At the beginning of March, I decided to try running a bit of a role-playing game for my 4½ year old daughter. She had played Super Dungeon Explore a few times with my wife and me, so I thought she might have fun jumping into a full rpg experience. On Game Master’s Day, I asked her if she wanted to play a new game, and she said yes.
I decided to use a simplified version of the Age system. The Age system is my favorite set of role playing rules, and it’s relatively simple core rules felt like they could make a good on-ramp to rpgs. We could start with just doing 3d6 + ability rolls against difficulties. Then as she played I could introduce more concepts like focuses, stunts, and magic.
We started off with creating a character for her. I asked her what sort of character she wanted to play and she wanted to play a cat princess with a big axe. I set some abilities to try to match that concept, and ended up with a simplified character – seven abilities, health, armor, and the axe.
With a character created, we were ready to play. I started her off with a mission to find and explore a cave in a forest. To find her way through the forest, she made her first roll (Intelligence to navigate) and failed. Because she got a little lost, she ran into a blue slime before finding the cave. She didn’t want to deal with the slime, so she ran away (Dexterity test against the slime) and then found the entrance to the cave. Inside the cave, she had to climb up a cliff (Strength test) and jump over a pit (Dexterity test). While doing that, she ran into another blue slime and this time fought it with her axe. I kept combat simple, and she got a kick out of the purple plastic gems she got to use to track her health points. Then at the end of the cave, I had her fight a big blue slime that split into three little slimes after a couple of hits. After winning that fight, she got to claim a treasure chest that contained a magical silver crown.
Throughout the game, she had enjoyed rolling the dice, but had seemed a little uncertain about the open-ended problem solving. For example, when I said there was a hole in the way, she wasn’t sure what to do and I needed to give her some options. At the end, I had enjoyed running the game, but it was hard to judge whether she had enough fun to want to play again.
I got my answer the next day when she asked to play again. Since then, we’ve had two more sessions. In the second game, she explored a ruined castle in the forest and then fled it when one of the statues came to life. In the third, she ventured into the rocky hills nearby, fled from a goblin ambush, and explored an old tower. I’ve been trying to let her explore at her own pace and give her different things. We’ve also been keeping game sessions pretty short at about 15 or 20 minutes each. I hope she keeps enjoying it and that we can keep playing for years to come.