Kid-Friendly RPG at TactiCon 2013 – Part 1

Labor Day weekend in Colorado is a special time. Sure, it’s a great time to enjoy outdoor activities as summer wanes, but for me it’s exciting because it’s TactiCon time!

There are two big local gaming conventions here in Colorado each year. The bigger one is Genghis Con, which takes place over Presidents’ Day weekend in February. The smaller one is TactiCon. Both have lots of RPGs, board games and miniatures games, complete with a good-sized exhibit hall.

They also have Con Jr., which provides kids of con-goers with gaming of their own. I don’t have kids,so I’ve never been involved with Con Jr., but this year I decided that I’d run a game for kids.

You may have seen my post about the Kid-Friendly RPG (KFRPG), the simple game I designed when my young niece and nephew were visiting last Christmas. I figured I should bring this game to Con Jr.


To get ready for the game, the main to-do was to create more characters. I said I could have up to six players, and I only had eight character sheets prepared from last December’s game. I wanted to make sure the kids in my game had more choices.

Basically, I created male and female versions of the existing eight characters, with a few tweaks to make the characters match the pictures I found online.

As a recap, KFRPG characters are pretty simple. They consist of:

  • Race and class
  • Attack die and defense die
  • Three skills
  • One special power

I always include a big picture of the character (using a Google Image Search, for personal use only) and a spot for the player to name the character.

I put my copy of Masks in my bag for the game. This is a cool book in general, but I keep in on hand because of the running lists of random character names at the footers of the pages. What is that NPC’s name? Let me look that up (flip, flip, flip…).

I also had to make sure I had the physical supplies on hand that I would need:

  • The printed character sheets (half page each)
  • Three red poker chips (hit points), one green poker chip (healing potion) and one blue poker chip (special power) for each player
  • Dice that I didn’t mind giving away (I bought a pitcherful at Gen Con)
  • Minis to represent the player characters (I bought a bunch of plastic ones on day 2 of TactiCon)

Finally, I had to make sure my projector setup was ready to go. The projector and rig still work great after three years. As for a MapTool file, I use this one. It has a bunch of different maps on hand, so that my players can go wherever they like. I also have tons of monster and NPC tokens set up in MapTool that I can drop onto the map at any time.

KFRPG is intended to be very free form, letting the players go to bizarre places. And as you’ll see, they did!


My game was scheduled to start at 11:00 Sunday morning. On  Saturday afternoon, I found the room where I would be running the game, just so I would know where to go. I made sure I arrived about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time on Sunday, so that I would have enough time to set up.

As it turned out, there was a Ticket to Ride game that lasted all the way to 11:00 AM in that room, so I had to set up the projector and my supplies quickly when that game ended. The organizer gave me a few extra minutes to get this in order before sending in the kids.

I had a table of six boys, ranging in age from about 7 to 11. All of them had some familiarity with fantasy role playing, many having played D&D before. I had never met any of these kids before.

I started by passing around the character sheets, letting the kids pass them back and forth and swap with one another until they were happy with what they had.

One kid had this gigantic dragon mini that he wanted to use for his character. I told him that he could be a druid and the dragon could be his animal companion that he could call upon with his special power.

The other kids picked a wizard, two rangers, a dwarf paladin and a wolfman warrior (although I didn’t have a wolf mini, so he was really an elephant man).

Scene 1: The Rusty Lantern Inn

Since I’m going for a straightforward game when it comes to KFRPG, we all began in an inn, the Rusty Lantern. There were a couple of dwarves in one part of the inn, a couple of elves in another part, a human woman (Val) running the place, and a burly human man fetching food from the outdoor kitchen.

Web of the Spider Queen Session 1 - No Grid

The Rusty Lantern Inn

I had an adventure hook ready for whenever the kids needed it: An evil wizard known as Kalor the Terrible is rumored to be active in the area. No one ever sees Kalor himself, and accounts vary as to exactly what he looks like, but he leaves his signature in flaming letters in places where he has wrought havoc.

But rather than forcing this on them, I asked the kids what they wanted to do. Some wanted to chat with the elves, so I had the elves tell them that they were fleeing their homeland because Kalor the Terrible had been there.

The dwarves had heard of Kalor, but said that he was more of a legend from hundreds of years ago.

Val the innkeeper said she had some information about Kalor being active in the same region as the Rusty Lantern, which freaked out the elves.

The kids thought this sounded pretty good, so they wanted to press Val for more information. But before she was willing to trust them, she had something she wanted them to do for her first:

Kill the rats in the basement of the inn.

Yes, I wanted the adventuring cliches to flow thick and heavy! Let’s kill some rats.

Time for a cliffhanger!

Since this post is getting so long, I’m going to break it into two parts. Tomorrow, the battle begins!

Michael the OnlineDM

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

13th Age: Sell me a PDF!

Edit: I’ve received a comment from someone associated with 13th Age (see the comment on this post) explaining that a big part of the reason they’re doing what they’re doing is to keep retailers happy. While I know some people have no sympathy for retailers and their desires, I’m not among them. I understand this decision in light of wanting 13th Age to have support from retailers, so I’m ultimately okay with it (even though it may well mean that I never get into the game).

The original post follows.

-End edit


I’ve posted about this on Twitter a few times now, but I thought it was finally time to put these thoughts into a short blog post.

I’m a relatively new RPG player and GM, compared to most. I had a little exposure to D&D 3.0 over 10 years ago, and then I got really into D&D 4th Edition about three years ago. Now with the winding down of support for 4e, I’m available to be wooed by a new game. Sure, I’m devoting most of my game time to board games now, but I still like RPGs.

This is where 13th Age is frustrating me with a business decision. I had heard vaguely about the game in the summer of 2012, but I was neck-deep in development of Chaos & Alchemy at the time so I didn’t get involved (I think there was a pre-order campaign rather than a Kickstarter, but I’m not sure). I do understand that the game has some things that are likely to appeal to a 4e fan like me, so I’m interested in learning about it and trying it out.

Unfortunately, I can’t. See, I’m not looking for more physical RPG books. I have enough of those. I have an iPad now, and I much prefer to read my RPG books on that. If I try a game and decide I’m passionate about it, then sure, I might buy a hardcover book to show my support and to have something collectible, but I want to start with the PDF.

Is the problem that 13th Age is only available in physical form? No, they have a PDF.

Is the PDF not ready yet? No, it’s out there.

Are they not willing to get it in the hands of fans? No, they give it to you for free… IF you pre-order the hard copy book.

And there’s the problem. I don’t want the physical book. I only want the PDF. And I’m willing to buy it! I’m just not willing to pay the hard copy book price just for the PDF.

The 13th Age folks (Pelgrane Press) have announced on their web site that they’ll start selling the standalone PDF in September, but not before. I get what they’re hoping for; they’re hoping that people who are only interested in the PDF might be willing to bite the bullet and spring for the full book. Which I’m not.

So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I can’t check out 13th Age for a couple more months yet.

And yes, I’m aware that it probably wouldn’t be hard to get the PDF through shady means, but I have no interest in that approach. I want to give these people my money!

The reason I write this at all is to contrast it with Fate Core, another alternative RPG that could woo a guy like me. I got in on the Fate Core Kickstarter campaign for ten bucks, because that was the PDF level. But even if I had missed the Kickstarter campaign, I could go to the Fate Core web site right now and download the PDF on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Now, I’m not saying that 13th Age has to be as radically open as Fate Core is (but kudos to Fred Hicks for doing so with his company’s game). If I could go to the 13th Age web site, give them ten bucks and download a PDF, I would have already done so WEEKS ago.

But I can’t. They won’t let me.

This makes it extremely likely that 13th Age will just pass me by. I’m ripe for persuasion to try a new game right now, and 13th Age is quite possibly the best fit for my interests. But since Fate Core is available in the form I’m seeking and 13th Age isn’t, it’s likely that if I want a D&D alternative, I’m going with Fate Core. (Also, I’ve read the Fate Core PDF, and I think it looks like a lot of fun.)

It’s a shame, but so it goes.

Michael Iachini, the OnlineDM

ClayCrucible on Twitter