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Opportunity Actions: RPGKids Review

Today, I’m reviewing RPGKids by Enrique Bertran, aka the NewbieDM (see the title if you didn’t already know that). It is a role-playing game geared at ages 4-7.

Initial Impressions

As of this point, I have not yet read it. I want to put out my expectations before diving in. I have a three and a half year old son. He’s a little younger than the suggested age (there’s a 3.5/4e edition war joke in there somewhere), so there may be some tweaking that I need to do in order to make it work for him. He does, however, love dragons, ghosts, skeletons, and other monsters (Daddy is very proud).

I’m excited to see where this goes. I hope my son will find this form of imaginative play enthralling. I also hope that playing imaginatively with a three and a half year old makes me a better role player. The real ultimate hope is that this product has the durability to play with my son, and my younger son, for some years to come, before we move on to more complex games.

First Read

Now that I’ve read it, I’m very much encouraged. Mechanics are incredibly simple, which is ideal for young kids to wrap their minds around. Concepts of character type and role are not only stripped down to bare elements, but align perfectly with my son’s ideas on the subject; he actually refers to melee types as Fight-Guys, and ranged characters as Shooting-Guys. I’ll borrow these, and add on Magic-Guys to help him out.

The included adventure is very cute, and undeniably playable. It’s very short, perfect for the limited attention spans of its target audience. It very clearly introduces concepts that are standard in fantasy fiction, a definite advantage. I’m not worried that he’ll latch on to the story aspects, and the scenarios help.

One concern I have before playing is the die rolling. My son will love rolling the dice, but he doesn’t yet recognize numbers and letters, so he might not know what they mean. I may try to add some sort of countable pieces to help him recognize what’s going on. This may be a great opportunity to teach him numbers and some basic math.

Another concern is the seeming arbitrariness of success and failure. All one has to do is beat a die roll with the same style of die. It seems that monsters will hit in combat just as frequently as heroes. For a younger player, I, as GM, might turn around and use a D10 instead of a D12, to give a slight edge to the player.

The big test comes when we actually play it out.

Play Session

Ok, we played it. I didn’t switch anything around. I figured I didn’t need to mess with the odds to make it work.

After playing around with my minis, and making towers out of dice, I told my son to pick one he liked. He picked out a prince-like figure with a cape and a sword… and a Rockfire Dreadnought. After some negotiation, we traded the Dreadnought for two Dwarves.

My boy is a bit rambunctious and incredibly silly, evidenced by the fact that, when shown a villager that was turned into a frog, he pretended to eat it. I did a little switcheroo there, and told him that it’s a good thing there was a pretend frog handy, since the villagers knew how tasty frogs could be. Next, we went to a forest with ghosts in it, and he told me we had to whisper so the ghosts didn’t find us. After a couple of encounters, he felt the need to tell mommy all about what we were doing, and take a Caillou break.

After the break, I did a bit of hand-waving, and told him the evil wizard was a ghost. Since he wanted to see skeletons, I replaced the Orcs with skeletons, and we were rolling. The mechanics kind of broke down for him, and I did all the dice rolling myself, while he ran around telling me what was happening. After the party beat the evil ghost wizard, he told me the villagers had a big party at the ghost house.

After that, his baby brother woke up from his nap, and I had to put everything away. He wanted to keep playing, and had a temper tantrum. Do you think he liked it?

Summary

This game was a little over my son’s head mechanically. He’s only 3 1/2, so that’s not a shock. He had a lot of fun, though, and I feel like I actually learned something about being a better DM. As he gets older, we’ll play this more, and I think he’ll understand more and more of what’s going on. This also encourages me to get him into story-based games like Happy Birthday, Robot.

Overall, I like where this game goes, and fully recommend it. If you have a young child that loves fantastical storytelling, this is one of your best options.

Please comment, and watch those threatened squares.

About

The Opportunist (a.k.a Seamus) has been playing D&D and/or some other form of RPG for the last 24 years. For the past two years he has been at the head of the table, behind a screen, in the role of the DM. He began at Cub Scout Camp, played through high school, and still enjoys gaming today. Seamus is a graphic designer by day, a devoted husband and father of two all the time, and an all around good guy. That is, until you get him behind the DMing screen, then he can be a nightmare (in a good way, no, really!).

3 Responses to “Opportunity Actions: RPGKids Review”

  • Maybe you could replace the dice rolling mechanic by getting some blank dice (or wooden cubes from a craft store if you can’t get blank dice). Mark 3 of the faces with a star or some other symbol. He rolls some number of dice. Count up the number of symbols showing, then you roll the same number of dice and count your symbols. If you feel he has some advantage, he gets to roll one more die. So he gets to practice counting which might be easier than keeping track of arabic numbers, and he gets to do the die rolling if he wants.

Gratuitous Saxon Violence on October 4th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • Hi, probably doing for this game for my twin 5 years olds. I do not have any mini characters to help with visualizations.

    Will these be helpful? If so do you have a good set you like that will give me a decent cast of characters in one “kit” to use with them?

    Same thing for dice, have a sack of assorted dice you like?

  • The game itself has printable counters you can use as minis. They have a really cartoony style, so the appeal to kids is clearly there. Personally, I have used regular old D&D minis, and re-skinned things as necessary so there isn’t too much dissonance between what they see and the story I tell.