I recently interviewed Ben Milton, the designer of Maze Rats. We talked about running games for kids and Ben explained that is how he came to design Maze Rats. He wanted something that could just be printed out and given to anybody, allowing them to play and run their own game. He made the printable booklet for that exact purpose.
The 14 page booklet has the following breakdown:
- 1 title spread.
- 1 spread for the entire rules of the game.
- 1 spread for character creation.
- 8 SPREADS OF TABLES FOR THE GM
- 2 spreads of “running the game” examples and GM advice
- 1 spread for character sheets
In the past, I just printed out the two pages of rules and character creation for the players to use. I wanted everything to be approachable for playing the game for the first time. With an open table of 13 players, we had a few newbies. But this most recent time playing, I just had my brother and two cousins, so everyone got a booklet for themselves, allowing them to take on the mantle of GM when they saw fit to do so. They had everything I had, and I made that clear.
I made a one-page dungeon. It was my first time putting such constraints on myself and it was worth it. The whole dungeon played in about one hour, but it was punchy. With such a tight environment, I used 90% of the content I had written down. While playing, I made it clear what the consequences were for both success and failure, tying back to making difficulty both transparent and explicit. Modelling my thinking aloud, I was subtly encouraging my younger cousins to give GMing a go. “It’s not so hard! I’m showing you how to play as we play!”
After they beat the dungeon, I did something Ben suggested but I had never, ever thought to do: I gave my players the dungeon. They got to see my notes and what was on the map. They were so excited by how fun and easy the process was that the two youngest players IMMEDIATELY grabbed their booklets and made their own adventures. They understood that part of the game was running it for themselves and sharing their dungeons.
So I got to play in a game run by a fifth grader! It beats not playing at all! She incorporated interesting problems to solve, monsters to beat, people to talk to, and treasures to find. It had an escape-room feel with a classic medieval tavern theme. 🙂 Then she gave us the map when we finished the challenge, thus completing the cycle of teacher to student, student to teacher.
It was a blast, even in quarantine.
So, if you haven’t already, pick up Maze Rats. It’s my game of choice and it will be for quite some time.
I’m planning out a Into the Wyrd and Wild campaign for Maze Rats as we speak, stay tuned. 🙂