During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and kids have found themselves stuck at home, and needing stuff to do. Rather than “Doom Scrolling” on Social Media, many families have discovered, or rediscovered, the joys of Tabletop RPG games!.
If you are writing adventures for your kids, or want to write a kid’s adventure story, here are some tips that have helped me.
- Ditch the Grown-ups! When creating an adventure or writing a story for kids, it should be about kids. Kids love stories about kids their own age or slightly older. Mom and Dad or other adults simply bring too much to the table. Parents have money, muscles, and loads of life experience. To a kid, a $100 bill is practically infinity money. To a grown-up, a hundred bones is maybe a single bill that needs to be paid, and just one of the smaller ones. Kids can and will solve problems without throwing money at it.
- Don’t overwhelm the kid adventurers. While Frodo and Sam successfully took the One Ring to Mordor to save Middle Earth, that’s a bit too heavy of a load for kids. A good kid’s adventure has smaller, more manageable goals. Rescuing a cat or a family of bunny rabbits before dinner has the aspects of saving lives without the whole need to tame Gollum. Finding treasure can be just as exciting after finding your way through a series of sea caves and traps left behind by the pirates as if the characters battled the entire pirate crew.
- Don’t be afraid to borrow from older stories. While you may know the entire legend of Avatar, the Last Airbender, or Samurai Jack’s battles against Aku, your kids might not. Characters, plot lines, magic items and more can easily be transported from one story into another. Many great stories are based on another, older story. Star Wars has quite a few aspects from the Japanese samurai movie The Hidden Fortress. If George Lucas can do it, so can you.
- Many kids don’t like to kill. This can be a thing that may trip up older tabletop RPG players and lovers of fantasy fiction. While Conan gladly hacked his way through hordes of lesser warriors, many kids don’t want to stab their way to victory. As a writer or game master, consider other possible solutions than just beating up the bad guys. Can you trade the goblins something for the missing cat? Do non-lethal weapons make sense? Link’s adventures in the Legend of Zelda series often have him starting off with a wooden sword.
- Puzzles should challenge the kids. I rewrote The Savage Tide Adventure Path for my son and some of his friends. I knew the lock puzzle would be too obscure for them to figure out, so I found a 4×4 sudoku puzzle with animals rather than numbers. This was easier for 3rd and 4th graders to solve, and made sense in the adventure setting as there were many animal type monsters to deal with. Getting one each of a tiger, snake, dinosaur and bear was a lot of fun for them.
- Keep it short! As an adult, I love a good dungeon crawl that may take place over several sessions, but kids want to get to the Boss Fight tonight, not in three weeks. This is especially important if their friends may not be available on a regular basis due to family commitments. The Five Room Dungeon format is excellent for creating a fast, fun, and most importantly, short dungeon crawl. The Five Rooms consist of:
1. Entrance and Guardian.
2. Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge
3. Trick or Setback
4. Boss Battle
5. Reward or Plot Twist
When writing adventure stories or role playing game adventures for kids, remember that they prefer bold, bright plots and stories. Kids do understand subtlety, but allow the adventures to start off big and bold before getting into the fine details. Prince Zuko from Avatar may have had one of the best redemption arcs ever told, but he started off as a single minded antagonist.
Pirates, bandits, goblins and trolls are all “good” bad guys to start out with. Some will become friends to the protagonists as the story progresses, while others will always remain the Bad Guys. Consider why the “Bad Guys” are the bad guys when developing their story.
That’s it for this week! I will be writing more articles for writers and game masters in the weeks to come. I hope readers can find a useful nugget or two for their own writing or adventure creation process.