TTRPGs with Kids – Rewarding Play

Young players can be the best players at your table. Whether you’re hosting a game for a group of students, one or more young family friends or your own kids, you’ll witness some great moments.

Young people have a way of seeing through problems in a way grown ups don’t. They are far more likely to think outside the box instead of trying to work out what ability is best to solve the problem or what rule they need to play on to win. They are not usually the best at the Role-Playing part – specifically doing what their character would do rather than what they would do – but they excel at coming up with awesome ideas for what their characters can do in the moment.

So what do we do to reward the awesomeness?

The Dice Pool

Most games have a way of rewarding good gameplay, roleplay and ingenuity. D&D has inspiration. In Mutant you might get bonus dice if you’ve got someone helping you. A lot of games have a Luck or Fate mechanic. Of course, the DM/GM/Loremaster/Referee can be nice and allow extra rolls or bonuses as they see fit.

With young people, individual inspiration is nice, but I use a slightly different approach, which promotes teamwork as well as more attempts at creativity and character development.

Regardless of the game system, whenever a character does something cool, in character, commits a selfless act and so on, the students can gain a dice. This is usually a d6 (a six-sided dice). That d6 goes into a ‘pool’ in the middle of the table. It doesn’t go to the player, it goes to the team.

At any point after that, any player can take one d6 from the pool and add it to their roll. They can only take the dice if the group agrees.

This does several things:

  1. Students will want to try more roleplay and push their creativity for the reward.
  2. Once you have one inspiration in D&D, you can’t gain another until you’ve spent the first. This way, they can keep racking up the bonus.
  3. You can give away your inspiration to help others without losing your own reward.
  4. Team work becomes more commonplace – you should take a dice because we want this to work. If I can use a dice on this then you can take one for your check.
  5. Players give each other ideas on how they could do more to earn the bonus.
  6. Young players are more likely to save up these dice for key moments. The video gamers at the table know that resources like this are best saved for the boss battle.

This dice pool is hardly innovative. In the Star Trek RPG, the group can build up Momentum to use on subsequent checks. However, this tends to be based on rolling higher than you needed to on previous checks. Inspiration tends to be awarded randomly or for when someone does something in character. The point of the Dice Poll is it can be rewarded for anything and spent by anyone. It’s far too nice for a grown up group, but its great for young players you’re trying to inspire, confidence boost or push towards greater gameplay.

If you want to add another layer to this, which I do with more experienced players, get them to describe how the dice from the Pool comes into play. Is it a surge of adrenaline? Does someone give them a boost somehow? What stroke of luck did they receive? How does this attack look extra awesome?

It’s entirely up to you, but one thing I do with most groups is reset the pool at the end of the session. Most players tend to horde the dice for a big moment (which is why I also specify one dice per turn) so if they know they go at the end of the game they are more inclined to use them to their full potential.

I’ve also toyed with the idea of making this an XP bonus. As well as quests completed or monsters slain, each unused dice at the end is extra Experience for everyone. Players then have a choice of using the dice up to achieve the best case scenario, or squeak by and gain additional experience for their struggle.

For Young Players Only

You could absolutely use this with grown up players, but it is way more help than the mechanics of most games allow for. Young players are more likely to hold back, forget abilities, let others take the initiative, and generally make the game more challenging than it needs to be. The Dice Pool fills in the gaps that a lack of confidence creates, whilst also rewarding the moments when they do step out of the comfort zone.

The best part about the Dice Pool is that it is communal. It’s not a reward for one individual. Otherwise players might feel the need to step up their RP and game style just to save face; by making it communal its a more fun reward system without pressure.

Plus, when your group smiles and praises a player because they earned a new dice for the whole group, that really helps to enforce the idea of a group adventure, whilst making the individual feel proud.

Thank You For Reading

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Author: Rufus Scott

I am a long term Gamer, a full-time History Teacher and a part-time geek. I enjoy writing about the positive aspects of gaming, especially when it comes to education. My posts are sometimes nostalgic, occasionally irrelevant, largely meant to provoke further discussion. I'll sometimes punctuate these whimsical ramblings with a random comment on gaming and/or teaching.

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