The Safety of Children

Posted on March 6th, by firstoni in Blog. 2 comments

The Safety of Children

Sorry for the late post today, but I’ve been dealing with some personal issues regarding my children. It reminded me of some of the games I’ve run where NPCs were children. Sometimes it’s a kid enemy, who some players were cautious about attacking, some wanting only to knock them out (just in case they are being controlled) and others that don’t care and just blast the hell out of them anyway. It makes me question humanity some times that the idea of “defeating” a child is such an easy one to make. Now, I know it’s an imaginary world and world, but the thought of it being a kid should at least give pause. How we treat our young and our weak defines us as a people. Sometimes, we utterly fail.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with kid NPCs.

2 responses to “The Safety of Children”

  1. Carol Darnell says:

    Our group has had young child PCs (rare) and child NPCs (not as rare), but generally there are certain situations they’re not in during the game. I think that originally, the darkest I had gone as a GM was a 10-year-old Sluagh (Changeling: The Dreaming) who had been brainwashed to be an assassin at a young age. She attacked, and hurt, but failed to kill another (adult) NPC and the characters took her in and chose to go the more difficult road of healing/raising her. It enriched the story a great deal as they worked to undo the harm done to her.

    It wasn’t all dark though. Children can add a lighter note to a game, so that it isn’t one crisis after another. In a long-term campaign, I believe that pacing is important. They add a dimension to the stories of the characters, and as NPCs, their own stories can take you surprising places.

    I did, and still do, struggle with the story elements of my games that include children. I’m a step-mom of three kids, and even when I wasn’t, I had to ask myself: why this character? Is it because they are a child? Could another character accomplish the same thing? Particularly when my chosen genre is urban fantasy, and the worlds we play in are at times not that far removed. With teen characters especially, it’s hard not to ask how I would react.

    With the Sluagh, it was because I had an idea of pairing her with another child NPC, one who had been (mostly) raised in a loving environment, although her youngest years had been with negligent mundane parents, that was part of her backstory and didn’t enter the game as much, although it influenced her character.

    She and this other child became best friends, each adopted by a PC; and how the PCs interacted with and to their friendship added a layer of depth to the story and their characters. There was some exploration of nature/nurture in there as well.

    When you allow a mixed group of adult / young adult / child characters for your PCs, I don’t think you can make the danger any less for the younger characters, but for NPCs, there were certain things I would never let happen. I won’t say that no NPC children never perished in that game, but the the situation was an attack on a base where several NPCs were killed, some were children, a few were teens that had decided to protect their home; and it was a harsh blow for the PCs, but it was always part of the larger story, and never done for shock value.

    This was a 7-year campaign where years passed in game as well, and the characters had their own life stories that were integrated into the larger story.

    Now, in a more recent game, a PC and her unborn child was the target of some necromancers (Dresden Files) and there were other interested parties because the child was a product of a Nephilim and a Changeling, and no one knew what abilities, if any, the child would/will have.

    The necromancers wanted to use the child as a vessel for a demon they were summoning.

    The Nephilim was told that if his child was corrupted, he would be obligated to destroy the vessel.

    Now, there were several layers of protection between the necromancers and the child, and as a GM, as unlikely as I thought that outcome to be, I had to prepare myself for the possibility that the characters would fail, and the outcome of that. I thought for a long time before going forward with this plot, but our group is mature, and clever, and brilliant when it comes to foiling the bad guys.

    They did *not* fail. The necromancers were defeated – soundly and thoroughly – and the demon was banished.

    But,before that, it sparked a tremendous amount of character development and discussions about duty, belief, family, and their relationships. That was some of the best roleplaying I’ve seen, and it was such a strong chapter of their story.

    The child was born and the game has progressed very well. Of course, now we deal with time passing, because the introduction of a child to a game, can cause some issues as the characters, without support, are trying ever more outlandish things to make sure they can still “adventure”. But that, and the topic of adventuring in an urban fantasy setting (including kids) is straying from this one.

    As a player, I’ve played a pregnant adventurer three times. Twice in the Star Wars universe, and once in a D&D setting.

    All three times, time was passed, and there were only a small percentage of the games my character was in that way. Twice, there were significant plot aspects to the children being born and, as these were also multi-year games both in and out of game, raised. The two Star Wars games were linked, and in the second game, we as players chose which one of the now grown children we would play, and carry on the legacy we’d started in the first campaign. Those two campaigns were the most intricate in plot, and had some really long-term goals for PCs and NPCs alike because it spanned a total of 50 years when it was all said and done.

    Although, in all the games, the children were often with supporting character NPCs during the short bursts of time our characters were adventuring, the rest of the time it was assumed that the PCs and their NPC families were business as usual.

    And then there was the game where I was really only the incubator for the next evolution of Mystra… in that game, the parenthood aspect wasn’t as strong after the child was born and whisked off to “safety”. It was still a neat aspect of the game though, and the ramifications of my character and the PC dad’s choices resonated throughout the rest of that campaign.

    Now, there’s another topic (that I won’t go deeply into) about how pregnancies in game for female PCs impact what they can / can’t or do / don’t do. But as far as the kids in game – there were always more threats to the PC than any NPC child.

    To our group, families are important in long campaigns, whether it’s the family that you make among the other PCs, or as the world grows and your character meets and becomes attached to the NPCs.

    It really does come down to what you and your group are comfortable with though. I can only speak to what has worked for our group in the past, and what we are doing now.

  2. guidoconti says:

    That’s really a touchy subject but in my games the youth part of the equation is aways shown with some drama, be that to illustrate the scenario or some situation that the PCs have to react to. I don’t like to use this tool too much to not risk lose the emergency feel and appeal about a dead child, or an orphan, or a cruel child, or a child-prostitute,etc.

    Children are amazing tools (in sense of drama arguments, let me clear) to games. They play with the inner fears of a player dad/mom or play with those urges. They create that strong motivation “That bastard. He did that? I’m gonna shoot his a** off and throw his head in a hole”. I love that. 😉

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