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.