We have interviewed the people who created it for you Kids & Dragons, the role-playing game designed for young people aged 8 to 14. Let's dig deeper into this title!
Over the past two years, the Italian role-playing community has often been heard of Kids & Dragons. In rpg's Facebook groups, when someone asked for a role-playing game suitable for their children or teenage students, they gradually began to impose an answer on all of them: "Kids & Dragons".
Project aimed at make children and adolescents play a role by streamlining the classic system of D&D 3.5, Kids & Dragons has faced a long study and playtest course throughout Italy, collecting feedback and filing its system. With a system that combines the structure of the RPG to the narrative of the game book, this title is supported by two "manuals" with an innovative structure and a series of tools that make actions and game turns more immediately understandable. In this sense, particular attention was paid to the needs of players with DSA.
The team that developed this title is partly composed of the new reality that is emerging from our community: i nerdy parents who want to play role with their children, such as Michele Torbidoni and Emanuele Silvi. But there are also young (and) adults who are committed to introduce new generations to the GDR and experiment with new frontiers in role-playing games, such as Alessandro Buccolini, Manfredi Mangano, Filippo Amato, Daniele Rabboni, Cesare Piombetti, Enrico Marchegiani and Tommaso Spinsanti.
Today, Kids & Dragons is successfully coping his first Kickstarter e nimbly exceeded its € 9.500 target, unlocking five of the six revealed stretchgoals and continuing to grow.
As you well know, We Seekers have always appreciated the playful initiatives aimed at younger people, because we consider them important and absolutely non-trivial challenges. We have already spoken, for example of First Adventure e Fantastories, after interviewed Alessandro Savino of Parents of Role.
Therefore, for the occasion, we interviewed the team of Kids & Dragons, to find out more details about their product and the background behind their most interesting decisions!
You have tested Kids & Dragons many times and you have also thought of it for completely novice masters, who can approach the game without preparation. What stories emerged from these novice masters? What approach did they take towards role-playing? Have you noticed any differences compared to the more seasoned masters?
Most of the "novice" masters who approached Kids & Dragons and played with the boys had never "role-played", but never even heard the word "role-play". Many parents, many teachers.
As soon as they sit down at the table they don't know what to expect. Someone is almost afraid.
From this point of view, our access to the game (Map Book e Book of Events) allows you to smooth the initial learning curve a lot and put the new Masters at ease. "I just have to read and do what it tells me, don't I?" It is the first approach. Reassures them.
Then, slowly, they discover the game mechanism and begin to take their liberties as a Master. With this freedom (informed) comes the pleasure of "mastering" ed they start having fun.
How many sessions with different stories can be done with the Kids & Dragons? How long can a campaign become?
Let's say that with it Starter / Core Set you play quietly for five o six sessions. The Full / Deluxe Set bring the total to 20, 22 sessions. It also depends on the "speed" of the group of players.
The idea of Advantage Dice and Disadvantage Dice is very nice! How often have you seen them used during a session? How much are the masters pushed and to use them?
Advantage / Disadvantage dice are added to the dice pool according to specific requests and indications of tests and skills. At the beginning, therefore, the Master limits himself to carrying out the indications of the adventure modules, then, when he becomes familiar with the system, he becomes autonomously able to decide if and how to add them to the player's roll. It's the same Book of Events who gradually gives up the reins to the Master on this type of decision.
The use of Action Tokens gives physicality to actions, which would otherwise be quite abstract. How did you come to conceive this system? What advantages does it have compared to the system of actions of a common D&D 5e or 3.5?
It has been a continuous journey. We started from the direct experience that the mechanics of many traditional role-playing games (declaration of actions and related resolution) it put very shy children in the background, less protagonists. In addition, the Master had the burden of remembering status and initiative orders to help players. The game session became tiring.
We tried to "Materialize" this information through the dashboards and tokens. We have developed several prototypes and the latest incarnation allows the kids to verbalize, gives everyone the time necessary to tell and live their own story and takes a good part of the management weight from the shoulders of the Master.
Besides D&D, For Kids & Dragons have you taken inspiration from other role-playing games, especially from very narrative titles? What are your main reference titles?
We have tried many. Before we went to work, we wanted to know if anyone had already solved the problem. If an offer similar to Kids & Dragons.
Two games in particular impressed us. One is Stuffed Fables by Jerry Hawthorne. We loved this mix of exploratory bordgame which is based on a book of browsable maps. We also appreciated the very particular and intentional look of the game. The other cornerstone was Legacy of Dragonholt by Nikki Valens, and Anna Christenson. A real multiplayer book game. An intelligent and articulate system for playing together using the mechanics of a book with forks.
The story that you propose in the demo, with the jump into the fantasy world, made me immediately think of Digimon. What are your literary, cinematographic, television, comic and video game inspirations for the adventures you will propose?
Ah, wow. I didn't think of anything at all Digimon, but it's true, yes. It may remind you in some respects.
We wanted to write and imagine a vast and vast world. Something in which the boys could get lost with the imagination and in which they found ideas and fertile ground for their own adventures. We tried to work on a visual look that recalled some aspects of classic fantasy, but which maintained its strong autonomy.
There are many things that we appreciated and from which we got ideas and suggestions. Just to name a few: the game Another World by Éric Chani for Amiga, the animated series The Dragon Prince by Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, much of Möebius' works, in particular The Hermetic Garage and the novel Millions of hair rugs by Andreas Eschbach. Just to name a few.
On other occasions, we've noticed that novice players (and not just younger ones!) Tend to go into mode murderhobo, destroying everything. Which you have taken into consideration with the various paragraphs such as "If the players are aggressive or behave badly ..." and the Storypoint. How do you recommend managing these behaviors at the table?
One of the surprises that emerged almost immediately during our replies around Italy is that the boys' first strategy is NOT cooperation. They can't do it. If there is a loot, they start grabbing everything without dividing anything. And even the adventure is initially faced in a very little team.
We learned that the game, in the early stages, must make you feel a certain level of reaction and risk. The righteous must be "punitive" to make it clear that without team work you won't go much further.
Generally, what is the age of the characters created by the players? From adventure to CERN it seems that they are around 16 years old, ideally. Do you usually notice bigger characters or peers than the players?
The boys play themselves in the game world. Maybe they portray themselves "a little older", therefore, I would say that 14 or 16 years is the age most often imagined.
In your playtest experiences, how do children and teenagers play? Have there been any important differences between players of different ages?
All ages of young people they do very little metagaming e they experience adventure a lot. This has led us to pay particular attention to certain aspects and avoid certain disturbing situations that are usually encountered in an adult GDR session.
More than children, teenagers want to make their own choices. And so they love to decide which skills to select in the Skill Tree. The little ones let themselves be guided more.
Does the master person have to be an adult, or can he also be the same age as the other players? Have you had fourteen year old masters? And eight-year master?
It can also be a contemporary. Eight years, from our experience, it is perhaps a little early to have the concentration and the "presence" necessary to manage a game.
I really appreciate the idea of starting an adventure in a place where the characters went on a trip, because it combines the student's daily life with magic. Do you have other similar locations besides CERN?
CERN is the entry point to the world of Lanyoo. So, no, there are no other similar locations. But ... the full story will leave us with a big cliffhanger and who knows that in a possible second campaign, does the action not move in our cities? : )
D&D and role-playing in general has had a problem with the representation of women and non-white people in their manuals for many years, as the book also explains Outside the Dungeon by Asterisco Edizioni. From the drawings of characters you have shown it looks like Kids & Dragons lean towards a varied and diversified representation of genders and ethnic groups. Is this a deliberate choice? How did you approach the issue of diversity in role playing?
We try to show a lot of diversity. Every character in the Class Book it is represented both male and female.
And there is one strong mix of ethnicities related to some "tribal" aspects in the game world. Maybe we could have the opposite situation and have few white / caucasian representations in our game. 🙂
Already from the Kickstarter of Kids & Dragons you notice your great attention to people with DSA, which we appreciate and praise a lot. What was the path that led you to perfect the tools to help people with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia? Have you consulted industry experts?
My son is a boy with DSA. It is dyslexic, but not dyscalculic. At our tables we played with situations of severe dyscalculia and problems with micromotricity and writing.
Much of the reason why we "materialized" status, planks and tokens was done for include in the game also those who otherwise would have felt excluded. We collaborated and involved childhood psychologists to ensure that the game met certain parameters and offered a valid experience.
Kids & Dragons it can be an important recreational and educational tool. Have you opened projects and collaborations with schools to educate young people through role play? What reception did you receive in the educational sector?
The school sector seems very receptive. In particular, there is expectation and attention in secondary school (le medium) where it is more difficult to propose cooperative activities that are well received by young people.
We have a series of activities in place that will allow us to organize game sessions in schools. We will announce something at the end of the crowdfunding campaign. Stay tuned. 🙂
Some final considerations
First of all, we thank the team Kids & Dragons for having lent themselves to the interview and for the detailed answers.
After reading the game demo, I can personally say that my initial impressions were wrong: this game is not well thought out, it is VERY well thought out. I find it brings interesting and innovative solutions to play role with the youngest and to manage the time dedicated to each player through its own mechanics.
The manuals are aesthetically very beautiful and with a layout such as to help the eye a lot of a busy or inexperienced master. The visual references are excellent and exceptional drawings and maps, thanks to the skill of the two designers: Mirco Pierfederici e Virginia Chiabotti.
Of course, Kids & Dragon it's not meant to teach people to role-play in general, but to play at Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Or, in any case, to play a role-playing game with the mechanics of the party and collaboration. As we all know, in fact, not all role-playing games are necessarily collaborative, and indeed some explore the conflicts between the characters, such as Undying, just to give an example.
However, I think that teach young people the power of collaboration and respect for each party member's unique abilities is helpful and instructive. Furthermore, the fact that gambling people play themselves in the right hands could help even some child psychologists.
In short, I pledged very hard Kids & Dragons, hoping to be able to return to bringing role play to children in schools. If you think you have players from eight to fourteen, think about it!