I spent some time roleplaying with my nephew Sparky the last time he visited and again this weekend. He’s 12; it was an interesting experience.
I gave octaNe a try, on the principle that the mechanics wouldn’t be too complicated and it’d be good for him to get his feet wet with some storytelling techniques. However, I think I was wrong — he was pretty clearly looking for more structure while we were playing, although he certainly had fun. I’d been hoping that his experience with spy flicks (we were doing a James Bondian scenario) would be enough but it wasn’t really. Also, 12 year olds are not good at saying “Hm, I could do anything I want but I will restrict myself for the sake of the story.” Next time I’ll try D20 Modern or Feng Shui.
However, this weekend, he was running all over the house with sheets of paper with dungeons drawn on ‘em. When I sat down and played with him, it turned out he’d taken this little supersimple pen and paper wargame we play in my family and turned it into a dungeon crawl, with a single “PC” and a bunch of monsters and some very very basic move and attack rules. He was very keen on the idea that people should make up their own characters (“What does your guy look like?”) and he was meticulous about handing out treasure for various victories.