Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Meddling Kids

     Like many people who grew up in the halcyon era of paper-based RPG's, I know have young children.  Both of mine are school-aged, and are exposed in some way to my playing roleplaying games.  Finding a way to introduce the fun of using your imagination, as well as developing problem-solving skills, teamwork, and reading ability through RPG's has been, to date, a bit of a challenge.  Most RPG's are geared towards teenagers and my own attempts at doing some "kid-friendly" games have been disastrous.
The RPG industry seems to be waking up to this.  Wizards of the Coast created Monster Hunters, a very whittled down and almost completely peril-free version of Dungeons and Dragons.  Troll Lord Games made Harvesters, where the players play farm and woodland creatures anthropomorphizing them into furry D&D-esque characters.
     One RPG that I became aware of recently was Meddling Kids, by Pandahead Productions, which as you might expect is a RPG depicting the Saturday morning cartoon "kid mystery" shows like Scooby Doo Where are You or its many clones, e.g. Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, Josie and the Pussycats, etc.  The game states it is for ages "7 and up" which is about right.  PC's have four stats, reflecting their strength, dexterity, intelligence, and health.  Each PC must also choose an "archtype" which corresponds broadly with one of the character types from the show: the burly person, the goofy person, the smart person, or the attractive person (which sadly gets called "Fluff," making me wince slightly).  What a player can not play is the "Wild Card" which is reserved for the GM to play as an NPC.  The Wild Card can be anything the GM imagines: an animal, alien, robot, ghost, or in the case of the sample "Clique" a primate possessed by the ghost of a 17th century pirate named "Captain Bingo."  The Wild Card is reserved as an NPC to allow the GM to nudge the players in the right direction, provide comic relief, or just to keep the plot rolling.  Conscientious GM's should be careful not to use the Wild Card to completely run the story, or to introduce annoying nephews later in the campaign.
     Which does bring me up to one interesting rule/dynamic, namely combat.  In an early episode of Scooby Doo Scooby, in a rare fit of non-snack related bravery, rushes a villain while snarling and barking.  This particular villain lacked a supernatural appearance and raises for the adult viewer a pretty obvious question: character flaws aside, why not just jump a monster with an improvised weapon and beat him down?
     In Meddling Kids, they answer this by simply saying you can't.  Period.  "Fighting never solves anything," the rules state.  Instead the players must improvise traps and make a roll to see how it works (failure almost always involves the Wild Card in the narrative).  If this seems formulaic, I think this is no mistake, given how formulaic its founding material is.  And I don't think that given the game's goal of introducing children to RPG's this will be much of a problem.  Meddling Kids is a gateway game--I can't see playing it for years but it could be a good tool to familiarize children with the concepts before moving on to fantasy or superheroes or something a little more complex.
  Now the downside.  The book, which clocks in at 96 pages, is incredibly padded.  It has large illustrations, a large font, and several pages on the history of cartoons.  This is space that could have been used to provide additional story ideas to complement the single adventure "The Dragon's Eye" which is too closely tied to the sample PC's in the book (it is even subtitled "The Origin of Captain Bingo.")  A great supplement would be half a dozen adventures that could be used by any Clique.

You can purchase Meddling Kids from

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Deris Michno, Traveller NPC

"Back when I entered into the merchant service, I knew I could go far, given the chance. That employee recruiter from Webber Transports was pretty quick to sign me up, and I didn't disappoint him. Engines, computers, there wasn't anything I couldn't do. I made Fourth Officer and had hoped to make Third, but my supervisor said it was only a matter of time. Shows what he knows.

"My second term I was assigned to a transport ship called Tangerine Sky. A couple of years into the term the crew of the Sky became terribly ill in the middle of a run. The chief engineer and many of the other crew died, leaving us stranded in space. Even though I was pretty sick myself, I ended up being pressed into service in the sickbay. I heard after we were rescued that the Sky had been carrying medical supplies that were somehow contaminated and leaked into the environmental systems. Webber lost a ton of money on the deal, not to mention all the bad publicity. They dissolved the ship's crew, but it was a black mark on my record, and I had a hard time finding another assignment.

"The best I could do was end up serving on an old tub called Protos as navigator. The ship was barely running, and sure enough we had a near core meltdown that almost blew up the entire ship. I started hearing stories that people were saying I was bad luck, even though I had nothing to do with the Protos' problems. And of course no promotion--not after what had happened.

"At that point hardly anyone would take me on, even though I was as good as anyone in the service. I managed to get work driving rigs to and from the spaceport, pretty sorry work for someone with my skills. But everywhere there were stories about my previous ships and supervisors who were out to get me and would write me up for having a 'bad attitude.' I wasn't surprised when I got that envelope telling me I was getting passed over for a promotion again.

"Well, I figured that I would never get a fair shake at Webber--there was just too much politicking and back-stabbers there--so I took my twenty five grand in severance as well as a low passage in uncollected vacation time. I also got this here from a friend of mine on the docks. I know that there were plenty of people who were threatened by my abilities and didn't want me getting too high up. Well, if they try to screw me over again, I'll be ready for them.

"So, what do you say? You won't find someone better for your crew, I can tell you that."

Deris Michno AA4A97
Four term Merchant
Jack-of-Trades-1, Mechanical-1, Computer-1, Medical-1, Navigation-1, Wheeled Vehicle-1, Autopistol-1
25,000 Cr., autopistol, low passage

Hello World!

Right now I have three blogs on Blogspot.  The first is my generic, "this is my life" blog, which I honestly don't update much because I've learned the hard way about putting personal stuff on the internet.  The second is my wargaming blog, The Army Collector, where I feature miniatures that I've painted, etc.  But I also have had roleplaying games as a hobby, but I find that I like keeping them separated online.  So I created this blog, Graph Paper Games, to be a repository for hopefully interesting roleplaying game-related material.
What am I thinking of putting here?  Well right now I'll admit I'm not running anything because I am in a new location and haven't established my gaming base yet.  In the meantime, I thought I'd put things like NPC's for Traveller or adventure ideas for Meddling Kids.  I'm slowly cooking up an old school megadungeon, but I'm not sure I want to put that in--after all, you might be playing in it!
Anyways, comments are the fuel that drives blogging, so feel free to say something.

Over at Strange Vistas