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Ask HN: Tabletop RPGs for 7-8 Year-Olds
39 points by yawz 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments
Hi folks,

I enjoyed tabletop role-playing games as I was growing up, but I wasn't as young as 7-8 when I started. Are there any good ones that you could recommend for me to play with my son and his friends?

Thank you.

I ran a couple of Dungeon Squad games with my son when he was 6-7. Easy character creation, simple mechanics… that was really fun.

http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/dungeon-squad https://www.metafilter.com/110941/DUNGEON-SQUAD-IN-COLOR

Wow, this is great. Thank you.

Beyond The Wall is a reasonably lightweight game with a fun character-creation minigame (you're rolling in tables that might say things like "The character sitting to your right knows your deep dark secret" and then the two of you can work out what that is). It's also got some tools to help the GM build adventures, which should be helpful.

In general, almost any game should work at that age, you just have to be prepared to adapt. Plenty of 8 year old kids have picked up their older sibling's D&D book and played with their friends, having a lot of fun even if they're not calculating Base Attack Bonus properly. Kids are imaginative, so I'd try and encourage roleplaying and worry less about the pure mechanics of rolling dice, which is easy to screw up.

Biggest advice: make sure you understand the magic system well. Even among adults I've seen confusion about how exactly spells work (for instance in Beyond the Wall, there's cantrips which always work and spells which have a % failure chance, and that trips people up)

Hero Kids http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/106605/Hero-Kids--Fantas...

Short self-contained adventures with a simple ruleset

Strong second for Hero Kids: it's a surprisingly robust grid-maps-and-dice-rolling system where most of the character/world details are contained on printable cards. It's great for quick-and-dirty dungeon crawls without having too many rules up-front, and it's got extra rules which can be optionally included depending on the level of sophistication of the players. (e.g. you don't need to include rules for the equivalent of charisma checks to begin with, but can easily include them in later adventures as the players get more comfortable with the system.)

If you're looking for something more "storytelling-focused" rather than dungeon-crawls-and-monster-fighting, there's another good child-focused tabletop game called The Princes' Kingdom by Clinton R. Nixon, which in turn is a hack of Dogs in the Vineyard by Vincent Baker. It's about the young rulers of an island kingdom travelling around from island to island and solving their citizens' problems, and has a really interesting conflict resolution system it borrows from Dogs which involves rolling a bunch of dice up-front and then using the rolled as resources in a back-and-forth conflict: https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/12/12593.phtml

If you're going to be the dungeon master, I see no reason that Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition won't work fine as an entry into the genre. Other systems tend to be very complicated and rely on the players knowing much more about the game to make it go smoothly.

You could also try some board-game RPG's instead.

Hmmm... I was afraid that the system would be too complex/off-putting for kids that young. I'll reconsider. Thank you.

I DM'd for some 8 year olds while working at a summer camp once. I was using one of the 3e starter boxes that comes with a simplified rule book and premade characters. You also have to be okay with just ignoring some rules that may add confusion like attacks-of-opportunity.

But overall it went great, maybe too great, haha. Afterwards they'd frequently try to suggest that instead of any normal camp activities they could play D&D. The camp basically made a rule against it because too many kids got interested and you'd either have an unmanageably large game, or have to exclude kids from the game.

I think the 5e starter box is somewhat similar. I know it comes with a reduced rule soft-book with just the important rules and spells. I believe it includes premade characters too but I'm not 100% sure.

It's still moderately complex, but as with any of these games it can be delivered in language like "what do you want to do?", and then you walk them through doing that (along with accompanying dice rolls, modifiers, etc).

If you go this route, ask for what kind of character they want to play, create/find a pre-gen, and go from there (don't bog them down with character creation, -especially- if they want to be a spell caster). Don't worry about going into depth in the rule system beforehand, let it come up organically. Try to get a game with friends first so you know the rules, so you don't have to slow down to look things up, and be willing to adjudicate freely (as kids, especially, may want to do very unorthodox things).

All the usual DM/GMing rules apply. Make failures as spectacular as successes. Try to describe things in ways that are interesting, rather than just "you hit it for 8 damage". See if the kids engage. If they do, they'll pick up the rules as you play. If not, move on.

...and don't forget that Wizards has made the streamlined basic rules available online for free:


Like someone else said, a majority of the complexity in DnD is character creation and actual battles. If you have experience in it, it is a lot easier to get into. I would recommend that for first timers to stay away form spell casters, it gets complicated quick.

With that said, 5th edition DnD is pretty easy to get into, and it is a lot of fun!

It's fairly straight forward at early levels and you don't have too many abilities to complicate calculations beyond the base game rules, which you should be able to lead them through if they have any problems. 5th Edition is far simplified from 4e or 3.5e that most people remember playing.

I just bought No Thank You Evil and I've had a couple of good games with my 7 year old son. He's also played once as Narrator (DM) with me as a player and loved it.

The 3 adventures it comes with are a little weak IMHO, although that may just be my poor story telling ability. The ones in Little Wizards look better, but I haven't had a chance to try those out yet.

Easy recommendation, esp if they're into Loony Toons: Toon, the RPG, by Steve Jackson. It's super simple, super fun, and since characters don't (can't) die, it rewards extreme silliness and imagination.



Take the system that you are most comfortable with and tone it down. Start incorporating rules if you feel that your kids can handle them.

Dice and systems should not get in the way. Just teach them the very basic (what is passing/failing a dice roll) and add nuance from there.

Was Heroquest any good? I did tunnels and trolls as a teenager but 7-8 sounds a bit young. At that age I was interested in solo roleplaying e.g. Fighting Fantasy, Choose Your Own Adventure, Lone Wolf etc which were in the local library.

According to this guys, it's the best


I'll have to check that out later! Just remembered another 2 favorites:



You could try easing them into it with Munchkin. It's very D&D inspired but games are simpler, only last about an hour, and there's quite a bit of "family friendly" humor.

I'd suggest finding a youtube tutorial though, the rulebook is unnecessarily verbose and confusing.

In my experience the game lasts 20 minutes, followed by 40 minutes of constant dreary dickery as the players repeatedly stalemate each others' attempts to finally win and finish the game.

edit: I haven't played Munchkin in 10 years, so they may have updated the rules somewhat.

It still works that way. There's a tacit agreement amongst my friends to call it after 30 minutes or so if no one has been able to win by that point.

Some of the variations can be fun to play (they add interesting complications to it). But only in small doses for me.

No it's still like that, it's a terribly designed game.

For some reason, Axe Cop Munchkin seems to be a lot more fun to play than regular Munchkin.

Yup, that is still the case in my experience.

Has anyone here used the FATE system to design such a game?

Now that we're talking about this, I'm curious of any good FATE games to try, particularly for a 2-player group as we try to learn the system.

I've used (custom, simplified) FATE with young children. Worked like a charm.

Tunnels & Trolls + Monsters! Monsters!

Way simpler than D&D, and has a lot more humor built-in. You can get pretty much all the rules and stuff for free, online.

I played Hero Quest as a kid. Loved it. I was my introduction to role-playing games.

It is, after all, the best game[1]


+ [Fate Core](https://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core/)

+ Pure D20

+ Slim down D&D 5e and play it a bit fast and loose

I remember playing "D&D" with my dad at about that age. He used a D6, but basically he used a simplified D20 system with a lot of fudged rolls and minimal mechanics.

Fate Core is great at just telling a really good action adventure without concepts of inventory or death. It has some optional mechanics to let the players add to the story (recognizing the person who has kidnapped them, having been a smuggler in this town before, etc).

If your players enjoy jenga and horror, you can always run [Dread](https://dreadthegame.wordpress.com/about-dread-the-game/) which is very fast to get running and runs very smoothly, even for folks who haven't played an RPG before.

Also Fate Accelerated is even thinner/lighter starting place for Fate.

I've been playing the 1st edition of Decent recently. I think kids that age could probably handle it.


City of Mist. Very cinematic with a lot of Comic Book overtones. Simple rules. All you need are 2d6. Starter kit comes with some great characters. https://www.cityofmist.co

If you just want to get them used to rolling dice I'd suggest Button Men, a very short game of fighting.


If you speak Spanish or French, I strongly suggest Pequeños Detectives de Monstres / Petits Détectives de Monstres. Played it with 4 year olds, it's great, collaborative, non-violent (the only enemy is the Fear of Monsters), has a little song, encourages to use physical accessories to represent in-game objects, etc. It's also designed to be played along older siblings.

Oh, and finally, game sessions last only about 15 minutes, which fits within the attention span of children.

Little Wizards or No Thanks, Evil

My brother wrote a Wizard of Oz RPG with a recommended minimum age of 8. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/83891/Adventures-in-Oz-F...

Small World is a decent boardgame / RPG. Its more boardgame than RPG but it is a little like dungeon crawling.


Dungeon World is supposed to be good for kids with its easy to understand mechanics. It is a soft pg-13 though, so ymmv. But if you are the DM, you can control the level of violence. I'd recommend doing more research on it or checking out their reddit with additional questions.

Like Adamantcheese says, if you're the one running it, whatever complexity may be beyond them you can handle.

D&D 5th Edition does streamline a lot of things compared to 3rd and 4th edition. It also brings D&D (to some extent) back to its roots (your characters aren't veritable superheroes out the gate like a lot of them seem to be in 4th, for instance, and you aren't selecting from tons of classes across the various splat books like in 3rd).

Castles & Crusades is a D&D-like system that's fairly light and meant to call back to 1st and 2nd edition. No skills, no feats. No THAC0-like complexity in the rules. You have a target number to hit based on your primary stats, and modifiers based on the situation and abilities. A fair number of published modules of decent to good quality and if you have experience with making your own it won't take you long to come up with new adventures for them.

Fiasco (though you'll want to use different playsets than the book contains) is a very light but fun story-focused system. The main playsets are not at all kid appropriate, better ones for that age range are available online. It also has a stronger focus on imagination and storytelling versus mechanics (really, the mechanics only exist to set up the scenario and resolve a few things at two points in the play).

http://fiascoplaysets.com/genre:kid-friendly - I have no experience with any of these, so I can't comment on quality and actual kid-friendliness.

Dread is technically a horror game. But the mechanics are ludicrously simple. As the game master you talk to the kids and help them develop characters, and relationships between the characters. Then you put them in a situation. Whenever they do something challenging, they pull from a Jenga tower (7-8, this may be more difficult for them to do well, but there are other variations). If the tower falls, the character is out of play (in most Dread games this means dead, catatonic, severely wounded; with kids you may want to bring them back in but have the character unable to do much for a few rounds). Kids would probably have fun with it as the tension rises with the tower.

Both Dread and Fiasco can be used for any genre, fantasy, contemporary, horror, scifi. Just steal the mechanics and fit the experience to the kids interests.

Also check out https://rpggeek.com and https://reddit.com/r/rpg. Both are good sources for information like this.

Fiasco with 7-8 year olds? What could go wrong? ;)

Well, if you use the standard playsets, hopefully a lot! Fiasco games are boring if the plans go right.

Oh, I know! I was just thinking of just how horribly and disgustingly wrong my games with adults have been. Such a great game. I do think you'd need to simplify some of the setup and game dynamics. Even with first time adult players, it usually takes about an hour for me to get everyone grokking the rules.

Have a look at Maze Rats, designed to be simple and easy to pick up: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/197158/Maze-Rats

I have a librarian friend who's been running a Mouseguard campaign for the local kids. They seem to like it: http://www.mouseguard.net/

How about Tales from the Loop? The characters in the game are 10-15 years old, which is to 7-8 yo ones just as fantastical as playing Elves or Klingons to us adults.

Mouse Guard might work. An RPG about anthropomorphic mouse rangers, based on the comics of the same name

that’s when i learned AD&D 2e.

Any system can work, depending on the kids' level of interest in math, and the willingness to fiddle with things as the GM. Most RPG system math is basic addition/subtraction and really applies to most age groups.

The best system is really some combination of: A) what setting do you think they will enjoy? B) what would you most enjoy running for them? C) given the huge variety in systems, what style of gaming are you aiming for? ("Crunch heavy" versus storytelling-focused, simulationist versus abstractionist, etc)

Some other ideas to throw into the pot of interesting starter systems:

Mice & Mystics is a self-contained boardgame version of an RPG with cool miniatures and an interesting story. Compares to the Descent boardgame mentioned by someone else, but with a stranger setting. (Mice adventurers battling roaches and cats, etc.) (https://www.plaidhatgames.com/games/mice-and-mystics)

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple can be a gentle introduction to shared storytelling (and encourage some writing skills work): https://www.evilhat.com/home/do-pilgrims-of-the-flying-templ...

Fiasco is a great rules-light storytelling game, that can be adapted to a younger audience (most of the playsets are relatively mature, given the basis in Coen Brothers cozy fiasco movies). (http://bullypulpitgames.com/games/fiasco/)

QAGS is a very simple system (single D20 for each player and a bag of candy for the GM): http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/28315/QAGS-Second-Editio...

The Basic Roleplaying System is what it says on the tin (d100/2d10 percentile roles) and you can describe the system on a cocktail napkin almost. There's a ton of content already tuned for it, especially if you have interest in Lovecraftian settings.

I've been told that the Pip System of Third Eye Games was designed with young players in mind and built to scale up with player age/attention/interest. https://thirdeyegames.net/

Savage Worlds is the most "crunchy" system I would typically recommend, and there are a number of good settings. It's goal is "Fast. Fun. Furious.", and it has a pretty good ramp from very simple system rules to some more complex ones as Settings/Scenarios warrant them: https://www.peginc.com/product-category/savage-worlds/

A current infatuation of mine from a systems design standpoint (it is closest in spirit to an unfinished design of my own I've been meaning to finish) is CAPERS. It currently only has one setting (1920s "gangster" superheroes), but a unique, easy-to-learn system (press-your-luck playing card flipping): http://www.nerdburgergames.com/capers/

You really shouldn't let your kids play with RPGs.

Crewed weapons are really the best choice - teaches important team building skills.

Is this RPG video games that you're talking about? Or are you categorically against all role-playing games such as the tabletop ones that we're talking about here? Can you elaborate on why kids shouldn't play RPGs?

I think he's making a joke around an alternative expansion of the acronym "RPG".

Yeah, the OPs title alone had me confused, hence the joke.

RPG also stands for Rocket-Propelled Grenade; the comment by vorpalhex appears to assume the same :)

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