June 14, 2012

Explaining the Silence

Well, life intervenes!  I’d hoped to post way before now, but we’ve just not been able to get back to the (planned) final session of Monkey Pirates.  I haven’t had the combination of “all kids present and accounted for, plus a free 90 minutes.”  From my recent research into role-playing, I’ve read that our snag is not all that uncommon a situation in the hobby.  So instead, we’ve played other games with whoever was free and available at the time; or played other titles (especially card games) that are generally quicker and hassle-free.  I’ve just been terrible about documenting those!  But I did want to jot down some thoughts in regards to our introduction to the role-playing genre.

For now, an hour and a half per session is the limit of my kids’ attention span for role-playing games.  Ideally, 60 to 75 minutes.  While focus can be also problematic with our board games, the concern is even more acute in role-playing.  I am pretty sure this is because of the lack of tangible material.  While they do have their character sheets and a map for visual reference, it is a far cry from the tactile material that boards, pawns, chits, cards, money, and dice can offer.

K·I·S·S.  One of my girls just turned 11 and the other will turn 10 next month.  My two boys are both 9 years old.  At those ages, I think keeping it simple is certainly best.  Our game of Monkey Pirates was decidedly rules-light and heavily story-driven (I like the term “cinematic,” but that makes it sound a bit more dramatic than what it really was…hehe).  After playing this very basic and introductory title, I think they are ready for and would enjoy a bit more crunch – but not a lot.  They enjoyed the freedom given in story-telling and the flexibility when even failing tasks.  Detailed rules and complex character traits might bog that down.

I purposefully kept a tight rein on the adventure’s development.  At times, I wondered if I should give them more leeway to take the story in their own crazy directions – believe me it would have been crazy.  But as this was an introductory experience, I consciously decided to keep things strictly on track.  On the other hand, I still wanted them to use their imaginations and participate with their own role-playing, as well.  Therefore, while I scripted the outcome of each task, I generally let them role-play the manner in which they reached that outcome.  And in that, I enjoyed their creativity.  Typically they worked together to role-play their stories, even though technically only one person was responsible for a specific task resolution.  But they did a nice job and came up with some things that I wouldn’t have imagined.  And eventually they’ll grow more comfortable with getting into their parts individually.

As I mentioned when beginning this little series on the blog, one of the points was to see if my kids (and I, for that matter) had an aptitude for role-playing before I purchased Mouse Guard, a game based on the graphic novel series that we like.  I tweaked our Monkey Pirates campaign to even mimic many elemants and mechanics built into Mouse Guard.  David Peterson’s imaginative world, characters, and artwork are thoroughly engaging and fascinating.  Luke Crane’s role-playing game based on the setting is appealing to all ages.  It does have more crunch in test resolutions, but still seems to be on the lighter side with a definite emphasis on role-playing, instead of rolling dice.  However, the character traits, abilities, and beliefs system are all very well developed and in-depth and will be confusing at first.  It will be a learning and growing experience, but I believe the theme and setting will go a long way in fostering a pleasant one – which will go beyond just our experience in Mouse Guard, but rather lead to other titles in the genre, as well.

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