Playing with Youngers: ‘GMs Running RPGs for kids’ survey results

“Generally D&D is the worst game. And I highly doubt I would ever play your heartbreaker with my students.” -an evil insect, no doubt.

26 responses. As I mentioned, thank you for taking the time.

This is all for the continued development of Dragonslayer Adventures.

The “target age” of this survey was never revealed for *reasons* but I tend to run this for kids ages 8-12.

I read through everything and scrunched down the results into small, pithy statements. Some responses were too good to shorten and are instead quoted. Enjoy.

What are the biggest challenges to preparing for an RPG session for kids?

-Hooking their attention; enthusiasm.

-Managing own expectations.

-Keeping it short and simple.

-Over-planning while ALSO under-planning.

-Writing challenging encounters that aren’t fighting.

What are the biggest challenges at the table to running RPGs for kids?

-KEEPING THEM FOCUSED. (About 50% said this).

-Too many rules, focusing on rules.

-Cooperation with other players/siblings.

What are your biggest concerns or worries about running an adventure (published or homebrewed scenario) for kids?

-“I hope they will have fun!”

-Twists and complications for the adventure.

-Violence will be *the* problem-solving method.

-The content/messaging won’t be appropriate.

-It won’t address differences in maturity/development.

-“I will prepare it and then when I’m ready to run it they’ll say “No thanks!””

If you could wave a magic wand and change RPGs and adventures to run as smooth as possible for kids, what would be changed?

-Fewer rules.

-Include positive messages.

-Straightforward, less deadly adventures.

-Conversely, less linear. “Jacquayed.”

-Better art. (I’ll TRY!)

-Fewer “fine details” (life story of an NPC).

-Strong themes.

-More puzzles!

-Evocative encounters.

-Fewer statblocks. (How about NONE statblocks?)

-Balance between fighting and non-violent resolution. (Reminds me to make a set of guidelines for social encounters…)

What tools or kinds of tools would be in the ideal RPG to running games for kids?

-Details that aid, not impede improvisation.


-Plug and play encounters.

-Maps and illustrations to show players.

-Ways to add pets and companions. Animals!

-Scalable mechanics (grow in complexity with age)

-Timer to pause and assess engagement.

-Fun, fast, flavorful character creation.

-Random tables.

-Visual aids (minis, battle maps, tokens).

-Flowchart to tell me what to do next.

-References to other great resources/adventures. (MAZE RATSSSSSS?!)

What advice or kinds of advice would be in the ideal RPG to run games for kids?

-Plain-speak tips.

-Follow their lead.

-“You don’t need to lead with assumptions of play or expectations of tone or mechanical considerations. Start telling a story and pivot as it changes with the kids’ actions.”

-Basically everything in Amazing Tales (Bought it, thanks).

-Everyone gets the spotlight.

-Trust the chaos of play. Be flexible.

-Don’t worry about the rules.

-How to design adventures.

-Advice on pacing the game.

-Situations, not plots.

-Procedures for starting, playing, and moving from scene to scene.

-How to preserve risk without leading to tears (death, failure, losing).

-How to align player and GM expectations of the game.

-Keep the boring stuff off-screen.

Any other concerns or comments on the topic to express?

-“Kids want to be heroes, but sometimes the context doesn’t allow it obviously. Give them multiple small, actionable goals that can help them be creative or generous or sacrificial in the gameplay.”

-“Generally D&D is the worst game. And I highly doubt I would ever play your heartbreaker with my students.” (Having a doubter or antagonist only escalates the triumph. I thank you for that fuel. But also, where’s this “highly doubt” coming from? You don’t control which games you choose? So there’s still a chance? Tell me more, hehe.)

-Caution about generic systems (Great point).

-Free kit?

-Less math pls.

Closing thoughts

For tools, videos have been brought to my attention before. I’m curious how to make this accessible and what content to include. Examples of play? A walkthrough of the Belly of the Fishy Beast dungeon for GMs? A GM prep pep talk? A GM before running the game pep talk?

My goal: Make a game that can be easily run for kids but doesn’t SCREAM “kids only!” Ideally, kids would be felt they are being taken seriously. Hopefully this would reduce the need to address all age levels at all times…

At the same time, adults-only parties could play the game without feeling goofy about the experience. It might be more weird/gonzo, but not nearly as unpalatable as “No Thank You Evil.”

A lot of the Playing with Youngers articles have ended with one or more people saying to me “Yeah, that’s great, but it totally applies to adult players too.” With that in mind, could I make a game that sings for younger players WITHOUT mentioning that this is (technically, not technically) a kid’s game?

The exception being that I will state at the beginning of the game and/or in the description that it works well with kids.

I don’t want the art, wording, or mechanics to declare: “you must be this tall or shorter to ride the ride!”

I’ll keep coming back to survey throughout the design experience. Hold me to it 🙂

5 thoughts on “Playing with Youngers: ‘GMs Running RPGs for kids’ survey results

  1. “ The exception being that I will state at the beginning of the game and/or in the description that it works well with kids.” Sounds good!

  2. Excerpt incoming
    This game is intended for all audiences from ages 3 to 300 and designed with kids in mind. That said, the advice that applies to younger players often also applies to adult players.

    Rather than segment or cement this game specifically as “a game for kids” this game takes seriously its players by speaking plainly and without many references to age or maturity.

    Dragonslayer Adventures has been tested with a range of folks, but mostly with kids ages 8 to 12. Do not let this deter any younger or older player from enjoying its contents.

    Stay young at heart, let your imagination soar, and happy gaming!

  3. My son mostly wants to play Lasse from Whodunit Agency (Swedish book series about kid detectives), so I would appreciate a huge table of kid-appropriate crimes. I understand we might be a bit particular, though.

    We use Amazing Tales. It doesn’t matter that much for detective games, because these turn out mostly diceless. We engage more with the mechanics when we play pirate or fantasy games.

    I agree the game is great and the advice there is mostly on point, but I think it works best in the 4 – 8 years range and with 1 – 2 players. Bigger groups of older kids might want something a bit more grounded and challenging (this is not proven empirically, though, my oldest son is 8).

    Besides, AT is like a story game with better odds. I wonder if it would be possible to make a sort of a kids-friendly OSR, focused more on exploration and problem solving, rather than narrative.

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