We created characters Saturday - a drawn out affair because of their unfamiliarity not just with the game, but with roleplaying itself, and also with the fact we had to share a single copy of the game betweem us. The 8 year old lost interest here, which I expected. he asked me to make him a character, and I did so, to his specifications. I think 8 is probably too young for most rpgs, but 13 and up is ripe territory. the others had a grand time, creating exactly the characters they wanted. The two oldest - cousins in real life - decided to play brothers born a year apart. They were from a plutocrat family, able to buy anything they wanted. Bruce Wayne territory. They both made ex-Special Forces officers - the older anhanced into a Hunter, the younger a normal human with a quirk of being a seer at times, totally without control. neither was married, and they lived in matching townhouses on Beacon Hill in Boston.
The 13 year old was an Irish Catholic fellow from Brighton, a talented sculptor, married with an 8 month old child, and born a half-Angel. The youngest wanted to be a Templar, a fist of God, who used his guns, punches, and miracles to help people, but who owned nothing he couldn't carry or wear on his back. My wife played the tie that bound this all together - an Irish Catholic priest, also from Brighton, a Magus of Micheal, whc had been the one to Raise the ultra-rish Brahmin from Beacon Hill into a Hunter.
We started out in Media Res. The two brothers were on the roof of a building on Lansdowne Street outside Fenway Park after a home game, at 2 AM, dressed in black, with their MP5s fileld with silver bullets. They were looking for a small group of vampires who were responsible for a rash of deaths recently. They were watching the crowds spilling out of the bars and nightclubs on the street for signs of vamps. One vamp was watching them, though, and knocked the younger brother, the normal human, off the roof and turned to face the Hunter. Why did I do this? I wanted to bring the group together as a group, and nothing creates a better bond than working together for no other reason than to save someone else. The others were below in the crowds, the priest and the sculptor having been to the game and gone out for a couple beers later. There was an NPC they needed to meet down there as well, a nurse who had picked up some Esotericist magic, who could both heal and provide some magical firepower. The youngest was busy doing 8 year old stuff, and wasn't ready to play yet, though his character was there.
I knew the Hunter could keep alive long enough for them to get back up there. A Hunter's Luck is designed to neutralize the power of a vamp - both in the game world, and in the game system - and while in the long run the Hunter would probably die, the others would be able to get to his side long before that happened. I didn't know how it all would happen, but I trusted them. As it turned out, the Hunter used a Luck to have his brother catch a gutter, which peeled off the building, but slowed his fall. He landed oon the roof of a car, the wind knocked out of him. The others ran up to him to help, the Magus recognizing him, and the party was together, scrambling up to the roof. After the battle, they hightailed it to the Hunter's opulent townhouse. When they talked things over, they realized they had left some forensic evidence behind, had acted in front of hundreds of witnesses, and worst of all escaped in a distinctive vehicle just ahead of the cops' arrival. The cops sure enough arrived, allowing for some interesting roleplay and social skills. They were able to fend them off with some quick thinking. I up the action quotient when running for kids, but I make sure there is down time for them to bond. The interplay between the characters is what separates RPGS from other games, and I need to make sure this happens by giving space for it to naturally occur. Remember, kids all know how to roleplay, they've been doing their whole lives. It's putting roleplay in the context of a game that is different.
We finished with a big battle against an older vamp in his lair. They had to research and plan the job - this wasn't to be anotehr slap-dash encounter. They scouted the place out, learned the territory, and went in with a plan. Plannign ahead in-character is an entirely different thing from the reactive nature of a "random encounter" type of action. Seeing what happens to your carefully laid plan when it meets the enemy is also very interesting. The youngest joined us for this end game, and ended up being the one to actually kill the vampire after hurtling in behind the group when no-one knew who he was. He was vastly amused by that!
So - three main phases of roleplaying games were covered in a simple and direct way. unplanned action and initial group-gathering, out-of -action bonding and wit-using, then planning and performing an action as a team. Throughout the process, I let them make the connections, let them use their imaginations to pump the game. They all had a great time and were sad that we had to stop. The three younger boys, brothers, are moving to California, but they have the books, and can start play anytime they want to. They have a built-in gaming group, and are right at the golden age.