Mermaid Adventures is a roleplaying game of undersea adventure. The players play mermaids…in this case, the fish-tailed mermaids we all know from movies are only one type of mermaid available. There are also mermaids with the bottom half of a sea urchin, a shark, a lobster, and more.
Mermaid Adventures is a great kids roleplaying game. The different sorts of mermaids take the place of the different classes in other RPGs. The system encourages creative use of a character’s Qualities (descriptions such as Lucky, Beautiful, Avoiding Traps, etc), which is a great way to keep kids thinking and creating. The dice rolling is easy to parse, where you roll white dice (based on your mermaid’s Qualities) and black dice (based on the difficulty of the task). Each 4, 5, or 6 is a success, and black successes cancel out white successes. If you’re only left with white successes left you succeed, if you’re only left with black successes left you fail, and if you have no successes, you succeed but something else happens.
My seven year old daughter created a character named Princess Ariel, who had a fish companion named Flounder. I imagine she’ll branch out eventually, but for now she’s staying true to the source material she knows. Princess Ariel had the ability to shift into human form, was Lucky, and good at Avoiding Traps. Flounder was nosy and funny.
When we sat down for our first adventure, my daughter hopped up and said, “Just a minute!” She ran to her cabinet where her games are kept (advice to parents who want to raise gaming kids, give them their own cabinet for games early!) and pulled out figures of Ariel and Flounder, along with Prince Charming, Grumpy, Dopey, and a couple versions of the witch from Snow White. These became our miniatures.
I cannot stress enough how much that one aspect totally made our games. Using figures to visualize imaginative play is something kids do naturally. Adding the mechanics of Mermaid Adventures onto that didn’t take away from the experience at all. Without the figures, my daughter would have probably not enjoyed the game as much.
Our first adventure, Princess Ariel was exploring a sunken ship when a current closed a door and trapped her in the ship. She was able to clear a wooden beam away from the window to escape. Going home, her father told her that one of the royal jewels had gone missing, and that she should be sure to keep herself safe and not get into trouble. This started one of the running jokes of our adventures, where Ariel interprets that sort of restriction entirely differently than her parents. Ariel’s mother, hearing that she had been in a sunken ship, forbids her to enter any more sunken ships.
So Ariel heads to some caves she’s heard about that supposedly have monsters in them, certain that the monsters must have stolen the jewel. She sneaks inside the cave and sees a sea witch! And she could hear someone else coming in the tunnel behind her! (She ended up with even numbers of white and black successes on her sneak roll, so even though the sea witch didn’t sea her, something bad happened.)
Ariel and Flounder stood on opposite sides of the tunnel entrance, hoping to remain hidden when the newcomer entered. She rolled badly on her hiding attempt, and ended up getting seen. So she talked the witch into letting her go (her Charm is one of her higher stats), saying she just wandered in accidentally. Outside, Ariel and Flounder head in another tunnel, hoping to find a hidden way to the sea witch’s cave. This roll also fails, resulting in them getting lost in the caves.
Along with figures, I can’t stress enough the importance of using whatever props you have around the house. Our tunnels were paper towel tubes that we actually pushed the figures through. When they got lost, we put their figures into the tube and I covered both ends with my hands, turning it over and over, symbolizing them getting lost in the tunnels. We used a small box with a lid for the room in the sunken ship Ariel was trapped in, and more. All of these bits aided in her visualization of what was going on.
Ariel and Flounder eventually find their way back to the sea witch’s cavern, just in time to hear her say that she needs one more spell ingredient in order to take over the kingdom. While she and her henchman are out, she’ll protect the jewel with a magic spell, “Preventing anyone living under the sea from taking it.” The sea witch and her henchman leave.
Ariel quickly turns into human form and grabs the jewel, taking it back to her father. In a later adventure, the sea witch has a poisoned apple she wants to protect, and learning from her past failures protects it with a spell so that “Nothing living under the sea or above the sea can touch it.” Ariel uses a clam shell to pick it up without touching it.
This is a terrific game that gives gaming parents an option for introducing their kids to tabletop roleplaying at a younger age than most. Shadows is still accessible to a younger age group, but Mermaid Adventures is a great next step.