Every week, our friends come over to our house, character sheets and dice in tow, and we all relax with some well-deserved Dungeons & Dragons. And ever since my son, Liam, was born four years ago, I’ve waited patiently for the day when he could join in. We always put him to bed just before we get started, and ever since he’s been old enough to say so, he’s told me that he can’t wait either.
Which is why I was ecstatic when Enrique Bertran, the NewbieDM, sent me a free copy of his rpgKids system. I’ve been looking for a combat-oriented role-playing game that my son and I could share, and this looked perfect.
rpgKids is a simple game, and that’s what makes it work so well. I spent about 10 minutes flipping through the 24 page rulebook and I was ready to teach my kid how to play. The book includes 5 pages of basic combat rules, one extra page on additional rules that cover magic items and non-combat skills, a page each of character cards, tokens, and a dungeon grid, and finally, the 10 page “Lair of the Frog Wizard” sample adventure. Considering that the ebook is $2.99, it’s a really good deal.
The combat system is based around opposed rolls, which makes it very easy for kids to understand what determines a hit or a miss. There are four types of heroes: Sword Fighters, Healers, Archers and Wizards. Sword Fighters and Healers are melee based, while the Archer and Wizard can attack from afar. Monsters can be melee or ranged.
My son immediately got into it. His previous experience “playing Dungeons & Dragons” has been interactive stories at bedtime, so he’s built up a rather rich backstory for his character, Liam the Knight. So he chose Sword Fighter and picked out a miniature. He wanted his dwarf buddy, named after his Papa, to come along, so his party had two Sword Fighters. Then there was a Wizard and an Archer, “Mom” and “Memommy” respectively.
I was surprised at how intuitive the game turned out for him. He’s only four, but his grasp on basic arithmetic really shone during the game. He was excited at every die roll and really got into the game. There are very occasional modifiers for when the heroes or monsters are ganging up on one another, and this provided a very fun way for him to do simple addition and subtraction. He was even planning out very rudimentary tactics, like blocking off doorways and flanking.
Aside from the combat, Liam really loved the role-playing. He rescued a girl from the village and untied her. When she promised him a reward if he rescued her brother, he told her that he would do it without a reward. He said, “We’re the good guys! We stop bad guys from being bad.” Which is not to say that he turned down the magic sword that she gave him at the end of the encounter.
Could most boardgame or RPG geeks come up with a similar ruleset on their own? Probably. But Bertran has put a lot of thought into the mechanics, the tokens and the sample adventure. rpgKids provides an experience that young children will absolutely love, and the time you will spend teaching them about gameplay, math and the power of storytelling is worth far more than the $2.99 price tag. Trust me.