I’ve run two sessions of Bloodstone in Burning Wheel Gold. In the group of five players, there are three adults and two kids (my 14 year old son and my 11 year old daughter). I had some trepidations about running such a rules crunchy system for such young gamers.
My son has played quite a bit of D&D and has been gaming for a long time. My daughter has been more tangentially involved, but has expressed continued interest over the years.
Knowing the challenges, I adopted a plan to help them and here are some points of advice for gaming with your kids.
Assign a Mentor
This is by far the most important step. Each of the kids have a mentor assigned to them. Each mentor’s character is more directly connected to the mentee’s character through beliefs and backstory. The mentor also helps with the procedures of game play.
Help Them Out with Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits
My son’s character is a dwarf high captain with very proud beliefs. When he first started talking he was very non-committal and would ask for other character’s input regarding military orders.
The table spoke up and let my son know that he was a take charge kind of character. He started barking orders with a bit more authority.
What I found incredibly helpful is to start out the session by having each player read their beliefs out loud then spend a bit of time quietly “getting into character.”
Recording Tests (i.e. keeping track of things)
Remembering to record tests is probably the most tricky. The mentor reminds the player to record tests for advancement; During play we record the non-Artha dice used vs. the obstacle. Once the session is over, we go through the log and record the appropriate test.
There is a bit of disconnect between tests and advancement. I believe if we were to transition to “in the moment” recording of tests, then the players would push even harder as there is an immediate feedback.
Names on Index Cards
I picked this up as a recommendation for con gaming. Every character, henchman, and hireling has their name on an index card and display that card prominently at the table. No excuse to forget another character’s name.
I’ve played in a campaign where no one knew the name of my shortly lived orc sorcerer.
Avoid Scripted Conflict…for Now
Thus far, I have avoided the scripted “Range and Cover” and “Fight” as they can be intimidating and unforgiving. I have, however, had a few duel of wits, and in both cases it went rather smoothly.
At some point, I feel as though I can break into Fight with my son’s character, a dwarf-mail wearing, 11 Mortal Wounds, combat veteran. His risk of injury is rather small, especially if I have a single fool-hardy soldier challenge him.
For now, however, I will take advice from D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World and at NPCs through crosshairs; I’ll make sure the characters witness the danger of a missile weapon.
The kids do a remarkable job getting into character. I hear the echoes of my nostalgic gaming memories as they role-play their characters. The engagement and energy that they bring elevates the game, and I want to create an even more engaging story with them. This is a hobby that I would love to see them pick up as their own. It is a hobby that has kept me in touch with friends over the course of more than twenty years.