A local school had a camp to get kids more interested in outdoor activities lately, and I got to participate. The camp organizers had contacted some friends, who participate in live roleplaying with me, and asked them to do a live roleplaying game for the kids. Apparently last year the kids started sword fighting with their marshmallow sticks, so this year they decided they needed an outlet for all that energy.
Quick intro to live roleplaying: take on a fictional character, and pretend to be that character and accomplish that character's goals. If you do this alone, you're called crazy, but if you do it with a group of friends who are all doing the same thing, that's live roleplaying. ;-)
So anyway, we had 26 kids, all between the ages of eleven and thirteen. They all took on the characters of people from a fantasy world (think Lord of the Rings), and were asked by elves to help return a sacred artifact that had been stolen from them. Friday night, they did a wonderful introduction to the game, where the elves used their magic to show them a flashback to the theft. I played the thief, and we'd used some flash powder to have the thief make a dramatic exit after stealing the artifact.
The kids loved the preview, and were talking about the game the rest of the night and the next morning. After lunch, the kids went out into the camp "in character" (pretending to be their fictional alter egos), searching for the thief. We'd scattered various clues around, including a scrap of the thief's shirt, footprints, and the thief's campsite, along with some non-thief related encounters, such as potion sellers and a monster in the woods.
Since the camp didn't want the kids swinging foam swords, pretty much every character was a wizard, so the kids had no trouble conquering the monster and getting his cache of dragon's eggs. While some of the kids were doing that, I played the Riddle Master, a monk searching for wisdom. So he'd ask the kids riddles before agreeing to help them. A successful answer to a riddle gained them the choice between information (basically, the way to the thief's camp), or treasure (more dragon's eggs, and a variety of magical items that would help them on their quest).
I'd prepared five riddles, figuring that'd be more than enough. I could have used three times that many! The first group of kids that came by got the riddle, "You are in a cold house. You have a match. There is a candle and a stove. Which do you light first?" They answered candle, and were sent on their way without information or treasure. The next kid had apparently talked to the first group, because upon being asked, "I appear in every minute, twice in a moment, but only once in a million years. What am I?", he answered "Stove!" The look on his face as he realized I'd changed the riddle was wonderful!
Another group of girls was fun...they were having trouble with their riddle, and were whispering about casting a spell on me to make me reveal what I knew, and had even come up with a strategy to combine their powers (by crossing their stick wands) so I wouldn't be able to resist. It was a wonderful idea, and I'd decided to let them do it, when they lost their nerve and asked for a hint to the riddle instead.
Since most of the kids were wizards, pretty much every encounter between groups of kids started out with them trying to paralyze each other, as a sort of aggressive defense. They were clearly having a lot of fun, even though they'd not been able to find the thief. Although, one girl was convinced that the Riddle Master was the thief disguised, since I was playing both characters.
Close to the end of the time for the game, the Riddle Master left the woods and the thief returned to his camp site. I'd intended to get a group of kids chasing me, but ran into a lone kid who'd been separated from his group. I at least made him chase me down...he tried casting a spell on me, but we'd decided it would be more interesting if the elvish artifact made the thief immune to human magics.
I tried bluffing my way through, and actually got about a hundred feet past him before he decided that I was the thief. He eventually caught me, and took me back to the elves.
The experience was great fun for me, as well as the kids. It really made me excited for when my daughter (now five months old) would be old enough to participate in games like that. In the meantime, I'll continue to help with events like this.
For anyone else who likes playing roleplaying games with kids, there's a great mailing list devoted to the topic, at http://www.samchupp.com/kids-rpg.html . Sign up and share your experiences with the rest of us!