Kids RPG Journal – #29 Character Sheets

Working on building a new character sheet and hacking a game for children borrowing elements from Dungeon World and Sidekick Quests has been really illuminating. By digging into the details and questioning how I would simplify for little ones, it made me realize the base assumptions I just follow without even thinking.

Bursten Claw-Jaw character sheet final version

I feel like I did a pretty good job of cutting out a lot of the cruft, simplifying the moves and other aspects on the character sheets to make them more user-friendly.

Simplified pools

Even though I want to promote math skills for the boys, I didn’t think that having huge numbers for the health, energy and experience pools was helpful for gameplay. I want them to see what they need at a glance, so I simplified how certain things work. Most notably damage and health.

When a player takes or deals damage, the base damage is going to be 1 health and then modifications can be added. This allows for simplified health pools and combat. This gives the ability to display health with individual icons. It’s obviously not going to be very well balanced, but I’m focusing on the story, so it may not matter.

The one drawback is that it seriously reduces the types of dice used on a regular basis. Right now, the game is geared toward using d6 for the majority of rolls. I will need to find other challenges that use the different dice, so the kids can get used to identifying and using them.

Iona of the Willows character sheet final version

Simplified Design

I limited what I have on the sheets to four sections: profile, abilities, custom moves and pools. Everything else is either on another sheet (basic moves), or have individual cards (inventory and weapons). This gives the boys easy to read graphic segments, so that they never have to search around for things in the middle of play.

┬áMaybe when the character’s go up a couple of levels, I’ll have to put the basic moves on the character sheets and then have the custom moves on their own page, but I’ll tackle that when I get there.

The liked the different colors Sidekick Quests uses for difficulty levels and whatnot to allow the reader to see where things are at a glance. My palettes are much more muted, but I took this concept for the three move results (success, success with consequence, and failure).

I’ll definitely be tinkering with the design over the course of the campaign.

Thule Bonecrusher character sheet final version

Simplified Moves

I am starting to get the hang of PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) type moves, and feel like I was able to pair down the descriptions and details of the moves to keep them from dragging down play, making them usable for six-year-olds. Additionally, I moved away from just making arbitrary bonuses and instead allowed the class to use more favorable abilities for certain rolls when the move is triggered.

Once game-play starts, and we’ve got a dozen sessions or so under our belts, I’ll know a lot better what changes need to be made to the custom moves. But I think that will go for all of the Dungeon World and Sidekick Quest rules I’ve  adopted and modified.

Now that the character sheets are designed and completed, I have a style I can build on. I’ll start in on monster sheets, NPCs and inventory cards in the near future.

Kids RPG Journal – #28 Setting Limits

One of the concerns I have with the game, is my boy’s tenacity to stick with one thing and do it over and over again. It can be a song, a saying, a joke, or in the case of earlier role-playing experiences, shooting things. While playing No Thank You, Evil! the boy’s would approach every monster the same way, by firing their eel-blasters at them every time. I had to work overtime to get them to expand to find other options.

While I’m sure as they play through, they’ll use a lot of other skills and resources to deal with problems, I’m hoping to not have it be an issue early on in the game. Judging by the things play-acting during the character creation stage, the shocking weapon ability may be a go-to. To get around this, I’m looking to set limitations on the number of times certain moves can be used.

I definitely don’t want to get into a resource-management style game with arbitrary limits, but I do want to encourage different options and ideas. The idea of having prepared spells is not appealing to me, it was never one of the fun parts of D&D, and with the limited number of moves already, seems overly restrictive.

I briefly toyed around with the idea of basing the ability to continually use certain abilities until the player rolled a failure, and then the ability would be gone until the character rested, but I didn’t like the option of it possibly failing the first time they use it and then not having it for the whole day, I don’t want using their abilities to be punitive.

Yesterday, I was working on finalizing the character sheets and needed to make a decision so I could complete the design. I went with an energy pool along side the health pool, so that the players can use all of their abilities multiple times in a day, but not necessarily spam them. Like health, I kept the energy pool very simplified, a maximum of six-eight “stars”, and certain abilities requiring the use of a star.

energy pool for using certain custom moves denoted by stars

Naturally, most of the abilities requiring energy are combat related, as I want to encourage more investigation and role-playing, but I did set one of my wife’s divinatory moves to require a star. These abilities are marked with a golden star next to them on the custom moves section.

stars on custom moves denoting the energy requirement to use.

This way, the moves can still be cool and the boy’s can still use them liberally, but not to the point of it becoming dull.

These are the moves I set as requiring energy to use:

  • Vicious Bite (attack)
  • Fearsome Howl (fear)
  • Thunder Touch (push opponents)
  • Storm Charge (attack)
  • Burning Touch (attack)
  • Earth Memory (divination)
  • Channel ├ľnd (healing)

We’ll see how it goes and if we don’t like it, I can always drop the energy pool concept without too much reworking.