I just bought a starter set for Tales From the Loop game. I plan to play it with two friends. They have a smart 9 years old son, who regularly beats us at board games. He has some difficulty reading, that will be fixed soon because he's getting glasses. So I wonder can we include him in our games. Pregen characters are between 10 and 13 years old, so making one 9 doesn't seem like too much of a stretch. Starter set rules are simplified, too, so that should help.

I'm looking for answers based on experience with this game and with playing it with youth. Answers based on pedagogical or similar background of the answerer would also be acceptable.


2 Answers 2


Yes, with some guidance and thoughtfulness

My experience is a bit secondhand, but I'd say yes.

While I've not played Tales From the Loop I am familiar with its mechanics, and I work with 8-12 year old kids in creative workshops regularly, including with games and roleplaying games.

If your friends' son can handle playing boardgames with adults, he can handle RPG rules, especially simpler ones like those in the Tales From the Loop starter set. (Though of note, I'm pretty sure the rules are the same as in the full game.) Be mindful of the content of the game though; while it's fantastical, it's also rooted in the real world. Things that are fun to explore as an adult looking back on childhood might not feel that way to an actual 9-year-old. Also a good idea for whoever will GM to read through the adventure and check in with the parents to make sure its themes, sci-fi and mundane, don't step on anything that they find especially challenging.

Where they may need some more assistance, at least to get started, is in collaboratively imagining a world and story (especially ones with 1980s constraints which will be a bit foreign to him), understanding the boundaries of what they can do in a more open game, and how to work cooperatively with other players as a team.

While it sounds like he's definitely hit the developmental milestone of embracing rules as constraints which ensure a fair competition, the unwritten rules around roleplaying are not always clear to children and young people. With teenagers this often becomes a problem of inter-party conflict - they are testing boundaries and might stab a friendly player character just because they can, not really thinking about the consequences for the player of that character - but with younger players its usually more the case that their imagination will take them off somewhere that's not really connected to the plot or situation. (Doubly true in Tales From the Loop, which focuses on mystery solving and not usually "defeating the bad guy" or physical conflict - something lots of boardgames do.)

So I'd suggest clearly explaining things like the expectations of a roleplaying game, and making sure they understand the fictional goals when they're established. Don't expect them to necessarily speak in character, or play a character that differs much from themselves (it might be best to give them first pick of the starter set characters), unless they have an established interest in storytelling or acting. The important question is always framed as "what do you do?" to make sure they're on the page of controlling a character, not just making up the story.

You can use techniques during play to help them make decisions that respect their autonomy but help them with suggestions. One I use often in creative workshops when a young person is stuck is to offer them a couple of options which are fairly broad. Often they won't like either of them, but it helps them find the scope of the question and also to realise that they do know what they want to do, they just didn't feel confident in saying so.

I won't go on, because what help your friends' son may or may not need is impossible to know before you get into a game with them, but I would say yes: in general its appropriate for a 9-year-old, so long as you check in about the themes first and are prepared to help guide them through their first roleplaying experience.


No, not as a first roleplaying experience

First, Tales From the Loop is set in something close enough to the real world, with characters of about the same age as the kid in question, which could potentially cause some disconnect. Playing alongside adults who are playing children and ignoring "no trespass"-signs and adult supervision can create a rather large mental and emotional threshold for a kid's first experience with RPGs. I'd advice playing a game where the adults play adults, first.

Second, it's set in the 1980s and broadly speaking aimed at the generation for whom E.T. and Stand By Me are bright luminaries. Children are not the intended audience, their parents are - which is why it feels as such a good fit, for you and your friends. Many things have changed, more than you think about now, in the world children experience. Which will lead to a lot of questions, a-ha moments, but also gotchas. Not always having smart phones at hand is just the most obvious one.

I'd say, start with a mini-campaign hand-crafted for the child in question. Just one to three sessions, where you use some very simple rules - maybe Freeform Universal or Risus. Set it in some universe familiar to him, maybe from movies or books. Marvel, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter are three possibilities, but there are many, and go for the best fit.

The idea is to teach him the concept of playing make-believe with rules, using imagination rather than a fixed board and with a game master as storyteller and arbiter, while giving him as few other things and as much familiarity as possible. Make his entry into the world of roleplaying games as smooth as you can make it, for his sake and for yours.

Don't make that first campaign too long, even if he takes longer to get going. If you need some more ironing out of kinks, then start another mini-campaign in another setting, with new characters, instead.

Once he's bought into the format and your table has worked out some of the kinks, ask his parents to watch E.T. with him, then afterwards present Tales from the Loop as a "grown-up RPG", and ask if he'd like to try playing.

Don't start him at the deep end of the pool. Teach him the strokes, then let him try them out, starting in the shallow end.


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