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Note: this is a transcripted interview, edited for ease of reading
- Starting TTRPG’s
- Playing with kids
- Lessons learned playing with kids
- Favorite stories
- The Family Fantasy RPG’s
- Advice for starting to play with kids
- Closing remarks and links
Hello Colin, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Colin Anderson. In the daytime, I am going for my PhD in toxicology, and I’m currently a post-doc doing research in aging.
In the TTRPG field, I kind of have three fields now – first, I write homebrew content for Wallspire Miniatures. He’s a buddy of mine and sells the miniatures, and I write some content to go along with the miniatures and quests. We basically created a world, which is pretty cool.
The second thing is that now, I am a live streamer! I am joining Fabled42 and am starting my first stream of campaign as a player. I’m really excited. It’s Saturday nights, so this premier timeslot, and there’s six of us playing.
The last thing is the kid’s game; I’ve created Family Fantasy RPG. So far, there are two game systems out. The first primary one is Fairies of the Mistglade, and the newer one is Dino Riders. They’re both 5e but tiered down for kids ages 3+.
How did you start playing tabletop RPGs?
It was in high school, and I remember it very well because my best friend’s older sister and husband were big into D&D 3rd edition to where they were writing 3rd party material for it. So, his brother-in-law was our DM – he started with six juniors in high school and by the end of our senior year, there were 12 of us on this epic campaign. We had a blast.
Since then, I’ve played D&D 3, 3.5, 4, and 5. I’ve played some other systems too, Vampire Masquerade and There Will Be Blood.
I also think that if you’ve been in TTRPG’s enough, there’s a time when my friends wanted to play a game, and I just made up a system on the spot. You just pick your best three talents or skills, and those you get a d10, then you rank this set of 12 skills in three different tiers that becomes a d8, d6, d4… and you just play the game as yourself. It was a lot of fun and easy to do, but it is kind of cool that once you learn enough systems, you can kind of just throw something together.
Do you play tabletop RPGs with your kid?
My son is four years old, and I do play with him. We have played my game, although, I will say he’s ready to play at tier two. He’s more into fighting and combat now, so we’re just going to run through everything again at tier two.
We’ve also run the StoryGuider games, and we’ve run the One Page Adventures (Jan Van Houten) that we found through the TTRPGkids discord – they are in French but have English translations, so I’ve run a few of those. He really liked those too. The first one comes with a template to write your own, and he immediately wanted to write his own story.
What have you learned or seen when playing tabletop RPGs with your kid?
It is almost a double edged sword… It’s a good double edged sword, it’s great… now, my wife is very much into board games, so we have board games and TTRPG’s, and we they have very much fostered this creativity in our son. It is great, but is also very extravagant and very present.
My wife has a recording of when my son wanted to take her and me through and adventure, and… I don’t remember, we had to fight something, some evil person…. We would say, “I want ot hit him with my sword!” Then he would say, “oh…. Your sword is broken.” “OK, I want to cast Fireball.” “Oh… he doesn’t get hurt by fire.”
There’s all these very frustrating things as players, but then to hear his expansive imagination, we love it. It makes us really happy to hear him tell us these original stories, and he’s not timid about it all. He can sit there and make stuff up as a story.
I think children also hold onto the characters more than we as adults do. His first character when we were playing Faries of the Mistglade was Catch the Paladin, and now, whenever he’s telling the story, it can be dinosaurs or superheroes or whatever, his character is Catch. Catch can do everything; he’s an all-purpose character.
They’re going to better at remembering those characters than adult players. When we tried the dino game out, it had been months since we played the fairy game, but he wanted to ask one of his fairy friends that he had played with, his babysitter’s character who played with us once – he wanted to ask her character for help. That’s really cool. He remembers it. He really enjoys it because he remembered it after months.
Confidence too and social skills, getting over those nerves about being creative in front of people. I do feel like the more you mature those hang ups maybe come out a little more because you understand the situation, but as a kid, you’re either shy and don’t want to talk or they just go. No reservations, he just goes.
What is your favorite story from your kid’s games?
The very first session, we were trying to be loose with the rules, and he was supposed to be going with the NPC through a river. He also had a car toy, and he got the car out and we just had to go with it. He was just so adamant to take the car, so you just need to let it go.
With the boggle quest, he was so immediately disarmed by the boggle and willing to talk. There’s a path that goes where you can get the boggle integrated into society, and he did it. He was like, “instead of fighting, let’s be friends! You should deliver pizzas for Red Cap Village!” It was so cool that his first response was that this guy just needs to have a friend.
I feel like sometimes it’s hard to get your kids to tell you what they learned. We have to struggle to get him to tell us one thing he learned today, but in the game, they will inadvertently tell you what they learned. Things like creation or painting or blacksmithing… like, you know what blacksmithing is? OK.
The Family Fantasy RPG’s:
Why did you start writing your games?
It was the pandemic. Right around that March of 2020, and I was getting into writing homebrew content for Wildspire, so that came first. I was getting deep in lore and trying to read forums and facebook groups about homebrew content, and, then, in these facebook groups, the same question kept coming up – how do I introduce my kids to D&D? How do I play D&D with my kids?
A lot of the answers, and this is still today, is that it isn’t D&D. There’s Hero Kids and Amazing Tales. Not to say that any of those systems are bad – they’re great. The best thing we can do for kids games is have this variety. You can know your kid and say, “this system is going to be best for my kid.”
I get the point too though that a lot of these people know D&D and don’t have time to learn a new system. They know D&D and want to know the best way to play that with their kid. Seeing that there weren’t that many good answers, I thought I could sit down and maybe figure this out.
It was very much a Doogie Howser kind of thing at nighttime when the kid is asleep. My wife is an accountant and was working from home, but I was a PhD student and couldn’t go anywhere, so I was playing daddy daycare. So, whenever he was taking a nap or something, I was on my computer trying to put together this system, and it just kind of developed.
You also ran a Kickstarter, correct?
A lot of people don’t know this, but I did attempt to do a kickstarter for the game in July 2020, maybe a little later, but I had no idea about social media and exposure. I assumed if I put it out there, everyone would see it, but that’s not really how it works. Definitely took the hit, have had some downtimes where it’s hard to get it out there and get user feedback. It’s been slow, but I’m now coming to appreciate it being slow because stuff other than this is getting busy again.
Now, I have a lot more experience because I’ve looked at a lot more kickstarters and definitely would want to put a dice set in there, maybe some plastic miniatures of the fairies. I’m understanding better what the quests should be. If I did another kickstarter, I would probably have longer campaigns. It took us a couple nights to do these sessions, but some people have done it in one night. Now that I’ve played it with adults, I can see how this can be done in three or four hours. I want it to get a longer campaign, and I have some cool ideas ready.
What is unique about your games?
I think our game has some very unique elements. The first is the storybook elements. The idea is that your kids are used to picturebooks. When they’re hearing creativity and getting their stories, they are used to being able to see it too. So, one of the features that I wanted to make sure was storybook illustrations so you’re listening to the story and listening to the DM (Daddies and Mommies) talk in this funny voice or something, but then they also see the picture just like in a book. They can’t read the text, but they can see it, and it’s familiar.
Then, there’s the chapters. I think the chapters are very unique because it really makes it easy for you to see when your kid starts to disengage for the night, you can say, let’s just finish a little bit further. Let’s finish this chapter and we can pick it up next time.
I feel like the chapter makes it easier for the DM’s to run it because they have a familiarity to it. Storytime is the role playing chapter. If you’re going through the adventure and get to the storytime chapter, you know that this is the are they’re going to be roleplaying a lot and making some skill checks.
The tier system – I know this isn’t completely novel since other games have a tier system out there, however, the tier three was interesting. Having your guys play the tier three [in the live stream] was the first time I was actually part of someone playing the tier three, and I think it works pretty well. The proficiency, just rolling at advantage or disadvantage, it’s debilitating but in the purpose of promoting teamwork. As adults, you see that you aren’t proficient, so I have disadvantage, I’m not going to be very good at it. You take a step back and let someone else do it. Kids will do the same, and that’s a very important lesson that sometimes if you aren’t great at something, it’s OK to ask for help.
As a creator, there’s certain questions I need to keep on the top of my mind. For the rhyming, which is another unique feature of this game, I have fun doing it, but there’s going to be an age cut off of kids enjoying rhyming. I don’t know if I need an alternate text that’s not rhyming. There’s some interesting considerations that go into that. Do I need to have multiple options based on multiple kid preferences?
You include puzzles in your games too, correct? I really love doing those puzzles with my son.
When I started off doing them in the first garden one, it was very much that I needed to have it in there as a component. Then, in the Dino Riderz one, the puzzles are so much better. There’s more of them and they look so much better, one, because of your feedback about it, and two, I’ve been getting more interested in saying this isn’t going to be a component, it’s a feature. It’s going to be up front for the kids and for the adults too. The adult companions need to color in their sheet and do the puzzles.
What advice do you have for adults who want to introduce tabletop RPGs to kids for the first time?
One answer is on the side of just playing with your kids, but just do it. It sounds silly, but just do it. I created this game, and still, before I play with my family, I still get jitters. Do I really want to do this right now? Do I want to set it all up? Do I want to be that character? And every time that I do it, I feel so good afterward.
I understand the hang up. Everyone needs to understand that when it comes time, there’s going to be a hang up to playing a new game – you just have to put it out there. No one’s going to yell at you, just try it out. Everyone’s just trying to have fun.
Any closing words?
Also, I don’t know the exact release date as things have been getting busier, but the next big thing from us is Champions of the Reef. It’s the third game setting, it’s a mermaid setting. The art is super cool, if you haven’t seen the art, you can find me on social media and see it on there.
Thank you Colin for doing the interview!
You can find Colin and the Family Fantasy RPG games here:
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