With a whole generation of kids raised on the Harry Potter series, it is not so surprising that Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy role playing games-known as RPGs for short-are making a comeback.
In my house, sleepovers no longer just include sleeping bags, but jars of colorful dice and rule books.
There seems to be a trend here. Earlier this year Cat & Mouse Game Store, 2212 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, started a regular kids' D&D night.
Although Joni Jacobsen's 10-year-old son, Walker, serves as the Dungeon Master, she admits she and her husband never played D&D until Walker began doing research. He recruited his 8-year-old brother into the game and began looking for a group of other kids to play with.
About six or seven boys are D&D regulars at the game store, but groups of girls have shown up, either joining the boys or setting up their own game.
Jacobsen admits to being a bit unsure at first about D&D for her young sons. While one mission called for saving two children from a burning building, sometimes players take the role of a "bad guy" in different scenarios. But Jacobsen says she uses the game to talk about choices. For example, if you need information from peasants during a game, what might be the most ethical way to go about it?
But for Walker it is just fun.
"I like the role playing and the math-you have to add up points and damage," he says.
He also likes to give his characters quirks so that weeks later other players will remember what he did.
Beth Heile, an assistant manager at the store and a full-time teacher, agrees that D&D has benefits. Children "learn important life skills: cooperative teamwork, communication, problem solving and imagination. You could argue that video games-even the fantasy ones-would not give you those skills."