I’ve been playing simplified versions of DND with my kids and their friends ever since I got my feet wet nearly a year ago. Much experimenting has led me on my own quest toward the perfect family campaign. Here are some of the tips I have for any parent wanting to share the world of DND with the kids.
My very first game with my boys was very simple. I had fashioned a coloring page into a game board, we rolled a d4 for movement and anytime they came across something on their path, I told a story and they made a choice, then we rolled the d20 for success or failure. Later we added stats and weapons… Setting the general vibe was important, adding some additional structure was necessary to set the mood. The story is the most important thing when you are just beginning. This is what gets them hooked, invested. D&D builds powerful skills, but it has to be fun first.
I started the process with a board game setup because my boys are familiar with board games. This made it easy for them to understand there would be limitations just like any other game, the difference being “Mom tells a story and I get to make choices and roll dice a lot”. We played for over an hour our first time, which is impressive at ages 4 and 5. We got in counting practice and some critical thinking. I would create a problem and the boys would solve it together. They couldn’t get enough. If your kids have never played before and are under the age of 8, you might start this way so that they get into the idea that you are creating a story together with the dice. I used midieval themed coloring pages and mazes to create maps for various quests, you could just as easily use any board you have at home. if you have D&D maps and whatnot, all the better. Quests were very simple and I tried to let them be as creative as they wanted. One of my more successful starter quests is detailed below:
The premise: The weather is getting colder and flu season is near! The witch is missing 3 ingredients for her flu potion! The first one to find the 3 magical ingredients and bring them to the castle wins 200 golf and 150xp.
Setup: I took a Candyland board and spooked it up a little bit with Halloween toys. They needed it rabbit’s foot, an eye off newt, and a chocolate coin. The scavenger hunt kept them moving forward. I could always remind them that we were on a deadline if they got too carried away with the story. Each ingredient had a “monster” guarding it with a few decoys built into the trail as well (a kitty in a box, a frog princess, and a speedboat). The idea behind the decoys was sort of a tortoise and hare lesson: if you get distracted, someone else will get the gold! Again, the rules weren’t hard and fast. It’s important to have fun with it. The challenges of each “boss” were different in nature. One was a staring contest, another a battle, another a riddle. Each kid had to pass each challenge for each villain or else lose their movement for that turn.
Characters: I had each boy introduce his character and choose one weapon and a magical object (spell) before we began. We also played tournament style and still do. Each game has a grand prize of gold and XP. Gold can be used to upgrade a weapon/armor/spell on a future campaign, XP works sort of like chess points, you are building on a lifetime total. You can be awarded both within each campaign as well.
As kids begin to ask more critical questions, it’s a good time to add stats. Our first characters had just 3… Strength, Intelligence, Chutzpah. Dexterity would fall under Strength with Chutzpah being a combo of Constitution and Charisma. Too many stats too soon is confusing. You can add them in as characters level up and receive bonuses (IE: “You have acquired poison resistance, here’s a new stat called Constitution “or “Here’s a ranged weapon and now you have this thing called Dexterity”). Spells can also come into play as you see fit. Interest in building characters can emerge at this time as well. Creating a character is a good segue into playing full on D&D and interest signals readiness.
D&D Fight Club:
Excellent experimentation for a young one who has just created their first character is to host a “fight club” session. You can use a chess board for this exercise. The idea is just 1:1 combat between characters or the DM’s monsters (you can add in team fights as well). You decide the terms. A good rule is first one to 10HP is the loser. Anything a character can do in game, they can do in combat with a few exceptions- no attacks of opportunity, no potions, etc. This is a controlled environment where kids get to see what their characters can do. This can be a time when they learn about their spells and weapons while building their backstory in their downtime. It makes for a smoother game when you get down to business. There’s no confusion about what a spell does or how to calculate damage because they’ve already had tons of practice in Fight Club. Group battles against monsters can help you gauge readiness and deal with any challenges a player is having before you get into a full-fledged campaign. Transitioning to something like this can help you to build your campaign around the emerging characters you see in Fight Club.
I’m excited to take the kiddos on this journey with me and will be adding more to this subject. Feedback is more than welcome! How do you play with yours?