Great Moments In D&D For Kids
  • Great Moments In D&D For Kids


    I run a weekly D&D game for children ages 8-14 at my shop. When I took over our Young Heroes League program last fall, I had very little experience as a DM. I started running an Adventurerís League table for adult players a few months later, which is easy by comparison. There isnít much the grownups can throw at me that I havenít already dealt with on some level while wrangling the kids.


    Iím not a parent and have no formal training as a teacher, so Iíve learned a lot on the fly and am constantly surprised by the things they do. They keep me on my toes, which is a lot of fun, although I also am ready for a four-hour nap after every two-hour session. Itís a great improvisation exercise, and I go easy on the rules because the important thing is making sure the kids have fun and learn how to work as a team. Here are some of the best moments weíve had in our game.

    Magical Collaboration
    In one of our earliest sessions, the party needed to distract a bunch of kobolds who had them outnumbered. One of the kids offered to use Minor Illusion, but worried the kobolds might not notice because it was getting dark. Another player read over her spells and realized she could use Prestidigitation to add sound to the image. I was so proud of them for working that out, and they were thrilled when their collaboration had the desired effect on the kobolds. It set a good precedent for the game when they realized they should try to work together instead of simply waiting for their turn to do something on their own.

    Rat-sicles
    One of the kids in my group started playing with us when she was 7 and a half. She technically was below the minimum age, but she could keep up with the older kids like a champ. Her wizard once helped defeat a swarm of rats with a well-placed Ray of Frost. I described the frozen rats she created as rat-sicles, which is a brand of humor that appeals strongly to my playersí demographic. (They also respond well to my dramatic performances of monster noises and death throes.)

    A few minutes later, a little ambush drake attacked the party. Some of the members started fighting it, but our wizard said, ďNo! Wait!Ē She grabbed one of the rat-sicles and offered to feed it to the drake if it would stop attacking the group. Then she tried to make it her pet. And thatís when I learned a very important lesson...

    A Monster Is Just a Pet You Haven't Tamed Yet
    Our wizard didnít roll a high enough animal handling check to tame the ambush drake, but that incident set off a craze where the kids tried to tame every beast the ran across for weeks. I admit I hoped to avoid letting them acquire pets. They got pretty close with an owlbear once. However, thanks to natural 20s rolled for animal handling in two different games, the wizard eventually got a pseudodragon off an evil sorcerer they defeated, and the half-orc barbarian got a puppy. Theyíre very careful about setting them aside in baskets and such to keep them safe during combat, so at least theyíre responsible pet owners.

    Dino-Disadvantage
    Our party has investigated a number of strange incidents in which dangerous creatures were gathered in locations far away from their natural habitats. Once they fought their way through a mountain fortress that was inhabited by monsters that belong in the Underdark. Not long after, they were hired to look into a similar situation at another old military outpost in the forest that turned out to be full of dinosaurs, a very long way from Chult. I wonder whoís bringing these creatures over and putting them where they donít belong?

    Anyway, some of the dinosaurs were inside a large building. A couple of nasty, acid-spitting dinosaurs were hiding in a smaller room inside that building. The dragonborn paladin, halfling rogue, and human barbarian charged into the room to fight them, mostly blocking the only doorway into the room. The elf ranger was about 60 feet outside the door, but she could see one of the dinosaurs, though it had almost full cover by other party members. Sheís a sharpshooter and really wanted to take a shot, so I let her try it with disadvantage.

    Her first roll was a natural 20, so everyone groaned at the wasted crit. But when she rolled the second time, she got another natural 20. The kids lost their minds. There was pandemonium in the room for a solid minute. That was one of my favorite D&D moments ever, just because the kids were so elated over such a lucky roll. It was six months ago and they still talk about it frequently.

    Oh, and they tried to tame a velociraptor to keep as a pet.

    The Pyramid Incident
    Recently, the party went to the desert and fought a blue dragon. Luckily, they were accompanied by a few higher-level NPCs who could help them. The kids recently received some magic items, among them the druidís Bag of Beans. He planted a bean right before the battle, hoping something helpful would come from it. The battle was over before the beanís one-minute germination ended. The party took a good bit of damage, but were busy harvesting dragon teeth when I had the player roll for the beanís effect. He rolled a 99. I described what happened: a 60-foot pyramid erupted from the ground next to them. It was absurd and we all cackled like maniacs.

    Despite the wizardís objections (she had been polymorphed into a unicorn mid-battle, so nobody understood what she was saying), they charged in to see what was inside. And thatís how the young heroes wound up fighting a mummy lord immediately after defeating a dragon. They survived, but only because they had NPCs with some powerful healing spells nearby.

    Have you ever been a DM for children? How did it go? Did someone elseís child ever ask you where half-orcs come from, leading to a flurry of other questions as kids start thinking through the implications of the existence of dragonborn and half-dragons? (Because that couldíve been very awkward, but I think I handled it okay.)

    contributed by Annie Bulloch
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Kobold Stew's Avatar
      Kobold Stew -
      DMing for my son and his friends has made some of my fondest memories:

      Watching them draw their characters and change them as the adventure proceeds (always unprompted). My son writing out Dexterity and Constitution repeatedly (because character sheets can be writing practice for the very young -- for a while I would let them have anything in their backpack as long as they wrote it out.

      Encouraging them to break some societal rules and go on an adventure (once my son't friend was afraid to abandon a boat they had been lent to go to an island to stop an orc that had been terrorizing some fishermen. He knew he had to fight the orc, but he was concerned that he might lose the boat and get in trouble.)

      We lived in London for a year, and were leaving during the 5e playtest. My final day there was spent on a day-long game with my son and five of his friends, each of whom had a brand new set of dice I had bought for them. It was magical, and when we returned six months later, four of the kids wanted to continue the same game....
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      Helping kids create characters is a lot of fun. It takes time because they deliberate over every detail, and I have to explain it to them. Heck, it's helped me learn things because I had to understand it well enough to explain it. I'm much better versed in the various schools of magic now that I've helped an eight-year-old choose one. She chose Evocation because she likes blowing things up.
    1. Oofta's Avatar
      Oofta -
      I think our group may have cheered quite a bit for a crit on a roll with disadvantage as well. But that's probably just because even though we're all adults we are very immature.

      I've judged for nieces and nephews quite a bit, at the time the youngest was 10. In addition to your great story I would simply add that I always tried to keep the stories fairly simple and fairly fast paced. As you said, really play up the monsters and I always tried to over-act NPCs. The imagination of the kids can be pretty fun and amazing.

      One nephew (just turned 30) was mentioning the other day the possibility of getting the gang back together online since everybody is spread across the country. I guess we did something right.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      I definitely keep it fast-paced. And I have to steer them into various situations or they would never do anything but shop for magic items and look for pets. I taught them a bit about the need to earn and save money though!
    1. jgsugden's Avatar
      jgsugden -
      The best thing about DMing for people 30 years younger than you: You can steal from movies, tv and books you grew up on and they'll never have heard of any of it. Then, years later, they'll call you and say, "Oh my God... you stole Ashan Dracos from Evil Dead!"
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
      The best thing about DMing for people 30 years younger than you: You can steal from movies, tv and books you grew up on and they'll never have heard of any of it. Then, years later, they'll call you and say, "Oh my God... you stole Ashan Dracos from Evil Dead!"
      Yeah, the time we pretty much did Seven Samurai/Rio Bravo vs a large group of orc bandits seemed totally fresh to the kids! It was super fun regardless.
    1. Invisible Stalker's Avatar
      Invisible Stalker -
      Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
      The best thing about DMing for people 30 years younger than you: You can steal from movies, tv and books you grew up on and they'll never have heard of any of it. Then, years later, they'll call you and say, "Oh my God... you stole Ashan Dracos from Evil Dead!"
      That would explain my bard named Stringfellow Hawke and paladin named Michael Archangel. None of them have watched Airwolf, so my secret is safe for now.
    1. Arial Black's Avatar
      Arial Black -
      "A Monster Is Just a Pet You Haven't Tamed Yet!"

      A great motto for an optimistic 1st level adventurer.

      Come back in 10 levels and see if the motto has changed to, "If it moves, hit it with everything we've got!"
    1. Paul3's Avatar
      Paul3 -
      Running a summer school D&D class. The great thing is that we don't have many resources, but it is so easy to make do with whatever we have. I have two groups, and this week, while one was playing, the others were writing their own mini-adventures, so they will be DMing for each other next week.
    1. AmerginLiath's Avatar
      AmerginLiath -
      Iíve never run a game for kids, but I remember being introduced to the game as a kid at that age (back in the 1st edition days). It strikes me as odd to change the dynamics of the game to accommodate a child, but it also still strikes me as odd to change the dynamics of fiction to accommodate a child (the notion of Young Adult Fiction has always been ridiculous to me, having started to read fiction on C.S. Lewis and then moved on to the likes of JRR Tolkien and Isaac Asimov while a child ó I didnít understand any of it fully anymore than I did Gygaxís DMG, but reading Ďadultí fiction was about stretching oneís understanding instead of settling). As a seven or eight year old, I played standard D&D games and dealt with TPKs left and right because I and my peers hadnít learned how to play smart yet; being treated like an adult gamer as a child is what made me a strategic game as an adult.
    1. Elf_flambe's Avatar
      Elf_flambe -
      I played a couple of sessions with my kids' homeschool group when they were much younger (6-9 years old?) to help them get started roleplaying; the mom of a couple of the other kids was the DM. That crew was ingenious! At one point, we were climbing through a tower when we were stopped by an open trapdoor, the rope ladder visible coiled next to the opening. They decided to throw my dwarf fighter up through the opening (despite his objections!), where he would kick down the ladder and hold off the bandits we expected on the level above while the others climbed up. It worked pretty much as planned. Years later, my kids still love to recount the episode of dwarf-tossing...

      The group has gone on to play lots of other games (Star Wars D20, Mutants & Masterminds, Big Eyes Small Mouth, Changeling), often running adventures for each other.
    1. Bitbrain's Avatar
      Bitbrain -
      One of the players in our new group is a pre-teen, and he's playing a dwarf fighter.

      Last session, my Dad (also the DM) rolled up a random encounter, and a giant aardvark walked into our camp.
      Declaring to my companions that I was here to save the world and not cause the next extinction event, I offered the animal some food . . . And then the dwarf ran forward with a gleeful expression and jumped on the creature's back.

      A fumbled Animal Handling check later, and the aardvark fled into the night, the dwarf picked himself up off the ground, and the guy playing the the Wood Elf Monk declared that the whole experience was the best impromptu rodeo he'd ever seen.

      We all had a really good laugh about it, and the Dwarf has since announced that he intends to buy an aardvark and use it as a trained mount.
    1. Eltab's Avatar
      Eltab -
      I've DMed for a three-year-old !

      Actually, she rolled the dice. Her dad used the opportunity to help her learn numbers. After a few disappointing times with the to-hit rolls (she didn't understand yet why sometimes we got excited and other times we groaned), we had her roll all the damage dice, because good things always happen and more is better.
      The d20 was as big as her fist and had a secret power. Partway through the night she rolled it idly and when it stopped - on '20' - it lit up flashing! So she got the last time right, anyways.

      We also had her moving the minis for a while, but she got tired of stretching across the table at the end of her arms' reach.
    1. Eltab's Avatar
      Eltab -
      Another time, I wrote up a one-shot session and took it along to Church Camp with my son's 5th-grade class. (In case it rained.) A bunch of my son's friends played my "Beat Up Goliath" scenario. A few got bored and wandered off, but about 5 stuck through to the end.
      At the final combat round, Goliath and a Monk were toe-to-toe both at 1 HP and whoever got a hit next would win the brawl.
      The only well-equipped PC was an archer barbarian (oops). He rolled a '1' to-hit, so I said "You fire off the bow and hold on to the arrow. The bow wobbles through the air and lands in the square in front of you." Laughter all around. That player came back to me 10 years later (HS graduation party) and told me that because of the game experience, he started writing RPG sketch-rules based on his favorite video games, so he could "play" them after his parents turned off the TV for the night.
      My son picked a Psalmist ('cleric') and spent the fight giving everybody else +1 to-hit bonus via Bless. As I explained the mechanics of the game, he saw Goliath's AC and realized nobody could hit Goliath without the help he was providing. So even the guy who 'never gave anybody a scratch' was contributing something important.
    1. Jamie Myers's Avatar
      Jamie Myers -
      I love this. I have run games for young ones myself and it such a great experience.
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