Most of us want to play big, strappin’, competent characters — the clever mage, the powerful fighter, the ultra-suave spy, the tough or  sexy femme fatale…but sometimes, stepping out of the usual can provide the player and group with a bit of fun. One thing I’ve rarely seen people rush to play is a child. Not a toddler, mind you, but the pre-teen/teenager.

Why would anyone want to play a kid? 1) In the case of prepubescents, and unless you’re a member of NAMBLA or B4U-ACT, it removes the sexual aspects from the character. This is especially nice for the younger player, or for that newbie that doesn’t want to get wrapped up in the weirdness of intercharacter relationships. 2) Children provide both particular challenges and benefits in many settings, that aren’t the case with most adult characters. 3) It makes the players have to think and work at the play…and that’s fun!

Point 1: My wife recently started playing. She’s new to gaming and she’s seems a bit uncomfortable with the idea of inter-character relationships (but I could be reading into things.) Her favorite character was a toss-off, a recovered character from a then-abortive campaign set in 1936 China (now resurrected and running well): “Shanghai Sally” — an 11 year old street urchin and thief that works for one of the other characters. There’s no sexual tension between her and the other characters, there’s no distraction with boys, etc…she’s all about the fun and the score.

Point 2: Sally provides some unexpected benefits to the player. As a child in a city full of homeless or itinerant children, she’s invisible for the most part. People don’t notice her doing surveillance while playing in the street. People don’t concern themselves much with an underage, dirty street girl poking around the bad guys’ hideout, save maybe that she might steal something. She doesn’t tend to attract violence, save a disdainful cuff to the head by the local toughs and cops. She’s small and fits into places the adult characters can’t. No one expects her to pull a Colt .380 Pony out of her pants. She’s been able to play the cute factor a few times to keep from getting pulped by bad guys.

The downsides are obvious: she’s not strong, big, or particularly talented in fighting. In fisticuffs, she usually comes away the worse for wear if someone lands a blow. She’s not as fast as adults, but she is quicker, able to dodge, weave, and use small spaces to escape. She has no real rights as a minor — the state can do what it likes with her. She only garners a certain level of respect, no matter how effective (she’s their “monkey”)…because she’s a kid. She doesn’t have money or a real job.

Point 3: Unlike what I expected, she’s turned Sally into a fantastic part of the campaign — our Short Round, if you will. Sally has just enough fighting skills to get herself into trouble if no dealing with a mook, and that leads to complications and more fun. She has to think her way out of trouble and uses her surroundings to her advantage (I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a hotel luggage cart used as a weapon!) She provides comic relief by making the other characters have to worry about the kid in their midst. She’s fun, and she makes the game fun.

So kids…an interesting role to take on for a game, if you’re thinking about something different.