RPG groups for under 18s

The times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

Back in the early 1980s, very few parents would have played RPGs, but now there are two, maybe even three, generations of gamers in some families. I’m not just talking about video gamers (although that is more common), I’m talking about pen’n’paper RPGs.

Pen’n’paper RPGs (PNP RPGs to save time) to me are far more beneficial to a child or adolescent than computer ones. Every kid plays make-believe, and RPGs are a great way for parents to engage their kids without worrying about their exposure to the “dangers” of the internet or computer games. If you are a parent and an RPG player then you’re pretty much ready to run a game for them. The key points to remember in all of this is responsibility as a parent, and the need for supervision. There’s always a few parental concerns about the RPG hobby, but Ken Walton does a fantastic job of allaying them on the Escapist web page.

Adult RPG groups are understandably wary about allowing younger players to join  their group without parental supervision. In the current climate that is understandable, particularly since many groups meet in pubs or houses. There’s also the unfortunate perception that younger players can be disruptive or immature – whilst this may sometimes be the case, no more so than any adult. I’ve played a few games with a father and son, and I have to say there was no problem: the group had a great time and there was little or problem with age.

From this point on, I’ll focus on what parents and teenagers can do when they are looking for a game in their area. By far the easiest way  is to muster your own group, ideally those of the same age. Whether you are a parent, or teenager, it can be pretty daunting; especially if you are assembling a group and you’re under 18.

Without pandering to a stereotype too much, RPGs tend to appeal to the more withdrawn or reserved kids who are often outside the normal social circles. For parents, RPGs provide a kid with a social outlet, as well as human contact – computer games are all very well, but RPGs still provide human contact, often with those of a similar age, outlook, and interests.

School groups are one of the best ways for younger gamers to meet up and play. Obviously this requires cooperation from the school management and other parents, but it is a far more attractive alternative for parents than wondering where their kids are.

Wargaming groups and hobby game shops like Games Workshop also provide a good outlet and method of meeting other folk of the same age, many of whom will also play RPGs.

Youth groups are a great place for u18s (under 18s) to pick up RPGs and play, but time and a venue can make things difficult. However, with adult cooperation and understanding, kids can get together and play.

Finding a place to play can be tricky at the best of times – a decent game session usually requires a certain amount of seclusion from distractions, aside from the obvious mobile phone or TV! At the end of the day it’s up to the responsible adult to make sure that the environment is OK for u18s to play RPGs – for example, if you’re playing in the public area of your religious community, talk of blood, demons, bullets and explosions may raise a few eyebrows! The best place to play is somewhere like a hall or function room, where people can come or go to a public area for refreshments.

RPGs can be played anywhere. ORC started out in Cafe Nero, a coffee shop. u18s can also play games at a friend’s house, or at their local church hall. As always, if  you’re a parent make sure you’re OK with the venue.

At the end of the day, it’s down to a parent to make sure their kids are safe. If you’re under 18 try and engage your parents with your hobby – they’ll likely understand, and might even want to help – especially if they are gamers! RPG groups for under 18s are some of the best ways to make new friends if you’re of the same age.

Published by Bill Heron

Wannabe game designer and would-be author. I've been playing RPGs for over 25 years and have recently started creating my own RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom. I also run a number of RPGs: Cthulhutech, Call of Cthulhu, WFRP, and D&D. I'm active in the Edinburgh RPG community at http://orcedinburgh.co.uk and regularly play RPGs.