Inspired by the Penny Arcade cartoon Lookouts.
Children NPCs in RPGs are oft-overlooked figures; relegated to the genealogy of a character, a convenient rescue subplot or ethical dilemma for military actions. They are to borrow a nice bit of BBC terminology 'little people' and deserve consideration. A skill challenge to train children in skills or how to recognise and avoid monsters may be fun for those of a 4E persuasion and such a scenario may challenge roleplayers using another system.
What can children bring to your story? Apart from the obvious tropes of angelic benefactors, abuse victims, cruel monsters, friend to loners, precocious prodigies and vulnerable innocents; they symbolise concepts like future, hope, love, imagination, wonder, a need for responsibility, fear, the interaction of a society with itself and goodness. All elements that can find their way into a story, although children are occasionally over-used in horror fiction.
Three examples of how children made history.
The Princes In The Tower - A series of intrigues around two illegitimate sons of Edward IV of England who were imprisoned in the Tower of London by Richard of York before he ascended to the throne; even though there were other children, they were not sent to the Tower nor did they vanish under mysterious circumstances for fear of attempted coup using them as a figurehead; history ironically vindicated this when a rebellion against Henry Tudor (Richard's successor) was led by Perkin Warbeck who falsely claimed to be one of the princes.
Thomas The Elder, Archbishop of York - Born of a priest, with Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (iconic archetype of many 1E D&D clerics) as patron, who became a royal clerk in the reign of William The Conqueror. Thomas studied alongside Lanfranc, who became Archbishop of Canterbury and the pair were political rivals requiring papal and royal intervention despite Thomas making oaths of obedience under royal duress when the Normans wanted a clear hierarchy of command in the church.
Norbert Weiner - A child prodigy gifted in mathematics and languages, he is a poster boy for home education, having been taught almost entirely by his father. Gaining a degree in mathematics at 14, then studying zoology and then philosophy and gaining a doctorate at the age of 18 for his dissertation on mathematical logic and set theory. He later goes on to become the founder of cybernetics.
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