Amanda Valentine blogs about editing, raising geeklings, gaming, books, and other stuff, spoilerific tween book reviews aimed at parents, educators, and other adults who care about what kids are reading and is on Twitter @ayvalentine, Google+, and Facebook. This interview is about Little Wizards at Crafty Games.
Tell me a little bit about Little Wizards and your work on the project.
Little Wizards is a roleplaying game for kids ages 6 to 10 that was originally published in France as two books. I edited the translated text, rearranged the chapters of both books to create one book, and modified and expanded the rules so the game would appeal more to my own kids and other young gamers I know.
The system is simple – essentially roll 2d6 and add a bonus, trying to meet or exceed a set difficulty. This lets the game focus on the story that the players are telling together.
Little Wizards is intended to introduce kids to the idea of roleplaying games. It also serves as an introduction to running roleplaying games for young players, which can be kind of challenging, whether you’re running a game for the first time or you’re just new to gaming with very young players. A lot of the advice came from my experiences of GMing for the first time while playtesting the game with my kids!
Would you like to tell me a little about your work specifically? What is your process for working on expanding the rules?
The game was originally published as two books, with experience points and skills in the second book. As the parent of young gamers, I knew I’d want everything included in one book. Also, I realized that the three adventures (the Tales) spread across the two books would work well as GM training – the first one is very straightforward, the second requires the GM (the “Narrator” in Little Wizards) to play a more active role in developing the adventure, and the third puts a lot of responsibility in the hands of the players, which means the Narrator needs to be on her toes. It made a lot of sense to me to combine the two books, which meant reorganizing and expanding it.
My kids are 11 and 12, and they’ve been gaming for several years now. As I edited the game, I thought about what things they would expect from a game. One of the biggest things I added was ways to make failure interesting – dice rolls aren’t as much fun if failure doesn’t move the story in interesting directions. I played the game with them to see how the rules were working, and that helped me figure out where the holes were and what kind of advice might be helpful when running Little Wizards with young players.
Alex Flagg and Patrick Kapera from Crafty Games both gave me lots of feedback and helped expand and streamline the rules. For instance, we went from two tables to one easily memorized ladder of results. It was definitely a group effort.
You mentioned playtesting with your kids. How did that go? What did your kids think of the game?
My kids enjoyed the game a lot. They’re both older than the intended age range and found it a bit simple for their tastes, but they thought they’d have liked it a lot when they were younger and they want to run it for their younger cousins! So I’d count that as a success.
It was also my first experience as a GM. That was a bit nerve wracking! But it was a good test for how easy the Tales are to run and it gave me a lot of ideas for the advice I added to the final book.
Also, my daughter already has ideas for writing her own Little Wizards Tale! Hopefully she and I will be working together to write up her Tale for a future book.
Did you find the converting of Little Wizards to be a difficult process? What complications did you run into, if any?
I think it’s always challenging working with a translated document. I have to try to discern the author’s intent through the lens of an interpreter, essentially. I wanted to stay true to Antoine Bauza’s vision of the setting, but there wasn’t a lot of information available to me in English aside from what was in the original French kids’ game. In the end, we took the leap and made it our own, while still very much inspired by the original books.
I was also very conscious of what would and wouldn’t appeal to my audience – for instance, in the French version all girls had to be Sorcerers and all boys had to be Mages. I didn’t think that would fly with any of the parents (or kids) that I know! We kept the split of Sorcerers being born with magical ability while Mages go to special schools to learn magic, but both boys and girls can be either type of Wizard.
What would you recommend for a teacher or parent who wants to use Little Wizards to teach kids about RPGs?
Remember that kids don’t come preprogrammed with the assumptions and habits we all learned around the gaming table. They’ll often take charge of the story and run with it – and Little Wizards is designed to deal with that. Also, the most important thing is to have fun. If something is confusing or frustrating, the game can absolutely survive you making a few house rules!
The setting in this book is kind of sparse – mostly suggestions and hints. The idea is for you and the players to make the world your own. When you make up your own Tales, you can make Coinworld be however you all want it to be to suit the stories you’re telling.
Was there anything else you’d like to share about Little Wizards and your work on the project?
Little Wizards really became a labor of love for me, once I became developer as much as editor. Our hope for the game is that it will make it easy and fun for parents, educators, aunts, uncles, older friends, siblings, cousins, or whoever to introduce young kids to this wonderful hobby. I look forward to hearing about the stories people tell with new gamers!
Thanks, Amanda, for the great interview!