When you think of fantasy franchises that have garnered a massive fanbase and insane levels of popularity, there are a few that spring to mind. If you play Dungeons and Dragons I’m sure one of the first ones that come to mind is The Lord of the Rings. Some of us who are a bit older might also say The Chronicles of Narnia, and those of us who are a bit younger might say Percy Jackson & the Olympians, but it’s hard to find a fantasy series that has been as influential and far reaching as the Harry Potter series. Even people who dislike the series cannot deny the impact that it has had on pop culture, and on people’s lives in general.
There is something so enticing about the concept of being a young child in a magical world, and Harry Potter captured that fantasy in an amazing way. With that in mind, it is no wonder that many people have tried to capture the magic of Harry Potter whilst running games of D&D. Even Critical Role did a one-shot called Club of Misfits which centred around a group of magical students in detention. The problem is that D&D really isn’t built for that kind of story telling. Its combat mechanics mean that in an all-spellcaster game, everyone is a glass cannon (someone who can do a lot of damage, but can’t take much damage), which means that it would be nearly impossible to have a combat encounter with a magical creature that wasn’t either extremely underwhelming, or extremely overwhelming. Thankfully there is an alternative option to D&D for telling stories in a magical school.
What is Kids on Brooms?
Kids on Brooms (KoB) from Hunter Entertainment and Renegade Game Studios is a TTRPG based around childrens and young adult fantasy just like Harry Potter. The game is set in a magical school, with the players choosing to play either an underclass student, an overclass student, or a member of faculty at the school. The GM is encouraged to work with the players to create the school and the world surrounding it, and you can really create something truly unique. Whilst the world building does provide helpful prompts for creating a magical school, there is no reason you couldn’t set this game in any location. Though you may have to tweak a few things (especially the character advancement) to make it work. When my group and I created our magical world, we decided to base our school in a small seaside town, with the school having several buildings across town, and students living in cottages rather than dormitories. When building the magical world your game is set in, the book gives you guides on creating your own magical curriculum, and even magical sports and games (which I will go into a bit more below).
KoB is a highly narrative-based system with very simple mechanics, but the mechanics work incredibly well to help inform the storytelling. It gives the GM a huge amount of flexibility in how they run the game and set up the story, and gives the players a huge amount of flexibility in what they do in-game. All this serves to give everyone at the table a truly free reign to make the story what they want it to be, which is something scarcely any other systems can boast.
Personally, I would recommend KoB (or any of its sister systems (such as Kids on Bikes, and Teens in Space) to any GM, but especially to newer GMs who want to run a game without getting bogged down with game mechanics. With a core rule book of less than 100 pages covering everything from world building, to character creation, to game rules, and even a note about personal boundaries and encouraging diversity in your games, it’s an incredibly easy system to get your head around. In addition, running a system like this can really help to boost your creative thinking, your improvisation skills, and create a really fun and freeing environment to tell a story in.
How to play Kids on Brooms.
Each character has 6 stats: Brains, Brawn, Charm, Fight, Flight, and Grit. Each of these stats gets a die associated with it from a d4 to a d20. Whenever a PC attempts to do something that has a level of challenge, the GM will call for a roll of the stat they feel is most appropriate (Brains for trying to notice something or recall information, Flight for trying to sneak past someone or run away, or Grit to keep your nerve or resist some kind of toxin, for example).
The GM sets a DC for the roll using the handy tables in the KoB rulebook (I screenshotted pages and turned them into a makeshift GM screen for ease) and tells the player what the DC is (this is important). The player rolls and adds any modifiers they might have to try and succeed on the roll. KoB uses exploding dice mechanics (a mechanic where rolling the highest number possible on a dice allows them to roll again and add the rolls together cumulatively), so even if the player has a small die for a particular stat, they still have a chance to succeed on any roll. There is also the option for a player to take half of their die instead of rolling. For example, if the DC is 5 and a player has a d10 in that stat, they can just take half and get 5. Players cannot take half on a roll in a situation where they need to act or think quickly however, such as when they’re in a fight.
On a failed roll, the player takes an Adversity Token (AT). The AT’s can be spent later on, on more important checks, to boost their roll (this is why it’s important to tell the players the DC for rolls). For example, if the DC is an 11 but the player only rolls a 6, they can spend 5 ATs to get their roll up to 11. There are also character perks that allow you to use ATs in different ways, so they are incredibly useful and serve the mechanics of the game well. ATs can also be awarded for cool story moments, excellent roleplaying, or other cool things that happen at the table.
What would a game about kids in a magical school be without magic, right? Nothing that’s what! Thankfully the magic system in KoB is one of the most simple and diverse magic systems I’ve ever seen in a TTRPG. There are no lists of spells from which to choose, and there are no limiting factors such as spell slots. The player describes what they want the spell they’re trying to cast to do, and the GM sets a DC (using another handy table) and gets the player to roll the appropriate stat (Brawn to move a heavy object or knock someone down, Charm to affect a person’s mind or transform one thing into another, or Fight to cast an offensive spell at an opponent). When casting magic, the player also adds an additional d4 to the roll, called their Magic Die, because things are easier when you use magic. The more often a character uses the same kind of spell, the easier it gets to cast it with subsequent castings, and so the DC goes down.
Unlike how many games set up their dice roll mechanics to be a simple pass/fail system, KoB includes degrees of success and failure. For every 5 points above the DC a player gets, they get an additional degree of success, meaning that they can just succeed, or they can succeed with incredible effect. For every 5 points below the DC a player gets, they get an additional degree of failure, meaning that some failures can be catastrophic, and when magic is involved, the word catastrophic becomes quite literal.
That more or less covers all the rules and mechanics of the game. Pretty simple, right?
Creating a Character in Kids on Brooms.
Creating a character in Kids on Brooms is very simple, and they even provide a list of common character templates to choose from. My personal recommendation is to find a template that best fits what you are looking for with your character idea, and then edit it as needed.
1. Stat building with Dice Assignment
As stated before, you have 6 stats in this game, and each one needs to have a dice associated with it. The templates give you suggested dice assignments for each archetype, but you can feel free to move them around if you feel that some things aren’t quite right. The key thing to remember is that the bigger the dice, the better you are at that particular stat.
Next step is to decide if you want to be an underclass student, an overclass student, or a member of the faculty. Some GMs may choose to restrict you on this, for example I told my players I wanted them to all play students who were the same age. Being an underclass student means you get to add a +1 to all Flight and Charm roles, because younger kids are fast and cute. Overclass students add a +1 to Fight and Brawn roles, because teens are aggressive and strong. Faculty get to add +1 to Brains and Grit, because teachers are smarter and have experienced a lot more.
Then you get to choose your wands. The game gives some examples of wands, but you can be as free and creative with this as you want. In fact, you don’t even need to use wands. You can use amulets, orbs, staffs, or whatever takes your fancy. The only rule is that it must be made up of two components (in the case of wands that would be a core and the wood the wand is made of). The core and the wood of the wand each provide a +1 bonus to one of your stats when you are using magic. The only rule there is that both bonuses must apply to different stats.
4. Flesh out your Character a bit more...
The next step is to pick a Strength and Flaw, and answer two character questions to flesh out the character some more. You also get a bonus Strength based on whether you are an underclass student, overclass student, or faculty. Whilst the strength do provide a mechanical benefit to your character, the Strengths and Flaws are mostly for roleplay purposes.
5. Last step: Relationship building.
Finally at the end of character creation, you create some bonds between your character and other characters. These other characters can be other PCs or NPCs, allowing you to create additional students and faculty for the school. Each player creates a bond with a character they know in a positive way, a character they know in a negative way, and a character they don’t know but have heard of. When I did this section of character creation with my players, I had them each create 6 bonds, so that they could build connections with more PCs and NPCs, to give each character a strong link to the world. These bonds can be created by rolling randomly on yet another very hand table in the core book, but you can also come up with your own bond questions as well.
Bonus: 6. Advancement! (aka: leveling up)
As the game progresses, the PCs also have the chance to advance their magical abilities. In order to do this, each player creates a class timetable for themselves, and picks 3 subjects from the list of classes to focus on. Anytime there is downtime in game, the players can add two points to any of the three classes. Once they hit a certain number of points in those classes they can add a bonus to the magic score of one of the 6 attributes that are associated with that class (all of which are listed in the book). At the first tier they get to add a +1 to that stat, at the second tier it increases to a +3, and at the 3rd tier it increases once more to a +5.
World Building in Kids on Brooms.
Kids on Brooms encourages the GM to include their players in the world building during session 0, giving you question prompts to ask your players to help inform the world. The GM and players will work together to create the school, the head teacher, and even some magical sports, games, and activities.
1. The School
Creating the school starts by deciding the name of the school and where the school is based. Once you know these you can start filling it with different things. KoB recommends having at least 2 magical landmarks within the school grounds, which are really hand tools for the GM to use as plot devices.
2. The Head Teacher
Whilst the book does leave the creation of the faculty itself up to the GM, it’s encouraged that the headmaster/mistress of the school be created in session 0. The prompt question asks you to name the head teacher and note one thing they are famous for. In my game, the headmistress is famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe on a broom, for example.
3. Magical Passtimes
One of my favourite prompts in the world building section of the book, is the section on creating magical pastimes. How do you create your own version of Quidditch? It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. The prompt asks you to create a magical combination of two different real world activities. In my game, we came up with Smloof Board, a magical combination of Surfing and Dodgeball (I also used elements of Capture the Flag). KoB encourages you to create at least two of these magical sports, games, or activities. Whilst they may not always serve as a way to forward the plot, they are an incredibly fun way to flesh out the world.
Whilst the game does provide a list of typical classes that your magical students will need to attend (Defense Against Malicious Magics, History of Magics, Brooms, and Charms for example), KoB also encourages you and your players to come up with at least two more unusual magical classes for the students to take. In my game we came up with Planarology class (as one of our PC’s backstories was centred around portals); Magical Topiary class, a class dedicated to the animation and manipulation of plants cut into the shapes of creatures; and Magithalassic Studies, the study of magical sea creatures. These special classes really help to give some depth to your world, and can be used to link to the PC’s backstories, or a major plot point you wish to introduce to the story.
Kids on Brooms is a wonderful system that really opens the door for creative storytelling and true flexibility of play in a TTRPG. It is remarkably easy to pick up and run for both veteran GMs and new GMs alike, and can be a really good system for first time GMs trying to learn the ropes. This system will very much help GMs and players alike to think creatively, improvise, and share narrative control amongst all people at the table.
Whilst it would be easy to advertise this game as Harry Potter the TTRPG, that would really cheapen what is really a wonderful system that can be used to create brilliant and unique worlds centred around children and magic.
If you would like to try this system, or one of the sister systems, please join our Discord server (link on our home page) and let us know! You can also find our open events ready for RSVP on our events page. Or become a Member and get early RSVP access!