Tuesday 20 November 2018

Children & Gaming & some shout-outs

So this chap Douglas Carter has been using The Dolorous Stroke to run wargames using 90mm figures. He's got a blog over at ludus giganticus and it's pretty cool reading. Definately check it out, he's doing something cool and different here.
It's interesting that another play report (JC over at hobgoblinry.blogspot.com, also very cool, touching on oldschool rpgs and skirmish gaming) also had the author playing with their kids.
You see a lot (both tabletop and otherwise) of games ~for kids~ are written to be super simple and have their content toned down. You see these primary-coloured designs, mechanics that are set up to involve minimal complicated stuff and little room for upset, and so on. Honestly, I remember being in school and hating a lot of the dumbed-down stuff aimed at me. 
TDS, meanwhile, involves some fairly complex procedures in play, what with tracking cards, stats, etc. No maths that a kid can't handle - at most you're adding and subtracting two-figure numbers, or dividing by two - but it's a reasonable amount of information to track. (Then again, I'm a firm believer in letting the rulesy people handle the mechanics if its confusing, regardless of the age or experience of the player -  you say what you want to do, the GM rolls the dice). 
More interesting is that the violence in TDS is, really, quite graphic. People get run through, bleed to death, have their guts spilled, get eyes gouged out. It's nasty. JC literally says "One approving note from the kids: "This game is really gruesome!"." This is, to be honest, fine as far as I'm concerned. You know if your kids (or kids you're in a position to run games for) can handle different content. I knew I could at that age - my parents wouldn't let me watch anything pg rated on TV for the longest time, and then were completely OK with the violence and blood in stuff like Darren Shan or the Dark Materials trilogy. Hell, even classics of children's literature (The Hobbit, Narnia, etc etc) have some scary violence. Don't mollycoddle kids, they can handle stuff a lot of the time.

There's a larp I do that I've mentioned a few times, Empire. There's no age limit, and you have parents bringing the whole family along to dress as pseudo-medieval families and roleplay in a field for a weekend. It's pretty great. My IC group has a few kids in it (ranging from age around 8 to late teens) and I'm consistently impressed by some of the stuff they do. Not 'considering they're kids', these people are some of the most interesting roleplayers I deal with regularly. 

And sure, their characters are still basically children. They're kid-sized, they have kid-priorities a lot of the time. But at the same time, they're fucking clever. I've seen them tackling plots that the adults are stumped by. I've seen them make a total killing trading goods and services*. Hell, I've seen some of the older kids (13 & up, for health and safety reasons) take to the battlefield and be pretty darn effective with a spear or a bow. It's not just that they can keep up with adult players. The game's better for their being there.
*child labour laws don't apply when you're all pretending to be wizards and trading fake potions and mana.

I'm sure there's some deeper thought about how we're all just playing pretend, but fuck that noise I don't wanna go theorizing about child psychology or something.

Edit: I'm sure there's something interesting to be said about how two of my more successful projects (Ynn and the Library) are directly inspired by the stuff I read as a kid and aim to re-capture that feel, and are also home to some fairly fucked up stuff. There's no disconnect; kids' entertainment - at least the stuff that stays with you - has some fucked up stuff in it.

In conclusion, I'd like to (mis)quote Sideshow Bob at the conclusion of Crusty Gets Busted:

Treat kids like equals, they're people, too! They're smarter than you think! They were smart enough to [catch/impress] me!"

(also seriously, those blogs are neat).


  1. "My IC group has a few kids in it (ranging from age around 8 to late teens) and I'm consistently impressed by some of the stuff they do. Not 'considering they're kids', these people are some of the most interesting roleplayers I deal with regularly. "

    I think to some extent this is because kids don't really have the same conception adults do about what is or isn't possible. Things that we would dismiss, or not even think of in the first place, they just go "awesome!" and do it.

    Also, make-believe and other forms of pretend play are a much greater portion of most kids' lives than adults', and they take them much more seriously than we tend to do. Which is basically role playing without a formalized rules set.

    Kids are pretty awesome.

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  3. Post-script:
    Ludus Giganticus has vanished off the face of the web and I have no idea why. It's a shame.
    Hope everything's OK with the guy.

  4. Hey! I'm back! Sorry about the disappearance. Everything is indeed okay.

    I'm pleased to announce that I have resurrected the blog using the Animate the Corpse spell, and you may find the unholy thing here:


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    2. stupid typo
      I'm glad to see you back!


    3. Hey Emily, my kids and I were playing this again at the weekend and we stumbled upon a question:

      Regarding Leaders & Sidekicks: if you have two people on a team, one a Leader, the other a Sidekick, does the Sidekick get to act twice on his turn, once because the Leader gives him a direction at the end of his own action, and secondly because Sidekick gets to act after a friendly model (in this case his leader) has just acted? Also, does the Sidekick character then get an additional activation in the round (this being his normal action for that turn), or has he already had his activation(s) due to the effects of Leader/Sidekick, but just earlier than he otherwise would have?

      Also, what if the same Leader from the above example also has Total Authority: does she get to command one ally (using Total Authority), then direct another ally (or even the same one) as a Leader, because her "command" counts as an action? If the commanded model is a Sidekick, does he get three activations in a row, once because he was commanded (via Total Authority), secondly because he was directed (via Leader), and thirdly because he's a Sidekick?

    4. You get one action a turn. Leader and sidekick both let you take an action out of the normal sequence, but having both doesn't get you extra actions. If you try taking an out-of-sequence action for a model that's already acted, it does nothing because it's used up its action.

      Total Authority plays with this a little: you spend the Authority's action to have somebody else do something. So you can use total authority to get somebody to do something as the authority's action, and then leader/sidekick to have them take their own action immediately out of the normal sequence. They 'do something' twice in a row, but only one of those times counts as THEIR action; the other time its an action on the Authority's behalf.

      Think of it this way: every turn, you get as many actions as models in your team. This is pretty immutable.

    5. Thanks so much for the clarification, Emily! Super-helpful!

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