This is part of the “Playing with Youngers” series, but requires no additional context to read and enjoy. Find the rest of the series here.
It was right after lunch at the childcare facility I work at. Most of the children were settling down for a food-induced “quiet time” in which they made bracelets, took naps, or just talked quietly.
Nate was not one of these children. The other counselor and I had struggled to keep him contained at a time when the other six-year old campers (and myself) needed a break. On that day, he was chatting away next to me before I asked him an important question:
“Have you ever played an adventure game?”
“You mean like Halo?”
“Mmm, more like Minecraft.”
“Oh Minecraft! *Insert story about cool gear, dying underground or fighting a monster.* Like that?”
“Yep! Except we use our imagination, not a computer. I’ll start and say what’s happening, then you say what your character does. If it’s dangerous, we’ll roll these two dice. If you roll higher, your character wins. If I roll higher, something bad happens. Sound good?”
*Struggling to process the infinite possibilities, but still clearly excited* “OKAY!”
I ran “Belly of the Fishy Beast” from memory. Well I started to, but then two other boys came over and took an interest in this talk of swords, matches, and giant dead fish. I gave each kid a Protection and two items, trying to make it as “fair” as possible to discourage whining, haha.
In this game, I was testing my new Adventure Hour rules. Well I started to, but then realized that any modifier to the dice wasn’t necessary. Ever. So “stats”/“Ability Scores”/whatever was clearly not needed. Everything basically became a coin toss, 50/50 success and failure. We just rolled 2d6 against each other, re-rolling ties.
Thus, “modifying” the dice roll became more of an informed negotiation: “If you win, the baddies will run away.” “If you win, the princess will give you what you want and an extra 20 coins for being so polite.” “If you lose, your rope will snap.” “If you lose, the bad guy will knock you out.”
I didn’t need to spell out the effects of success and failure all the time as the kids picked up on it pretty quick, but being ready to quickly say the possible outcomes before the player would roll would give them some last-second information. It happened more than once that a kid would be eager to roll the dice, but would stop when told “But if you lose, they’ll tie you up and take you prisoner” and consider other options.
What I’m saying is that Chris McDowall’s ICI Doctrine is king.
ICI stands for Information, Choice, Impact. It’s the beating heart of the RPG. Players need information to make a choice and the impact for it to feel meaningful. The choice is the center, the other elements nourish it. Increase the information that goes into a choice and the impact that follows and your game WILL BE BETTER.
I’m forever grateful that someone put it in such concise terms. Go read the article if you haven’t. You’ll walk away wiser.
So my rules need trimming, which is fine by me. I was just glad to hold the attention of three rowdy boys for an hour in the sleepy afternoon…