Kids Make the Purrfect GMs!

Published by: Michelle Nephew

Magical Kitties Save the Day is designed to support first-time GMs, no matter what their age. That could be a parent running the game for their kids, or even the kids running it for themselves! All three of my kids have taken turns GMing, and so have two of their cousins. Their ages ranged from 14 all the way down to 5 years. Here's how I introduced them to GMing …

Know the (Really Simple) Rules

First, I GMed for them until the kids were really used to the game rules. Since Magical Kitties has such an elegantly simple system, that meant the hurdle to GMing was much lower for them.

A faster way to make the rules approachable is to remind your future GM about the cheat sheet on the inside back cover of the Rulebook. And for stronger readers, point them at the full gameplay rules on pages 24-32 of the Rulebook … that's only 9 pages! Also remind them that the GM doesn't actually roll any dice, the players do. And the GM gets to hand out Kitty Treats! (That's always a big incentive for my kiddos.)

Think Up a Story

When they're comfortable with the rules, the next step is to focus on story building, which is where Magical Kitties really shines. My kids started out by converting things they were reading or watching on TV at the time into Magical Kitties adventures.

My then-8-year-old Emma ran an underwater adventure based on a Thea Stilton book she'd just read, featuring mermaids and narwhals. She made a hand-drawn world map and everything. After that, my 5yo Jack gave it a try, teleporting us all to a dinosaur world we had to escape, because dinos are his most favorite thing ever!

If your kiddo is really having trouble thinking up a story idea, try using some of the adventure ingredients scattered liberally throughout each hometown book, or even the full adventure at the end if they're a strong reader.

Use an Adventure Recipe

Once you've got a story idea for your adventure, open up the Rulebook to pages 41-43. Choose one of the adventure recipes there, and do the setup it suggests. This is usually making a map or answering questions … it's the basic planning so you know in advance what the kitties will need to do when they get there.

If you happen to have Our Hometown Workbook, you can instead go to the adventure recipes pages there and fill out one of those worksheets. This is an especially good option for kids who find reading challenging, since it's the same material presented in a visual layout.

Stepping Back, But Ready to Step In

Now you're ready to play! As the adult at the table, you really want to try to stay out of the spotlight and let your new GM actually GM on their own. But you should still be there to offer support if needed. I've found that it's easiest to play as a kitty with a Flaw that makes me totally ineffectual, so there's no way I can take control of the game “accidentally.” My favorite is Indecisive, but I'm also partial to Distractible, Forgetful, Gullible, and Sleepy. These are all solid “paws off” traits for kitties played by parents.

But at the same time you're stepping back, you also need to be ready to step in if trouble comes up. For example, in Jack's dino world the dinosaurs won every encounter, and there was no way for us to escape. The kids were rightly upset, but Jack wasn't ready to wrap up the game … the dinos winning was fun for him! Finally I told Jack I was going to be his “co-Game Master,” and whispered in his ear what he needed to do to have a happy ending. It was a close one … when we got to our end-of-session questions and asked “Did everyone have fun?” there were a lot of dirty looks aimed at Jack. But we all survived his first GMing attempt without any permanent trauma.

I myself didn't GM until I was in my late twenties. I was seriously intimidated, and avoided doing it for over a decade. Not my kids, though! Magical Kitties has been an excellent way to introduce them to our amazing hobby. Give it a try!


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