Running for kids is no more difficult than running for adults. In many ways it’s exactly the same. It’s about making them feel welcome, giving them something fun to do in game and paying attention to who’s enjoying what as you play. When I say kids I’m kind of thinking in the 7-12 range although all kids are different and some might be more or less mature than you expect. Just let them enjoy the bits they like, help them with the bits they find difficult and skip over things they aren’t interested in.
The kids will arrive at the table slightly nervous because they don’t know you, but keen to have fun, really much like the adults at your table. You put the kids at ease the same way too. Introduce yourself, ask their name, ask what games they play and what TV shows they like, then give them a character sheet and tell them they can draw their character if they like.
Make sure to know where you can find their parents if they aren’t hanging around. You almost certainly won’t need them but you might and knowing where they are will relax both parents and the children. Also your game might finish early so make sure you know how the kids are getting back to the parents. Teviot is a bit of a maze after all. Many kids come with mobile phones these days, making this even easier.
The mix of kids to adults makes for a very different feel. One kid amongst a few adults will probably be a bit shy but with a little encouragement will be a great team player. The other players in my experience are always happy to help with this and usually enjoy the excuse to make things more cartoony.
Lots of kids!
If your table is mostly kids though, it’s going to be loud and relentless! All the kids will be talking at once, try and give each of them a share of your attention. Ask the more enthusiastic ones to wait a minute while you talk to the quieter ones. “That sounds great, but give me a minute to see what Jamie wants to do first.” I like to use initiative systems during action scenes but as long as everyone is getting a turn and all the kids know that everyone is getting a turn it’ll be fine.
Both you and the kids will probably need a break after 60 or 90 minutes. Just take 5 and let everyone catch their breath. Also 3 hours is a long time to do anything with kids, you might want to end on a high at 2 hours, rather than exhausted and losing interest at 3. If you take a break, watch out for kids thinking that means they can wander off, you might have meant take a break here, make sure the kids know that!
Some kids just can’t sit still. Don’t let it worry you, they are probably still paying attention. Some kids will spend the whole session dropping dice. THERE IS NOTHING WHICH CAN STOP THIS. Bring your secondary dice bag or spend ten minutes at the end checking you have all your dice back off the floor. If they are distracting the other players from the game have a word, but it’s not a problem I have had.
If a player isn’t really engaging or doesn’t seem to know what to do, give them a few fun options, “You could listen at the next door? Or you think you saw something shiny under the desk, do you want to look at that?” If they still aren’t engaging just let them sit and watch, try again in ten minutes. If someone has been sitting quiet then let them jump in when they do come up with something they want to do. Generally this is only an issue for the first 20 minutes then everyone is invested in the game.
Running for kids doesn’t mean no violence, it’s more like cartoon mode. Bad things happen, fights break out but we don’t dwell on the consequences. If one kid tries to take it too far (maybe trying to see what they can get away with or showing how grown up they are) I just GM their attempt at brutal violence into slapstick comedy. Give the PCs a few extra HP so that they can try crazy plans with a little safety net. Remember that if any character runs out of HP it doesn’t necessarily mean “dead”, just that they lost. Captured, unconscious, scared off, dispelled are all options.
Running for kids doesn’t mean no puzzles. Kids love finding things and figuring things out. They will quickly give up on something if there is no obvious way to proceed though. Treasure hunts are good, because then it’s just keep exploring until you have all the bits of the puzzle.
Running for kids doesn’t mean no monsters. Kids love slimes and dinosaurs and giant killer kittens. It seems to be completely random whether they will try to annihilate something or keep it as a pet. Most kids, once they get their pet, nothing else matters. They will follow through the adventure with their pet toddling along with them, having a great time. The big evil looking monster who is actually a bit dim, or isn’t really interested in being evil or who just really wants a burger is always going to be more entertaining than a HP whittling combat. A T-rex who is dangerous because she doesn’t realise how huge she is and how fragile everything around her is, is more interesting than her trying to eat the PCs.
Sandboxes are good. Just fill a location with toys and obstacles and give the group a simple goal. They’ll create their own entertainment from there! Speaking of goals:
At the start of the session, give everyone a clear goal. This will remove a lot of the potential confusion faffing and anxiety which might be around at the start of the game. “Your job is to find the pirate and then find a way off the planet,” or, “You have to reach the top of the tower where you will be granted a wish.” (honestly this is good advice for adults too)
Feel free to throw in complications which change that set up, but keep the new situation similarly clear. For example, my players in the tower met a water spirit who said “If you make a wish you will drain the life from the lake!” but then be clear what this means. I just stepped back from the game and said, “So if you make a wish, the lake might suffer, it’s up to you.” I then had a demon say, “Yeah you’ll kill the lake, but you’ll get a wish!” So I made sure that the players all knew that the end of the session was about this moral dilemma.
This isn’t so important. Mostly the kids will just roll whichever dice you tell them to. The actual rules don’t matter. I like to run something simple enough that they can create their own character at the start. Nothing with big lists or long abilities to read, just a couple of choices and/or some dice rolls is enough.
Some kids hate failing and will cheat their rolls, you can ignore this or just watch them roll so that they can’t cheat. It’s not a problem either way.