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I will be running a game of Dark Ages: Mage for a friend. She says that she has trouble associating herself with a character when the character is immediately thrown into the adventure. After some discussion, I decided to make her play as a ten-year-old character who has recently inherited a barony from her father. I have never run a game with a child character before so I wanted to come here and ask about it.

For clarifications sake. The campaign is set at the principality of Leon in the year of 913. As for the player the player wishes to become a master of intrigue rising up in the ranks of nobility with some warfare added into the mix. Also the player has confirmed the fact that she wanted to play as a child character though she decided to play a male character.

How can I make the game exciting for the player playing that character?

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    \$\begingroup\$ In order to answer your question, I think it is important to be clear on what is the difference of playing an adult or playing a kid for your player. Bear in mind that a kid, a real life kid, are quite dumb with an identity crisis and usually not the most level headed in a crisis. Other things would be, is the kid is going to grow up before being an adventurer and what are the plans for the find from your player? \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Sep 30 '18 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did the player confirm that they're interested in playing a child character? \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Oct 1 '18 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where is your campaign set? there is a huge difference between playing in 13th century Paris, Prague, the Holy Lands or the eastern Baltic (German Order Lands) \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Oct 1 '18 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Viscounty of Léon in nowadays Britanny, France or Kingdom of León, nowadays Spain? \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Oct 1 '18 at 16:10
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Mage the Ascension is, at least in my eyes, a game of exploring the paradigma of the characters played as much as their struggle to achieve something in the war for reality. The Dark Ages variant mainly differs to the modern age Mage, that the Technocracy hasn't formed and pretty much won yet, and the backdrop is pretty medieval.

So, let's look at the factors that shape the player character we have here:

  • Noble on the level of baron/baroness.
  • Dead father (so there is something to inherit).
  • No male siblings (so they must inherit after the common primogeniture/gavelkind succession laws in Europe).
    • In case of a male character: just no older male siblings.
  • Teen.

Now, let's look at the proposed time Mage Dark Ages is to be set: 13th Century. And then the Campaign intended is set in 913 Leon, which is either a Kingdom in Iberia or a Viscounty in Brittany. Both are glorious places: In France the Normans, neighbors to the NE are powerful and the crown offers lots of intrigue, in León the Reconquista is fully running.

There are tons of conflicts that could have resulted in writing the parents out. Or an Intrigue. Or bad fortune like highwaymen, illness and a falling rock during castle construction. The result counts, as you (GM) want the character to be Conveniently an OrphanTV-Tropes Warning!, or at least a half-orphan.

If you feel the sudden need to remodel the map of Europe to your liking... I would grab my trusty Conquer & Marriage Simulator CK-2TV-Tropes Warning! and start earlyYou'll need either Old Gods or Charlemagne, then switch to observer mode and run the game for some years till 913. That way you just created all the other local rulers and map borders you probably might need. But that's just me being silly.

Now, we made the character an orphan somehow. What to do to help them to get to adventure? How about looking into the trick box? Oh, there is the classic Advisory Council that does the day-to-day work as long as the new Baron(ess) is a minor, right? What did make Vlad III. of Walachia the hater of Islam that would earn him the names Drăculea (Son of the Dragon) and Țepeș (Impaler)? Oh, right, he was the hostage of the Ottomans. And Cordoba did not shy away to try to secure themselves in simmilar manners when they had the chance. But all in all, all these are coming of age-storiesTV-Tropes Warning!

The Good Council

A good advisory council (that might contain a mage-teacher for the young mage) will keep the boring part of ruling away from the young lord/lady, so they can study, but at times ask them to oversee some matters to make them an effective and good ruler when their time comes. This can drive an entire campaign! It's a little bit of Hogwarts combined with politics.

The Bad Council

Of course, the council also could be rotten to the bone and only a few servants are on the side of the future ruler. Thrown into the turmoil of politics and forced to swim on their own, this too could be the drive for a campaign. This is much more intrigue focussed and less Hogwarts... This premise can take inspiration from Long Live The Queen!TV-Tropes Warning!

Hostage Situation

Well, why make the child an Orphan, if we can write the parents out of the picture in a different manner too? A larger, more powerful Kingdom might have demanded the future ruler to be educated and protected in their capitol, which is pretty much polite for taking them as hostage and trying to indoctrinate them as friends. In the case of Vlad III, this was a total failure, but then again, it offers a nice backdrop: We have the teachers of the emperor's children & hostages, who are very likely to be powerful people in politics and possibly Mages themselves. There are the other children of the emperor, who have agendas that might be more in the direction of fun and adventure. And then there are the other hostages, probably older ones, that might want to lay claim on the lands that the character one day will rule and thus want to take early actions to take them out of the picture. So many possibilities!

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If superhero comics have taught me anything, kill their parents.

To be clear, I mean the character's parents.

A child who has inherited a fortune and had their parents suddenly taken from them, whether through the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG) of your campaign, or sheer happenstance, is normally left with a whole trove of options as to what to do.

Examples include: Running a kingdom, suddenly being in a position where the neighbouring kingdom sees the lack of real leadership as an opportunity to declare war, a civil uprising by a malcontent opportunist who tries to overthrow the child and his/her loyal soldiers, and much much more.

You have a lot of possibilities.

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Have you heard of Kvothe or Harry Potter or Nona Grey?…

All share one thing in common: they are all thrown into a world with special talents they neither control nor understand. They see the world in simple terms and make mistakes by the sheer force on inexperience. They all have guidance, some overt, most covert in term of teachers and mentors. However, all of them make their own way into the world: some with tragic consequences. Clearly, you might not have the time to read a few thousand pages of books to see how it is done1.

First, head to TV tropes to see all the things that are generally done with children as heroes. You can pick any of those and provided it is done well you will not go too far wrong. I would suggest mixing and matching a few tropes, with some twists added.

Second, kids are not adults. Kids trust adults way more than they sometimes should. Adults will use kids to their own advantages especially if they can get some advantage from it. A future Baron remembering kindly to his priest might well decide to squash that heresy with fire and steel instead of seeking a more diplomatic resolution. This right there, is your path to many adventures: who seeks to manipulate the future Baron and why? Note that not all manipulation is bad. Merlin manipulates Arthur into being a good king, does he not?

Third, children get to do stupid dangerous things and get rescued by their mentor. It is almost a safety net for you as the GM to allow your PC to do all sort of crazy stuff (like entering the forest of Death And Blood) knowing that some adult (not necessarily with the best intent in mind) will come to the rescue. Since you are playing Mage, many dangerous things are well within the hands of a young untrained mage.

This is your opportunity as the GM to create many a plot hook for the future.


1: You should read them in any case, they are good stories.

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