Accessible Gateway P&P RPG?

A friend of mine wants to buy an RPG for her 12-year-old daughter, and having been out of that world for so long, I seek the sage advice of the Qt3 Hivemind! Is the most recent D&D accessible and appropriate for a 12-year-old? What RPGs have good, self-contained starter sets?

Anything off the beaten path is fine, too. The birthday girl in question likes high fantasy, but she has a particular affinity for wildlife stuff (she loves that young adult fantasy series about wolves, can’t remember what it’s called). I remember a game called Bunnies & Burrows back in the 80s, is there anything like that around today?

Thanks, Hivemind!

If she wants to try D&D, the Starter Set is probably the best way to go if she’s never tried it and no one around her has the full set.

It’s less than $20, so if she doesn’t like it, you won’t be out the price of the full set of books.

high fantasy + wildlife + gateway p&p RPG = Mouse Guard RPG.

Boing Boing posted one developed by a parent called rpgKids that might be interesting for a younger child, but at twelve they can probably handle the D&D Starter Set Telefrog listed.

I haven’t played Mouse Guard, but the system it’s based on, Burning Wheel, is aces.

Link to mouse guard forums:

The first thing that came to my mind was Melee and Wizard from Steve Jackson games. Looks like those have not been in print since 1980 or so. Too bad because they were really simple and fun and I had a blast with them back in the day.

I haven’t played Mouse Guard either but Burning Wheel struck me as inscrutable. At least trying to sort it out by reading instead of having a chance to play. Lots of unusual concepts and a very fond-of-his-own-voice authorial style for much of it. I love the character paths book, just as idea fodder, but not entirely sure about the system.

Why not just find an old copy of Bunnies and Burrows? It’s based on Watership Down as I recall. The system might be old school and clunky but that means, also, it’s not going to be nearly as hairy as D&D 4th or, certainly, Burning Wheel.

Edit: Oh, I see why.

3 used from $89.99 1 collectible from $199.95

Well, there’s a RISUS fanmade version out and evidently a GURPS one too. RISUS looks like a super lite introductory RPG. That could be perfect?

I got Heroquest knowing if I ever got friends to play a PNP game, it’d have to be something simple. I like it’s focus on the story and its effort to keep rules simple and unobtrusive. Don’t confuse it for the old board game of the same name!

EDIT: It’s also the system King of Dragon Pass is based on.

I’ve heard really good things about Faery’s Tale Deluxe, but that’s targeted at younger kids.

Yeah, Melee/Wizard/The Fantasy Trip are great and still have a few devotees around. Characters tend to die a lot, however, which ain’t the rhythm you want for a real RPG campaign.

Mouse Guard’s a streamlined version of the Burning Wheel mechanics. It’s a great introductory RPG…and if nothing else, the book is gorgeous.

I hear the Dragon Age PnP RPG is pretty accessible to newcomers, and has the benefit of a well-established game-world. I’ll second Telefrog’s suggestion as well - but I’d recommend the D&D Essentials red box, as it is designed to introduce new players to the hobby - and the Essentials line will likely soon be the de facto D&D experience.

I would actually caution against the red box. It says it’s designed to get 2-5 people playing, but really it’s good for the included adventure and that’s about it.

The player’s guide is set up as a choose your own adventure which is good at teaching concepts, but you’d have to get everyone who will be playing to read it.

There are two included adventures, designed to take you from level one to level 3, BUT there is NO included information that allows the characters to level up at level 3 (no new powers, new HP, etc) for that you’ll need to spend money on the other essentials books.

To be fair, the other essentials material (particularly the DM and Monster kits) are pretty good. The DM Kit’s included 2 part adventure is really quite good, but you will need the Essential Rule Books to back it all up. You’re still looking at a fairly substantial outlay of capital.

Have you thought about getting just the original Red Box used from Ebay? You can tend to find the contents of the boxes fairly cheap, just add dice and pencils

Well, the question was for a ‘starter set’, and that’s exactly what the new Red Box is - it’s an introduction to 4th Edition D&D - and at this point, I don’t know that I’d point a new roleplayer to an antiquated version of the rules. It might be fun, but if you’re trying to bring someone up to speed on the hobby it might not be the best route. Old-school basic D&D is pretty arcane, mechanics-wise.

And if cost is an issue, just go with Dungeonslayers. It’s free.

I’d caution against D&D at all really. It’s not exactly a “we play it with our imaginations” vehicle like it used to be ages ago.

RISUS. It’s free.

That’s the RISUS adaptation of B&B but it’s very simplistic. You might actually need a copy of Bunnies and Burrows to make it work.

Fundamentally I agree with you Brian, but I do believe that D&D is important to the hobby and I urge young roleplayers to at least try it. At some point I’d hope they move to something more nuanced, but at this point in the industry there’s D&D and there’s everything else.

Plus, the Starter Set is a handsome kit. It’s got some nice art that makes paging through it and imagining cool stuff easy to do.

My kids loved it. When they were ready, I let them use my Core Rulebooks to put together their own maps and adventures. Obviously, they were awful scenarios, but as long as my kids had fun, I did too.

I’m not sure it’s exactly what she’s looking for, but check out Blue Rose.

It’s more high-fantasy-romance than wilderness, but it does have intelligent animals & stuff. And it’s D20 based, so if by “gateway” you actually mean “eases transition into more/other stuff” then it doesn’t get much better.
Also, just look over Green Ronin’s stuff. There’s tonnes, and it is at least as high quality as WoTCs own stuff.

A friend of mine suggested Monsters and Other Childish Things a while back, and I have to agree - it’s a great game for younger gamers. Plus, it uses the awesome, elegant One-Roll System.

If she weren’t 12, I would say Call of Cthulhu, only because the system is pretty simple, and character creation is easy. But the content might be inappropriate.

Thanks for the suggestions, everybody. I think her mom’s going to go with the D&D starter set since it has some appealing bits in it. I would have rather introduced her to RPGing with a less combat-oriented, more story-centric system, but we’ll see how it flies.