No Thank You, Evil!

I consider the age suggestions on the sides of game boxes to be total lies. Boss Monster (13+) is one of my 9-year-olds' favorite games to play on their own. My 6-year-old daughter kills at Love Letter (10+). One of my sons, when faced with an inevitable loss at Star Wars Risk (10+), blew up his own planet so the rebels would either have to call the game or spend another hour of gameplay going around the long way. He wasn't pouting. It was a carefully thought-out tactic.

He was 7 at the time.

So of course I try to get these kids into role-playing. Unfortunately, most RPGs have a lot of rules which, although my kids are capable of learning them, make playing the game kinda like wrangling velociraptors.

"You can't cast fireball. You don't have any material components or enough 3rd-level slots to.... Fine, you cast the spell."

Numenera's story-focused rules are great for kids, but the Ninth World is kinda creepy, and homebrews, although fun, are a lot to keep track of.

So when Monte Cook Games announced they were doing a kid-focused RPG, based on the rules of Numenera, I knew I was in. No Thank You, Evil! is the perfect game for our family.

Part of that, admittedly, is that my kids are ridiculously amusing to GM. They're fearless to the point of idiocy (requiring me to come up with clever ways in which to not kill them). They have no in-game morals, so persuading, lying, and attacking are all perfectly valid options (and usually all suggested simultaneously). And most of all they're deviously clever.

Two days ago they were trying to convince a guard they were innocent and should be set free from prison. The guard said it wasn't his job to determine innocence, and that if they were in prison it was obviously because they were bad (the guard was aptly named "Justin Justice").

Later on, a mostly successful escape attempt resulted in the PCs being outside while Justin was trapped inside. "I told you you were criminals!" Justin shouted through the door.

"But you're the one in prison," said Joel. "That means you're bad."

As the GM, I didn't know what to say to that. I didn't say anything for several minutes because I was laughing. Justin eventually tried to argue, but Joel had a point. Justin is still trapped in that prison trying to work it out.

But as amusing as my kids are to GM, it works mainly because No Thank You, Evil! enables their creativity. The game's got rules -- even advanced rules for kids who grow beyond the simple version -- but it encourages players to try crazy things. For example, of the six characters my kids created, only two use corebook character classes, none of them have corebook weapons, and at least three try to use their self-defined abilities to slide past the rules at every opportunity.

Sometimes I even let them, because it's funny.

The thing is NTYE doesn't break when you do this. Everything players try to do boils down to one simple rule: roll a d6 to attempt it. They all get it (a little too well, actually -- I have to keep telling them their rolls don't count until I've told them the difficulty), and they all feel free to try anything at any time, knowing that something fun will happen no matter what.

There are some things I questioned about the game. I thought it was weird to ask my players to describe a character I just introduced, and sometimes I feel like the world is too whimsical for my boys who want quests and villains. But (1) I don't have to do any of that stuff -- I mean, I could make the world all Forgotten Realms if I wanted to -- and (2) it turns out my kids like this stuff.

Like, the whimsy keeps everything light, even though one of my boys threatens everybody he meets (and another doesn't waste his time with threats; he just goes straight to zapping them). The moment I described above with the prison guard occurred after they had befriended, and then betrayed, him to get out. Justin liked them, and they turned on him. It's a dark, almost villainous turn, but Joel found humor in it.

And it works perfectly well within that world.

My daughter hit Justin in the face with a sandwich. It did 1 damage, but he also lost his next turn because, honestly, the sandwich was pretty delicious.
As for asking them to describe people, what a time-saver! I'm starting to think I should do this with grownups, too. I didn't have time to detail a full adventure for our most recent session, so I asked them to describe the main villain and name several characters (hence the name Justin Justice). They love it, and it's less work for me!

When I GM adults, I feel like there's a lot of pressure to either have everything prepared or to think quick on my feet. I no longer have time for the former, and I'm terrible at the latter. But my kids don't care! If I stumble on a plot point, they start yelling out ideas. Sometimes I even run with them because they're so crazy I just want to see what happens. It's true collaborative storytelling -- the best part about role-playing.

So, hey, if you're a gaming parent who's been looking for a family-focused RPG, maybe check out No Thank You, Evil. You might be surprised what comes out of your kids' heads.


Steve MC said...

This sounds awesome. I used to role play with my nieces, but all we had were Star Wars action figures. They hadn't seen the movies, and so I had to keep telling them Luke doesn't smooch Leia, and Chewie doesn't bite, but I loved the creative spontaneity and playfulness.

Also, I really want to read a "Justin Justice" comic book.

Adam Heine said...

Now that's a great idea!