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Playing Roleplaying Games with your Kids

Updated on October 1, 2014

Fighting the Dragon

Katherine Pyle. Dragon rearing up to reach medieval knight on ledge, 1932
Katherine Pyle. Dragon rearing up to reach medieval knight on ledge, 1932 | Source

Why All the Dice?

Roleplaying games use a lot of dice, and not just the 6-sided dice you use in most board games. Roleplaying dice include 4-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided, and 20-sided dice. They often also include percentile dice.

So why all the dice? Well, the dice interact with other fixed things in the game world to see what really happens. Without the dice everything except for the players' choices would be decided already. So, for example, if a character is fighting an evil pirate you see how good the pirate is at fighting and then roll the dice to see if he hits with his sword.

When I Was Young...

First a little personal history – I was 11-years old when my best friend's mother showed me how to play this cool game called Dungeons & Dragons. I got to play a dwarven fighter complete with armor and a giant hammer. My friend was an elven wizard. We bravely ventured into a dungeon where we used our skills to fight everything from giant rats to hobgoblins. I was hooked. So hooked that I ended up spending many years getting paid to write roleplaying and other Sci Fi/Fantasy works. Now I play these games with my kids.

What are Roleplaying Games?

So, what exactly are roleplaying games? In this kind of cooperative game each player gets their own character, a person who they play in the game. These characters have their unique skills, abilities, and personalities. One person serves as a game master, the person telling the other players what their characters see and experience in the world. This game master is like a director in a movie and the characters are the actors on the set – except for these actors get to help write the script. (When you're playing with kids you will be the game master.)

My first character, the dwarf Tiburnius, was very strong, not all that wise, and really good with a war hammer. He was also really stubborn. Really, really stubborn. But every good roleplaying character has his or her quirks. So Tiburnius would often barge into places he wasn't supposed to go because he didn't like the word, “No.”

Roleplaying games can take place in a fantasy world, like Dungeons & Dragons, the first roleplaying game ever created. They can be set on our world, a Science Fiction world, or pretty much anywhere else you can imagine. Many roleplaying games are set in imaginary worlds we already know such as the Star Wars universe.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

Have You Ever Played?

Have you ever played a roleplaying game?

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Why Should I Play Roleplaying Games with my Kids?

There are many reasons to play roleplaying games with your kids. Although you'll probably want to wait until they're around 8-10 years old before you try it so they'll really be able to understand what's going on. That said, I've played more than a few such games with my daughter and she's only 7-years old. She's happy as long as she's swinging a sword.

So, why should you play? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Roleplaying Games are Fun!: That's right. In some ways playing a roleplaying game is like going to see an adventure movie together, but this time your family gets to be the stars. It's fun to star in something. Also, because roleplaying games involve active storytelling, everybody gets involved. Getting involved is also a lot of fun.

  • They Teach Your Kids: We've all heard of “teachable moments,” but they're usually not much fun. Because roleplaying games involve rolling dice, adding and comparing numbers, probabilities, and other skills they help kids learn math. Roleplaying games often include books that describe the world you're playing in and stories or myths from it, encouraging your kids to read.

  • They Involve Teamwork: When you play a roleplaying game the players have to work together to reach their goal – whether its rescuing a captured prince or reaching a treasure in a booby-trapped mine shaft. They will also probably have to fight battles where they need to protect and help each other. All this teamwork is great practice for life too. Maybe, just maybe, it can help siblings communicate a little better and have more respect for each other. Well, it's a thought.

  • They Teach Problem Solving: If your little Indiana Jones's are in that trapped mineshaft or any other sticky situation they'll need to put there heads together in order to succeed. Since roleplaying games are interactive adventures the players have to actively do things to advance the story. They need to decide for themselves to talk to the hermit in the woods or how to lift the crystal skull from its base.

A Princess with Power

Using her wand this magical princess makes her own destiny.
Using her wand this magical princess makes her own destiny. | Source

Wizard or Warrior?

Would you rather play a wizard or a warrior?

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What are Some Good Roleplaying Tips?

In order to have a great time roleplaying with your family you, as the gamemaster, need to make sure the game goes as well as possible. Here are a few tips on how to do so.

  • Action!: When you're playing with kids make sure you don't wait too long to get the action started. Kids have little patience for mood setting so let them know what the adventure ahead is about and get them fighting monsters or solving puzzles as quickly as possible.

  • Paint a Picture with Words: It really helps kids get in the spirit of things when they have a good feel for what's happening in the imaginary world their characters inhabit. So, don't just say, “The giant snake eats the jewel.” Instead say something like, “The gigantic dark green snake opens its jaws, slime drooling into a puddle beneath it. The glowing red gem slides down its throat with a sickly slurping sound.” That's a lot grosser, but it's a lot more effective too.

  • The Dice Made Me Do It: When you're playing you'll use a lot of dice. The dice tell you if a monster hits a character and all sorts of other things that happen in the world. Just remember, you're the boss – not the dice. Sometimes, especially when playing with children, you'll want to make an executive decision and decide the monster doesn't hit and kill your son's favorite character.

  • Encourage Kids' Ideas: Let your kids have some say in the adventure and the world around them. If they want to go see if there's a carnival in the nearby town, try going with it. You can come up with some fun carnival games for their characters to play. Or if your daughter has a great idea for her character, help her make a picture of that new shield she just imagined.

  • Theatrics: If you can pull them off, a bit of theatrics never hurt. Wear that cape from Halloween when you're playing an evil vampire or use your son's light saber as a sword and wave it around.

  • First and Foremost, Fun!: A good rule of thumb when roleplaying with your kids is to think about it from their perspective. Is what's happening fun? Is it exciting? Gross? Silly? Does it really get them involved? If you say yes to one or more of these questions then you're probably doing the right thing. Remember, you should have fun, but your kids should have more fun.

Roleplaying with Family

Fundamentally, roleplaying games are about coming together with friends and family to create a shared adventure story. Playing these games with your kids is a great way to create fun memories with them that can last a lifetime. Just ask my dwarf, Tiburnius.

A Happy Roleplayer

Your kids will feel happy too when you play games with them!
Your kids will feel happy too when you play games with them! | Source


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    • Teeuwynn Woodruff profile image

      Teeuwynn Woodruff 3 years ago from Washington State

      I love the story with the snacks! Its amazing how kids integrate the real world into roleplaying. Faery's Tale is a great RPG for kids.

    • goodmovies profile image

      Randy Ray 3 years ago from Texas

      Great hub. I've played multiple RPGs with my twin daughters, including Dungeon Crawl Classics, which they loved, and Faery's Tale, which they also loved. My favorite moment in Faery's Tale was when my daughter, completely in character, announced that she was making snacks to take along on their adventure.