- Create a solid foundation
- Ask questions
- Make a feedback friendly environment
- Encourage growth in adversity
- Celebrate successes
Create a solid foundation for your games
The first step to helping your kid GM or Story Guide their first tabletop RPG is to make sure that they have the tools needed to be a good story leader and for their players to feel comfortable during the game too.
Model in the games that YOU run with them what goes into a Session Zero, your game prep, and how to use little tricks to make your game easier to run.
You can offer to help them set up and run a Session Zero to make sure that both your kid and their players will be respecting each other during the game, especially if they’re managing new players.
You can have them sit behind the GM screen with you for a session to let them watch what you do and how you track everything so they can see it from that perspective instead of trying to infer the GM’s responsibilities from their seat as a player.
Ask them if they want help setting their game up or see if they want to use any tools you may have, like initiative trackers or your cheat sheets, that could help with their game. Offer to run a test session with them, just between you and them, before they take the game to play with their friends.
Showing this support and giving them some kind of training for being a GM or Story Guide helps them go into the game with confidence and lets them see what to expect with being in a new role.
Ask questions about their ideas
If you’re a player in your kid’s game or you’re helping them set it up, make sure to ask questions about what they’re doing!
This shows interest in what they’re planning, which can build a lot of excitement about this new job and adventure that they get to plan out, and it helps them to clarify their thoughts.
When my kid is making up a story, it usually goes in so many off-the-wall directions that I have a hard time keeping up with the plot, but I still really want to follow along, and I want to make sure my kid knows how to clearly explain themself to others too.
If you’re wondering why everyone is suddenly on the train now, ask your kid why that’s happening!
Oftentimes, your kid will have a full plotline worked out in their head and will know the answer, they just haven’t fully articulated it. Asking questions about confusing topics or paths helps them to learn how to explain that and how to create a good story structure while also helping you, and any other players, to follow along with the game your kid has worked on.
Make a feedback friendly environment
When ANYONE starts GM’ing or leading a story, there are bound to be areas where they can improve. However, it’s sometimes hard for adults to take feedback, even if it’s given in a positive manner, let alone for kids to take feedback, especially when they’re trying to impress their family or friends with a story.
Modeling a feedback friendly environment in games that YOU run first helps your kid to see how feedback from others can help to make things better and assist with learning over time.
At the end of YOUR game sessions, ask for feedback from your kid. Ask what could be improved, what their suggestions are, what they liked, and what they would like you to change. Then, explain how you use their feedback and thank them for it because it helps SO MUCH with making the game better and helping you learn!
Then, when it comes time for your kid to run THEIR game, check in to see if they’re OK with feedback from you. If they are, give them maybe 1 or 2 small and kind pointers that can help them out with their game over time. Be gradual with your suggestions, be specific, and come at it from how YOU saw it. For example:
Instead of saying: Your plotline was very scattered. You should try to make it more clear next time.
Trying saying: I had a hard time understanding what we were supposed to do once we got to the skeleton’s house. What was your plan? [let them respond] Got it! Next time, it would help me follow the story better if there was a clue about what to do or you had a character ask us to investigate.
This second one sounds less accusatory, it highlights a specific incident so your kid doesn’t have to infer what you’re talking about, and it is more of a conversation. It also gives actionable advice by providing a few suggestions or plot tools that they could try out next time.
Encourage growth in adversity
Sometimes, a game really doesn’t go well.
This could be due to getting overwhelmed with too much to track, issues with players, storylines not going where they want, encounters falling apart, and so on.
For a kid who is GM’ing or leading a story for the first time, this can be really disappointing.
If this happens, approach the situation with kindness and ask your kid how they felt about the game and what they wanted it to be like.
Sometimes, it can help to share your own GM’ing downfalls and explain how it hurt and what you did to help bounce back.
Like with the feedback section, modeling for your kid how to react in the face of adversity and explaining that to them (because it’s sometimes hard to really show it or for a kid to understand what’s going on) can help them to gain that XP from you.
When a game doesn’t go well, the best thing you can do is be there for your kid in an understanding way so they know it’s OK when everything isn’t perfect and that they can try again.
Celebrate their successes
Other times, a game or a particular moment DOES go really well! When this happens, make sure to celebrate!
This helps your kid to see the good parts and to keep using the parts that everyone enjoys about their game!
A lot of times, feedback can come in the form of what to improve or what to change, but it is REALLY important to highlight what you liked and what not to change. Growth and improvement can come from recognizing what you’re doing well and playing to those strengths more in the future, and it’s extremely encouraging to a kid when they’re validated about something they’ve made or done.
Particularly in the middle of a game they didn’t feel so great about, being able to highlight the parts that you liked is more than just a silver lining; it’s a full blast of sunshine.
Being proud that your kid did something brave by taking on a new responsibility, acknowledging all the work they did, and talking about cool moments or ideas from the game are all wonderful successes that you should definitely celebrate with your child.
I hope this article helps you find some awesome ways to support your young GM or Story Guide, and I wish you both some wonderful adventures together!
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