Friday, August 20, 2010

Gaming with kids (Part 1) - Changeling: The Dreaming

Ever since I was little, I adored games. Not just of the video variety, but any type; board games, hide and seek, elaborate games of pretend that my sister and I learned whole secret alphabets for, you name it. But my favorites were always the ones that we did together as a family and I like to try and keep up that up in my own family as well. So now, for your reading pleasure, I bring you the first of my recommendations for kid friendly, but still fun for grownups games.... Changeling: The Dreaming.

While this game is a part of the rather dark and mature themed "World of Darkness" setting by White Wolf Publishing, the game itself is stand alone and much lighter than the company's usual fare. It's a tabletop pen and paper RPG, so it may be a a bit complicated and heavy for the under 10 crowd; but it does have a reasonably easy to learn d10 system and is completely playable with just the one core rulebook. The core rulebook is sadly out of print, having been replaced with a newer, darker edition "Changeling: The Lost" but it is still available in PDF format.

The setting is colorful, magical, and full of wonder. Pulling all sorts of faerie folklore from Gaelic, Native American, Greecean, Indian and African myths, it's the tale of fae creatures born into a human world and body, and dealing with a sudden awakening into a whole new level of fantastical reality that only they and others like them, can see.

It's set in the modern day, so young and/or new players have a good base of reality to go off of, but one that is altered into a completely whimsical dream-state for them at the drop of a hat. So while your players are slaying a huge fire breathing dragon bent on destroying their city, everyone around them is looking at the bunch of punks suddenly attacking some huge dumpster with sticks and bats. It's easy for them to get into, because it's just adding some structure and rules to the kinds of games they have played their whole childhood.

With everything from regal Sidhe royalty, hunger crazed Redcaps, and secret whispering Sluagh there is something for everyone to play. Your game can be as complex or simple as you wish to make it, and many adventures can be improvised on the fly, for example recreating classic fairy tales such as Snow White or Alice in Wonderland into personalized adventures is a favorite with my kids. Getting to control the flow of a well known story and mix it up is fun for them, but they never feel "lost" on what to do.

This is one of my favorite games personally--it encourages exploring the line between fantasy and reality, and giving your imagination a little more credit. It also deals a lot with 'growing up' metaphors and learning to balance creativity and play with everyday life. I'm not a professional here, but I would personally rate it for about ages 10+ due to a little bit of mildly creepy content. Overall, it's a great start into tabletop gaming, and the system knowledge is useful for many other White Wolf games later on.

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