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Age target: all ages (some counting/reading/tracking required)
Sodalitas is a quick-to-start SRD that is accompanied by the Adventures on a Single Page series (future review for those incoming!). Sodalitas’ rules all fit on one page, so it isn’t overwhelming for kids who are new to tabletop role playing games, and it is a great quick-reference during gameplay.
Only basic math is required (adding up to 3d6), and the character sheets are easy to understand, so there aren’t a lot of barriers to being able to read the character sheet or keep track of everything. Since my kid is still working on reading (kiddo is 3 years old), I did need to help with this part, but after pointing a few times to where things were on the sheet, kiddo started tracking independently. I didn’t have to worry about continuing to help or my child getting frustrated with complicated rules.
This game worked well with my little one, and I think this would also be a great all-ages game, working well for kids or adults who want a solid streamlined system.
Sodalitas is an SRD where your characters are part of a guild together, you have a guild hall that you get to upgrade after each adventure to get some cool stuff for your next adventure, and you can recruit helpers along the way! Aside from that, the setting is up to you!
Some of the examples and art lend to a classic medieval-style setting, but there aren’t any requirements to stick to that – I could see this easily being outfitted for everything from superhero stories to space adventures to spaghetti westerns and more. It’s a flexible base system where character creation is open enough to encourage any setting (i.e. you can pick any type of character, not just a wizard, paladin, etc which trends games more toward a medieval fantasy).
Your character can be anything you want them to be! But! You need to describe them in four words or less!
I loved this as a way to make a character. It gets players to focus on what’s REALLY important about their character and it makes it very easy for kids to keep track of. After that, you choose an ability for your character (there are suggestions in the game sheet), a weapon, and 2 pieces of equipment. Then you’re all set! It’s only 4 “things” to track, and the character sheet is laid out to facilitate quickly finding everything.
For my kid, we made a character who was a “happy excited superhero tiger”, breathes fire, and has a shield, a pizza, and a funny magical hat. That’s a great character, and we had a ton of fun playing him! After the first few minutes of the game, kiddo got the hang of things and was able to remember everything their character could do or had.
The character sheets for this are also very well done – there’s multiple formats, so you can pick which one best suits your players, and there’s designated space for every inventory item and to draw your character. It also comes with 8 amazing premade characters that you can use as well.
Sodalitas has turn order following the seating around the table, which is great for jumping right into scenes without rolling for initiative (no interruptions to the action) and then having to bounce around the table for who has the next move (and having something more to track). It is really easy to visually track who goes next.
I also appreciated that there’s a voting mechanic introduced for when discussions go on for a while. Discussion is encouraged, but at the end, the guild votes before taking action. This makes sure that the quieter players still are guaranteed a say and that, if the discussion does go for too long, there is still a pre-set way to determine the outcome and resolve things as part of the game mechanics (versus someone arbitrarily saying, “Well fine! We’ll vote!”). This can help when you are in a time crunch, like for an after school program, or just want to give a framework for group discussions.
There’s a couple main elements of rolling dice in Sodalitas; the first is for normal dice rolls. When rolling for an activity, you roll 2d6, add any bonus dice for having a good plan or a helpful tool, and then check the total versus the success/fail table. The table tells you if you succeeded, failed, or have a caveat added (like some extra trouble happens or you get a bonus).
The second type of roll is for tests or challenges that require multiple rolls to succeed. With these, the referee sets a difficulty and the group has to roll multiple times against the previously mentioned table until they succeed up to the number of the difficulty. For example, if the difficulty is a 3, you roll once, check the consequences of that roll, roll again, check the consequences, etc until you get 3 successes. It’s a comprehensive method for having longer challenges (like a chase scene) that lends to a lot of potential story building. If you get a fail or a trouble thrown into the mix before you hit 3 successes, your challenge (and the story) grows.
Playing out the dice rolls pushed the story, but it was not so complicated that my kid couldn’t understand – kiddo picked it up right away and was able to follow along to determine what was a success/fail without me just having to tell it every time.
Each character also can tap into something called stresses. You can mark off a stress in order to automatically get a successful roll, help a comrade, or use your special power. However, if you mark all three of your stresses, you get exhausted! Once you’re exhausted, you cannot succeed on any of your rolls!
This is a great cost/reward activity since you have a limited number of times that you can use stresses but a lot of different ways to apply it. When my kid was playing Stripey, the fire-breathing tiger, it was really important to not just breathe fire all the time and to save some of those stresses for later. We learned this on the first adventure, and, after that, it became a really cool judgment exercise about using stresses wisely without just saving them all until the end and not using them. There’s some life metaphors in there too, and it gave us a good opportunity to talk within the frame of the game mechanics.
What did my kid think?:
This game was awesome! Kiddo grasped the mechanics well and wasn’t held up by them, so we were able to really focus on the story and then use the mechanics to support that.
Having freedom to choose any character was also a lot of fun since we created a character that kiddo really wanted to play as and had ownership of.
And the art was another great connection point – both the pictures being a fun artstyle and getting to make our own art (drawing the character and the guild hall) was a lot of fun, and kiddo enjoyed having the opportunity to color.
Sodalitas is easy to learn and run, quick to jump into, and is a great system to promote great role-playing. Having single page reference sheets BE the manual really helped me to run this as a new game with my kid since I didn’t need to keep looking things up while managing a little one. It worked well for running several short episodic games and had just enough complexity to make it unique and interesting. I definitely recommend it for any all-ages application, but especially for after school programs or games with young ones!
Where to find a copy:
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, tried the game because of this post, or have played this game before!