So I’ve been struggling with this idea in my head that I’ve had for a long time. I’ve wanted to have a family role-playing game that I can share with my children. For most others, this question is simple to solve, grab your nearest D&D manual and some dice from the comic store, sit down and make some elves and gnomes and orcs as PCs, then grab a campaign book and you’re good to go. However, therein lies a problem for me. A big problem.
I have a set of beliefs that prohibit me from playing games with magic and spiritism in them and I am instilling these values in my children. So none of these mythological humanoid creatures, no wizards, no spells, etc. are allowed. Especially no dragons or demon princes. Additionally, a game that doesn’t showcase violence as the solution to conflict is even better. Now there are two wrinkles in this paper, but I am trying to stay positive. My hope is that I can find -or maybe design- a creative, imaginative, and collaborative storytelling system.
I have done some research into systems and found Microlite20 which is an open-source system that shows promise to me. It uses polyhedral dice. As open-source it also grants the freedom for modification as well. Then there is Mouse Guard. It uses dice-pools. I’m not ready at this point to spend $80 on a book that I may never actually use though, and I don’t plan on pirating a copy. It doesn’t seem to be in circulation in the libraries in my area either.
If I go with Microlte20 only one problem is solved by designing a “my-family-friendly” version of the game. The Microlite20 still centers on combat actions, (I won’t analyze the subtle lesson of looting treasures from defeated foes here) so finding a system that allows for creative and imaginative play without promoting violent conflict resolution is elusive. A second problem which I don’t want to solve is the resolution mechanism. There are primarily two different ways. Dice pools (using multiple 6-sided dice) and polyhedral dice (think classic 20-sided dice, but with additional shapes). I want to keep as much of this concept as possible because I think the introduction of polyhedral dice as a source of randomness is part of the fun.
I’ve done a great deal of research and just came across Amazing Tales, which is for kids 4+. I may even buy the PDF from DriveThruRPG, it’s $5.95. (Side note: why do we insist on pricing stuff this way, please just make it $6 and be done.) It has a good review on Geek and Sundry that highlights the fact that kids already know how to tell fantastical stories. I also found OK RPG and it is also a d6 dice pool system, but with a limit of two. It is a super simple and the entire instruction “manual” is less than a thousand words and fits into a trifold pamphlet. The system is very simple and character creation doesn’t require anything more than stating four facts about your character. It requires a GM to guide the story and play NPCs, but other than that there are pretty much no rules.
Then I found Burrows & Briars and it was intriguing as an animal adventure. What made it especially different was that everything in the game is decided by the dice. A d10 and a d12. Everything. From who your character is, what you’re quest is, what you’ll encounter, how difficult it is, even what you are carrying. The author says he based it on Redwall and Mouse Guard, and I have fond memories of Redwall as a kid myself.
There are about four more systems that I downloaded, but don’t have very high hopes for, so I won’t list them here. I think Burrows & Briars is the one we will try out first, maybe tonight.