This is a selection of roleplaying games (RPGs) aimed at kids and young people. There are a few similar and lengthier listings on the Net, so this is more a collection of titles that have been through the door over the years than an encyclopedic listing. Some of the more recent editions haven’t received the full hands-on treatment, but they have been checked-out via reviews at RPG.Net.
It’s not at all clear if a rule set adds much to roleplaying for younger kids, as they tend to need little more than a few plastic figures and their imaginations to get started. However, for some children a particular genre or style of play may do a lot to encourage an interest in story-building and RPGs.
The appeal of certain genres and styles of play also applies to older kids and young adults who are likely to enjoy learning a basic rule set or beginning to get the hang of a more complex rule set.
That said, by 7+ there are many kids’ who could play perfectly well with a standard or mainstream RPG providing the GM shows a bit of flexibility. Consequently, the list is not intended to suggest that an RPG needs to be tagged as a ‘Kids’ RPG’ to play well with kids. Instead, such games may be of value – to read or to play – simply in terms of helping adults to get inside kids’ perspectives on RPG gameplay.
In addition, while genre and multimedia tie-ins, (such as books and TV series), may help to encourage new or young players to pick-up a RPG, most of these games also help-out once players start using the rule set. For example, they often have more straightforward language than full-blown RPG titles; they usually keep character generation short and to the point; and they typically offer accessible page layouts.
Time to set off along the Yellow Brick Road for RPG gameplay set in Oz. The book and the film have stood the test of time and it won’t be a surprise when movie producers decide to give Oz another try at the box office. Until then Adventures in Oz offers child-friendly gameplay with enough roleplaying options to keep adults at the table.
What no superheroes? Not a problem as BASH aka Basic Action Super Heroes Ultimate Edition covers all the essentials in a compact rule set that’s straightforward and accessible to younger players. The game also looks the part and headlines an extend range of RPG offerings based around the same rules-light – but not sparse – framework.
Starts at $9.99 for the PDF
Buffy is a full RPG, which is suited to teenagers rather than kids. It has gone in and out of publication at various stages, but is well worth tracking down. The mechanics aren’t particularly complex and the game is well-known for recreating the style and atmosphere of the TV series. There is also a similar RPG from Eden Studios for Angel.
$25.00 and $15.00 for the expansion.
Faery’s tale is aimed at players of 6+. Players take on the role of fairies, such as a pixie, a brownie or a sprite, and explore Brightwood. The game includes three ready-to-run adventures.
Animals, such as badgers and squirrels, become the heroic characters at the heart of adventures which are otherwise similar to typical fantasy RPG gameplay. In other words, you have character classes like knights, wizards and druids, but they take the form of a variety of wildlife.
Young players enjoy shared storytelling as they take it in turns to write the tale of Robot’s birthday. While the players decide the what, where, when and how of the Robot’s day, they never know how much they’ll be able to add during one turn, as the game’s key mechanic gives a limited number of words to be used each turn. No GM required, but you do need a bundle of d6s on hand.
Starts at $9.99
The Hero Kids RPG is a D6 system aimed at kids from 4-10. It combines a very colorful presentation with a child-friendly, class-based fantasy RPG. The game is 37 pages long and arrives with a choice of 10 heroes and 8 monsters. More monsters are included in a series of separate adventures. Both the heroes and the monsters have matching printable stand-up minis to help kids to keep track of what’s going on as the action unfolds at the table. Modular map tiles are a worthwhile feature included in, for example, the Maze of the Minotaur Premium Adventure add-on pack.
$5.99, $5.99 for the add-on or $11.99 for the Ultimate Pack bundle.
Pre-school RPG rules may not be necessary, but Kids Dungeon Adventure goes a long way towards suggesting they can offer plenty of fun. The game offers a very easy, flexible system that works alongside kids’ other toys to build adventures. The site is particularly good at showing what the game has to offer, so a visit is highly recommended.
This 3 in 1 pack includes a woodland/ wildlife RPG called Tales from the Wood; a jolly kids in ideal England RPG called Lashings of Ginger Beer; and a . . . Prairie Dog RPG. The first is all rabbits and badgers gameplay comparable in some ways to Warrior Cats; the second is all about mysteries and adventures in Scooby Doo takes itself too seriously mode; while the last is . . . unique?
The Lego brand and a simple rule set make the Heroica range very appealing to kids of 5+. However, the built-in adventures are a bit railroading and focused on beating-up on monsters. The game really comes into its own when you start to patch the rules and mix-up the gameplay to build on the basic framework. In other words, it may start out as a dungeon crawl, but there’s nothing to stop anyone from turning it into a mix of exploration, roleplaying and some beating-up on monsters.
Larger/ useable packs start at about $30
Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf books are probably the best known solo game-books after the Fighting Fantasy series. The RPG uses the same simple mechanics to encourage players of the books to step-up to a RPG. As a result of the success of the books, the game has the added advantage of a fully fleshed-out gameworld and plenty of add-ons.
There’s not a lot of guesswork required to work-out the game’s theme. Players set-off on comic adventures and investigations much along the lines of Scooby Doo’s TV format. Solving mysteries in ‘spooky’ locations is central to the gameplay, as is having a laugh about the characters and tropes from the TV programmes. The game has a lot to offer through its almost universally familiar backdrop – and the expectations that come out of that in terms of suggesting actions and options for players to try-out on the basis of their knowledge of the TV shows.
Currently on offer at $5.99
Mermaid Adventures describes itself as a “RPG of Undersea Fun!” Players take the part of a mermaid and go about forming friendships while taking on sea monsters and solving mysteries. The game is suitable for kids of 4+ and full of very colorful line art. The core book has sample adventures and there’s a matching coloring book.
Currently costing $8.99 for the PDF
Mouse Guard is a beautifully presented storytelling RPG. It has, perhaps, the most complicated rules system among the games shown here. However, the strong support for story-building, the series of popular Mouse Guard books and the setting built around the books make for an excellent game. It’s possibly more a game to be run by adults or teenagers – but younger players with a basic idea of how RPGs are played are likely to enjoy the game.
Boxed set from $44
In The Play’s the Thing you take the role of an actor, (Lead, Villain, Ham or Ingenue), and re-visit Shakespeare’s plays under the direction of a Playwright – aka GM. Except that it’s not exactly Shakespeare as we know it; because the players use their PCs’ skills to put a new spin on how the drama unfolds.
Lady Macbeth might end-up get involved in charity work; or perhaps Juliet doesn’t really fancy Romeo after all. The outcomes are down to the players’ story-building and the game can easily be adapted to other genres. A guide for teachers and a sample script are available to download from here.
The players roleplay different parts of the thoughts or ‘parts’ of a young girl, e.g. her love, her curiosity, her fear and her imagination. They players then set-off to see what they find and imagine in the world. It plays a bit like other easy story-builders such as Happy Birthday Robot and is available under a creative commons, non-commercial, attribution license. It would not be hard to also play it as ‘The Prince Game’.
$1 from DriveThruRPG
It was a bit of a surprise to find that the many recent clones based on the original RPG by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson don’t seem to include much content aimed directly at children and young adults. This straightforward, but full, version of the most popular RPG out there makes a number of changes to the standard content and presentation of content to deliver a family-friendly take on classic RPG gameplay.
PDF at $0.99 from DriveThruRPG
Starts at $14.99
Toon brings cartoon characters into a RPG which is all about recreating the comic mayhem of classic cartoon heroes. You can make any cartoon character you like and then play through adventures in cartoon worlds where the special powers are those of cartoon comedy and characters ever die, because they can always pop back into shape.
Starts at $14.99
Treasure is a full, rules-light fantasy RPG that plays in card game, boardgame or RPG styles. It has an intuitive or cognitive game design. This modular approach aims to make it easier for players to improvise and imagine during play. The gameplay all translates into easily drawn graphics/ icons, which offers options for visual PC sheets, multisensory gameplay and multimedia adventure design. Treasure is easy to learn, but probably for kids of 8+ as players’ characters are often under pressure during play and options such as alarms can change characters’ fortunes quite suddenly.
PDF at $7 from DriveThruRPG
Woodland Warriors offers a woodland wildlife game with squirrels, badgers and rabbits defending themselves against woodland predators. The game is run using a modified version of the Swords and Wizardry core rules. That’s the same highly playable clone of the original RPG as used to run Renegade – but the similarities end there. Renegade is a straight fantasy RPG, while Woodland Warriors is adapted to suit kids interested in the many books, films and cartoons based on the adventures of animals.
Starts at $5 for the PDF
Witch Girl Adventures is a fantasy game about the lives of young mistresses of magic. A new version is well through a successful Kickstarter project and should be more widely available soon. The Witch Girl books and cartoons provide plenty of support to help to encourage kids to give the game a try. The rules aren’t complicated and suit the age range for the books, i.e. 7+.
The price is yet to be confirmed for the new version.
Please note: this is going-up as a blog post, because there are a few more titles to look at and it’d be good to hear about any other enjoyable RPGs aimed at kids which are out there. Please email, comment or complete a contact form if you know of others or publish a RPG for kids or young adults. The list will be turned into a permanent page once it’s been completed. Then made available as an editable .doc in the hope that other RPG sites will consider adding some of the content to their sites and blogs.
* – Thanks to spekulator for the 2d6.