I'd be really interested in hearing more about how you organize your games. We've tried to do similar games, but they always end up falling apart. Possibly because we have so many littler children.Since my reply turned out to be too long to fit in the comments (what a shock), I decided to toss it up here on this blog post. Here you go, Trinity!
It depends on what you mean by orginizing. Having littler children does tend to dampen the story aspect, as they are generally more interested in the action than the plot. But it's not impossible to let them join in, it will just fall on the older participants to carry the storyline, while the young-uns are given characters who are more secondary and who can run amok causing conflict for the main characters while not being expected to make profound story advancements on purpose.
In order to make an Imagination Game successful, storyline is essential. One must remember to play more for the story than for anything else. One does this through the characters chosen by the players to play. Conflict! Conflict is what moves a story forward. A band of friends is great, but a misfit or dysfunctional band provides far more drama to work with. Villains, hidden amongst the heroes, or stalking them, each with their own motives. Try to make as many possibilities for conflict as possible outside of the usual goodguy vs. villain interaction. Embrace challenges and imbalances within the story. Consider them not as unfair -- the other team has more people and weapons, etc. -- but as obstacles for the characters to overcome in resourceful manners. That's one of the most fun things one can do in an Imagination Game. Accept challenges, don't try to make everything an even playing field all the time. Even playing fields kill conflict.
Another thing to remember is that Imagination Games are NOT competitions. Treating them like one will almost invariably lead to dissention amongst the players (not the characters, the players). And when players bicker, the story grinds to a halt, and the game disintegrates. Just because the villains are fighting against the heroes, and even if the villains capture the 'flag' or steal the special object by no means translates into the villains 'winning'. It just means the heroes have to go after them now and get back what was taken. Unless you have purposefully set up the game so there will be a winner, due to time constraints or some such, then the only kind of winning there is is the victory that comes when the story is being driven forward, and everyone is having fun.
Here are some basic things to remember when playing an Imagination Game. We've learned these things through trial and error. Imagination Games go most smoothly when:
1) Players play for the story
2)Players are good sports about everything, including about other players not being good sports, and embrace an uneven playing field as an in-story challenge for the characters to overcome.
3)Players remember that 'winning' is when everyone has fun. Consider complaints, but players who continually whines about an aspect of the game should be referred to 1 and 2.
As a last note, I'll say that the dynamic of an Imagination Game changes depending on the ration of reality to imagination. For example, it's far easier to do combat IGs with real (read: PVC or foam) weapons because when someone gets hit, it's undeniable. However, when using more reality and less imagination, it's harder for people to play characters that are out of their skill range because they aren't, in fact, dead shots with the bow or fearless swordfighters. Also, it's much easier to remain in character when you're in costume. My advice is that, in either case, one should be realistic about the types of characters one is able to play well.
There are many little tips, tricks, and twists that we've learned over time that I could go into, but what I've related here are the basics. Timewise, two thirds of the Imagination Games we play are spontaneous, but for more complex games it helps to plan a little bit.Dia duit,
Hope some of this helped! Feel free to ask any more questions, because I could talk about this topic all day.