Too much Star Wars? I find your lack of faith disturbing...
April 28, 2016 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm visiting my sister and her family for the weekend. My (almost) seven year old nephew is obsessed with Star Wars and I have been informed that my visit will be dominated by same. I'm totally fine with this. In fact, I'd like to bring him even MORE Star Wars!

I'd like to try playing some variation of simple pen and paper RPG with him some time over the weekend. I'm not planning on using any official system or anything - I don't have time even if I wanted to. I have a super simple "system" worked out for resolving actions and handling using the force etc. Super simple, no problem. I'm not really looking for a system but if anyone wants to recommend one they think might work and that I can learn on (some fraction of) my five hour train ride, then recommend away! But that's a secondary concern.

What I actually need are some tips for running a game for young kids. Obviously a straight-forward plot that can be resolved in a fairly short period of time. I don't expect to hold his attention for a 3+ hour session or anything like that. I'll consider it a success if I manage to keep him interested for 30 minutes or so. I'm thinking something like 3 scenes in a pretty linear structure: This happens, then that happens, then you fight some storm troopers, you win! Something like that.

Anyway, if you've ever run RPGs for young kids I want all your secrets! I'm far from an expert GM but I have run a few games (for adults) before and they've gone well. So general gaming stuff I'm okay with. It's gaming with kids specifically that I need advice for.

If you're at all familiar with the Star Wars universe, some basic plot ideas would be welcome also. I can hammer out the details because, again, five hour train ride. But any and all plot hooks welcome.

Thanks, and may the force be with you (and hopefully me and my nephew!)
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I really recommend getting an old used copy of the West End Games Star Wars RPG. The rules are very simple and all based on D6 rolling. I played dozens of hours of it in college, and bringing friends onboard who were unfamiliar with RPGs was fairly easy given the simplicity of the rules.

As for a simple mission structure, try something like this: Your group are part of the Rebel Alliance and are tasked with stealing supplies from an Imperial outpost. Something like shield generators, or fuel. Basics. Start them off with a simple briefing from a Rebellion officer. If one of them owns a ship, great. If not, use the old stolen Imperial shuttle bit from ROTJ.

Step 1 can be about sneaking into the base and making stealth rolls. Step 2 is finding and taking the items. Step 3 is being discovered by a patrol with an exciting chase back to their ship. And finally, a gripping chase by TIE fighters while trying to make it to hyperspace. Since you're running the game, you can make things close without killing off your players. Close is always entertaining. Stormtroopers can always miss or just graze a limb.

I also recommend getting some Star Wars music from the movies to play during your session. Beginning the game with the Star Wars theme sets things up nicely. Other tracks like the asteroid chase from ESB or Battle in the Snow are good mood music. Also the TIE fighter attack from ANH.

Miniatures can help too. If you or the kids own any micro machines, those are great for showing positional relationships for space battles. Micro action figures are also useful for showing where they are in relation to stormtroopers or imperials they're trying to sneak past.

That's about all I have off the top of my head. Hope this helps!
posted by Fleebnork at 3:34 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Other ideas have popped into my head from my hazy memories of playing: Steal some important data! Hijack an Imperial ship! Capture a valuable officer or VIP! Liberate a valuable Jedi artifact from Imperial hands!
posted by Fleebnork at 3:42 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not to be lazy , but truly, you will have so much fun with cardboard tube light sabers and lots of running around. I usually let the kid direct the action....
posted by calgirl at 5:15 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

To really get him hooked, I'd throw in both a cameo of a character from the movies as well as a cliffhanger ending. Maybe they get a glimpse of Vader boarding a shuttlecraft and leaving the planet, and then just as they have made their escape, that same shuttlecraft reappears with weapons locked on the heroes ship... To Be Continued...
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 PM on April 28, 2016

I'd say two things:
1) He might just not be into it. Don't force it.
2) Assuming he's game, great! I think a key will be keeping it as responsive to his decisions as possible. Really the same advice as GMing for anyone, but cranked to 11. He says he found a crate of thermal detonators to chuck at the bad guys? Roll with it.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:07 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I guess my point 2 is just restating the old improv technique: "yes, and..."
posted by Wretch729 at 7:09 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have any figures or any of the Fantasy Flights games? You could use them as minis or markers on your game map. You are going to have a map, right? That alone might take up your game time.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:11 PM on April 28, 2016

When I was your nephew's age (in kindergarten), every day at recess we would simply "play Star Wars." (The movie had just been broadcast on TV for the first time, and Return of the Jedi was coming out that summer, so every kid was familiar with it—and obsessed with it.) "Playing Star Wars" simply meant assigning ourselves roles and running around the schoolyard interacting with other kids playing the same game and just basically evolving stories with one another. You would of course have to introduce yourself on each occasion ("I'm Han, with the Force and a light saber") and then just go from there.

I'm not sure at age 6 if I'd have been able to handle anything more RPG-like than that. This was simply cops-and-robbers, but with Star Wars. Honestly, that kind of free-form play might work best.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:07 PM on April 28, 2016

My husband plays proto-D&D with our six-year-old; generally the dice rolling part is son's character fighting husband's character in a direct dice roll battle where its easy for son to compare the numbers and see who won the fight (they go several rounds, most rounds won wins the match), rather than rolling for stealth or whatever.

Also everyone has to draw their own character with crayons on construction paper and give it a name. Adults too. Then husband tells a story that leads to their characters fighting or wrestling or racing, and if son gets interested he lets son take over the storytelling part.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:09 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Fantasy Flight Games have excellent Starter Games sets for their three Star Wars RPG lines, Edge of the Empire (think criminal underworld, smugglers, etc), Age of Rebellion (Rebel Alliance vs Empire) and Force and Destiny (Jedi).

The sets are pitched a little more complex than for 6 year olds, I think, but provide a good starter base that you can work from, building in complexity as you go forward. I've played, run, or at least read, each of the starter adventures, they have 7-8 scenes designed to introduce new concepts at each stage - you can probably pick and choose which ones to run and tweak as necessary with a couple of hours prep time. The sets include beautiful maps, counter/tokens for good guys and bad guys, and a set of dice.

The dice are the potential pitfall here, with a young child - the FFG system uses positive and negative dice, with special symbols that cancel each other out on 3 notionally independent axes (success/fail, advantage/threat, triumph/despair), but for simplicity you could simplify this to just positive symbol/negative symbol cancellation.

If your nephew enjoys the game and wants to ply more in the future, there's a free, downloadable adventure on the FFG website that provides a follow-on for each of the starter box sets, extending out another 3-5 sessions' worth of play.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:32 AM on April 29, 2016

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