Child-like gaming

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few months.  Partly, I’ve been thinking about it as I see my friend’s and family’s kids grow up, and I think about the challenges of running games for children, rather than adults and partly I’ve been thinking about it in relation to games based on children’s literature, partly inspired by the Redwall game a friend ran a while back, and a lot of it has been crystalised by the superb Moomin’s World an Apocalypse World hack for Tove Jannson’s creations, that could easily be adapted to almost any form of children’s literature. One of the reasons I keep coming back to it is, of course, because LARP and RPGs in general are often simply a structured form of the children’s game “Let’s Pretend”, and I suspect there’s mileage in trying to strip games back to very simply, childlike concerns.

Moomin’s World, I find particularly interesting, in that the usual character skills have been simplified down so that you roll when you “have to keep on going”, “have to be brave”, “don’t know what’s going on”, “trick or fool someone” or “try to help”.  And that’s it.  They immediately and perfectly give a sense of the scale and stakes of the game, and work perfectly for Moomins, and indeed, just about an children’s literature.  A friend has been talking for years about wanting to run a Care Bears game, and I’m certain this would work for that.

And yet, just look at them again.  I could run a horror game with those, with zero alteration.  I could probably run a game set in the trenches of the first world war pretty effectively, too.  And a something set on a space station.  Or one of a hundred other settings.  In sliming a system down to children’s literature, and children’s concerns, I think the developer has come pretty close to the soul and centre of a lot of narrative gaming.

In terms of LARP design, I suspect that can be simplified further, depending on the goals of the LARP. A well put-together horror game, for example, probably doesn’t need “be brave” – it can rely on the players to judge an appropriate emotional state for their characters. A zero-combat indoor LARP wouldn’t need “have to keep going” – Moomin’s World intends that as an environmental challenge, a stat for pressing on in the teeth of a snowstorm, or when very tired, but it would obviously be applied to combat easily enough if one wanted. “Try to help” is expressly about teamwork on one of the other four, not a generalised “do something nice” stat, although now I think about it, in relation to the Care Bears game my friend is thinking of, perhaps it should be that, but in any event, I’m not 100% sure every LARP would need it.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, it’s just been on my mind.

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