Traditional communications advice is ‘show, don’t tell’. That’s because we’re much more likely to believe things we’ve seen than things we’re just told about. In role-playing games we can go a step further. Our players can experience the things we want to communicate. And that insight can help us create better adventures.
In Amazing Tales I describe a ‘play to find out what happens’ approach to storytelling. But if you have got specific goals for a story that might need adjusting. These goals could be educational – ‘Learn that the vikings were great sailors and explorers and the first Europeans to reach Canada’; or they could be about introducing part of your game world – ‘learn that the land beyond the mountains is populated by ogres’; or it could be about moving a big piece of plot forward, ‘Learn that the Temple of Solitude is governed by the same cult that also controls the king’.
So last week Ruben, Lisa and I recorded a game of Amazing Tales for the world to watch. And here it is.
What I didn’t include in the video, but will share here, are the character sheets and the story sheet we drew in the game.
I love the Amazing Tales artwork, and I hear that other people do too. Getting the artwork right was a big part of the process of creating the book. This post describes the process we went through to do that, and shows how it evolved over time.
Step zero: Find an illustrator
Iris and I had worked together before she was an illustrator. And I knew that since going her own way to pursue a freelance career with Irisistible Design she’d done the illustrations for the wonderful book ‘The Mooncandy Rebellion‘. So before going to the trouble of checking portfolios, assembling shortlists and the like I asked Iris if she’d be interested. And she was. Which I think was probably one of the most important moments in the history of Amazing Tales.
Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, the Three Musketeers without Count Richelieu or the Hobbit without Smaug. That’s right. Without a good villain an adventure struggles. Here are some tips on creating great villains quickly.
The two word villain
Remember the article on creating memorable characters with one word? Since our villain is going to be the most important character in the story after the hero we’ll go big. We’ll create them with two whole words. Today’s villain will be an evil space captain, so let’s start making her more interesting by choosing some adjectives.
Running a campaign for four, five and six year olds requires a very different mindset to running a campaign for adults. Here are the key things you need to adjust:
Keep it short
Campaigns for young kids should be short. Three or four sessions is plenty. Six is definitely enough. That’s not to say you can’t play more sessions with the same characters, just that you probably want to give them something else to do. Don’t overestimate kids’ attention spans.
I find adding puzzles to games for adults one of the hardest things about writing games. My players just know far too much. But when I’m gaming with kids it’s suddenly a lot easier, setting them in game challenges that really make them think is just a matter of realising what they haven’t learned yet.
Here are three simple tools to add puzzles to role-playing games for your kids
Creating new characters in seconds is one of the most challenging aspects of running a roleplaying game. If you can do it well and quickly your children will love the characters you provide for their heroes to interact with. Here’s a simple trick to make creating memorable characters easier, I call it Two Word Characters.
I find a blank piece of paper and a pen are essential tools for roleplaying with kids. It starts with deciding what their heroes will be – at age four my daughter was clear that her heroes would have long hair and carry a picnic basket. Only once I’d drawn these essential features onto the page would she consider lesser questions – such as could her hero do magic, or fight monsters?
As adventures unfolded drawing the various hazards and encounters was both a way to explain them and a way to remember what had already happened. Ogres with big pointy teeth, robots with telescopic arms, pirate islands with volcanoes and jungles, all brought to life with a quick sketch, drawn as I describe the situation.
Some photos of the finished product
With which I am very happy indeed
One of the great things about role-playing is the chance to do the impossible, to be a hero. To have your character matter to a world in a way that few people, perhaps no people, will ever matter in the real world. You could be the one to throw the ring into Mount Doom, blow up the Death Star or pull the sword from the stone. That’s what we think of when we think about fictional heroes.