Tips and Tools on Running RPGs for Kids

You Can Do It!!! 

Kids are natural roleplayers, left to themselves they will create whole worlds in their play. Our goal is to provide you with tips, tools, and inspiration to create memorable and enriching RPG experiences for children of all ages.

 Tips and Tricks

Yes, And

The core of improv is particularly important for running RPGs with kids.

Listen to your kids and let them drive the story. Don't let the ideas you have override what your kids are interested in. Let their excitement and interest drive the game forward and you'll boost their interest and engagement. 

In Improv comedy we're taught the principle of Yes, And. The core of which is to take whatever your partner says and build on it. Let that be your guiding principle in RPGs as well. It matters much less what the rules say, or what you expected them to do. What matters most is what they are excited to try. You don't have to let them succeed at everything but let them roll the dice and find out what happens!

Ask Questions and Give Options 

Use questions to prompt your kids with ideas to help them decide what they want to do.

RPGs provide wonderful freedom to do anything we can imagine, but simply asking, "What do you do?", risks a table of blank stares. For players of all ages the paralysis of choice can make it hard to decide what to do when confronted with a challenge. One way to overcome this is to provide some suggestions or options to your kids. 

Say they've come to a river they need to cross. You ask them, "How do you want to get across the river?" Give them a moment to think, but if they don't have an immediate idea you can suggest some options. "You could try jumping out of one of the tall trees, throw a rope across, or just swim for it with all your heart." 

Showing that there are options can often prompt kids to come up with their own ideas. Lean into that and roll those dice! Even if their plan isn't very well thought out or you have a better idea. Letting them enact and attempt their plans will encourage them to come up with future plans and soon you won't need to prompt them nearly as often. 

Plan For Their Attention Span

Know your kids and plan the session length and breaks accordingly. 

Kids often can't sit still for extended periods. Even if they're enjoying the RPG session eventually their attention starts to wane or they get fidgety. End the session before they start to drift away and you'll have them excited for next time. Simiarly, include breaks in the session. Get them up out of their chairs and doing something physical. This could be unconnected to the session and just a energy burst. But you can also tie it into the session, maybe they have to sneak past the guards by crouch-walking across the room. Or to win in a foot race you count how many laps of the house they can do in a minute. The important thing is to get them up and physically moving and let their brains shift gears for a bit. 

Additionally, you should give them something to fiddle with between their turns. We want our kids to pay attention during other player's turns but demanding they sit quietly waiting for their turn is just asking for interruption. A character model they can fiddle with, dice to stack, or letting them doodle smooths out this issue. This is why the character sheets you'll find in the Tools section (coming soon) have a large section for players to draw their character or write out notes. 

Be a Fan of Your Players

Your kids are the main characters of the story you're all telling, act like they are your favorite characters in media. 

Shamelessly stolen from the Powered By The Apocalypse series of RPGs "Being a Fan of Your Players" doesn't mean that they succeed at everything without any failure. Instead it means that you should cheer for their victories and bemoan their thrilling setbacks.  Give them great moments of adventure and excitement, lean into their ideas and goals. Put forward challenges for them to overcome and then revel in their success.  Keep their lives exciting and allow them to bounce back from their failures. 

The simplified system you'll find in the Tools section (coming soon) is weighted so that in most rolls your kids will at least partially succeed. Let them, success doesn't mean that everything is perfect and the unintended consequences of their actions will often provide all the complications you need to keep the story moving forward. 

With that in mind, make their failures push things forward. Never let a roll have no effect, failing to pick that lock doesn't mean they are just stuck standing at the door. Instead maybe now they hear a guard walking towards them, or maybe the door opens but they won't like what they find on the other side. 

Prep Prompts Not Adventures

Create a buffet of ideas for you to use when applicable rather than a linear adventure. 

Few things are more annoying for a DM than spending hours prepping just to have the players go the exact opposite direction and invalidate everything you've done. But few things will drive your kids away from the adventure than being forced onto a specific path. As their interests swerve kids will naturally explore avenues that you had no way of knowing were coming. So don't spend a lot of time prepping everything in great detail. Instead sketch out encounters, characters, or locations that you can slot in when they fit the situation. Write a sentence or two and then let the rest develop when the kids encounter them. Don't worry about your improv skills, the kids won't care if you stumble and if you get stuck ask them for details; what's this character's name, why is the river hard to cross, etc. They'll love having input and it takes some of the weight off of you. 

This is a great opportunity to showcase some images or props in your game. Find an image that gives the vibe of the location, NPC, or situation and pull it out to help the kids immerse in the moment. But don't let yourself go overboard. There is no need to prepare a library of images or a set of maps. Remember, you want to have your prep be simple and transferable. Creating an intricate map of a castle your kids might never visit is just asking for extra work.