In recent years, we’ve seen a definite uptick in the number of RPGs aimed at kids. I think it has a lot to do with a generation of gamers who want to get their children involved in the hobby, and are looking for something that is less rules intense than D&D, GURPS, or Rolemaster. The market has responded (not a comprehensive list by any means), and as a parent myself, I couldn’t be happier. Being able to sit down with my kids and share my hobby with them is pretty fun, and if there’s a product that helps me do it, I’m all for it.
Hero Kids is one of the newer entrants in this category. It was developed by Justin Halliday, who you probably know from the adult RPG Heroes Against Darkness. The game is smooth, simple, fun, and definitely geared towards kids. But that doesn’t mean “dumbed down.” It just means “not overly complicated.”
I had a chance to sit down with my kids and wife last week to play a couple of sessions, and we had a blast. We used the adventure that comes with the base RPG (Basement O’ Rats)
So how does the game work? Each character has three stats, and a corresponding attack. (I’ll put it in D&D terms because that’s what I think is most familiar to many readers):
- Str/Con, which corresponds to melee attacks
- Dex, which corresponds to ranged attacks
- Int/Wis, which corresponds to magic attacks
- There is also an Armor (defense) stat for each character.
Each of these stats has a dice pool of d6’s assigned to it. So, for example, one of the fighter types has a pool of 2d6 for melee and 2d6 for defense. The magic and ranged attacks don’t have any dice. When attacking, this character would have to make a melee attack, and roll the 2d6 melee dice against the monster’s defense pool (rolled by the DM). The highest number rolled on one of the dice determines the outcome.
That’s the mechanic in a nutshell. Each character also has some special attacks or benefits that are situational, but if you’re playing with younger kids, they’re completely optional. My two youngest (3 and 5) played just with their dice pools, and had a blast. I wanted to get them into the basics before I added any kind of complications. My wife and oldest daughter (12), on the other hand were able to use the special options on their character sheets, which made the game more interesting for them. The game did not break from either ignoring or using the special abilities on the character sheets.
There are also a small number of skills in the game; players roll 1d6 plus their stat dice along with an extra die if they’re “trained” to try and get one of their dice to hit a target number.
The only complaint that I had about the character sheets was the fact that inventory was printed on them. To me, inventory is something that is only tangentially related to a character, not something that defines them. Giving kids a space to define what items they have rather than predefining it would have been nice. That is a small thing, however, and I do admit that there is an advantage to completely pregenerated characters.
There is a good deal of customization that is built into the game as well. The rules for character creation are basically a mini point-buy system. There are only 4 points, so it won’t be overwhelming even for the youngest kid. Every character get a bonus abilitie, and they are left pretty much wide open; kids can use their imaginations (within reason) if they want to. Magic items could easily be added as something that also grants a bonus ability (situational bonuses rule the day) so you can award treasure well suited to your party. And everything is set in a valley called Brecken Vale, so there’s a built in setting that you could easily expand upon.
Including the adventure that comes with the base game, there are six published adventures for this system so far. Most of the monsters that come with the modules are “minions” (one hit and they’re dead), with the bigger bosses having 3 hit points. This makes the combats go quickly. This is an advantage not to be underestimated when playing with kids. The adventures generally state a 30 minute play time, but in my experience, that’s a bit generous. It took us 40 minutes to get about halfway through the Basement O Rats adventure. In the end, I cut out a few encounters, and ended the adventure early. No matter, it gave me a chance to send the party back into the caves to look for treasure that they missed the first time through.
Finally, the production values of this game are top notch. Each character is fully illustrated in a kid-friendly cartoony style, and many of the statistics on the character sheets (stats, skills, and inventory) are symbols so that even the younger non-reading kids can understand their character sheet. There is both a boy and a girl of each character type represented, which was great because one of my daughters went right for the girl barbarian with an oversized battleaxe. Every adventure module comes with print out maps and monster standees included. And bonus: the maps are all interchangeable! The entrances and exits to cave maps are all in the same place, so pieces of the “Basement O’ Rats” maps can be used with map pieces from “The Lost Village” adventure, which are interchangeable with the Minotaur Maze map pieces. Think Dungeonmorphs, and you get the picture. It’s small touches like this that really show the thought that went into this game. I will also note that there are two coloring books that you can get for the game, and they are both free. Bonus activity!!
All in all, I highly recommend this game. It is a great introduction to RPGs for kids, and the simple smooth mechanics guarantee that it will also be a staple on your gaming table for a long time to come.
Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this game.