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View Full Version : Creating an RPG for my little girl (MLP fans, help please)



elliott20
2014-07-07, 01:02 PM
My daughter is 6. She loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

She's also showing an interest in numbers and math. So what I decided I would do is design a very simple game for her that I can use to either run actual RPG sessions, or just give her some way to enjoy her favorite shows in new ways.

My focus is going to be in the following things:

1. teach her how abstraction in numbers work. (i.e. strength = 5 means really strong, strength = 1 means really weak)

2. get her more comfortable with practicing addition/subtraction and so on. right now she can do addition below 10, but freezes up when she goes beyond that. I want to gradually ease her into being more comfortable with it.

3. teach her how to pay attention to the details in what she's watching and use that to support her reasoning for her assertions. (Yes, I want her to learn how to argue why Twilght Sparkle is say, more powerful the Princess Luna or whatever)

4. use this as a channel to expose her to more reading

What I DON'T want to do

1. I know there is a pathfinder hack for MLP. I have no interest in that. I don't want to overwhelm her with too much numbers and stuff. The last thing I need is to get her to lose interest in both math and reading AND MLP because I made it unfun with what feels like work.

2. have a system that forces to enjoy herself in a very strict context. I want a game design that allows her to enjoy herself even when she's not playing the game.

With that in mind, I've come up with a basic idea here.

Character stats
I want to create some blank character sheets with pictures of the main cast (no, I will not start calling them the Mane Six!) on each one. And when we watch the show together, we can try to work out what each character has in each attribute. But I need to make sure there is enough to really set the cast apart.

What I have done so far is just take each one of the pony's main thing, and made it into a stat:

Strong
Smart
Kind
Fast
Fun
Pretty

Race: Unicorn / Pegasus / Earth / Alicorn


I also have a list called "Things They Know", basically a way to list what do they know how to do and another list called "Things They Love", and one more list for "Things they don't like".

This gives me a pretty good start on a character sheet, I think. (In fact, I think it's only a step away from a Fate Core character sheet)

The next thing is I want to run this in two ways:

1. Score card making: whenever we watch the show, I will pull out the sheets and she can fill in the one she wants to fill in. Help her pay attention

2. game session: whenever I play with her, I'll pull out a sheet and basically tell stories to her, and at decision points, I'll ask her how she thinks the character would act, and what does she think would happen following that action.

I still don't have a way for resolving tasks yet. (dice? cards? argue?) And this is where I want to get the math stuff to come in.

Obviously, it's all still very rough at this moment, and I'm quite open to suggestions, ideas, or even plots/adventures I can run with her. (Hell, I'll even take some NPCs if you feel inspired to add to the lore)

Mango Fox
2014-07-07, 04:51 PM
So I've thought about this MLP game a bit, and had a few thoughts and ideas

There's not just a Pathfinder hack for MLP - there's a Friendship is Magic mod for every RPG under the sun. But I think you do well to stay away from them. Most MLP RPG mods are not only as complicated as their base RPG, but also put just as much emphasis on violence as a solution to problems. Not what you're looking for.

What you've worked out so far seem to be good ideas. Creating the character sheets while watching the show, along with putting colorful pictures of the characters on the sheets, would be a good way to cement the connection between the show and the RPG. And having character stats that go from 1-5 is a good baseline for involving addition and subtraction.

For the central conflict resolution mechanic, I'd advise relying on addition and subtraction, and not diluting that with dice or cards. A mundane action would require a simple math problem. More important actions would require more complicated math problems, to the point where using the Elements of Harmony to defeat a major villain would require you to help her add up 6 different numbers (one for each character). Certainly, this would be more simple than what you encounter in a typical RPG, but it could serve the same basic purpose; your daughter might be as surprised at the result of (5+4-2) as an adult would be at the result of (18+1d10+3d6).

There are many potential ways to involve addition and subtraction. A character could add 2 stats to make a check, or add a base stat and a skill stat, or subtract a difficulty modifier from a base stat. Another character might help or hinder by adding or subtracting one of their stats to the result. It's up to you what exactly is added or subtracted for each action. The important thing is that you keep an action "economy": common actions are simple problems (that take maybe a couple seconds to solve), and then less common but more important actions are harder problems.

As far the stats themselves go... to be honest, I'm not so big on the ones you've chosen. They feel a little disconnected: some describe an internal character trait (kind, smart) while others describe more of an external, action-based ability (strong, fast). And "pretty", I think, has a handful of problems. I think it would be better to either use the Elements of Harmony as stats (Loyal, Honest, Generous, Kind, Fun, and Friendly), or to try to come up with a more analogous stat set (eg. Fast, Strong, Creative, Caring, Funny, and Clever - all more external, action-oriented stats). Still, your stats aren't bad; they just feel a little off to me.

As an aside about stat numbers, another idea to consider would be to have your daughter rank each character's stats from best to worst, and give those stats points from 6-1 respectively. That way, no matter what characters are present, your daughter will have opportunities to add and subtract using each number. Otherwise, I could see her giving her favorite character (say, Rarity) 4's and 5's in every category, and giving her least-favorite character (say, Rainbow Dash) 1's and 2's in every category. Not only would that be annoyingly unbalanced, but it would also mean that when Rainbow takes center stage, your daughter will constantly be adding 1's and 2's, and when Rarity takes center stage, your daughter will constantly be adding 4's and 5's. Not much variation there. If each character has a 1,2,3,4 and 5, then one turn your daughter might be adding 1+4, and another turn she adds 2+5, or 1+3.

There's another potential problem that might show up regardless of what stat numbers are used. I'm not calling your daughter a munchkin, but I think even a six year old can figure out that if one stat gives 5 points and another stat gives 1 point, she should only ever use the former and never use the latter. That could be a problem or a feature, depending on how you look at it. If it becomes a problem, I don't know what would be the best solution.

Regardless, what you've come up with so far is a good basis for the kind of RPG you want to make. I like ponies and RPGs, and think that kids should get both, so your idea makes me kind of happy.

elliott20
2014-07-07, 04:57 PM
Thanks for the feedback. :smallsmile:

I have to say, I REALLY like the idea of just doing addition and subtraction. At first I was thinking to myself that maybe it's too simple but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

Will definitely work on the stat name choices. I hadn't thought too much into the stat names but it does make sense to refine them as much as possible to make it more... intuitive.

I'll try to pull together a screenshot of the character sheet when I finally get done post it.

one last thing:

mods: this is probably better suited in the Homebrew Section, now that I'm thinking about it. Can somebody move it please?

Mark Hall
2014-07-07, 05:14 PM
Since you're wanting to do addition and subtraction, and include numbers above 10, I'd go with a simple 2d6+attribute system, with a bit of arguing (i.e. "I should have it easier because I did X") The 2d6+attribute means that she's going to wind up adding above 10 all the time, but with relatively small number (3 factors, usually.. d6 1, d6 2, and the stat), and will give a clear advantage to those with good stats. It will also help her start to understand probability, though you don't need to particularly phrase it that way.

My suggestion is to simply go back to the basics... tell her what's going on, and then let her make suggestions. Be willing to throw aside some of your ideas... she might not be all that into statting up the ponies, for example, but it's still a good idea to encourage her to pay attention to context clues.

Vitruviansquid
2014-07-07, 05:18 PM
I would think you want your system to stress simplicity in your math system.

For simplicity, I think you should stick to addition as much as possible and roll small dice. Make every roll a stat plus 1d6, and it's a success if it's 10 or more. For example, if you have a pony running from timberwolves, you take the pony's Fast stat and roll 1d6, and add the two together. Consequently, for a 50% chance to succeed a check, a stat would have to be 6. Always ask your daughter if she succeeded on a roll, and if she doesn't get it and count it out on your hands. If she's slow to grasp this system, use an "I Do, We Do, You Do" method - you demonstrate by counting on your hands, then ask her to follow along and do it with you a few times. When she's ready, have her do it by herself.

Bring in modifiers later to help your daughter do more sophisticated math like subtraction or multi-step additions once she's ready for it (for example: "The pony hurt her leg before, so she's going to be 2 slower than she normally is. Can you take two away from her Fastness?")

If you're doing this for primarily educational purposes, it wouldn't hurt to read a bit about the concept of "zones of proximal development." When you are *teaching,* you do not want to present your daughter with problems that she can solve alone easily or problems that she can't even approach. If you get the feeling that your daughter can solve a problem, but she just needs a little bit of help, that's generally when she's learning.

Aside from that, try to put places in your system where your daughter can be creative and express herself. Guide her through making her own pony by naming it, statting it out, and thinking of the pony's personality. Ask her to draw her pony, watch the show with her and ask her what her pony would do in this or that situation, and so on.

Mark Hall
2014-07-07, 05:45 PM
Vitruviansquid has good suggestions, though I'd quibble with the math; if you're rolling a d6 and adding a stat from 1-5, I'd make success somewhere about 8, or variable according to difficulty.

And, thinking about it, I'd use something other than d6s, simple because almost EVERY game uses d6s. Make MLP: The Mathening unique to her in what dice to use.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-07, 07:47 PM
You could go with a d10 game. 1 to 10 is probably the simplest random formula. The plain addition and subtraction with no random factor might be better, however. Or even multiplication in rare instances (like doing the thing the horse is marked with might multiply their ability score by 2. Multiplication by 2 might be manageable, and the coolness of your character doing something super might encourage her to be excited for it).

I'm not sure about some of the stats presented, just because what you can apply Fun to seems vague. Don't feel the need for six stats because DnD and other systems have them. Think of the things you'll do in the game, and how you want to divide those activities and why.

You'll need to put a lot of consideration into what characters your daughter wants to play as. Does she want to make her own, or play as characters from the cartoon? If the latter, you'll need to stat out characters from the cartoon, and allow her to do stuff she'd expect they can do (you could try to adapting certain powers into special abilities, but beware limiting them or yourself by adding too many rules). If she makes a character of her own, there's a good chance she'll incorporate elements from ponies in the show, so be prepared for that.

Does she want to make an all powerful Mary Sue where nothing goes wrong for her? If so, probably best to roll with it, and just make the problems suit her ambitions. Be prepared for changes she invents for the story of the cartoon, even to the point where it seems nothing like the original cartoon. I suggest you roll with this as well.

Truth be told, the game design of the system probably doesn't need to be very solid, but Extra Credits do have a couple of relevant episodes which might help you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdFw8kvHAY8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HTS2nxpRqM&feature=kp
I'd say that they exaggerate the tastes of young children a little. Many are happy just for cool things to happen when they play, even if like snakes and ladders they have no control of the experience (it still can teach them taking turns and accepting defeat). Do let her have control of the experience, and make a generally fun game, all the same. Just don't feel that it has to be perfect.

You're going to have to consider failure. At the end of the day, success is probably a guarantee in solving whatever problem the character faces. But you'll probably want small things you can lose at which though not doing any real harm give the feeling of hindering progress, like if the bad guy escapes so you need to go to their lair and defeat them. You could avoid failure altogether, make it they can just try something else or roll the dice again. Just that there's risk they'll start to get bored when they clue onto this, after a couple of games.


That last point, failure, will determine that statistics of your system. Is it that when you fail a test, you fail that part of the game? Or is it that the stakes are raised, instead of dangling from the cliff by three hooves, the pony is dangling by one now? The latter system might be preferable, as it can encourage her to think of creative solutions to get through the increasing problem, instead of applying X stat with Y modifier and seeing if she won or lost Part 2 of Adventure 3. In a system that allows multiple failures, it's worth while making failure occur with some frequency.

Tried to avoid a long post. But I failed. Hope it is some help. Once there's a clearer idea of the mechanics you desire, I can offer more specific help on design.

Topaz
2014-07-07, 08:13 PM
If you're interested in seeing what others have done in this vein, I maintain a list of non-commercial Tabletop MLP RPGs (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=17734062&postcount=12) in the forum's Pony discussion threads.

I admit that I'm not deeply familiar with most of the games themselves, but there are a couple of the six-sider-based games that are intended to be simple and/or for young players, so you might want to look at those first: This MLP RPG (https://sites.google.com/site/mymlprpg/home), and Basic Puzzles and Ponies (http://puzzlesandponies.deviantart.com/art/Basic-Puzzles-and-Ponies-190009075).

And, of course, when you get your ideas into playable form, I'd love to add it to the list!

boss45
2014-07-07, 09:04 PM
I think Heroes of Hesiod might work as a good starting point for your RPG.

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dnd/monsterslayers

It says for ages 6+. From there, a little homebrewing for individual character abilities and adding on a race mechanic should give you something complex enough to matter yet simple enough to still work for someone young.

elliott20
2014-07-07, 11:02 PM
wow, lots of great suggestions here.

I think for now, I'm going to hold off on the dice rolling just yet as a starting point. Later I will definitely want to incorporate that but as of right now, I think I will just test it out with just addition to see where it goes.

For the stat names, I'm going to just use the elements of harmony for this one. She really got those in the show and I think they'll work.

So we have Loyal, Honest, Generous, Kind, Fun, and Friendly

Of course this means that doing external stuff will require some inguineity....

And after I typed that last sentence, I read through Puzzles and Ponies... it's PERFECT. Maybe I should just give that a try too? Not sure yet.

So many decisions. I like that a system already exists though.

Airk
2014-07-08, 08:44 AM
Just going to pop in here and mention that Golden Sky Stories (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/118784/Golden-Sky-Stories) is totally awesome, nonviolent, kid friendly involves only basic maths ("Your Animal attribute is 2, and you need 4, so how many points of Feelings do you need to use?" (Hint: The answer is 2)) and has an MLP-inspired Ponytype Henge in the Colors of the Sky (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/130228/The-Colors-of-the-Sky-Bonus-Material-for-Golden-Sky-Stories) add on.

It's not "let's go reproduce MLP" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is so GOOD.

elliott20
2014-07-08, 03:06 PM
Just going to pop in here and mention that Golden Sky Stories (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/118784/Golden-Sky-Stories) is totally awesome, nonviolent, kid friendly involves only basic maths ("Your Animal attribute is 2, and you need 4, so how many points of Feelings do you need to use?" (Hint: The answer is 2)) and has an MLP-inspired Ponytype Henge in the Colors of the Sky (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/130228/The-Colors-of-the-Sky-Bonus-Material-for-Golden-Sky-Stories) add on.

It's not "let's go reproduce MLP" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is so GOOD.

I loved Golden Sky Stories! I tried that with my daughter about a year ago, but she had a hard time understanding why she needs to do numbers back then and frankly some of the conventions really confused her.

I will probably ask my buddy to see if I can borrow his copy and maybe work with him on a hack later.

gah, so many games, so little time to play.

Airk
2014-07-08, 03:08 PM
I loved Golden Sky Stories! I tried that with my daughter about a year ago, but she had a hard time understanding why she needs to do numbers back then and frankly some of the conventions really confused her.

I will probably ask my buddy to see if I can borrow his copy and maybe work with him on a hack later.

gah, so many games, so little time to play.

A year is a long time ago in terms of development at her age though. :) Out of curiousity, what conventions were the trouble?

elliott20
2014-07-08, 03:24 PM
At the time, it was literally the abstraction of attributes.

She's starting to get it now though, because she's seen me play video games where characters have hearts that represent health, so eventually she made the connection that "hearts = how healthy you are" and "getting hit by things = bad".

So I'm actually quite excited about bringing these games back to play with her again, especially now that she's starting to read on her own. (last night she went through a pile of Dr. Seuss books on her own)

Okay, I'll stop gushing about my little girl.

Point is, it looks like we already have a good set of MLP games that will suit my purpose just fine. So I think I will try to see if I can just pick out one system, whip up some character sheets and see where it goes.

Another_Poet
2014-07-08, 04:29 PM
I think this is a great idea. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:


One thing to be careful of is that it doesn't become unfun to hand her a sheet during every episode. If she likes this the first time, cool, otherwise maybe wait till after the episode to fill in a sheet together based on what she just saw.
Use dice. Just simple 6-sided dice. She probably already knows how they work from other games and they're fun to roll. Higher roll wins. In your stat example you suggested Strong could range from 1-5, and that's a perfect range to add to a d6 roll. 1d6+1 vs. 1d6+5 is your widest possible gap, and it's a longshot but winnable.
How will you generate the stats for antagonists or the target numbers for obstacles? There's no right or wrong answer, just have one that makes sense. Target numbers or enemy stats that seem arbitrary cause tantrums even from grownup gamers.
Make sure all your stats convert easily into challenges. "Strong" and "Fast" will come up a lot, but it seems like Kind will get pretty repetitive and I'm not sure how Pretty becomes a challenge in a kid's game... although I'm not familiar with plotlines on Ponies. My point is, if a stat won't be fodder for a variety of interesting challenges then maybe it should be something else ("Being Pretty" could go under Things They Love).
As long as you're teaching her math you could teacher her proper grammar as well :smalltongue: I would convert Strong, Kind, etc. to Strength, Kindness, etc. Maybe it's just me but I can't think of how you would use the names properly otherwise... "I have a Strong of 5"? "I am 5 Strong"? You can see the grammar in real world talk even though we don't use numbers: She has great strength. His intelligence is very high. Just a thought.

Another_Poet
2014-07-08, 04:38 PM
Pardon the double post. I've now read the whole thread and see you've come a little way since the OP :)

I like the direction you're going. Since you're leaning toward numbers only with no dice, I strongly second Mango Fox's suggestion: overcoming a challenge requires two stats, and she has to add them together .

I think that takes away the Math Racer feel I was worried about with numbers only. Even when I was six I could tell that solving 4+3 had nothing to do with racing a car and it felt unsatisfying. If it was "this corner has a challenge of 6. Add your Cornering and Speed stats and see if you beat it!" I might have bought into it more.

MLai
2014-07-10, 06:30 AM
May be obvious but you didn't mention it so... you gotta have figurines!

http://www.horsenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/my-little-pony-coupon.png

When I was a kid, I never could get into AD&D because I couldn't fathom the idea of playing an adventure game where you can't see anything! "You're supposed to imagine it." My interest immediately plummeted to zero, and I went off to play with my He-man toys.
The non-ponies are the easy part. Just buy whatever brand of animals or monsters you want from toy stores, or those plastic dinosaur sets from flea markets.

elliott20
2014-07-10, 09:47 AM
May be obvious but you didn't mention it so... you gotta have figurines!

http://www.horsenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/my-little-pony-coupon.png

When I was a kid, I never could get into AD&D because I couldn't fathom the idea of playing an adventure game where you can't see anything! "You're supposed to imagine it." My interest immediately plummeted to zero, and I went off to play with my He-man toys.
The non-ponies are the easy part. Just buy whatever brand of animals or monsters you want from toy stores, or those plastic dinosaur sets from flea markets.

I'm totally with you there!

I just picked up a small pack of MLP figurines for 6 bucks. Haven't opened them yet, but I hope we get some that she likes. Last night I got a bunch of head shots of each the main characters. I'm going to pull together a character sheet tonight using one of the systems Mango Fox suggested. Shouldn't take long.

I'll share it if there's any interest.

Here's the funny thing though: my daughter actually loves designing her own. Last night when I broached the idea to her, she ran off and came back 20 minutes later with a hand drawn picture of her favorite unicorn (https://store.ty.com/newtys/tyshop_items_preview.cfm?ITEM_NO=36063&kitflag=N) and said she wants to make her into a character.

I'm actually getting kind of psyched about it. Just need to find time to actually get it all done.

1337 b4k4
2014-07-10, 11:00 AM
Strongly suggest mining the Chatty DM's posts about gaming with his kids for ideas.

http://www.critical-hits.com/blog/2011/11/18/teach-kids-to-game-nico-and-rorys-stories/

I agree that skipping the dice at this stage might be a good idea. If you still want a random element, you could try (as the Chatty DM did) going with a simple rock-paper-scissors game. Otherwise, maybe just leave it at collaborative story telling for the time being.

MLai
2014-07-10, 02:46 PM
I agree that skipping the dice at this stage might be a good idea. If you still want a random element, you could try (as the Chatty DM did) going with a simple rock-paper-scissors game. Otherwise, maybe just leave it at collaborative story telling for the time being.
.... :smallconfused:

Disagree with skipping dice and using RPS. I think at that age, they know perfectly well how to use dice, and would be excited by the prospect of throwing colorful cubes across the table and anticipating the risky reward of high numbers.

Basically you want to make the game mechanics part of the fun. Hence the colorful figurines. Also pretty dice if you have them; try to find more than just white plain ones. Even better if you have dice with special symbols for special "QTE" events. For example, Battle Masters or Dungeon Dice Monsters dice.
http://cf.geekdo-images.com/images/pic375803.jpg

elliott20
2014-07-10, 03:21 PM
well, in my daughter's case, she does understand how dice works. The problem is that the numbers on the dice are a little too big for her to work with.

Airk
2014-07-10, 03:26 PM
well, in my daughter's case, she does understand how dice works. The problem is that the numbers on the dice are a little too big for her to work with.

You could probably do a dice pool system using either some sort of special dice that have symbols she can count. It won't be speedy, since it might take her a while to count them, but that would probably work. The idea of "4's, 5's and 6's are successes" might be a bit weird yet though, so symbol dice would help.

1337 b4k4
2014-07-11, 08:47 AM
.... :smallconfused:

Disagree with skipping dice and using RPS. I think at that age, they know perfectly well how to use dice, and would be excited by the prospect of throwing colorful cubes across the table and anticipating the risky reward of high numbers.

Basically you want to make the game mechanics part of the fun. Hence the colorful figurines. Also pretty dice if you have them; try to find more than just white plain ones. Even better if you have dice with special symbols for special "QTE" events. For example, Battle Masters or Dungeon Dice Monsters dice.

It largely depends on your child. Sure, the dice you picture could be used, but they're essentially RPS dice, just allowing you to pad the results by playing X number of rounds (where X is the number of dice) at once. If your kid wants to throw some dice, then let them throw some dice. My larger point I guess was at this point in the child's gaming career, the focus should be on the story, not the mechanics of playing the game. Let your child use their imagination (and encourage them) to drive the story. Always remember that at this stage in their gaming life, your children should always be experiencing the awesome that comes from being able to make your own worlds and stories and play in those worlds. They can learn the slog of counting dice and rolling up characters later.

Edit
----------

That said, the OP stated they wanted to add a little math into the system, so some form of basic "compare the numbers" resolution system should work well. Maybe something like "every thing your daughter wants to do that should be opposed* is opposed by a roll of say 3d4. Your daughter gets to decide which things her MLP is "good" at, which things she's "ok" at and which things she's "bad" at**. Those are represented on her end by rolls of 3d6, 2d6 and 1d6 respectively. The higher number wins, so she'll be doing some adding (have her add for both her rolls and her opponent's) and basic comparison. Later on you can probably throw in some subtraction. The rolls will have her working with numbers from 1 - 19 (http://anydice.com/program/4070) with most of them clustered just below 10. Again, it's largely up to what daughter child is capable of and how much fun she's having with the math / dice part. If it starts looking like work, she'll wind up turned off of the game, and possible RPGs in general.

* Not everything needs to be opposed like it is in a lot of TTRPGs. If she wants her pony to know something that's relatively reasonable to know, this is probably not the time to be introducing knowledge checks.

** She doesn't need to be "bad" at anything if she doesn't want to be. Again, at this point it's not about modeling any sort of reality, but having fun in a new world. Kids eventually learn (and even desire) to have their imaginary characters have weaknesses. No need to rush it if she isn't there yet.

Excession
2014-07-11, 07:39 PM
I'm totally with you there!

I just picked up a small pack of MLP figurines for 6 bucks. Haven't opened them yet, but I hope we get some that she likes. Last night I got a bunch of head shots of each the main characters. I'm going to pull together a character sheet tonight using one of the systems Mango Fox suggested. Shouldn't take long.

The sealed bags that the small figures come in are coded. There is an online and Android app for identifying them from http://frankkie.nl/pony/ under Brony MLP Blindbag Guide in case you want specific ponies.