My friend and I went to a slew of games stores in the city today. It was pretty weird seeing all of the shelves loaded up with D&D 4th Edition, made me feel pretty old. It also tanked one of my ambitions, which was to try and publish some of my 3rd Edition adventures for a few extra bucks. I have no idea how much money I could have made doing that, probably not very much, but it would have been neat, and a good way to get started in the industry.
I saw some wonderful stuff out there. It's been ages since I was in a proper games store. I was horridly tempted by the various board games set in Renaissance Italy, but I resolved to wait until I'm teaching (tax deductible!). I did, however, succumb to a few temptations. I am the proud owner of three shiny new translucent d20s: one yellow, one dark blue-green, and one clear. I saw my friends tossing around some translucent d20s at our last session of Dread Ilk and I resolved to own some myself (in addition to my sparkly apple-green one). I much prefer them to those illegible speckled monstrosities, or simple opaque colours (I have a white one: how boring is that?).
I also gave in, to a somewhat pricier tune, to a neat little rpg called "Faery's Tale: Deluxe." I have yet to figure out what's deluxe about it, but as you might guess it's all about playing as sprites or brownies or what have you. I'm a bit disappointed to see goblins and the like as evil NPCs, and the game centred on being kind and nice, but that's true of most systems I've seen and hasn't stopped me from running a monster campaign yet.
Apart from the wonderful artwork and fluff, what interested me in the game is that it's geared towards children. Don't think this makes it a frivolous system: it has nice simple dice-pool mechanics based on body, mind, and spirit, as well as gifts/traits, and a wonderful system of "Essence." Essence functions as your hit points, as you lose it in a fight; your experience points, as you gain it for desirable behaviour or great success; and as mana to fuel certain abilities and spells. There's also a great system of boons, which are essentially roleplaying rewards in the form of NPCs owing you a favour, which can be traded in for magic items, stat increases, or titles ("from knight to faery princess" boasts the blurb). It's a lightweight tome, at 90 pages of A5, most of which is taken up with flavour text and lovely illustrations, and certainly the simplicity of the rules lends itself to playing with kids (though I also find it appeals to my gaming instincts).
There's a lot in there, however, that is much more considered in how it approaches children. For starters, there's a section which introduces the concept of developmental stages (taken from good old Erikson) in how you should write your adventures: younger children are likely to have trouble with empathy and moral dilemmas, whereas as children get older they are more interested in what their personal characters are doing and more difficult challenges. There are plenty of places where the game can be tuned down: either mechanically (simplified combat, diceless, character creation based on sketches done by the child and interpreted by the GM) or emotionally (simpler challenges, avoiding death scenes with "falling into a magical slumber" or running away). And there are, of course, opportunities to take it the other way: there's a decent section on LARPing as pixies, which sounds fantastic, and encouragement for props, costume, et cetera. It suggests scenery such as couches, rugs, et cetera, but I can imagine taking a whole primary school class out to a park one day and going nuts...
I'd really like to run this game with my group, but I'd need to toughen it up slightly. The system is geared towards encouraging children to behave nicely to one another: you get Essence for being kind and considerate in various ways, and "Dark Essence" for being nasty. I'd have to develop the Dark Essence bit, since I know my group wouldn't view it as a bad outcome. The combat rules are probably fine left simple, but to hell with falling into a magical slumber: if the goblins beat you, they're going to chew your limbs off. I had an amazing idea for an adventure based on a marauding entomologist.