Introducing a 10-year old to D&D: framing the adventure - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    I can bring my experience of teaching D&D 5e to our own kids, and also both 3e and 5e to many adult beginners/casual gamers, but I'll focus on the purpose of teaching a 10yrs (my youngest were actually younger when we started playing).

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    -don't overwhelm the audience with a lecture on rules and the adventure setting. Instead tell them the basics of roleplaying, that they're going to roll D20's most of the time, that the adventure is rather free-form but for skill checks, except in combat where it's structured more like a board game... things like that. Present the broad strokes of the setting. Then, jump into the game and let people learn by doing and explore the setting. This piece of advice applies to any newbie, not just kids.
    You are absolutely right to avoid excessive rules explanations at all costs. In fact, I suggest you teach nothing about the rules before starting. It's not easy to avoid, because as soon as they will see the character sheet, they will start asking what's the meaning of this and that. Resist telling them the details... stay generic and respond in a single sentence: "What's AC?" "A number that tells how good is your defense in combat". Promise you'll explain the rules when they will actually come into play.

    And about telling the "basics of roleplaying"... what's that? Just tell the kid(s) they will be playing a character in a fantasy story full of monsters, traps and battles! The only "basics" to know is that you can't always get what you want, you decide what you want to do, and the rules + dice rolls will tell you what you get.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    -as a result, pregenerated characters are to be preferred. The first time you create a character, it takes hours and can feel overwhelming. The amount of information to process is simply daunting. A roster of pregens (with blank fields for gender, physical features and personality traits) to choose from is largely enough. Attach easy-to-read spell cards to spellcasters, possibly using a color-code to distinguish between cantrips, prepared spells and unprepared spells. Players can prepare other spells once they've a better understanding of the system. Again, that applies to all newbies.
    Even though character generation is a huge part of RPGing, I strongly agree with you that pregens are better for the first session ever, unless you already have the strong feeling that the players are interested in a long-term hobby. Even with 5e fast generation of characters, it will still take the kid a long time making decisions. It's better that you create a few pregens, and you only let them choose which one to play. Let them fill some non-mechanical details if they want to (e.g. appearance, personality) but don't force them to... this is stuff that can be added later or just emerges from playing. Ask them to pick a name, and start the story immediately.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    -Now this is more specific to the younger audience: props and visual elements are especially important for them to get into the setting and their character. Bring pictures of people and places, minis, tokens, maps...
    Yes, but don't go too far in the first session. A map and a bunch of minis is enough to engage the players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    -Children love doing cool stuff and they have a vibrant imagination for that. In case of a conflict between rules and cool RP, the latter should definitely trump the former.
    Yes and no... I think it's a good thing to teach them that the game has boundaries, but of course it should not frustrate them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    However, this isn't necessarily a hindrance because my go-to setting is Eberron. It's the one I know best and can improvise best in. Eberron adds it own twist to the classic fantasy tropes, it doesn't feel as Tolkien-ish as the Forgotten Realms. Now, Eberron is often advertised a "pulp-noir". Obviously, I'm not going full nihilistic noir with a 10-year old. There won't be troubled antiheros with a very dark past, shades of grey everywhere, moral quandaries, clash of political ideologies, everyone being a potential villain with a relatable excuse... I won't do that. The pulp side, though, would in my opinion do the job.
    Up to you. I am biased because I don't like Eberron, but in general I would rather go with the most "classical" fantasy world possible, so that their first experience is the most largely shared with other players in history. Hence, I'd go with a "vanilla D&D setting" that has humans/elves/dwarves/halflings on the good side, and orcs/undead/dragons and other iconic monsters on the evil side.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    At that point, I'm considering ripping off the plot of The Attack of the Clones. Say whatever you want about the movie, if you remove the terrible angst & love Anakin parts and focus on Obi-Wan, you're left with:
    -an assassination attempt (could be a kidnapping, heist, whatever)
    -a chase
    -an investigation that goes from the slums to the Jedi archives (university library, in game terms), involving different skill checks
    -travel to an exotic location
    -another chase
    -a stealth / infiltration scene
    -a climactic battle
    Sounds great, but it might be hard to fit everything on a single session.

    I think it might be better to make sure your first session will be self-contained, such as a single mini-dungeon to explore, as a "coming-of-age" adventure for the main character. IMHO it gives a good feeling to a beginner to "complete" their first quest on day 1. If he likes the game, you can then have the real adventure with all its parts start on session 2, and then not worry about taking a break, because if he's up to session 2 then he'll also be up to session 3 and 4 and...

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    It's most likely going to be a singleplayer game. I'm pondering letting my young cousin play multiple characters at once, so he can experiment various things. That being said, a friend of his as well as his older sister may join us, who knows.
    This is the only part that worries me. The absolute best feature of RPGs is that they are cooperative games. If he's playing alone, he'll be missing this key feature. Playing multiple characters won't make up for it, and it can even be a bad idea for a beginner. Try the best you can to find someone else to play together (at least 3 players)!

  2. #12
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    Thanks a lot to all you guys for your sharing your experience and advice. Very interesting pieces for sure.

    There doesn't seem to be a consensus on whether or not to use pregenerated characters. Bear in mind that this kid isn't very familiar with fantasy tropes, so building a character wouldn't be as easy as recreating Gimli. I'm not sure he'd be able to say "I want this one!" and not be overwhelmed with option paralysis.

    However, you're probably right that the scenario I have in mind would be too long.

    So, I'm now considering the following... We'd start with tutorial prequels, like in some video games. They would be a series of short one-shots letting my cousin experience various character archetypes.

    Plot-wise, the prequel approach would justify him not building his own character. His future character may be a child during the prequel. You see, like the trope of the young boy watching his village being raided by orcs/bandits/invaders... When that happens in video games, you typically play the father/mentor. Then, the screen goes black and scenario resumes a couple years later. The young boy is now ready to adventure on his own and take his revenge.

    Afterwards, if my cousin wants to continue playing, the tutorial characters may appear as NPCs in the real adventure. Unless he really likes one of them and wants to keep playing that character.

    I think doing so would add a cinematic layer to the storytelling, serving both tutorial and exposition purposes.

    Quite conveniently, the main Eberron timeline is currently running 4 years after the end of a major war. The tutorial could be about events that occurred during the war.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    Thanks a lot to all you guys for your sharing your experience and advice. Very interesting pieces for sure.

    There doesn't seem to be a consensus on whether or not to use pregenerated characters. Bear in mind that this kid isn't very familiar with fantasy tropes, so building a character wouldn't be as easy as recreating Gimli. I'm not sure he'd be able to say "I want this one!" and not be overwhelmed with option paralysis.
    I see this as an asset. I've already come down on the 'roll your own' side. No trope/expectations means what he creates will be his own and original. Keep the choices simple - just because it is an option in the PHB, doesn't mean you have to tell him about it. If it were me, I would just default to human unless he has strong feelings in another direction. Let him discover the other races through game play. You can ignore Backgrounds altogether and just assign 2 skills, or assign a Background that makes sense.

    You can keep character class choices simple too and let him discover the others over time. Maybe as simple as Fighter, Rogue, Wizard or Cleric.

    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    However, you're probably right that the scenario I have in mind would be too long.

    So, I'm now considering the following... We'd start with tutorial prequels, like in some video games. They would be a series of short one-shots letting my cousin experience various character archetypes.

    Plot-wise, the prequel approach would justify him not building his own character. His future character may be a child during the prequel. You see, like the trope of the young boy watching his village being raided by orcs/bandits/invaders... When that happens in video games, you typically play the father/mentor. Then, the screen goes black and scenario resumes a couple years later. The young boy is now ready to adventure on his own and take his revenge.

    Afterwards, if my cousin wants to continue playing, the tutorial characters may appear as NPCs in the real adventure. Unless he really likes one of them and wants to keep playing that character.
    My favorite beginner scenario is giant rats. Wherever the player(s) happen to be, giant rats crawl up from the cellar/the back alley/somewhere.. Quick, hopefully winnable and move on to the next story beat. If the characters are strangers to each other, they now have some common ground. It also gives access to an easy patron "Go investigate where those came from and I will reward you!"

  4. #14
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    What I did with my kids is run a pre-module exactly like you describe. It consisted of discrete, simple elements that highlighted the three pillars of play. Then there were a couple of bits that combined two elements, and then there was a very small dungeon crawl. That got them to level two and I ran a simplified version of Phandelver for them. The pre-module even linked into the Phandelver story line. So yeah, run some quick one-hitters, it works.

  5. #15
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    You can take on old movie and use that for the plot. Since he is 10, he may not have seen or remember 80's movies like Indiana Jones, or Flash Gordon or even Neverending Story. A little cut and paste for introduction works well.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magean View Post
    There doesn't seem to be a consensus on whether or not to use pregenerated characters. Bear in mind that this kid isn't very familiar with fantasy tropes, so building a character wouldn't be as easy as recreating Gimli. I'm not sure he'd be able to say "I want this one!" and not be overwhelmed with option paralysis.
    I would definitely use a pre-made character. You don't want to make him sit through an hour of paperwork before getting to the fun stuff. (Yes, it would probably take that long with a 10-yr-old first-timer.) Just give him a choice of fighter, wizard, sneaky rogue, whatever. Make them all human, since he's not familiar with the fantasy races.

    Give him a character and start the adventure. There's plenty of time to learn all the ins & outs of the game, one detail at a time.

  7. #17
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    Of course this reminded me of Samantha the Red, even though she was much younger:
    https://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...the-first-time!
    https://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...d-updated-8-5)

  8. #18
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    Another vote for pre-gens. But give him a choice. Say the heroic paladin or the sneaky rogue.

  9. #19
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    A great intro adventure would be, "Ninjas have kidnapped the President. Are you a bad enough dude to resue the President?"

  10. #20
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    I started my kids and a neighbour kid at a similar age with LMoP and the pre-gens. It worked well - theyve all become hardcore gamers! I agree with most of the suggestions above, specifically:
    - let them be heroes - high ability scores, cool magic items and set the DCs low if they come up with imaginative solutions
    - be very generous with inspiration
    - incorporate a memorable tag-a-long NPC for some comic relief (a goofy goblin or something similar); they love potty-talk situations
    - kids love pets. Let them try a animal handling skill check to train a giant weasel or baby wolf
    - if at all possible, include one or more of his friends - they will constantly re-live the adventures long after youre done playing

    I probably dont have to say this but make sure you enjoy yourself too!
    XP Len gave XP for this post

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