I’m going to be running a game for my friend Mac and her three children (ages 7 through 12) in the near future. She’s been playing D&D with them for a few months now, and I’ve been a player for some of the sessions. When I mentioned that even though I sometimes had a hankering to run the kind of dungeon-crawlish games that she runs, none of my regular players was into them, she suggested that I should run for them sometimes. Among other things, she’d like them to have experience with GMs other than her, so they don’t become one of “those kind” of players who insist that there’s only one right way to play, coincidentally the way their first GM ran things.
I’m not quite sure what I want to run, though. Mac has been running what she calls D&D pretty much the same way, in the same setting, for almost 27 years now, but with house rules so extensive that it scarcely seems like D&D sometimes (e.g. rolling 3d6 lower than Dex to hit, armor doing damage reduction only, magic via a spell-point system, clerics using a different seemingly ad-hoc system, etc). That’s what the kids and I have been playing, but I wouldn’t be able to run it even if I wanted to since so much of it seems to exist only in her head. I gave the two elder children their own copies of one of the retro-clones for Christmas (Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game, not to be confused with the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying) and the younger of the two has actually been using it, more or less, to create dungeons and play with his friends. He’s already added a new Body Builder class to the game though I’m not sure anybody he’s played with has yet met its rather stringent stat requirements….
So my first thought was to run that, since the rules are sort of familiar to them, and I would rather spend my time playing the game than explaining the difference between the rules they have (or their mom uses) and the rules I’m using. My second thought, though, is to use Tunnels & Trolls, since I’d kind of like to try GMing that…. but I know that there’s some stuff about it (particularly the very abstract combat) that may be just too different from what they’re used to. Mac basically uses a blow-by-blow accounting of combat, with turns lasting a couple of seconds, if that. So my third thoughts have to do with either swiping a couple of things I really like from T&T and putting it into BFRPG, or vice-versa. One thing I always get hung up on is that I don’t really like the magic system in the retro-clones. Magic as ammo loads just doesn’t thrill me, unless you go full out Vance with it as depicted in the Dying Earth… but then you have to tweak both the spells and the MU’s combat capabilities anyway. And Mac hates Vancean magic almost as much as she hates point-buy systems where you can design a character that’s practically a super-hero from the outset.
And finally, my fourth thoughts are to go ahead and finish the retro homebrew that I was working on, which would finally give me an old-school inspired system that really fits the way I’d like to play as well as players who will be happy to play it…. as usual with me when I start a project I ping-pong back and forth, unable to settle on any one option. I have a couple of weeks, at least, before we’d first play, so I don’t have to decide tonight, but I should decide soon and start working on a dungeon for them.