Brand Robins turned me on to this Kickstarter after meeting the creators @ Metatopia a bit ago. So I reached out to…

Brand Robins turned me on to this Kickstarter after meeting the creators @ Metatopia a bit ago. So I reached out to Dana Cameron and Hamish Cameron to talk a little about it.

First off, it’s very cute. It alleges to be for all ages, and there’s some really odd (to my ear) off-brand language in book about running it as an R-rated thing, but come on. It’s about dinosaurs. Who are princesses. Or I guess vice-versa. There’s also a pronoun discussion box, which I suppose is a thing of our time but it also brought to mind one of those Man Who Has It All gags: I know Princess is just a generic term, and I have no problem playing a male Dinosaur Princess. I’d probably go Epyllion with this myself and just have everyone be dino-gendered.

Driving home the cute factor is one of the game’s best features: the rulebook and character sheets are set up as coloring books. It’s very cute. Of course there are also big blank versions if you want to draw your own Dinosaur Princess.

The other bit that drives the game home for me as a kids-focused experience: your character is comprised of pairs of words. You have a pair of Dinosaur Words (spiky, scary, fast, flying, hungry, whatever) and Princess Words (adventurous, creative, rebellious). I think my own daughter, turning seven in a month, would understand most of the words. Some of them would need explanation: gregarious, canny, eloquent. In the course of play the other players will be able to offer up Cheering Words as well, which feel a lot like a Fate aspect. You roll a die for each word from your sheet or your friends’ cheering, versus dice the GM palentologist rolls.

The big game I would contrast this with is No Thank You, Evil! which I’ve played a whole lot of here at home with my kiddo and wife. The fundamentals start in a pretty similar place: use some easy words to characterize yourself. The two diverge fast.

NTYE is super conventional in how it approaches gameplay: here’s a specific problem to overcome en route to carrying out your plan to save the day. Problems have target numbers, you spend your stats as chits, it’s all very visceral and literal. Aaaaand there are crunchy (for Cypher) combat rules, which feel so very out of sync as a parent who hopes his kid will look for solutions other than fighting. But I will say this: it’s easy to hook into and my kid perfectly understands the immediacy and literalness of what’s going on.

Dinosaur Princesses is definitely more storygame-y. There are scenes with a specific scene leader. You build a die pool out of your fictional positioning. Accomplishing larger goals involves achieving steps, which also feature the players adding drawn details to a shared map. I am loving the shared map tech so much in indiegames these days. Overall the whole DP approach feels much more authorial. As an indiegame superfan this all sounds great! And as a parent I’m skeptical that my kid, at her current age, would hook into this stuff. But I’m only skeptical, totally not dismissing that it could be fun for her.

Much like NYTE, DP proposes that other kids could run the game. (The qualifier is, “can you pronounce paleontologist?”) The rulebook isn’t really written with that in mind, though, but I’m sure any parent involved would be helping in any case.

One thing that jumps to mind, a technology from NTYE that I think could work really well in DP, would be to offer different word lists to different ages. In NTYE, mechanical options get spooled out across easy, standard and advanced character sheets. I could very much see a similar thing, and it wouldn’t be hard to do at home, featuring Dinosaur and Princess words that are appropriate to beginning readers, chapter book readers, and finally advanced game-rules-reading readers. Something like that.

Anyway! It’s a very modest campaign with a cheap buy-in and some innovative playing-with-kids ideas. I hope you’ll give it a look.

0 thoughts on “Brand Robins turned me on to this Kickstarter after meeting the creators @ Metatopia a bit ago. So I reached out to…”

  1. Thanks for taking a look, Paul! The idea about different word lists for different ages is definitely worth looking into!

    The Palaeontologist’s section is the part that will see the most change between now and the final version (including the tone section you referred to). In particular because that’s the part we’ll be especially drawing on Amanda Valentine’s experienced and expert editorial eye.

  2. For me I wasn’t sure about playing with kids. I think my niece (13) would be down, but my nephew (9) maybe not?

    But, my thing was slightly different. I’d just played a genocide game and a surviving war game — both of which were very much my jam. And then I saw this game and was like… yes please.

    For me its less about playing with kids, and more about the ability to indulge my inner child. Or to recognize that such a thing still exists. I think that playing with kids is often an excuse, or an easy bridge, to do this — but this game let me do it without that bridge.

    It was somethinig I always wanted to get out of Golden Sky Stories and, for whatever reason, never quite did.

  3. That license to have child-like fun is certainly something Dana Cameron has found in the games she’s run recently (most of which have been at a local arcade bar, and thus 18+).

  4. Thank you! The book is still in progress and I’m sure having our developmental editor take her expertise to it, she is experienced with games for kids, will smooth out those rough edges. And stretch goal spoiler alert we will be having a younger guest writer doing an advice section for younger players running games for younger players. 😀

    I haven’t run it for kids, but we know folx who have with players 10 and under who had a good time! But I’m sure it does depend on the players and their experiences thus far with interacting with story games.

    Thanks again, and we’re glad you are excited about it! We can’t wait to hear all about the adventures everyone will be playing!!!!

  5. Craig Judd And these stories are one of the big reasons why this game was made (both for little you, and for big you who will always be that little palaeontolgist in a bit of your heart)!

  6. Yowzas, I wish the actual kickstarter page had this much detailed information. I would have backed this on its first day. Vague “kids will love it and learn about cooperation” language seemed like everything else out there. I really wondered how it was different from Hero Kids and NTYE.

  7. Thanks Paul! Well I’ve already backed it but I still wonder if it would be able to hack it to other themes. My son is really into robots (transformers), and magic tricks. Could I replace dinosaurs with robots and princesses with… detectives or traveling magicians or something?

  8. David Bowers Paul Beakley
    Robot detectives.
    Monster teachers.
    Zombie cops.
    ^ All legitimate Dinosaur Princesses, actually! 😛
    But yes, it’s meant to be super hackable. We just hit our Dinosaur Roller Derby stretch goal, and we’ll probably be writing up a Sprawl-Cyberpunk/Dinosaur Princesses thingy at some point because why not.

    I was in a game with a T-Rex Robot E-Gamer, once. We had one game that was in space and we destroyed a planet. It’s a VERY flexible system with very open definitions of “dinosaur” and “princess”. We want folx to break those boxes. It’s a design feature.

  9. Paul Beakley Dana Cameron 😎 cool! How many players does it need? How long to play one game? Does it require prep? How does it deal with (or avoid) violence and death and unhappy failure?

  10. David Bowers It works best with 3-5 players, but it can work with 2 if they’re creative about using their words and I don’t think we’ve tried it with more than 5. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to play a game–depending on the players. (That info is on the campaign page–phew! I thought I’d completely dropped the ball on that one for a second!)

    It’s very low prep–as all my games are! It’s a good idea to come to the table with a potential problem for the Dinosaur Princesses to solve, but I usually end up using the plot threads they come up with during character creation instead.

    There’s no rules preventing violence or death if that’s the way you want to play, but there are no “combat rules” or “damage system” or anything like that. I was hoping to have a livestream or a blog post up already that would go into this kinda rules stuff in more detail, but we haven’t managed to find the time yet. I suspect you asking these questions will be the spur I needed to get something out about this over the next few days though. Thanks for that David Bowers!

    If you have any other questions like this that you’d like me to address when I write or stream that, ask away!

  11. Hamish Cameron Sure! Sorry I guess I forgot those details from the page. Here’s one though: how about campaign play? Some kids like to continue the story from week to week and advance their characters and all that.

  12. Oh, and you know how kids are sometimes like “no!!!” and they cry when the dice tell them that they didn’t get to the magic sword in time before the bad guy stole it and flew away? Is there some system for dealing with failure when it really really matters to them?

  13. It’s mostly designed for one-shot play, but there is a system for continuing with the same characters from game to game. I don’t know if it would scratch the true “campaign play” itch though.

    As for “no!!” moments, one way the game mitigates that is by having the whole group succeed and fail together, so you might suffer setbacks, but you’re still all in it together with your friends.

  14. Oh okay, so it’s never like Tim gets a magic sword but Jim doesn’t, right? Either they all get one or nobody does. Also, maybe one of the stretch goals could be a real XP system?

    Anyway I think those are my big questions based on my issues I have gaming with kids, thank you so much for answering them Hamish Cameron 😊

  15. Hamish Cameron hey one more question: I got the impression from Paul’s post that there was some sort of backer preview document available, but now that I’ve backed I don’t see anything like that. Is a beta version available somewhere that I could read and start playing soon? Thanks for answering my questions — I was very happily surprised about that. 😊

  16. David Bowers There isn’t currently. There was a somewhat messy playtest version, but I’ve been focusing on getting the text finalised for editing so that we can get the finished product out quickly (and hopefully have the PDF out to backers very soon after the campaign ends), rather than tidying that document for backers at the expense of a longer tail between kickstarter and final product. So a different approach than I took with The Sprawl, but its a much smaller and simpler game and consequently a much more restrained and tighter kickstarter campaign.

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