13th Cortex Accelerated Kids

So I’ve been thinking lately about getting my four year old son into gaming. I went and downloaded rpgKids by @newbieDM (btw, check it out – it’s super cheap and pretty awesome), but something doesn’t feel… quite right, at least for me.

I’ve been getting pretty excited about the concepts and methods espoused by both Cortex Plus and Fate Core/Accelerated, as well as amazed at the seemingly at-odds simplicity paired with boundless depth. There are also a couple of neat mechanics in 13th Age that I like – and are totally explicitly borrowed for Cortex Plus Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying!

So how do we take these concepts and simplify them enough for young players? The creation process probably doesn’t need to be too simple, as I assume an adult will be helping them or providing a pregen. But the character sheet and the resolution mechanic need to be very simple.

So I’m thinking a Cortex Plus variant. Three dice. Opposed rolls. A Doom Pool of sorts (the adult or older kid GM should be able to maintain that just fine). The pool with the single highest rolled die wins. So what are the three dice? Wait, no – not what. Who, Why, and How?

For Who, I’m gonna lean on 13th Age’s One Unique Thing conceit, which is pretty similar to Fate’s High Concept. Is your hero the “Last Scion of the Archmage”? Or the “Captain of the King’s Guard”? Like Distinctions, you can use your Who positively (gaining the standard d8) or negatively (no extra die on this roll, but you get to bank a Plot Die for later).

When examining the Why, I look to Smallville’s Values. Perhaps not the list verbatim, but let’s use it for now for this exercise. Duty/Glory/Justice/Love/Power/Truth – that’s a lot for a little kid to keep track of, so let’s just use three. They might be a different three for each character, but three is plenty. The Last Scion of the Archmage might value Glory, Power, and Truth, while the Captain of the King’s Guard would hold Duty, Love, and Justice to be important. I haven’t yet deeply explored dice sizing here yet.

So, How does your hero accomplish each task? I’m of two minds here. Part of me wants to do these as Muscles, Brains, and Words, and stop there. Another part of me wants to bring in Fate Accelerated’s Approaches, and whittle the six to three as with the Why. Our Last Scion of the Archmage is probably Clever, Flashy, and Sneaky, in stark opposition to the Careful, Forceful, and Quick Captain of the King’s Guard.

What if you get hurt? I’m thinking a number of hearts, a la Legend of Zelda. Two, to be similar to rpgKids? That number will probably require playtesting.

And… BAM – that’s it! So how should this play out? Let’s see…

  • “Daddy, I want to cast a magic boom at the bad guys!”
  • “Okay, dude. Obviously your Who helps here.” (hands over a d8) “Is that glory, power, or truth?”
  • (thinks a bit) “Power? The twelve! He’s flashy too. I get a ten?”
  • “Wow, nice. Well, they’re Common Goons, but they’re Quick and have a Duty to protect their master. These are the dice.” (shows a d6 and a d8, then steps up a Doom die for Common Goons)
  • (both sides clatter, then check for the highest die) “I got a 9!”
  • “Ooh, I only got a 4. Lemme see if I can make that bigger.” (pulls a d8 from Doom and rolls it) “Aw man – only an 8 total. Your magic boom totally works! Tell me what that’s like.”

That works for me! I think the complexity of a single Distinction, three Values, and three Approaches is a great start for younger kids. Probably distribute the Values and Approaches as d6/d8/d8/d10/d10/d12. Plot Dice are always d6s, and can be added to a high roll at any time – even a teammate’s high roll! I imagine the sheet as being a bunch of huge squares with icons, large enough that you can keep an actual die sitting on each box.

Because we’re not using every Value or every Distinction, this can easily increase in both depth and breadth as your players get older and more experienced. Ten year olds should easily grok three Distinctions, six Values, six Approaches, and perhaps even Talents and Milestones.

So… what does everyone think?

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