home made role playing games!

May 20, 2011

when i was a kid, even as my peers seemed to age out of imaginative play, i kept at it, both live action style (i particularly liked being Kitty Pride on the playground while my best friend at the time liked being Cyclops) and with little figures (i collected pewter fantasy figurines as well as action figures). it tapered off somewhat when i discovered dungeons and dragons, a marginally more socially acceptable way to play pretend (i.e.-i became a nerd, no longer a nerdy baby). i did sometimes play the old fashioned way, either alone in my room with action figures, or running around punching imaginary villains on vacation at my friend’s cousin’s farm when it was just the two of us for miles.

my oldest kid has always had trouble with this kind of play, preferring board games and building things over taking on roles, although his little brother frequently inspires him to stretch a little in this regard.

recently, though, he asked me to play and when i asked what he wanted to play, he said, “well, i thought you could be your usual Lego person and i could be mine and we could have a certain number of health points and weapons that do a certain amount of damage depending on what we roll, and we could rescue little brother’s Lego person…” (little brother loves the role of person (or creature) in distress)

i am enthusiastic  about this idea, and we manage to play for over an hour, collaborating in deciding how the characters we aren’t playing are going to respond to us and where the story is going to go.

we have since played variations of this game every day for the last week! there’s the version where we have pokemon to do battle for us and we get to use the attacks on our pokemon cards, and the version where we have to roll in order to move, too…

i love that this little bit of rule-making has got my son excited to pretend, not just because of my own nostalgia about pretending, but because i think it’s an important skill to have. i’ve noticed him being a little more patient with the kind of pretending his brother does, too, which has been an issue in the past, when little brother wants to pretend that he can talk to fairies and spirits and older brother wants him to admit that he is a liar. 😉

and i love that he is willing to bend the rules and have them evolve, since they are our rules… he’s usually angry about rule changes in board games or games like tag or kickball. i think flexibility is another area in which he will be well-served by some growth.

i had been toying with introducing him to role-playing games in a more formal way, but i’m very glad that he invented this system himself and sees it as a tool to use to make a story, to interact with each other, and to play. i’m not sure that could have happened with me reading him rules from a book, even one of the less rule heavy games (like Faery’s Tale) seems like it would have made him feel like there was a correct way to play…

i love seeing his freedom to play and imagine increased! he’s even played a little bit with his Legos on his own, acting out little adventures, like i used to do as a girl… something he’d previously needed another kid to drag him into doing.

here’s to many more years of home made role playing games!

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