Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Roleplaying with kids

In yesterday's post I mentioned there was another story worth telling about our roleplaying group back in Juneau, and here it is. We were in our early 20s and living like adults, with jobs and an apartment and all of that -- I was new to this life, literally a month or two out of moving away from home, but it wasn't a hard transition because I'd been living pretty self-sufficiently in my mom's house for years, and frankly, I was better at finances and organization than she was.

One thing that was new, though, was needing to form a roleplaying group. All my previous roleplaying was either with already-existing groups into which I was brought, or with friends I already knew. Apart from Siobhan I didn't know anyone in Juneau. So we went the old-fashioned route of putting up posters at comic book shops.

One of the first contacts we got was from a kid around 10 or 11, named Noah. He asked about what games we played, sounded excited about it, and seemed like he'd like the kinds of games we'd like, so we invited him to join us. It never even occurred to me that his age was a consideration, until his dad got on the phone and asked us to explain what this roleplaying thing was all about, and then asked to come along. Even then, it didn't quite occur to me that he was really wanting to make sure we didn't have some kind of evil plans for his kid. The idea simply had never crossed my mind, that someone might be doing that, or that I had to think about making sure that people didn't think that we were some kind of predators.

Actually, when I did realize, the whole situation suddenly became uncomfortable. So here I am, an early-20s male with no particular ties to the community, soliciting 11-year-old boys to come to his apartment. In hindsight, why that might have seemed suspect was startlingly obvious, and I felt stupid for not having realized that I should have been a lot more reassuring. Heck, that's even before I knew of one of the other senses in which the word "roleplaying" was used by certain persons.

So Noah's father came, and being very interested in what we were doing, asked if he could also join in, just the one time, just to see what it was all about. Noah also brought a couple of his friends (one of whom is the fellow I wrote about yesterday) who also joined in. We played the caravan adventure that was published in GURPS 3rd Edition. And we all had a smashing good time. What surprised me, and I think also surprised Noah's father, is that he had enough fun that he got into roleplaying; he'd only intended to come along one or two times, to make sure we were all on the level and could be trusted with his son, but he had so much fun he joined the group and came every week. (At least until the family moved away about a year later.)

If I ever put the word out for roleplayers again (as we did when we moved to Vermont) and got an expression of interest from someone of that age (which we didn't that time), I am afraid I'd be so self-conscious and so eager to be reassuring that I might actually come off as more creepy than I did in my completely oblivious (or egalitarian?) state, all those years ago. But for what it's worth, those kids were great roleplayers: imaginative, fearless, inventive, and supremely enthusiastic. They were the backbone of our group for years. And I wonder if Noah's dad ever got back into roleplaying after they moved. That would be really cool if he kept at it.

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