer that morning. I added the game to the schedule posted on a whiteboard at the door, put up the Faery's Tale poster beside it, and put out a sign-up sheet. Besides my son Milo and his friend Zelly, I got three players. We went through character creation -- I gave the book to the older kids to pick their qualities, while the younger kids filled out a character sheet from the pregenerated characters. The players and their characters were:

    * Zelly (age 7) played a pregenerated character -- a pixie named Willow, whom she renamed Sandy two-thirds of the way through.
    * Milo (age 6) played the pregenerated character -- a sprite named Flynn who flew about on his bumblebee companion.
    * An older boy Erik (age 10 or 11) created a pixie character named Zimble, who had a sidekick of a miniature ice dragon named "Frosty".
    * Erik's younger sister Kate (age maybe 8 or so) played a pre-generated character Gimlock, except that she substituted out his "Seer" gift for "Sidekick" and also took a miniature dragon -- a flame dragon named "Flame".
    * Nick (maybe 9?) created a brownie named Elfrica, who lived in a ruined castle. The details here took a lot of negotiation. I explained that brownies lived with humans, and had household magic which meant magic affecting human artifacts. It seemed like he wasn't quite sure what he wanted, and we went around in circles a bit.

    With the miniature dragons established as Gimlock and Zimble's sidekicks, I decided that the adventure was going to be about saving a full-size dragon from a group of rough dragon hunters. This was, of course, a deliberate dig at D&D. They found the camp of the dragon hunters, and then the others distracted them by talking the horses and letting them go to run around -- while Elfrica invisibly stole all their arrows. The dogs and the horses were both mistreated by the group, and they helped them by getting them some nice food. There was also a family (two parents and a young son) who tended the supply train, and I noted that after the horses got loose, one of the dragon hunters went and slapped the kid for not having tied them right.

    I should note about the system. Nick was the type to narrate a lot about what was happening, which annoyed Kate in particular, who insisted that he couldn't just say whatever he liked. Here the system was of use, in that I explained that Nick could narrate but that he had to pay with Essence Points. I had brought a bunch of crystals which I handed out as Essence Points -- and I gave them out, for example, to Kate and Eric when they helped out the dogs and horses.

    After this, they went to see the dragon, and found that he had been poisoned by the dragon hunters -- who had dumped some toxin into the nearby stream. I said that they could cure it, but they needed a sample of the poison to brew the antidote. Now, at this point I think Nick said that he wanted to have run across the poison before, and could get a sample from the stream which was poisoned. I charged Essence for this. However, this was pushing it -- it seemed that if they paid enough Essence they could do anything. But they brewed up a potion with the sample and cured the dragon.

    The last bit was dealing with the dragon's attack. So, as I played the dragon, he told the faeries that he was going to eat the horses first so that the people couldn't ride away to escape. The kids naturally cried out at this, and got the dragon to agree not to hurt the horses or the family with the supply wagon if they would first make sure that the horses escaped. So they slipped in, sabotaged further the dragon hunter's equipment, and let the horses loose. I then narrated briefly how the dragon attacked the dragon hunters, stopping only at the last minute to leave the wagoneer's family alone. They then got a Boon (one of FT's reward systems) from the dragon.

    I was rather proud of this, mainly because it was an adventure that had a lot of action -- but it was all about helping people, and none of the PCs ever attacked anyone. It was a bit of a tough sell in the first place getting Erik and Kate sold on this, but it went well. Milo and Zelly were difficult to engage, but still liked it.
  • Thanks for sharing, Blake. The prospect of RPG'ing with your kids must be super exciting!
  • Sigh - I played the crap out of Faery's Tale with my daughter a year or so ago, until she became a little too ... something ... and it turned into "daddy tells a story" and I burned out. You're absolutely right that 'what do you do?' can be paralyzing. I suspect we'll get back into it someday.

    That's awesome that yours are co-GMing!
  • Thanks. Yes, Matthew, it's very exciting, and it helps that both of my girls happen to be (IMHO) gifted storytellers. Elder Moppet is (and even adjusting for fatherly bias) an amazing writer for a sixth-grader, with an instinctive grasp of story and emotional drama that probably exceeds mine, and Junior Moppet is...well, off the rails brilliant in terms of raw creativity.

    I'm going to have to work to keep up with them!
  • John,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Running for a group of kids who are strangers (if I understand the con situation correctly) sounds really challenging. It really helps that these are my kids, because I can intervene and act in parentis if necessary to facilitate and move things forward. I don't know if it would work as well with kids I don't know well.
  • This is just so awesome.
  • Thanks, Jackson. I think so, too.

    Jamie, I am being especially mindful of offering up ideas like, "Do you climb a tree to see across the brook? Or is there something else that might let you see better?" "Maybe you could try talking to the tree spirit. Do you want to try that?"

    The idea of spending Essence to pull off something cool hasn't quite percolated into their imaginations yet. Once they get that Essence grants narrative authority in the face of conflict, I bet the bead economy will take center stage.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: Hexabolic Junior Moppet said, “Daddy, I want to a sprite with a silver needle sword and a bottle cap shield who rides a mouse friend like a horse. She’s tough and acrobatic, like Batman. Her shield is all scratched up from lots of fighting.”
    I want a batman sprite with a silver needle sword too!
  • I just want to chime in with another vote for "awesome!" I can't wait to do something like this with my daughter in a few years.
  • Thanks, Joel.

    We've had a couple of other sessions since, including a setpiece combat in an underground goblin lair. What's interesting to me is how eager these kids are to take setbacks in their narrative. Junior moppet in particular is prone to introducing a pile of adversity in her narrations, but she also describes action in a very comic book style, throwing Thistle's bottle cap shield like Captain America so the serrated edge cuts through root ropes holding faerie prisoners.

    For Solstice, I made them a Faery's Tale box, inspired by something Eisenmann shared on RPG.net. It's a small wooden box to hold their dice, a bag of glass beads, and a bunch of miscellaneous fae charms like a crystal, a key, and a bottle cap with a cool image. I also commissioned an artist friend to draw the characters using the moppets' likenesses. Cool all the way around.
  • !!!

    Best solstice gift ever!
  • !!! seconded!
  • Thanks! I'll see if I can get some pics up later tonight.
  • You inspired me!

    I busted out Faery's Tale again and asked my 7-yr old moppet if she wanted to play. She said no, and then I remembered my Sneaky Trick - I said, "Well, I'm just going to play by myself then." And pretended to play it solo, telling her what was going on in my game. Soon enough she started reading the rules and wanted to play it. Still got bit by the old, "What do you do?" "I don't know!" problem, but it didn't completely devolve into 'Daddy tells a story' - in particular, once she'd gone into the cave under the tree where the fox said he'd hid the gingerbread boy, I started drawing the dungeoncave and then she grabbed the pencil from me and started drawing it herself: "There's grass on the floor here, like a bed"; "This flower collects rainwater"; "Pretend a fairy lives here" ...
    And her answer to the age old Gingerbread Boy problem? Don't bring him back to his faux parents, since he hates them - instead build him a camouflaged house underground in the forest where he can hide from foxes, etcetera.

    I was doing a lot of page-turning trying to find rules. (Probably should have just made them up as I went.) So I made this: Faery's Tale AW-style Playbook. (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1k1gLiGKsR81Luzhtl0XtiLAvEdKTwPSzTuclX-z9IDI/edit) It's not pretty but it works. (And I just made the one, I'm not going to make any more unless asked...)
  • Awesome! Needs a box for a portrait though (as opposed to just the blank space on the second page). For some reason, they respond better to an empty frame than a blank page.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: jdfristromand then she grabbed the pencil from me and started drawing it herself: "There's grass on the floor here, like a bed"; "This flower collects rainwater"; "Pretend a fairy lives here" ...
    Sounds like your daughter is a GM. :)
  • That is so great. Thanks for sharing it. I particularly love the description your moppet gave of the cave. Sounds like she did the same thing mine did, just jumped in and took the reins without waiting for me to flesh things out. I also admire her solution for the Gingerbread Boy. Well done! The playbook you made leads me to believe she played a Pooka. Can you tell us more about how she handled her character?

    What I found helpful in avoiding the frustration of "What do you do?" is the same thing a lot of folks here recommend for any age gaming: ask pointed questions. I've had a lot of success asking, for example: "Does Thistle duck behind a flower and try to hide, or draw her needle and attack?" Often, Junior Moppet being who she is, she'll come up with a completely different choice. But the specificity helps her decide by putting some signposts in the fictional ground. Feels more collaborative with Daddy, too. I think that makes the "what to do" decision less scary for her. Plus plenty of encouragement. I have definitely become their audience.

    Incidentally, we added a couple of the moppets' friends to the group, another pair of sisters of about the same age split. Older friend--a classmate of Elder Moppet's, created a sort of Brom-inspired enchanted rag doll of mysterious origin (I suspect she was made by a long-dead wizard for cryptic purposes). Younger friend made a "moon pixie," an otherwise bog standard pixie who dresses in dark colors and wears silver jewelry. Elder Moppet is a bit bummed, because she feels the dark-themed newcomers steal a little of Shadowlock's thunder. It didn't help that at first, both friends wanted to play shadow sprites like Elder Moppet's, but I told them that wouldn't do as Shadowlock was unique. I'm confident things will sort out and become less copycat of Shadowlock's "thing."
  • Jaime - oh, your sneaky grown-up tricks. That's so charming, imagining that.

    Blake - Oh, Elder Moppet! Painful introduction to the world of power encroachment. (What's the comic book term i'm looking for here? Where there's suddenly someone else on the x-team with you that has similar powers?)
  • The Rogue Effect. Nuthin' but trouble, hon.
  • Well tell her the new pixie is like a Robin to her Batman
  • This here is a lovely little set of art for Faery's Tale inspirado.

    For the first one, just imagine that those tranqs in the dragon's neck are like 1-2mm thick, and all of a sudden, the whole picture is the right size. I will just assume that those are those teeny tiny fruit bats. :P

  • Thanks, Joseph! These are great!
  • More delicious art! Omnomnom!
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