I’ve recently been reading up on the excellent work of the folk at Game To Grow. They’re a group who focus on the therapeutic value of role-playing games, and through doing so they’ve identified a number of areas where role-playing games can be of benefit to any child. The areas they’ve identified are
- Perspective taking
- Frustration tolerance
- Creative problem solving
Thinking about these areas can be a great way to build interesting encounters. In this article I’m going to take a look at the first of those – perspective taking, and how you can build it into your games of Amazing Tales.
Perspective taking is the understanding that other people have different ideas to you, and people usually develop it between the ages of two and three. Perspective taking is a key skill for understanding and resolving social conflicts so it’s going to be part of any role-playing game. Here are five ways you can build encounters around perspective taking in a role-playing game.
#1. Identifying emotions
When my kids were four they started school. And one of the first topics they had was learning about feelings and emotions. In particular, what do they look like and how do we identify them. They drew pictures of smiley faces and frowny faces. They talked about what it’s like to laugh and cry. It’s important for kids to know when someone is sad, or angry or happy or lonely. You can bring this into your games by describing emotions rather than naming them. So instead of saying
“The goblin looks sad”
“The goblin is sitting quietly in a corner and looking at the ground. You can see tears on his cheeks”
Now it is up to the players to work out that the Goblin is sad. With older children you can use more subtle clues or simply adjust your tone of voice or body language to convey an emotion and see if they pick up on it.
#2. Understanding the preferences of others
Not everyone reacts the same way to the same things. Indeed some people don’t like things other people really like. Being able to work this out and act appropriately is an important skill.
The witch of Tom’s Hollow has her pet crow sing to her all day. She likes the singing so much she has cast a spell to make it really loud. This is upsetting for the people of Tom’s hollow who think the crow’s singing sounds awful.
The witch will not be persuaded to stop if people tell her the crow’s singing is bad. To her it sounds great. If someone explains that other people don’t like it, then she might listen.
Situations like this could also arise because of things the heroes have done. For instance if they’ve put out a fire by flooding a valley then not everyone is going to be pleased with them. Next time they might learn to think in advance.
#3. Telling socially acceptable lies
Some research into perspective taking has focused on whether people recognise when it’s appropriate to tell a socially acceptable lie. Examples from the research included being polite about someone’s appearance and expressing gratitude when presented with an unwanted gift. It is easy to imagine either of these challenges coming up in the context of an adventure. For instance…
The starship Entrepreneur has settled into orbit around the planet Grox Four. After the captain sends greetings the Groxians respond by sending the crew a present. Six tonnes of cow poo! The Groxians seem certain that this is a fabulous gift – what do you do?
#4. Resolving disputes
Resolving differences between different factions is something heroes are often called on to do. Sometimes all that is needed to resolve the challenge is to understand where both parties are coming from, and explain it back to them.
Brogor the Troll won’t let anyone cross the bridge to the village. This is because he lives under the bridge, and the sound of feet crossing stops him getting any sleep (Trolls sleep in the day). He just wants to be left to sleep in quiet. The villagers want to cross the bridge. Can the heroes resolve this problem?
In this example there might be some easy solutions. Maybe there’s another bridge Brogor could sleep under, or maybe the villagers could cross somewhere else. Whatever the resolution, this is probably more interesting than a situation where the troll is causing a problem ‘because he’s bad’.
#5. Explaining things
Being able to explain things in terms someone else will understand is often a challenge for children. In adventures it is often the case that the help the heroes need is only one good explanation away – but children often struggle to realise that the people they’re talking to might not know all the things they do.
The heroes have travelled to a far away land to retrieve a magic crystal that will save their home from a magical hurricane. But the people in the far-away land have never heard of this problem, or the land where the heroes come from. If they get a clear explanation they will help. If they don’t they won’t.
If you want to practice this don’t allow children to skate past these moments. Have your NPCs ask questions about the things they don’t understand. Have them leap to (wrong) conclusions based on poor explanations. If you make them a little foolish then this often becomes funny rather than frustrating for the players.
In the course of a quest heroes often have to explain what they’re doing again and again. This is a good chance to both practice the skill, and to reinforce the story you are making up with your children.
Finally, older players might learn that they should vary their explanations based on who they’re talking to. Should you really tell the castle guards you’re here to steal the king’s crown?
Not just for kids
By now you’ve probably realised that perspective taking is a skill we need every day, as adults as well as as children. So if you find these techniques working well for you in games of Amazing Tales, don’t hesitate to dress them up a bit and bring them into games with adults as well.
If reading this has left you thinking, ‘that all sounds great, but I need a roleplaying game to play with my kids’ then I’d like to introduce you to Amazing Tales. It’s a tabletop role-playing game designed for kids aged four and up to play together with their parents.
Explore this site to learn more about it, or order a copy by using the links below