The Circle Logo - click here to go to the Circle page

Kids and Roleplaying Games

Welcome to the homepage of the kids-rpg mailing list!

Please note: you have connected to the personal home page site of Sam Chupp. The site as a whole is not a kids' site, although this page is kid-tested and kid-approved.

This mailing list is for the discussion of children in non-computer-related roleplaying games, either the pen-and-paper tabletop kind or the live-action roleplaying kind. Adults and children are welcome to participate in the discussion, which will include but not be limited to the following topics:

  1. the best games for kids
  2. game design for kids
  3. girls as roleplayers
  4. roleplaying advocacy (especially for children)

Below you will find our Frequently Asked Questions, our mailing list charter, and our content guidelines.

Subscribe to the Kids-RPG mailing list
Powered by Yahoo Groups

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is kids-rpg?
    1. What is the mission statement of the list?
    2. Who is Sam Chupp?
    3. What are future goals for the list?
    4. Administrivia
  2. What are role-playing games?
    1. What are some role-playing games (RPGs) my children may enjoy?
    2. Where do I get these games, and what else do I have to buy?
    3. What do I buy the roleplaying kid who has nothing?
    4. What do I buy the roleplaying kid who has everything?
    5. What is a LARP?
    6. What is the difference between a role-playing game and card games such as Pokemon, Magic The Gathering, etc.?
  3. How hard is it for kids to play RPGs?
    1. What are the special needs of girls in RPGs?
    2. What about disabled children?
    3. My kids spend an awful lot of time playing RPGs - should I worry?
    4. Isn't this just a phase?
    5. Why are role-playing games so engaging to children?
    6. I played RPGs when I was a kid. How do I start my own kids playing?
    7. What's the best age to get started?
  4. Is this hobby expensive?
  5. What are the benefits of RPGs?
  6. What are the downsides of playing RPGs?
  7. What about kids who lose touch with reality or already have a shaky grasp on it?
  8. Are RPGs of occult or Satanist origin?
    1. Are RPGs really just complicated tracts for Satanic worship?
    2. Aren't wizards, psychics and other magic-users automatically Satanic?
    3. Isn't it true that the games have much occult subtext?
    4. How can a good Christian parent accept his child playing RPGs?
      1. I still don't agree with you.
    5. What games would you recommend that teach good Christian values?
    6. What are concerns of atheist or agnostic parents and how can they be dealt with?
  9. How violent are RPGs?
  10. What about other adult topics in RPGs?
  11. Miscellaneous
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. Disclaimers

  1. What is kids-rpg?
    kids-rpg is a mailing list run through the Yahoo!Groups web site. Its purpose is to foster discussion on the topic of kids and non-computer-based role-playing games.

    1. What is the mission statement of the list?
      "We, the members of the kids-rpg mailing list, are committed to the promoting the practice of roleplaying as a hobby among children. We set out to foster discussion between and amongst adult caretakers of children, children, teachers, religious leaders, role-playing game industry personnel, and other interested parties. We strive to increase our membership list and encourage active weekly participation. We come together to provide both a nonjudgmental place of free expression which is also safe for children."

    2. Who is Sam Chupp?
      Sam Chupp is the moderator and founder of the list. His home page is here. He is a former employee of White Wolf Game Studio, a publisher of roleplaying games primarily for adults. During his time at White Wolf he was a writer, game designer, layout artist, public relations liaison, Intern Program Manager, Internet representative, playtest coordinator, design contributor and creative assistant. He is a parent, as well, of three children:
    3. a boy named Rowan (16)
      and a girl named Katie (14),
      and a girl named Genevieve (13).

    4. What are future goals for the list?
      This list was conceived with the idea that we will one day have more than one moderator and have upwards of 1000 subscribers, and 100 regular contributors. It is expected that the subscribers will meet at conventions for game sessions, parties, and family-oriented fun.

    5. Administrivia
      This mailing list is not moderated. However, new subscribers are moderated for a few posts until they show the ability to write posts that conform to the list's content guidelines.

  2. What are role-playing games?
    Whole books have been written on just this topic. The basic definition is this: "A roleplaying game is a game in which two or more people interactively participate in the creation of a shared story. Most players act out roles of characters in the story, while one player is the referee or narrator of the story, playing the part of all the minor characters and providing a framework by which dramatic conflict is resolved."
    The short answer for kids is this: "Roleplaying games are where you play make-believe and make a story in a group. There is usually one person who is in charge of the story and helps figure out what happens. The other people in the game play characters in the story, and everybody works together to make the story fun and interesting."
    You'll notice that I do not include computer-based roleplaying games in this definition. This is because computer-based RPGs are not really about narration and stories, they are more about fighting and solving puzzles.
    Role-playing games make excellent social platforms as they encourage interaction, teamwork and acceptance of differences.

    1. What are some role-playing games (RPGs) my children may enjoy?
      Just about any non-Adults Only RPG is appropriate for children. The answer to the question largely depends on the narrator (referee, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, or Game Master) who runs the game and on the individual interests of children.

      This is because most games can be made interesting to children by following the interests of a child: if she imagines herself a starship pilot and would love to fly to distant planets, a science fiction game would be excellent for her. If she likes the idea of living in the Wild West, there are games about that topic. There are games that are generic RPGs that allow you to roleplay in any environment imaginable.

      Because most children like fantastic themes, I always recommend the game Dungeons and Dragons, published by a company called Wizards Of The Coast. This is primarily because it is a very well-known game and it has a very large distribution base.

      One obvious games that should immediately is Toon by Steve Jackson Games - although the silliness associated with the game does not make for long campaigns or great stories.

      A list of games will soon be published at WJ Walton's Young Person's Adventure League website.

    2. Where do I get these games, and what else do I have to buy?
      Good news! You have a much easier time of it in this day and age than my parents did 24 years ago. There are game stores in every major city where you can go and look at the games and talk to people who play. The Internet has many well-stocked, well-informed game stores.

      And there are mailing lists like these to help you in your time of need. Large bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble even have these games now. Roleplaying game instruction manuals come in many forms from a CD-ROM (the text has been scanned in and formatted for use on a computer) to a photocopied and stapled "home-grown" game book.

      Most of them look like 8 1/2" by 11" books, perfect-bound with shiny, glossy covers. I do advise all adult caretakers to definitely go and put hands on books before you buy them the first time. You have to make sure that a specific game fits with your family's restrictions on adult content.

      Some roleplaying games have very scantily clad people depicted in the artwork, and some also have considerable violence. The industry is getting better about regulating itself and issuing content labels to help, but I still wouldn't trust it. Take a look at the books first, then go forward with buying them. Do not buy any games at a game dealer who refuses to show you a copy of the game outside of shrink-wrap: this is a common practice near where I live and I won't stand for it. Caveat Emptor.

      Many times, in addition to the game book or books you will also be expected to buy random-number-generators, usually in the form of dice. Some of these dice gets pretty strange-looking; little pyramids, diamond-shapes, twelve-sided solids, etc. They are perfect for getting underfoot, getting stuck in baby's mouths, and attacked by cats. Be careful! Dice are not for small children.

    3. What do I buy the roleplaying kid who has nothing?
      To start out, just buy them the basic gamebook of the game you've chosen (ask a dealer or a gamer for help if necessary) and avoid buying too many other supplementary texts just off the bat. A kid's first RPG can be a daunting experience, and you don't want to overwhelm her. If you can find a "Starter" deal that will give you dice and all the gamebooks needed to play, go for it.

    4. What do I buy the roleplaying kid who has everything?
      You're in luck. The industry is so old now that there are such things as antique games. Many RPGs have gone the way of the dinosaur for whatever reason: lack of marketing, lack of funds on the publisher's part, whatever. Those old dinosaurs of dead games can be a perfect treasure for the gamer who has everything. eBay is a great place to begin looking for these old games.

      Also game imports can be fun. There are many excellent roleplaying games created all over the world. France, for example, is known for many original RPGs in the French language - what better gift for a high school French student who is also a gamer?

      Besides that? You can warm the cockles of a young gamer's heart by finding out what their favorite character wears in her story: for example, if the brave warrior Andrea has a necklace in her game with a silver pendant shaped like a Unicorn, then buying her a necklace just like that would probably go over real well. Fantasy and science fiction conventions and Renaissance Faires are the best place to find a wide selection of RPG-related clothes, jewelry and the like.

    5. What is a LARP?
      A LARP is a Live Action Roleplaying game. "Live Action" as opposed to sitting around a table. The characters in a LARP get up and move around. That is the primary difference. There are many different kinds of LARPs. They range from physically intensive physical-combat games (like paintball and games with foam-padded weaponry) to no-touching interactive literature games where the story is of chief importance. There are unfortunately not many LARPs geared for children, although you occasionally hear of one or two run a year. Most LARPs are for adults only - even if it's express or implied. I am personally working to fix this incongruity by running LARPs for kids myself - so far I have run my LARP, Six Stones twice.

    6. What is the difference between a role-playing game and card games such as Pokemon, Magic The Gathering, etc.?
      Card games, particularly collectible card games like Pokemon and Magic The Gathering, are more strategy and tactics games and have very little to do with roleplaying. Sometimes players of these games will be "in character" as they play, but that is not the same as participating in an interactive story.

  3. How hard is it for kids to play RPGs?
    Kids are natural roleplayers. They do it extremely well, much better than adults, because they have not yet learned to quash their own sense of imagination (or, at least, one hopes that hasn't been quashed yet!). The only problem some children may have are the math requirements for some of the game mechanics: typically these are addition and subtraction problems.

    1. What are the special needs of girls in RPGs?
      Girls must be encouraged in RPGs because most referees reward aggressive behavior over social behavior. The folks who designed computer games for girls at Purple Moon (a short-lived computer game company which has since been bought out by Mattel) did a lot of research about this very problem.

      Theydetermined that girls enjoy such games just as much as boys, but that the games that boys play reward aggression and competition while girls respond well to an atmosphere of cooperation, encouragement, and socialization.

      As a result, it is important for a girl to roleplay in groups that can foster this kind of interaction. If the game is purely about who kills what, who gets what treasure, then the game usually won't be much fun for the girls.

      RPGs for girls do not have to be frilly or pink, just fun in the way they tend to appreciate.

    2. What about disabled children?
      Roleplaying games are ideal for disabled children because the imagination is a level playing ground. From a social interaction point of view, roleplaying could conceivably be an excellent means by which a disabled child can make and keep new friends in an accepting environment.

    3. My kids spend an awful lot of time playing RPGs - should I worry?
      Only worry if they are playing roleplaying games to the exclusion of all else - encourage them to play other games, socialize differently, or combine their game with some other activity like taking a nature hike. Live Action Roleplaying Games are just the thing for too-sedentary children who still want to roleplay: they get incredible exercise running around in a LARP, even an indoor one. If they start to lose a lot of sleep or watch their grades fall because of RPGs, it's time to step in and do something about it.

    4. Isn't this just a phase?
      That's what my parents thought 24 years ago.

    5. Why are role-playing games so engaging to children?
      There's an awful lot of detail in roleplaying games, and the game is very personal to the players. This is because the imagination is very actively, directly engaged and self-identification takes place between the player and the player's character.

      Plus, there is the social element. For example, there are some people in my life whom will never escape the caul of my having gamed with them: Sean Healy will always in some way be Shaglan Landrover to me, or Sir Eoin, and Gary Nistler will always be Ahira Dwarf. I think of them as friends first and role-players second, but the role-playing has made long-lasting impressions and memories that will literally last the rest of my life.

    6. I played RPGs when I was a kid. How do I start my own kids playing?
      You have to let them come to you - don't force it Mom or Dad. Just play within earshot of them and let them see how much fun it is for you. Soon you will have them begging to play.
    7. When is the best age to start gaming?
      There isn't really a "Best Age," but you can use as a rough guideline the years between 7 and 9. Typically, a child must demonstrate the ability to sit still while doing something they enjoy, and be willing to follow along and pay attention to another person or persons. Everything else is "gravy."

  4. Is this hobby expensive?
    No, of course not. I mean not compared to, say, collecting sports cars.

    Actually, the hobby is a fairly cheap one if you consider things in a "Dollar Per Hour Of Entertainment" perspective. A $30 gamebook can provide endless (100+) hours of fun and entertainment. Compare that to a movie ticket at a pitiful $3.50/hour of entertainment. And technically, you don't need all those supplements, although the game industry would have you believe otherwise. This is a great hobby where you can receive gamebooks as presents at your Spring holiday (Easter, the Equinox, whatever), your child's birthday, and your Winter Holiday (Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever) and still have enough books to be able to play.

  5. What are the benefits of RPGs?
    Roleplaying games teach social skills such as negotiation and consensus decision making. Because of frequent tie-ins to historical backgrounds they can be springboards to learn about politics, history, and world geography. They foster an environment where vocabulary is improved. They allow values, ethics, and morals to be taught in the context of a story. They promote reading and the study of myth and literature.

  6. What are the downsides of playing RPGs?
    Downsides. Good question. The only one I can name is that kids who play roleplaying games can possibly become ostracized by other children who do not understand them. Anything that is different is considered strange, anything considered strange is mocked and those who participate in it can be abused. As long as your children are prepared in general for such peer pressure, they should be fine.

  7. What about kids who lose touch with reality or already have a shaky grasp on it?
    You have to decide as a parent whether its a healthy activity for your child. If you feel like your child has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality, you need to make a judgement call and restrict access to roleplaying games until such time as the line can be firmly drawn. Children with a history of emotional disorders and/or mental illness should definitely speak with their mental health care provider before playing any role-playing game.

    Roleplaying games are not psychotherapy and should never be used for such.

  8. Are RPGs of occult or Satanist origin?
    The idea of roleplaying games comes from storytelling practices that even Jesus used in his day. Some of the fantasy-related backgrounds of roleplaying games have been misconstrued by some people to have Satanic or Occult backgrounds. In truth, however, they have as much to do with the Occult as modern-day TV sitcoms has to do with Shakespeare.

    It is possible that someone who claimed to be a Satanist (there are such people) could create a role-playing game for the purposes of glorifying Satan. Satanism is a Christian heresy designed to work against the Christian belief system. As such, it is a set of values and beliefs, and as such, they could technically be taught in a roleplaying game, just as in any other medium.

    But there are no such games that I have come across which exist, and I have been in the hobby for 24 years. The only game in which one can actually play a minion of Lucifer, In Nomine, is also a game where God is depicted as being the most powerful and correct entity. Hardly a Satanist approach.

    1. Isn't Dungeons and Dragons really just a complicated tract for Satanic worship?
      See above. No way. Dungeons and Dragons is based in a fantasy background, and yes there are evil people and demons in the fantasy background. But it is clear that Good is always meant to win in the end, and always triumph over Evil. Even players who play Evil characters have to deal with the fact that they will ultimately always lose. These are not a function of the rules but of modern storytelling techniques.

      Once again, everything depends on the game master or referee. If your kids are playing with a GM who rewards evil actions, it is time to either work this out as a problem, or get a new GM.

    2. Aren't wizards, psychics and other magic-users automatically Satanic?
      You must be referring to that old "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" text in the Bible, or something like it. Well, ultimately, this is all make-believe. If you sat a Satanist down and asked her to explain how she does curses and casts evil spells, it would be nothing at all like what happens in role-playing games. Magic in RPGs has more to do with super-hero powers than with Satanic rituals. If you are concerned, tell your child that you don't want her to play a magic-using character and leave it at that.

    3. Isn't it true that the fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons have much occult subtext?
      If by "Occult" you mean "Mythological", yes.There are druids and there are demons and there are dragons and there are all kinds of nasty creatures. But on the other hand there are fairies, unicorns (which have frequently been used as a Christian symbol of God's purity and strength), angels and priests. Remember, the games take place in the land of make believe. Occultism and mythology have a common background - myth stories make up the background of all literature including that of the Bible.

    4. How can a good Christian parent accept his child playing RPGs?
      If you think of yourself as a good Christian, simply require that your child play RPGs in the way that they should do everything else - with good Christian values and as a testament to Christ. Maybe his character could be a knight sworn to Holy orders, or a peasant girl with a strong personal faith like the Christian girl in The Hiding Place. There's no reason your child can't play in a Christian way, and you can definitely make sure that the referee understands your standards for what is appropriate.

      1. I still don't agree with you.
        You don't have to agree with me to post to this mailing list, but you still must abide by the content guidelines if you choose to post. kids-rpg is meant to be an open and accepting environment, and religious arguments rarely fall into the category of being open and accepting.

    5. What games would you recommend that teach good Christian values?
      Green Dragon's Pendragon game is about Arthur and his knights, and has a very strong Christian-positive bent, as does In Nomine by Steve Jackson Games (although be warned: the game provides for playing Demons as well as Angels). The historical fantasy game Ars Magica is set in medieval Europe and as such is very pro-Christian. Finally, there is a Christian group that puts out a game called DragonRaid, a roleplaying game that teaches bible verses and Christian dogma: I fail to see how any Christian parent could not be OK with their child playing such a game.

    6. What are concerns of atheist or agnostic parents and how can they be dealt with?
      Religion ultimately doesn't have to ever even enter into roleplaying games. Certain radical fundamentalists have made role playing a religion battleground, but ultimately, it is just a side-issue. You don't have to believe in God or any Gods to play in a game. Some fantasy games have in-character religions that you may want to steer your child away from, or simply allow them to participate in the spirit of make believe.

  9. How violent are RPGs?
    They can be very violent. Once again, it all depends on the referee or Narrator. If the kind of stories that your children are exposed to in a game offends you, ask the Narrator to tone it down or put a stop to it. In general, I believe that games for kids should be focused on problem-solving, puzzle-solving, cooperation, teamwork, and character interaction - not necessarily fighting.

  10. What about other adult topics in RPGs?
    There are no intrinsic adult topics in RPGs, although certainly any story that takes place can have adult content if the narrator wishes. You must be clear that your Narrator is aware of what you think is appropriate for your children. Topics like pregnancy, birth, rape, sex, and so forth should be handled obliquely if at all.

  11. Miscellaneous
    This FAQ is ever-evolving. If you have an addition, please send it to me, the FAQ supervisor here.

  12. Acknowledgements
    This is version 1.1 of the FAQ, written entirely by Sam Chupp, edited by Cynthia Armistead. This work is copyright © 2002 by Sam Chupp. Permission is given to archive and post this work online as long as this copyright notice remains intact. All other rights reserved.

  13. Disclaimers
    I disclaim everything. It all could be wrong.


Charter

This very brief charter will be replaced by a longer one as needed.

It establishes the following:

  1. Ownership of the List
    The list is owned by Sam Chupp, founder and moderator, in cooperation with Yahoo!Groups.

  2. Copyright and Trademark
    You own your own posts. All rights fall to their original owners accordingly. Please note that any text posted to this list may not be considered privately circulated by magazine publishers and the like.

  3. Quotation
    You may quote other people's posts (as is traditional) in your posts, but you don't own the excerpts you use to post.

  4. Media Coverage
    If there ever is any Media Coverage, let the primary list moderator handle it.

  5. Moderators
    Moderators will be appointed by the Founder on an as-needed basis, according to his own private criteria.

  6. Closing of the List
    The list will only be closed with three week's prior notice via a post to the list.

  7. Successorship
    The list will pass to the assign of the list founder if he chooses to step down.

  8. Privacy

    The list will never sell its distribution list to anyone for money.

Content Guidelines

Please conduct yourself on the kids-rpg mailing list in your best possible behavior. There is to be no obscenity, and no adults-only topics. Please avoid personal attacks on others' beliefs and ideas - this is a "NO HUNTING IDEAS" zone. You can offer your opinion, it can be counter to another person's opinion, yes, but offer constructive criticism or not at all.

Please understand that religious arguments are not within the scope of this mailing list. Polite discussion will be tolerated, but not outright arguments. The list moderator is a Unitarian Universalist and so believes all religions and beliefs have equal validity.

Repeat advertising and spam will not be tolerated. One-time advertising of topic-related products or events will be accepted.