Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Skylanders Tabletop RPG Part 2

Back in 2013 I posted an article about Skylanders & The Future of TableTop Gaming. With Christmas of 2014 having just passed we have a few new Skylanders here. On the youtube video advice of Skylander Dad, we built a new shelf. And with some new Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition core rulebooks given as gifts to my sons, (if you want your kids into RPGs they need their own core rule books, even if they are beyond their current reading level) the custom RPG gaming urge has begun again.

Skylanders as a video game is a lot of fun for my younger son. Now
Our Skylander Shelf
I've read articles (I'll post a list of good and bad ones below) that these toys and their in game avatars are taking our kids further away from imaginative play. I'm not going to use expletives here regarding that sentiment, but if I did I would not be out of line. It's complete and total nonsense. Skylanders has sparked my younger sons creativity way beyond rote video game play in ways I never would have though possible.

For One, my son is constantly drawing and imagining Skylanders that do not exist. He uses science and nature books to help his ideas.


LEGO Skylander RPG
Second, is that my son plays with the Skylanders as stand alone toys all the time. He mixes them in with his Ninja Turtles toys and blends genres in ways that would have copyright lawyers fuming if an adult did the same thing large scale without permission. From watching him play this way I can say that all the worlds copyrighted properties rarely mixing with one another is a sad and horrible thing. Children no nothing of these corporate properties and copyright lines in the sand that separate Star Wars from Star Trek and so they mash everything together in awesomeness that the world definitely needs way more of.

Third, is that he was the one, (at age 6) who started using the Skylander toys for RPG tabletop gameplay—not me. Sure he was introduced to RPGs by me, but I did not grab his toys and bring them onto a table and start using them as miniatures, he did. He actually started by putting them on a LEGO game-board he constructed.

So Skylanders helps bridge the video game wold and the real world in a way only Kevin Flynn from Tron has previously experienced firsthand. The Skylander video game/toy is good. And I think we can see it's obvious appeal and success with the addition of Disney Infinity, Nintendo Amiibos, and Prodigy—basically Skylanders for adults.

So last night my son ran a short Skylanders RPG for my wife and I. The game was simple. He took a
huge wet erase map and drew up his adventure quickly with a dry erase marker. He then grabbed many D&D monsters and put them on the table. We made our characters very quickly. We rolled the new custom Skylander Element Dice we now have to determine what element we got to chose our character from. And that was that. We rolled a d20 for AC and HP and that was about it. As the DM my son rolled AC and HP for the monsters. He used some smaller dice so we were not overwhelmed by powerful creatures. See, no books, no heavy rules, no fuzzy math to muddle through and slow us down.

We got to use traps to capture monsters we beat. We could then use them to aid us as we moved on. The whole game lasted under an hour. In the end my wife and I were able to free some innocent creatures that had been imprisoned by the bad guys. It was just as much fun as any adult run adventure i've played.

For anyone looking to do something similar at home all you'll need, aside from the Skylanders I will assume your kid already possesses, is a wet erase map, wet erase markers, A few sets of polyhedral dice, and pencil and paper.

I do wish that the Skylanders manufacturers would make some element dice, maybe a wet erase map with 2 inch squares, some simple blank character sheets, simple how-to RPG rulebook, etc. But this is not necessary to play your own Skylander RPG.

Intended by the manufacturers or not, Skylanders is much more than the sum of it's parts. You just need to get creative and imagine!

Here are a few articles by others who have considered Skylanders as an RPG too:

Anyone know of a Skylanders RPG?

Custom PVP Mini Tournament Rules Inside (WOT)

Here are a few articles about kids and Skylanders and video games in general. Some for them, some against them, some not so sure what exactly they are writing about. I'll let you decide.

Playing With Us

Video Games, Childhood Development & A Skylanders Give Away!

Why Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures is a Terrible Game

Skylanders: Giants Makes Violent Video Games Seem Small

PAX East 2014: Prodigy is Skylanders for adults and full of potential