I didn't get a chance to play much Beacon over the holidays, although I did get in some Battlefield 3 and managed to play through ICO on my PS3. ICO was great by the way, well worth checking out and as a bonus on the same disc you get Shadow of the Colossus which looks great too (you climb up giant monsters and stab them - how sweet is that?!). During the holidays, one of my daughter's friends came over and they asked me to pull out a book and some character sheets for them to play a game. So, although no Beacon got played there was RPG in the house - by popular demand we played Laser Ponies.
It was a while back when I heard about Laser Ponies and I grabbed a copy from RPGNow because it was a cheap PDF and it was funny. I thought maybe my girls would enjoy playing it as an silly offset to more serious games. I ran them through an adventure and they had a great time, my daughter even ran a short game back in July, but soon we were back to playing Beacon. I thought it was all a lark but didn't think much of it and I didn't hear much about it from them for a while afterwards so I assumed they were done with it. So I was mildly surprised that they asked to play this specifically, I tried to offer them a game of Beacon but they politely declined*. I got out the Laser Pony books and started them on a sweet little rescue quest and we played a bit for an hour or so until we had to do something else.
The thing was, they weren't done with it. The girls decided they didn't need me to play Laser Ponies, they could run it themselves. So they did, they continued playing most of that afternoon. Wow, I thought this was great! And it's even greater because this morning my 10 year old daughter asked me for more character sheets because they were going to a sleep over and the girls had decided to roll up characters for their friends. RPG sleepovers! Oh yeah! Man I used to love RPG sleepovers when I was kid - that's when the rubber hit the road for us back in the day. Many a brave warrior slew mighty dragon over a bowl of chips in those days. My daughter had maybe three questions about QAGS, the system that Laser Ponies is based on, but mostly she's going to wing it, and she didn't seem too concerned about having to make up things on the fly. I showed her the D&D and Savage World books and talked about the different game genres like fantasy or super heroes or space opera and she pretended to be interested, but then she said that they could do all that stuff in Laser Ponies if they wanted to.
I assumed that kids starting out playing would need to know a lot about rules and charts and how to build characters and generate stories, but you know what - they don't. They are better at making up characters and stories than most adults are, and once they cotton to the idea of using a random element like a dice roll to resolve actions - they pile a lot of mileage on the concept. I'm sure their first games will be as terrible and railroady and broken as my first games were, but I think they will have fun learning to play. I do not know if this would be the case if I dropped the 4e or the pathfinder box set in their laps. I did eavesdrop on some of their holiday game, and I heard one of them ask if she could trade in some of her Yum Yums for a new power. I didn't hear the answer my daughter gave, but I didn't need to either. There is no wrong answer.
I have to say if you are looking for a good simple game for fantasy RPG you might want to consider Beacon, but really for beginning GMs I think that Laser Ponies is just about perfect.
*Fathers might recognize that particular raised eyebrow look that indicates this.