When I started looking into roleplaying games for kids there were a number that fell into the broad ‘dungeons and dragons junior’ bucket, and one that didn’t. That one was No Thank You Evil!, a 2015 release from Monte Cooke Games.
No Thank You Evil stands out from the crowd in a few ways. It comes in a box. The box contains a rulebook, a book of scenarios, a lot of cardboard counters, some colourful character sheets, some big dice and a lot of large format cards with pictures on them. The game is story driven, set in the big wide world of Storia, rather than a tightly confined dungeon. The rules are simple and scale in complexity as your children age.
My kids loved the colourful box, and were delighted with the contents – colourful card counters, illustrated rule books and big chunky D6s. Most popular were the cards, which cover character archetypes (with male and female versions of all characters offered), monsters, pets and cyphers – these last ones are text and so less exciting for kids. Plenty of thought has gone into making the illustrations for the character archetypes interesting and unusual, giving plenty of fuel for player’s imaginations.
The setting is broad, aiming to fit in anything kids might want in a game. Spaceships, dinosaurs, castles and haunted houses all feature. These appear in different areas of Storia, are fleshed out with some background in the rules, and appear on a nice illustrated map. My kids got the concept of Storia immediately and started poring over the map looking for cool places to go.
The system behind the game is a simplified version of the Cypher System, which I’m not familiar with. The simplified version is simple though. Tasks are handled by rolling a D6 against a target number, and things can be made easier by spending points out of characteristic pools. These are tracked with card counters which makes keeping track a breeze, even for five year olds.
The scenario guide ‘Let’s go on an adventure’ which comes in the box contains three scenarios. We started with the first one, a super simple dungeon crawl featuring witches and a cave that took us about half an hour. Character generation took about twenty minutes on top of that. The second session we played used the second scenario, essentially a four room setting with linked challenges, so the contents of room three were needed to resolve room two, and so on. Since the scenario takes place at a party we did that one to a disco soundtrack. This one took about an hour. We haven’t played the third scenario, but that’s a similar beast, a series of encounters in a theme park which can be taken in any order, but relate to each other. Looking at it, that’s probably more of a two hour play through.
The kids had plenty of fun with the first two scenarios, as did the guide (that game’s term for GM). Both of which I intentially played very much as written. I would have liked to see something showcasing a different style of play though, Storia as presented in the background is basically a giant sandbox, so providing novice guides with a scenario that showed how to exploit this, and let the players travel between locations might help people take their games to the next level.
The authors have put a lot of thought into making this game accessible for kids. Only one of my players can read well, which was no problem. While neither of my kids are colour blind the components are designed to account for that. The math required is counting to eight and being able to add or subtract one or two. All the dice are rolled by the players (when a monster attacks you you roll to defend), which means the Guide is never a direct antagonist of the players. All characters get a companion creature – a dragon, a talking car, an invisible friend or even a little brother or sister! These companions provide plenty of extra backup for player characters, not that they need it, heroes in Storia are pretty much unstoppable, which for kids is just fine.
My criticisms of the game are largely ones that could map to roleplaying games as a whole. There’s not a lot of system, but what there is is heavily focused on combat. Special abilities tend to be expressed in extra damage or advantages gained ‘for one round’. More emphasis on puzzles and social challenges as part of the gaming experience would have been welcome. (Although my kids are generally happy to bash their way through pretty much any scenario).
I also found that there wasn’t much mechanical difference between the different archetypes. A ‘Strong astronaut’ will be significantly less strong than any ‘Fighter’ which might not feel great to the child who elected to be strong but didn’t see it turn out that way. My kids didn’t notice this, but they did spend time carefully comparing all their stats, and I can see it being a bit of an issue for older children.
Overall though these are minor quibbles. No Thank You Evil is an excellent game, well written, well presented, with high production values and plenty of potential. The colorful box, artwork and components will be a big draw, and probably help your kids with the all important challenge of convincing their friends to join in.
ps – Having just posted this I remembered something else. While the character sheets are great, you don’t get a lot of them,
and I can’t find a place to download more. but you can download more here