Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teaching The Kid To Game

It's Teach Your Kids to Game Week, which is very timely given that I'm trying to teach my own boys how to play something closer to the games I like to play. After various experiments in pushing miniatures (and Lego figs) around a map and rolling dice, I think we've fallen into a bit of a rut. Mostly, we pair off combatants, roll dice (the number and type vary from day to day) and the winner knocks out the loser. It's getting old for me and I've had limited success in persuading them to introduce other elements.

That is, until now. Last night I feel like we had a breakthrough. With my youngest asleep, my first grader and I got out the box of minis and some previously unused poster maps that I discovered in the lower reaches of Gen Con swag bin. Not having had much luck in exploratory games, I instead opted to construct a military scenario. My child would assemble a squad of 6 heroes from among the miniatures (and Legos and actions figures) and I'd do the same for the villains. Then, and this is the key point of departure from previous efforts, we each made up extremely simple character sheets for our guys. On the spot, I made up a rule that said we could distribute 4,3,3,2,2 values amongst our team members in both attack capability and defense.

For the first time, the boy was able to make interesting and significant character creation decisions. Which of his team members were the strongest attackers? Which had the highest defense? I swear, I think I saw a light bulb go off in his head.

Playing out the scenario was a lot of fun. I played it out mostly Risus-style, with the attack and defense values indicating the number of dice rolled. We even tracked damage with hit points equal to the sum of the dice. Movement rules were simple (characters could move one "zone" or engage one target in melee combat) but we did include rules for ganging up, which added a nice tactical element. 

The obvious next steps:
* Try to craft a more traditional adventure
* Introduce more complicated movement rules
* Introduce range combat
* Move to an established rules system 
* Finally, the holy grail would be start an actual mini-campaign.


JDJarvis said...

Playing with the kids is fun. I actually managed a couple games with both the teens, the wife and (then) one year old.

The baby played a pygmy withcdoctor that only had an obscure language in common with the Amazon (played by my wife). It went surprisingly well all thing considered.

Lately the baby (now 2+) is perfectly content to sit relatively quietly at the table with us rolling dice and playign with the dead while we play Zombies!!!

Years back when I was a youngster I often DM'd for my grandfather, uncle, father and some of his co-workers. Kids can teach the adults to game also.

Dangerous Brian said...

Sounds like a great little game. The missus and I not having any kids ourself yet, I like to pick up ideas for when we have our own.

Trey said...

Sounds like a good approach and a great time.

Anonymous said...

How old are your boys ?

burned said...

I don't mean this as a boast, but I feel like I got lucky when it came to the kids I game with. What I actually mean is that I don't believe I would have the patience to wait to game with the kids in my life.

They came pregenerated so to speak, the youngest of the two girls being 9 and the other girl now 12, so I was just able to jump straight into Dungeons and Dragons.

Although, in retrospective, some of the games we played, before it dawned on me that I could be role playing with them, could have been considered training wheels.

Advanced Heroquest and Icewind Dale on our LAN are the two that I believe helped with some concepts.

Their multiple viewings of Record of Lodoss War and Rune Soldiers, also got the whole fantasy thing in their heads.

One fun aspect was recognizing the knowledge I've taken for granted is still new to them.

From learning the difference between an orc and goblin, wondering what a mind flayer was as they stare at the mounted head of an illithid, being creeped out by a gibbering mouther, etc

I guess the best way to describe it is similar to when you are sharing a really good movie with someone and you are excited for them, because they haven't seen it yet and they are in for awesome.

Risus Monkey said...

@JDJarvis: so true, love the Pygmy witch doctor!

@Dangerous Brian: And I'm loving EverNote for storing away websites that talk about stuff that I can't possibly do until the kids are grown ;)

@Anonymous: 6 and 4

@burned: Totally! That, in a nutshell, is one of the coolest things about fatherhood in general.