Role-Playing Games for Kids

Introduction

Some suggestions or role-playing games (RPGs) suitable for children. Many of them are settings where the players take the roles of animals, either “realistic” or antropomorphized. Other popular topics are cartoons, fairy tales, and adventure.

Price: Most of the titles listed here are available in electronic version (usually PDF format), and most are also available in print. Many are free and they are almost all under $20 (with the exception of the ones that are out of print and therefore can fetch more, and a handful of recent books which go for around $30 in print; but the PDF versions are usually available at low cost.) Prices are in US$.

Complexity: In describing the complexity of these games, I (subjectively) rank them thus: very simple, simple, moderately simple, moderately crunchy, crunchy, very crunchy. In practical terms, you are unlikely to see anything here more difficult than “moderately crunchy”, because I think that simpler is better when trying to introduce young people to the hobby.

Age and Guidance: My default assumption is that an older person, perhaps with some experience with role-playing games, will participate and guide the young players, at least for the first few games. Most of the time, this person will probably act as the story guide or game master (GM). I’m also assuming that we’re talking about children here, maybe six to twelve years old – old enough to count, compare numbers, and read. Older players can usually start with more complex games and have even more choices open to them, as well as having more age peer gamers to play with.

RPGs Intended for Kids

These are role-playing games that were specifically created with a younger audience in mind. They are excellent for introducing young players to the hobby. The GM should have everything needed within the books.

Hero KidsHero Kids (Hero Forge Games): A fantasy RPG for kids aged from 4 to 10 which offers a fast and fun introduction to RPGs, directed at younger kids who are just getting interested in role-playing games with a short play time of 30 to 60 minutes. Nice effort at addressing gender balance.  Simple system using six-sided dice. PDF: $5.99, with several PDF supplements ranging from free to $5.99; there’s also a bundle of the main rules and four adventure supplements for $11.99.

Faery's TaleFaery’s Tale (Firefly Games): An interactive storytelling game, suitable for ages 6 & up, based on faery folklore. You play a pixie, brownie, sprite, or pooka, etc., in the enchanted forest of Brightwood in the land of fairy tales. You foil dark faery plots, rescue youngsters from giants, overthrow sorcerous tyrants, awaken princesses from their enchanted slumber, watch over faery godchildren, and have many other amazing adventures, happily ever after. Highly recommended! Simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. Tokens can be useful too. Print: $14.95; PDF: $9.95.

Meddling KidsMeddling Kids (Pandahead Productions): A game where you get to play teenage characters running around with an odd character — The Wild Card — solving mysteries and generally meddling into the lives of other people. Think of cartoons such as Scooby Doo. You get to catch the bad guy. There is no real fighting; you are just trying to figure out the mystery and catch the person behind it. The police and other officials take care of things from there. Two supplements were originally planned, but never published. Highly recommended! Simple system using six-sided dice. Print: $9.95.

Happy Birthday, Robot!Happy Birthday, Robot! (Evil Hat Productions): A storytelling game for families and classrooms in which players take turns writing the story of Robot’s birthday.  What will Robot’s birthday be like? Will Robot meet new friends? Go to outer space? You decide, one roll at a time!  Includes detailed step-by-step, illustrated play instructions.  Recommended.  Simple system using dice, coins, a notebook, and a pencil or pen. Print + PDF: $24.95. PDF only:: $9.99.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying TempleDo: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple (Evil Hat Productions): A slapstick fantasy storytelling game in which players write their pilgrims’ adventures as they solve problems and get in trouble. Adventures unfold in the style of Avatar: The Last Airbender as your pilgrims answers requests for assistance.  Includes detailed step-by-step, illustrated play instructions.  One supplement to date, the Book of LettersRecommended.  Simple system using a notebook, pencils, a small pouch, and beads or stones. Print + PDF: $25. PDF only:: $10.

The Princes' KingdomThe Princes’ Kingdom (Anvilwerks): Play a group of brothers and sisters, all princes of a kingdom of islands, trying to right wrongs and find adventure. These lands are all across an ancient ocean, and are all ruled by a wise king. You play the king’s children, sent out to explore the kingdom and help out the citizens. The kingdom is very large, made up of hundreds of islands, and so the king sends out his children to survey it and find out what sort of problems people have across the lands, so that they may one day be wise rulers themselves. On the minus side: despite a disclaimer at the beginning that girls can be princes too, this book is very oriented toward boys. It talks of princes, boys, sons, and their benevolent bearded father with the shiny golden crown; “mother” is mentioned only once, as the maker of the princes’ cloaks. Examples of play involve only male players and characters. The book is intended for five- to twelve-year old kids (probably mostly five to ten); at that age, girls will not feel addressed by a mere disclaimer that they can play too. Still, if your players are boys or if you are up to making some changes in the way things are presented and the flavour text so that girls feel included too, it’s a nice game (if a bit too heavy-handed for my taste). Simple system using a narrative approach and four-, six- and eight-sided dice (based on the system from Dogs In The Vineyard). Print: $20; PDF: $10.

The Princess Game The Princess Game (Valent Games): Storytelling game about a magical little girl exploring a wondrous world of her own creation. Each player takes on a part of the girl’s personality (Love, Curiosity, Fear, Imagination, Responsibility, a magical Toy or a Companion), and works together to create a story about how the girl solved a problem, meet some strange characters and discovered wonderful places. Very simple system using pennies or tokens. PDF: $1.

ShadowsShadows (Harlekin-Maus Games): You play yourself and your malicious shadow; a game based on narration – and the urge children have to get themselves in trouble. Your shadow is an invisible person or monster who always wants you to get in trouble. The game always starts with the Players’ Characters asleep somewhere; they are all then startled by a sound. What happens after that is up to the Players, and helped along by the GM. Very simple system using six-sided dice and tokens. Online (HTML or PDF): Free.

Adventure Kids, the RPG (Tony “Larcen” Duran): You kids that are about to embark on what is hopefully an interesting or exciting story. Your kid is has five natural Talents: s/he is Strong, Smart, Fast, Tough, and Cute, and has some Luck too. Simple system using four-, six-, eight-, ten-, and twelve-sided dice. Online (HTML or PDF): Free.

The Big NightThe Big Night (May Contain Monkeys): A co-operative storytelling game with puppets to cut out and color. Together, the players will tell a story about a group of stuffed animals, snowmen, and other creatures, who help out the Fat Man to deliver presents to children on the Big Night. The Big Night is a very simple game. It can be played by anyone who loves stories, but it is designed especially for young children. This game uses no dice, and no numbers higher than 3. At least one player in the group must be able to read the book, but their younger brothers, sisters, and friends will be able to enjoy it also. Print: $10; PDF: $5.

Fuzzy HeroesFuzzy Heroes (Inner City Games Designs): Tactical combat for stuffed animals and toys! Welcome to the land of FrolicHaven, where stuffed animals and toys come alive. Five supplements to date, covering genres such as “sooper heroes”, pirates and space adventures, selling from $11 to $15. Print: $10.95.

The Secret Lives of Gingerbread MenThe Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men (Wicked Dead Brewing Company): Christmas time is a magical time… more magical than you might expect! During those twelve magical days, gingerbread men awaken, given life by the magic of the Oven and Mother Baker. They rush around your home, having adventures, getting in and out of trouble. The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men is a family-style roleplaying game designed for gamers of all ages. Uses the Advantage system, easy enough for a beginner to learn and deep enough to challenge experienced players. Simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. And candy decorations! Print+PDF: $15; PDF only: $7.

Dragon!Dragon! (Wicked Dead Brewing Company): Dragons are big! Dragons are powerful! Dragons rule the world! That’s all little mortals need to know. All they’re good for is stomping! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! See? (Oh, and we eat your socks!) Yes, you get to play a dragon. Uses the Advantage system, a simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. Print+PDF: $5; PDF only: $1.

BroomstixBroomstix: the Harry Potter RPG (Memento Mori Theatricks): Just what it says! Characters start as first-year Hogwarts students; they get to use textbooks, spells, magical gear, etc.. There’s a neat character sheet as well. For extra oomph, browse from the list of spells from Harry Potter books and add details to the game. Moderately simple system using twenty-sided dice. Online (HTML or PDF): Free.

Tooth & ClawTooth & Claw (Memento Mori Theatricks): Play, well, dinosaurs! You and your tribe try to survive inthe prehistoric world. Surprisingly educational; may require more reading at first than younger children are interested in, so it may be best to introduce the material gradually. Suitable for the kind of children who can’t get enough of dinosaur mayhem, but maybe not for those who are more impressionable or easily frightened. Moderately simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. PDF: $3.

Pokemon Jr. Adventure GamePokemon Jr. Adventure Game (WotC/Milton Bradley/Hasbro): In this game, you and your friends become Pokemon trainers and set out on a series of adventures. Journey from Pallet Town to Viridian City, looking for Pokemon to capture and battles to win! A bit more oriented toward cards than role-playing. Very simple system using cards and tokens. Print: $4.99, but likely drive you to spend a lot more on expansions and Pokemon cards…

ecoeco (Morrigan Press): In eco, our pets and the wildlife both in, and around our cities are not mindless beasts. Some are as intelligent as you or I and they live in a secret world beyond notice of humanity. Players take on the roles of various animals from domestic cats and dogs to squirrels, owls, raccoons and even bears. Characters in eco will be called upon by Gaia, the spirit of mother nature, to right wrongs and save their fellow animals from harm. Humanity can sometimes be a foe but can also be a friend in eco. Animal characters have a variety of special Talents that will aid them in their quests where they often must perform heroic deeds under the notice of humanity. Moderately simple system using twenty-sided dice. Print: $19.99. Requires the Omni System Core Rules ($19.99).

Lashings of Ginger BeerLashings of Ginger Beer (Beyond Belief Games): You play kids, that will take part in adventures in Idyllic England, an unreal place, a sort of fantasyland along the lines of those versions of England, which appear in such works as The Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons and The Secret Seven. Think of Enid Blyton’s books, Nancy Drew, or The Hardy Boys. Simple system using six-sided dice. PDF: $2.50.

The Nighttime Animals Save the WorldThe Nighttime Animals Save the World (Lumpley Games): The PCs are nighttime animals, specifically raccoons, rabbits, skunks and opossums. They save the world! Something bad’s going on; only the nighttime animal PCs realize just how serious it is, and if they don’t solve it, it’ll be bad for everybody. Very simple system using a few pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Online (HTML): Free.

Redhurst Academy of MagicRedhurst Academy of Magic (Human Head Studios/Green Ronin Publishing): A quasi-Harry Potter setting for use with d20/D&D. Moderately complex system using four-, six-, eight-, ten-, twelve, and especially twenty-sided dice. Print: $29.99; the Player’s Guide is available for free as a 155-page PDF download that presents the full school information, maps, and background but does not include the GM’s secrets and the rules. You need either the full sourcebook or the basis D&D basic book to have the rules for this game. Alternately, this makes a great free sourcebook for some other system of your choice, such as Broomstix, Risus, FATE, or The Pool (all listed on this page and available for free.)

Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot RPGMonkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot RPG (Atomic Sock Monkey): Strange heroes duke it out for sweet, sweet uranium, to defeat their enemies in brutal challenges, and to save the Earth from Alien Invaders. Only a Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, or Robot has the Mojo to get the job done! Simple system (Prose Descriptive Qualities, or PDQ System) using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. Print+PDF: $14.55; PDF only: $6.

SuperpetsSuperpets (Harlekin-Maus Games): Play superpowered animals like Wonderdog, Gleek and Krypto- – regular animals with amazing super powers. Very simple system using six-sided dice and a bag of “doggie treats”, called Stinky Treats during play. You will be eating these, so you may substitute something else that tastes a little off, like garlic-stuffed olives or plain rye crackers. Online (HTML): Free.

Clown CopsClown Cops (Memento Mori Theatricks): Play a former clown who is now employed as a special kind of police officer. Your beat is the quaint neighborhood of Palookaville (a.k.a. Clown Town), an area almost entirely populated by Clowns, Mimes and other circus performers. Very simple system using boxes of animal crackers, glasses of milk, rubber bands, six-sided dice, clown makeup and clothing, noisemakers, balloons and other fun stuff. Online (HTML): Free.

Amazing Monkey Adventures (Memento Mori Theatricks): Play a group of adventurous monkeys that escape from their cage at the City Zoo. The goal of the game is to have fun, monkey style! Cause mischief, explore a strange city and maybe help someone along the way…but be sure to get back in your cage before the zookeeper notices that you’re missing! Very simple system using a bag of unshelled peanuts and ten-sided dice. PDF: Free.

The Skool Rools (Phil Masters): A game inspired by the “Molesworth” books of Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, Shy and Searle’s “St Trinian’s” creation, the TV “Ripping Yarns” episode Tomkinson’s Schooldays, etc. Simple system using six-sided dice. Online (HTML): Free.

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RPGs that Can Be Played by All Ages

These role-playing games are not specifically intended for younger players, but use accessible game mechanics and the subject matter is usually considered fun by kids. The GM may, on occasion, need to adjust default setting elements or adventures to fit a younger audience.

Mouse Guard RPG (Archaia Studios Press): Join the Mouse Guard and defend the Mouse Territories against predators and dangers, in the setting of the comic book series. The game is intended for ages 10+ and all levels of game-playing experience by award-winning game designer Luke Crane and is based on a simplified version of his Burning Wheel rules system. Includes art and extensive background material on the Mouse Territories specially prepared by Mouse Guard creator David Petersen. Beautiful, lavish art; the system is nicely streamlined from the more complex original. Moderately crunchy system using six-sided dice. Print + PDF: $34.95.  See our full review here.

M&OCT coverMonsters and Other Childish Things (ArcDream Publishing): You play a kid — just an ordinary kid with a definitely not ordinary, not-so-imaginary friend. Your best friend is a monster, and only you and other kids that have monsters for friends can see this creature. Get yourselves into and out of trouble! A couple of supplements are available but not necessary, including one to play in Candlewick Manor. Moderately simple system using 10-sided dice. Print + PDF: $30; PDF only: $15 (this is for the revised, expanded edition.)

The Zantabulous Zorcerer of ZoThe Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo (Atomic Sock Monkey): Tailors face giants, enchanted queens dance with human peasants, talking creatures perform domestic duties, witches cast curses and fairies grant blessings. And all are seeking their Happily Ever After. The book contains very useful advice for GMs, including on how to run a game with children of various ages. The text takes the reader through every step of of campaign creation, from the initial little capsule description through setting design, actual play and final happily-ever-after. Highly recommended! Simple system (Prose Descriptive Qualities, or PDQ System) using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. PDF: $15; Print + PDF: $30.

CatCat (Wicked Dead Brewing Company): You play a cat. Cats protect people from things they can’t see; Boggins, specifically. Boggins, like the Man Under the Bed. Players fight to protect humans from the creatures that feed on children’s fears and rejoice in men’s shortcomings. Cats also venture to the Kingdom of Dreams where the surreal is common place, and anythings is possible. Recommended. Uses the Advantage system, a simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. Print+PDF: $15; PDF only: $8. See our full review here.

Questers of the Middle RealmsQuesters of the Middle Realms (Silver Branch Games): Dive into the wacky world of fantasy for a while without wading through hundreds of pages of rules. Design the world as you go, playing on the tropes of the genre in a light-hearted mode. Recommended. Uses the PDQ System, a simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. Print: $20.83; PDF: $8.95.

Arsenal of HeavenArsenal of Heaven (Silver Branch Games): Play teens entrusted with magical weapons plunged into a world of shape-twisted monsters, sorcerers pursuing forbidden power, crimelords, and secret government projects. Feels like a cross between Weapons of the Gods and Harry Potter. Uses the NUGGET System, a simple system using six-sided dice. Print: $16.95; PDF: $6.95.

Seven LeaguesSeven Leagues (Malcontent Games): A fairy-tale RPG including modern fantasy from magical realism to gothic urban magick. Simple system based on narration and using a d12 plus a Virtue (score of 1 to 7) plus circumstancial modifiers (+3 to -6) versus a standard target of 13. Print + PDF: $20; PDF only: $10.40. See our full review here.

SupercrewSupercrew (Tobias Radesäter/Kaleidoscop): Supercrew is a little Swedish superhero RPG written in cartoon form, now available in English. It is a short (28 pages), simple game intended and suited for short games. In this game the players get the chance to play themselves, but with super powers. The rules are simple and created to give the players the possibility to give their heroes any powers they want and use them in interesting ways. Recommended. Simple system using six-sided dice. Print: $11.18; PDF: $6.21.

Full Light, Full SteamFull Light, Full Steam (Kallisti Press): A steampunk space opera roleplaying game with a strong emphasis on character. The Solar Powers ply the ether of the Greatest Sea in steam-powered ships, protecting their colonies and trading posts on distant planets. None is greater than the British Empire — and none has more to lose. This game offers great support in developping characters and stories effortlessly around what is fun for the players (and GM). Recommended starting around age 9-10. Moderately simple system using six-sided dice. Print: $20 (softcover), $30 (hardcover); PDF: Contact Kallisti Press.

Cartoon Action HourCartoon Action Hour (Z-Man Games / Spectrum Games): A roleplaying game dedicated to the action cartoons of the 1980s. From Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, and Thundarr to MASK, Bravestarr, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, and a whole lot in between, Cartoon Action Hour allows you to recreate your favorite cartoons and play in their world. Simple system using twelve-sided dice. Print: $24.95; PDF: $12.50 (“Lite” rules and sample adventure available for free).

vs. Outlaws (Ronin Arts): Possibly the world’s smallest RPG ever commercially published. This tiny game is a standalone product that doubles as the GM’s screen, a six-page fold-out (essentially a CD insert) with a finely printed game. Play cowboys, desperadoes, gunslingers! Very simple system using a standard deck of playing cards; poker chips or other tokens may be useful. Print: $2.95 (or $10 for the combo pack of 5 copies). See our full review here.

ToonToon (Steve Jackson Games): The cartoon game in which everybody Falls Down, and no one ever dies. Players take the roles of animated characters in a setting reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Armed with rubber bands, pea shooters and lollypops, characters such as Willy the Weremouse and Stinky the Talking Fire Hydrant do battle with Irma the Ironing Board and Frankencheddar the Undead Cheese. Emphasizes slapstick violence and nonsense physics. Five supplements produced. Moderately simple system using six-sided dice. Out of print; PDF: $16.95.

InSpectresInSpectres (Memento Mori Theatricks): A game about the burgeoning supernatural investigation and elimination market. Start a company and try to stay afloat long enough to cash in those sweet, sweet stock options. Think of it as the Ghostbusters story-game. Although it’s intended for adults, there is one free supplement for kids, In-Speckers, which bears a strong resemblance to your typical episode of Scooby Doo: grade-schoolers across the country fight the Forces of Darkness in their homes, schools and neighborhood. In-Speckers offers slightly modified rules to fit the alternate setting. Very simple system using six-sided dice, some tokens, and a narrative approach. Print: $20; PDF: $10.

It's a Dog's LifeIt’s a Dog’s Life (Beyond Belief Games): You play an intelligent prairie dog adventuring on the plains of North America. Contains legends and traditions, ideas for adventures, useful help for the GM in running a game on the prairie and things for characters to do. The prairie dogs can fight if they have to, but they rely a great deal on the spiritual qualities of their feathers, which they can draw upon to increase their abilities. They also have “magical” Barks, that can often get them out of the jaws of death. Moderately simple system using six- and twenty-sided dice. PDF: $7.50.

Tales from the WoodsTales from the Woods (Beyond Belief Games): You play a creature from the British countryside: mouse, vole, squirrel, hedgehog and shrew are amongst the animals that you can choose to take your place in The Wood. Inspirations for the game include Duncton Wood, Watership Down, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Little Grey Men, and so on. Moderately simple system using six- and ten-sided dice. PDF: Free.

The Game of HatsThe Game of Hats (Blind Catharsis): The fun part about The Game of Hats is that the players bring hats to the table. Everyone starts with three hats and earn more through play. They place points in their Hats, add use a Hat’s powers by adopting its persona. Very simple system using, uh, hats. PDF: Free.

Furry PiratesFurry Pirates (Atlas Games): Swashbuckling adventure in the Age of Piracy, playing anthropomorphic animals in a quasi-historical setting. Sail the seas of high adventure with an untamed crew of rapscallions and ne’er-do-wells. Seek fame and fortune with the wind in your fur and your mates at your side. Fight your way through the acrid smoke of flame-belching cannon to claim the glittering treasures of the Indies. Wealth, adventure, freedom, and romance await in the deep blue waters! Moderately simple system using two ten-sided dice to produce percentages. Out of print; PDF: $15.

Castle FalkensteinCastle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games): Play in an alternate Victorian Age populated not only with well-known historical and fictional characters, but also with Faeries, Dwarves, and Dragons, and where sorcery is a powerful force. Take up sabre and spell to adventure in a distant world on the other side of the mysterious Faerie Veil: a world of swashbuckling fantasy, high romance, and magickal technology. Several supplements published, but no more in production; only the main rulebook is necessary. Simple system using playing cards. Print, pocket edition: $18; PDF, full-size: $15.

Usagi Yojimbo RPGUsagi Yojimbo RPG (Gold Rush Games): Play a character from the famous comic book Usagi Yojimbo: a shogun-era Japan inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, driven by honour, greed, or adventure. One supplement published (Monsters). Moderately simple system using six-sided dice; includes conversion rules for the equally simple Fudge system. Out of print, but sells for around $13 used on Amazon.

The DreamingChangeling: The Dreaming 2nd edition (White Wolf): Play changelings, the forgotten ones, neither fully fae nor wholly mortal. The last of their kind on Earth, they have built an invisible kingdom, hiding in plain sight with the power of Glamour. They exist within a real world of make-believe where “imaginary” things can kill, and “pretend” monsters are real. Many supplements published, but no more in production; only the main rulebook is necessary (buying more can turn into a catch-up game). Moderately crunchy system using ten-sided dice. Out of print; PDF: $15.

IronclawIronclaw, Jadeclaw, and the new Usagi Yojimbo RPG (Sanguine Productions): Play anthropomorphic animals in a medieval European (Ironclaw) or medieval Asian (Jadeclaw) setting, or in the universe of Usagi Yojimbo. Many supplements published for each games; active game lines (more supplements continue to be produced). Moderately crunchy system using four-, six-, eight-, ten- and twelve-sided dice. Print: Ironclaw – $28.95; Jadeclaw, Usagi Yojimbo – $29.95.

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RPGs that Can Be Tweaked for Kids

These games are not intended for children and may originally contain elements that would be uninteresting, inappropriate, or scary. However, the mechanics are simple and with a little work on the part of the Game Master, they can be used to run successful adventures with young players. The GM may need to borrow from other sources, create setting material, or create adventure plots.

PokethulhuPokethulu (Cumberland Games): You’re 10 years old. You’re our last hope. Armed with a Shining Dodecahedron and the elder incantations to make it work, you capture the monsters and train them to use their power… But not for evil. For sport. The author says very clearly that “This game isn’t for kids; it’s for grownups.” But in truth, it can be great fun for kids as long as they’re not too impressionable or easily frightened, and the GM plays it with a light, humourous attitude. Very simple system using twelve-sided dice. PDF: Free.

Over The EdgeOver The Edge (Atlas Games): Although the original setting is definitely for older gamers, the mechanics are very simple and quick; they’ve been used to run great games for kids using a light-hearted take on the Bureau 13 setting (from the Tri Tac Games product) or the universe of Thundarr the Barbarian (the 1980s cartoon.) Note that the first and second editions are virtually the same, except for reformatting and minor editing. Simple system using six-sided dice. Print: $29.95; PDF: $18.

EverwayEverway (WotC/Rubicon Games/Gaslight Press): Set in a dimension-spanning fantasy world, but can be used in any setting you want. Recommended. Very simple system using a narrative approach and images such as a tarot-like card deck, old game cards that have lost their value, etc. Would work wonderfully with card games such as Atlas Games’ Once Upon A Time, Z-Man Games’ Fairy Tale, Ramshead Publishing’s Universalis, or some of Jody Bergsma’s beautiful playing card decks. Alas, this wonderful game is out of print, but fortunately it can still be found on eBay for under $10.

WushuWushu (Daniel Bayn): A game that emulates very cinematic movies in the Hong Kong style; rewards creative, cinematic stunts by making them more likely to succeed, each & every time. Recommended. Very simple system using a narrative approach and six-sided dice. PDF: Free.

RisusRisus (Cumberland Games): A complete game designed to provide an “RPG Lite” for those nights when the brain is too tired for exacting detail. While it is essentially a Universal Comedy System, it works just as well for serious play (if you insist). Recommended. Very simple system using six-sided dice dice. PDF: Free.

FUDGEFudge (Grey Ghost Press): Moderately simple system using six-sided dice or custom Fudge dice. It started as a very simple system in a small inexpensive little book, and has grown to a big brick that sells for $34.95 as the Tenth Anniversary Edition. The PDF basic version is still free.

The Shadow of YesterdayThe Shadow of Yesterday (CRN Games): The Shadow of Yesterday is pulpy romantic sword-and-sorcery at the end of one world and the beginning of the next. This game melds the best of standard fantasy role-playing and a hard-charging narrative engine. The revised version of this game, out now, focuses even more on mechanics that make your story zing off the table and into your imagination. Set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where the creation of a moon has ravaged cultures and thrown the fate of the earth into question, TSOY is like a Weird Tales contribution written by Emily Bronte. Simple system using six-sided dice or custom Fudge dice. Print: $20; PDF: $10; there is also a free PDF version.

FATEFATE (Evil Hat Productions): A streamlined and simplified version of Fudge. Focuses on telling stories and balancing characters based on story significance, rather than points and cool powers. The system is intended for GMs who are looking for rules that get out of the way of the story, but still provide enough structure to get the job done. The Fate system is based on the Open Gaming License version of Fudge. Moderately crunchy system using six-dided or custom Fudge dice. PDF: Free.

Prince Valiant RPGPrince Valiant RPG (Chaosium): Play a character in the universe of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant comics, a medieval setting set in the shadow of King Arthur’s court. Moderately simple system using coins for resolution. Another out-of-print book, but it can be found used on Amazon or eBay for around $20.

Marvel Super Heroes RPGMarvel Super Heroes (TSR): Players assume the roles of superheroes from Marvel Comics, such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and many others. Simple system using percentile dice (i.e., two ten-sided dice). Out of print; PDF: Free. The unnofficial Website has all the expansions, scenarios, and characters available in PDF format for download. While supplies last!

The Pool (James V. West): Nice streamlined system that can be used for just about any type of story. There is no default setting so the GM has to do a good deal of work or thinking on his/her feet. Simple system using a narrative approach and a lot of six-sided dice. Online (HTML): Free.

Others. Many other games were mentioned when I sought comments: Star Wars (West End Games), the original Dungeons & Dragons box set (TSR), Ghostbusters (West End Games), Big Eyes Small Mouth (Guardians of Order), Exalted (White Wolf), etc. While those are all fun games, they’re a little more elaborate than I would really recommend as a first game “at large”; however, almost any RPG out there may turn out to be perfect for your kids. A lot depends on the experience (if any) of the GM; inexperienced Game Masters should probably start with one of the simpler games designed for kids or for all ages.

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Gaming with Children

Here are a few articles and discussions on introducing children to role-playing games.

  • Roleplaying with Children by Colin Chapman (Primary School Teacher), BA (Hons), PGCE. Colin is well known in the hobby and has played role-playing games with his schoolkids for a long time.
  • The Young Person’s Adventure League, a site devoted to the subject of playing tabletop role-playing games with young people.
  • Glorantha for the Yoots: My Young Son’s First Roleplaying Adventure by Ian Young, who introduces his very young children to role-playing with HeroQuest.
  • Preschool RPG by Keith Curtis, who discusses a simple game he created to introduce his young daughter to the hobby.
  • Monkey Pirates, by vbh70s who describes a home-made game he came up with for his young son.
  • Fudge for Young Kids by Chuk Goodin, who describes playing a simplified version of Fudge with his children.
  • kids-rpg mailing list and its companion Web site and LiveJournal, for the discussion of children in non-computer-related roleplaying games.
  • The Dragonkin Podcast, a podcast that talks about role-playing games for children, with articles for both kids and adults.
  • Youth for Creative Adventure StoryTelling, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of alternative education through the use of interactive role-playing games and related activities of literary expression, art, music and multi-media.
  • The Village Game by Robert Earley-Clark, a work in progress based on the freeform miniatures games his daughter and him play.
  • Little Wars by H.G. Wells on the Gutenberg Project; also, the audiobook version. The celebrated science-fiction author played miniatures games with his children long before such games were sold in packaged boxes. This essay and the next gives his account, with photos, of creating worlds of wholecloth and staging adventures and battles.
  • Floor Games by H.G. Wells on the Gutenberg Project; also, the audiobook version. The companion book to Little Wars.
  • Roleplaying with Kids: Jay Shaffstall’s thoughtful discussion of why and how to play RPGs with your children. (Displays incorrectly in Mozilla and older versions of Opera, but seems fine in Firefox, Explorer, and Opera 9).
  • Adventure Kids: A thread on the EN World forums where Larcen discusses a game he created for his children, 5- and 6-years old.
  • Roleplaying with Kids: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Gamers by Sandy Antunes, Mike Holmes, and Sam Chupp. This guide is aimed at parents, teachers, lapsed gamers, and anyone who deals with kids and wonders if “they’re ready” to RPG. Here’s advice on how to best get new gamers into the hobby. Includes Zak Arntson’s Shadows RPG, mentioned earlier in this page, and a copy of this page as it stood in December 2006.
  • Tabletop Fantasy RPGs: an article posted on the School Library Journal, presenting an introductory overview of role-playing games, and their interest in light of the the American Association of School Librarians Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. The article gives mini-reviews of six role-playing games in the fantasy genre and what ages they are suitable for.
  • Why role playing games are good for kids – An interview on the CNN GeekOut blog (October 18, 2011).

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Where to Buy Online

Many of the publishers linked for each game have direct links to purchase their games. In addition, here are a few links for those less familiar with online RPG purchasing.

  • The Forge Library: A web site for distribution of electronic creator-owned role-playing games. Accepts Paypal; requires login for payment.
  • Indie Press Revolution: Independent press games and accessories. Accepts credit cards and Paypal; requires login for payment.
  • Lulu.com: A self-publishing site that allows authors to sell their works in electronic and print format. Used by several indie press companies to publish their RPGs. You can order in US$, euros €, and pounds sterling £. Accepts credit cards and Paypal; requires login for payment.
  • OneBookShelf is the fusion of DriveThruRPG and RPG Now: Paper & pen role-playing games, software, music, and accessories. Accepts credit cards and Paypal; requires login for payment.
  • Warehouse 23 and its sister store e23: Warehouse 23 sells print products, while e23 sells electronic version (PDF). Accepts credit cards and Paypal; requires login for payment.
  • eBay: Online auctions and storefronts. A good place to find second-hand and out-of-print games. Payment methods vary by seller, but most accept Paypal or credit cards or both.
  • Amazon.com: Sells (among many things) new and used print games, particularly the more recent products. Accepts credit cards and Amazon accounts.

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6 Responses

  1. […] role-playing games with a wider audience and particularly with kids.  For more suggestions of RPGs suitable for kids, check out this list of over 40 titles. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)See you at […]

  2. Wow–great resource! Thanks so much for pulling all of this info together!

  3. This is an amazing list, nicely done. I will be checking out some of the things on the list I have not seen before.
    I was around when Larcen was working on AdventureKids, it really is a great game!

  4. I’m delighted if this introduces you (or your kids) to fun new games. Thank you for mentioning Adventure Kids, I added it to the list!

  5. This is such a wonderful resource page! Thank you!

  6. […] as genre goes, and then find a system that you want to use. There are a lot of webpages (such as this one) devoted to talking about what sorts of table top systems and settings are good for use with […]

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