266 Now Hold It Right There

Running a role-playing game for young teenagers presents a certain set of challenges. DM Cojo has a voicemail where he shares his observations. “No, Little Johnny, you can’t be a half-orc barbarian. Ok, little Sally, you can’t just fly”…or can you?

Now Hold It Right There

Never during a podcast episode have I laughed so loudly or so often. This is fine entertainment, gentlemen.


Totally agreed with your thoughts generally, but of course the opposite point (which you acknowledged) is that there is a time and a place for letting players (kids or otherwise) try anything. It doesn’t have to come with a mechanical benefit. If you are playing Oe and someone wants to be a half-orc paladin. You should let them roll up a character, choose Cleric (or Fighting Man), and write half-orc paladin at the top of their index card. It means nothing and costs you nothing. It also adds some interesting possibilities. If your world is so tight players can’t wedge a different idea in here and there, especially one that is generally suitable to the genre, well…

And let’s not forget the words of our progenitor Gary Gygax.

D&D Book 1: Men and Magic. “There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee.”

Gygax in Europa April 1975. “What do you do if a player opts to become a Golden Dragon? Agree, of course. Allow the player to adventure only with strictly Lawful players, and normal men—at—arms would never go near even a good dragon. He would be Very Young, size being determined by a die roll. Advancement in ability would be a function of game time (the dragon would normally take about four years to grow to its next level) and accumulated treasure – let us say that for every 100,000 pieces of gold (or its equivalent) the dragon in effect gains an extra year of growth, counting magical items which go into the horde as fairly high in gold value. While the player will be quite advanced at first, those who are playing more usual roles will surpass him rather quickly, and in this way you’ll not find a G.D. dominating.”

Roll with it, baby. (Gygax didn’t say that; I did. And Steve Windwood, of course. He said it too.)

– Ray


Ray I was going to respond to this episode but you nailed it.

1 Like

Yes, but.

I have children I GM for and other children as well. They will push to see where their boundaries are. I have to tell them no sometimes if it is just getting ridiculous. Remember that the GM has to enjoy the game as well as the players. However I do mostly say yes to almost everything.


Working with teens is kind of a give and take. I would kind of mimic Deadlands fate chips. Okay you want something out of the norm that might unbalance the game then I’m going to have something to throw on my side that will do the same.
Requests that are a little bizarre and go against the flavor of the game. Okay if that’s what you want but it could make you stick out to everyone else in the world. That cool lightsaber in Star Wars can be shut down by a tricorder by a star fleet cadet in a turn. Wow aren’t you glad you built your character around that.

I started running my kids in AD&D when they were 6 and 5. I gave them some parameters and explained the character sheet, and told them they could try anything and I’d adjudicate the results. They grasped it right away and have had some very imaginative uses of things, for example using the spell “Stone Shape” to capture carrion crawlers’ tentacles so they could trap them without fighting them and bypassing the trapped creatures. They looked up stuff in the PHB and came up with creative ways around things as well as possible creative interpretations of spells. I love it.

Listening to this podcast episode and quotes like “Try anything” without context to that statement and “I should be able to do what I want”, etc. led me to a question for you all.

At what point does it get away from being a game with parameters like AD&D, DCCRPG, Call of Cthulu etc. and turn into some kind of weird “Calvinball” where the DM/GM/Storyteller lets the player do whatever they want, and it the gameplay doesn’t even remotely resemble the game that the group is supposedly playing?

Curious to all your thoughts on that matter.

@mrmanowar, I don’t disagree there comes a point where it becomes Calvinball. I think the question then is, is that OK? Because sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that. Other times, we want a more structured game. I’ve run games with ADULTS that some people might things look like Calvinball, but we’re all on the same page.

1 Like

I think your quote of “we’re all on the same page.” is the answer. I think when a game turns into Calvinball when everyone is NOT on the same page is the real issue at the heart of my question. I meant to bring this up with BS’ers there and got off the “train” into conversation-land elsewhere.


One of the most memorable characters I ever had was a 2e Half-orc who wanted to be a paladin so badly that he introduced himself as a paladin and charged into battle like he thought a paladin would. You’re likely to have a memorable experience doing what you want…working within the system. Unfortunately kids aren’t usually mature enough to think that way.

1 Like

Oh, like my 2e dwarven mage. His spells were: Knock (kick in door), Sleep (bash them in the head), Fly (throw), light (… a torch) etc etc.