I don't remember being nine. I like to think of myself as young of mind, but it's not the same.
I got the opportunity to DM a session with ze Bulette's nephew and he said he was interested in my thoughts on the experience. Here are some loose thoughts:
First, adult players around my table drinking whiskey, talking, and being goofy have at times been more of a challenge to DM than Josiah. It wasn't a bad experience at all. But there do seem to be some differences with a younger player.
He really seemed to enjoy the broad strokes of the hireling personalities. I try to steer away from cliches, but yeah, hirelings tend to head that direction: the Hick, the Grouch, the Shrew, etc. He seemed to get these and be amused by them.
Kids seem to have a lot of energy and less attention and I'm sure the two are related even if not perfectly. Roleplaying out getting a hireling because Bulette knows from experience that things are going to get brutal takes a long time in a young mind. Not only does a younger player not have that experience, they may not realize all this blah, blah, blah, is even about getting another sword arm. And they have this energy and want to do something.
So the younger player can zone out (my character's asleep) or try to interject something impulsive to get things lively again (just jump the fence an catch the chicken, dammit).
Although, I think both of those actions are probably also related to being unsure of what is expected of you, what "good" roleplaying would be, what an adult would do in a certain game situation.
And something else that is most interesting of all, I think the younger player might be interacting with the fantasy world in a way that is closer to the root of why we do it. "Wouldn't it be funny if the elf just hopped the fence and grabbed a chicken? What would happen if I just rapped this guy on the head?" With experience we know that these things can lead to complications in game and actually get in the way of what we want to do. As adults we sacrifice spontaneity for a little more control of desired outcomes. But I think the playfulness still survives in the more "gonzo" games and even in the mosts serious games as jokes and table banter; I find myself saying "No, no, no, I was joking" as a player a lot.
So what does this mean? I would say it means it would be a good idea to try to get kids involved, not just in their own "kiddy" games but with us at our tables, at least every now and then. It would remind us of that experimenting spirit and keep us from getting too bogged down in dickering over the prices of barrels or something. It would remind us of certain rule complications or world assumptions we've taken for granted.
But it is interesting in another way too. Even today I experience a stigma around gaming for it being childish. But here was a social event where a boy could hang with some men and interact. He was able to see how men talk, make decisions, even disagree. It seems pretty important as a society to have social spaces we can interact that way.
That might seem ridiculously obvious, especially if you have kids, but in my life kids were often sent off to the little kids table, to the little kids church service, away from adult interaction.
But enough from me, I know some of you must game with your kids. Instead of me speculating off of one experience, what is different about DMing younger players?
What challenges would you foresee in including a younger gamer into an adult gaming group?
What would an adventure explicitly for younger players encompass?