By Jason Campbell
I run role playing games for my friends live at the table and over the internet. I also run games at my local game store. These games are not an ongoing long form campaign, but “drop in” one-shot games. This means that I can have different players each session, and there are no age restrictions for players. I’ve had players from 9 years old through older adults. In this situation, a GM has to be ready for some different challenges. Your goal as a GM is the same as with any other game: to ensure everyone at the table has a good time. Let’s look at a few ideas to make that happen.
Prepare Appropriate Content
I sometimes use original homebrew adventures and sometimes I use published adventures. In either case you need to prepare the content with an eye for the youngest player you anticipate. This means you have to avoid anything that might be objectionable for a younger player, as well as for their parents. This could include anything from excessive violence to jokes relying on double entendre. If you’re running a combat heavy game, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid any violence but you need to avoid particularly gory descriptions of the combat. Besides avoiding objectionable material you also should consider anything that might be difficult to understand for younger players. This could include avoiding vocabulary that would be difficult to understand or making sure any puzzles or riddles are understandable for younger players.
Maintaining Player Interest
While making sure your adventure is safe for younger players, It should still be of interest to adults. You can do this by beginning the session by asking each player what they enjoy most about TTRPGs. This is a direct method but it has the drawback that some players might not realize what parts of the game they enjoy the most. You can also do this by watching your players as the game plays out and gauging their interest in combat, social encounters, puzzles and exploration. Younger players can get bored with lengthy dialog or when combat rounds go on for a long time so they don’t get to “do” anything for long periods of time. One way to keep them engaged is to directly ask them, “what does your character think of that” when other characters are talking or acting. This can draw them into the action. Adult players who are more experienced in role playing games might get bored when the game slows down to explain parts of the game to younger players. You can avoid this by asking these experienced players to help a younger player, or asking their characters what they’d do in a similar situation.
You can avoid potential problems by just making sure that all of your players understand this is an all ages game. Discuss this with your game store so that it is promoted that way. Make sure you mention this at the beginning of each session to emphasize it. Pay extra attention to your table as some assumptions you make about your players when it’s a table of friends might not be true at an all ages table. And most of all, have fun!
Jason Campbell is a father, designer, forever GM and creator of the TTRPG web site Shadomain with his partner GamerMomLuna. Shadomain.com publishes new TTRPG articles, reviews, interviews and more daily Monday through Friday.
If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!
If this post has helped you, consider supporting TTRPGkids on ko-fi to help keep the site ad free! There’s one time options and subscriptions that give access to monthly TTRPGkids games! Thank you!