Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Next Generation

I've written recently about my daughter and her attitudes toward tabletop roleplaying, but I don't think I've said much about this topic in relation to my son here. The only reason I even thought of mentioning him today is because I spent part of last night putting away a "dungeon" he'd made, using Hirst Arts blocks and populated with some of my miniatures collection. This is something he does every now and again, even going so far as giving his creations names (the one I just put away was known as "the Dungeon of Doom" -- not exactly original, but it sounds the right notes nonetheless). And his creations are getting better and more well-imagined, so much so that I regret not having taken pictures of his latest effort.

So does this mean my son's ripe to start roleplaying at the table? Nope, at least not so far. He's well aware of what roleplaying is. Like his big sister, he's watched us play at the dining room table and he sometimes takes great interest in what's happening in Dwimmermount. To date, though, he's never asked to create a character and join in. Granted, he's only eight years-old, which, to my mind anyway, is too young to be a good candidate for gaming, but I must confess that I'm still a bit surprised that he's never tried to find a way to play with my friends and I.

It's not as if the concept of roleplaying is alien to him; he's a little boy, after all, and many of the games he plays with his sister or his friends involves his taking on a different persona. Likewise, when he was much younger, he played and thoroughly enjoyed the Pokemon Jr. Adventure Game that Wizards of the Coast produced in the early part of the decade. He enjoyed it so much that he sometimes still asks to play it, which says a lot. That WotC didn't produce more games of this sort (I realize they couldn't follow-up with more Pokemon games after they lost the license) is, to my mind, a far greater crime against the hobby than anything they've done to D&D. And, finally, my son plays a number of computer games with roleplaying elements and, while they're far the Real Thing®, they share enough basic elements that I do wonder why he's not been expressed any interest in Dwimmermount.

In the end, it's not something that bugs me. I increasingly tend to view tabletop roleplaying as an adult hobby that some children and teenagers might enjoy. I'm not evangelical about my preferred way of spending time with my friends and I've never felt it important that my children share my hobbies. If they demonstrate a willingness to give gaming a try, as my daughter did, I'm more than happy to accommodate them. However, we already do lots of other fun stuff together, so I don't feel any necessity in initiating them into tabletop roleplaying. My daughter, I discovered, finds D&D, even in the mild and non-threatening way I run my campaign, too frightening for her tastes, but she's said she'd gladly join a superhero game if I were to start one.

My son might well just be disinterested in the kind of fantasy my D&D campaign draws upon and that's understandable, since he's too young to have read any of the books and short stories I look to for inspiration. After all, my current tastes in fantasy didn't develop until I was in my teens (or older), so he might well develop a stronger interest as he gets older. Or not -- and I'm fine with that. As I say, I don't expect my children to share my interests and hobbies any more than I did those of my own parents. There'll inevitably be some overlap, of course, but, ultimately, I view roleplaying as my hobby in this household. If others also come to share it, well and good. I simply don't expect it.

19 comments:

  1. There are role playing games out there intended for kids which you might try with them. Dread House is a structured board/rpg using Jenga to tell the story of exploring a Haunted House, for example.

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  2. My 2 and a half year old twin daughters have recently taken to pretending to be my friends playing "games with daddy" while they sit at one of their play tables. They'll say, "I'm ______ playin' men with Daddy. It's fun!" and make faces imitating my friends.

    They are roleplaying my friends roleplaying. It amuses me to no end.

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  3. This might interest you too:

    http://gamepoems.gizmet.com/about/

    I thought much of the material was very good and may yield some insight.

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  4. Why is it a crime specific to WotC? Being the big dog in gaming should not mean they should be the scapegoat for everything.

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  5. I consider it a crime by WotC because they had a viable model for a RPG geared toward 6-8 year-olds and they never followed up on it -- unlike most other RPG companies who don't even aim at that demographic. They're probably one of the few companies out there who, if they did produce a RPG for younger players, could get it widely distributed. WotC had the vision and resources to make this happen and they just gave up.

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  6. I'm with James on this one. The Pokemon Adventure game is quite good and they could have come up with a successor using other IP. When I was young, there were several "intro" games to role playing -- though not as young as the 6 - 8 offering that Pokemon was designed for.

    I think WotC, and Hasbro, have done many things right, but this isn't one of those cases.

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  7. I still say the fact no one has pursued (or succeeded in getting, maybe) a license for a kid's RPG of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a real tragedy. The setting of the animated series (let's pretend the movie didn't happen) is absolutely perfect for it.

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  8. I think what is keeping you son from playing RPGs are peers to play them with. I started RPGing at around his age with my friends not my fathers. Where are the boys contemporaries?

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  9. "I increasingly tend to view tabletop roleplaying as an adult hobby that some children and teenagers might enjoy."

    I wish I could get this across to my wife.

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  10. Sword and Sorcert books he might enjoy at his age:

    Beast Quest Series (might be a bit young for him)
    Best Quest: Chronicles of Avantia (aimed for 8+)

    Rangers Apprentice (aimed at around 12 and youngerish)- reading this to Kurtzhau (7) at the moment. Some of the style would make it hard for a pre-12 to read, but fine for listening to.

    The Hobbit - no idea what its reading age is. Kurtzhau was fine with it when I read it to him.

    I also read him Tower of the Elephant, expurgating once or twice as I went....

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  11. Where are the boys contemporaries?

    My son sees his friends at school and for get togethers at other times, but none of them, so far as I know, have ever expressed any interest in tabletop gaming. Why would they? It's not as if the hobby is mainstream anymore. I can't recall the last time I met someone who started gaming after TSR's woes of the late 90s.

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  12. I actually started at the age of 8. That may not be a good example as you will end up with a kid who goes all new school, indie gaming by the time he's 14 ;P

    Have you thought about...deep breaths now...a different game? Does he watch 'Batman The Brave and The Bold'? Maybe Supers is his thing. How about a simpler game like Faery's Tale Deluxe or the delightfully kid and parent friendly Happy Birthday Robot?

    I can't wait for my 4 year old Wolverine and Spiderman crazed nephew to be old enough for Mutants and Masterminds.

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  13. I started gaming when I was 7 years old. It might be time to buy him his first rulebook. ;)

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  14. Some people might be interested in this discussion about what an RPG based on current fantasy would look like:

    http://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?t=18886

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  15. My boys are 8 and 6 and love building a party of Lego heroes and pitting them against some bad guys (whatever minis I grab from the bin). We play LL as if it were Heroquest, but they enjoy rolling the dice and clobbering the bad guys.

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  16. The D&D Encounters group I run every Wednesday includes four players who were born in the mid-90s.

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  17. Toon would be great for the kids. One of the most overlooked RPGs for young and old gamers. Steve Jackson really mad an awesome game but a lot of people dismissed it as a novelty.

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  18. I worked on the Pokemon Jr. RPG at Wizards. At the time, Ryan Dancey, having looked at the sales numbers, pronounced it the best-selling RPG of all time. It might still be.

    My one remaining copy of the game and a mockup of the never-produced follow-up set is in my line of sight now. There was an entire strategy of children's introductory RPGs we had, designed to lead kids to D&D.

    The inside baseball of the game (and the strategy's)demise is sad and sorry and has a lot to do with frustrating corporate politics post-Hasbro buyout.

    The game itself would be trivial to reproduce. The solid gold IP and magnificent distribution of Wal-Mart and Toys R Us would be the hard part to recreating it.

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  19. Teaching at a junior high I find that most years a couple of the Grade 7s (11-12 year-olds) come in having had some kind of RPG experience. The most common seems to be some kind of D&D summer camp programme; currently that means they show up with a bit of D&D4E experience.

    Others have heard of RPGs via computer games, or from the stores where they buy their M:TG cards.

    The biggest non-computer gaming experience most of the kids seem to have had is via Games Workshop - and the younger kids mostly stick to 40K.

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