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D&D 5E D&D 5e suggestions for two beginner children and a first time DM dad?

Raven_King

Villager
Hello EN World!

I used to play AD&D 1e at school when these were the player’s handbook and monster manual:
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_players_handbook_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_monster_manual_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg


Now, some 30+ years later, I have two primary-school children aged 8 and 10 who I’d love to get into D&D 5e. They absolutely loved the D&D Young Adventurers Collection:
ProductImage_300x449yacollection.png



How might I best introduce my kids to actually playing D&D, in a simple, age-appropriate way, in short sessions of max 1 hour to suit their attention span, and most crucially in a format that just three of us can play - the kids and I? We have a busy family life and I don’t see the opportunity for many four-hour play sessions with three other kids to make a bigger party happening on a regular basis. I don’t know anyone else who plays, or wants to start - yet! Maybe when my two are a bit bigger and have a taste for it we can organise something like that, but I would really love to have options for just us three to play now.

Should I get the kids to play two characters each, with some justification for why pairs of PCs might cooperate so closely? (Maybe the PCs they play are two pairs of twins?)

Should I try to play extra NPC party members to help with balance? Remember I am inexperienced as a DM… but willing to put significant effort in to prepare. It must be fun for the kids, and ideally me too, after all otherwise we will lose interest.

I’ve nearly finished reading the 5e basic rules, and (having a bit more money as an adult than I did back then) I have the core three 5e rule books, plus several others from WotC.

However, I have not yet found any kid-friendly adventures or campaigns suitable for an inexperienced party of two players. Do they exist? Can I realistically adapt other adventures to suit this severely limited party size and experience level?
 

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Definitely do not have them play more than one PC. I'd probably add one NPC just to help them along and bounce ideas off of when speaking in character, but they shouldn't really do all that much. Hold the torch for them and carry the bags of heavy stuff sort of things. I'd just make up some super simple adventures. Help the old lady clear out giant rats in her attic. Investigate the critter tunnel that's burrowed into their favorite restaurant's basement. Maybe a small surprise goblin raid. Simple stuff. And most importantly, for kids, short stuff.
 

I've been in that situation. For us, we started with Lost Mines. To begin with, we used the pre-gen characters and I took one too, even as a DM. In my opinion, no starter player should begin with two characters. We actually ran through/started this twice, because the first time was full of figuring out what the heck we were doing. On the second run through, I bought the three core books, and we all generated our own characters.

We never did finish Mines, but by the end of our second run through, at least one of the kids was willing/able to run two characters. We still have to have a DMNPC, though, because of our lack of outside-the-household players.

Also, we found that eventually everybody is going to want their own copy of the Player's Manual, and anybody who wants to DM is going to want their own copy of the DMG.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
If you ran TSR era D&D you can handle 5e, and you can especially handle smaller-than-normal parties in 5e. Have a DMPC if you feel you just, but don't stress it. And keep the focus on the kids.

You might also want to start out using the Basic rules available for free from the WotC D&D website. It's the full game just stripped down to fewer options, which should help new players.
 

Hi! I just did this a few years ago. I now have a 14 and an 8 year old who play regularly. Your kids are the perfect age for this and 5E is significantly easier to teach than 1E, since it runs on a unified resolution system (d20 + stat bonus + proficiency vs target number) instead of the 10,000 subsystems that 1E used.

My recommendations: Get the starter set and run them through the first portion of Lost Mines of Phandelver, which is a fantastic adventure for newbies. Plan to play through the end of the goblin cave. It's a straightforward adventure -- rescue a person from goblin bandits -- with a mix of combat and puzzles and peril that imagination will see them through.

Have them play a player character each, but flesh out the party with sidekicks. I built a whole squad of sidekicks that cover all the big archetypes -- I have a fatalistic dwarf warrior, a snooty elf archer, a devout human cleric and an absent-minded wizard; no rogues since both of my kids play rogues -- and bring in the ones needed to flesh out the game. If you haven't seen them yet, the sidekick rules are either in the Essentials boxed set (the PDF of the rules is on the WotC site) or in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.

The DMs Guild is a website full of semi-pro D&D PDFs and there are a ton of kid-friendly adventures there, many of them suitable for smaller parties.
 
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aco175

Legend
The Essentials Box Set is ok and should be good for kids. The message board hook lets them choose what quests to go on and most are made to be played in a couple hours so you can play in smaller chunks to avoid boredom. I would also run a DMNPC to round out the party if you are using a published book since the encounters are made for three or four and need more paring down for only 2.
 

Mort

Legend
When my son wanted to play (10 years old) I DM'd with him and my wife (who prefers G rated and also wanted 1 hour chunks).

1. I'd suggest 1 character each. It's pretty hard for kids to concentrate on 1 character - 2 is too much.
2. Simple linear adventures to start (They are perfect for kids, take little time and most importantly can be thought up in minutes):
Goblins have loot - we want to sneak in and get the loot;
They need to bury a cursed item on consecrated property, complications and fun ensues (Sounds silly but this was a big hit as it was utterly relatable but allowed the introduction of fun complications etc.);
3. I initially toned down the hack n slash but kids are a bloodthirsty bunch, frankly it wasn't necessary;
4. When I didn't want to think up my own stuff - I dug out my old city of greyhawk boxed set. Comes with like 50 adventure cards that were super easy to "kidify." You can pick up a copy on DMSGuild for under $10 bucks! Or go to ebay and pay (a lot) more for the physical product.
5. Also, just simply browse DMSGuild for kid friendly stuff (I see people already recommended that above), there's plenty of it.
6. I like the sidekicks idea, simplified NPCs that can fill gaps - this is a good idea if you run something published like lost mines of Phandelver (also a decent idea for kids).
 

jayoungr

Legend
I have not yet found any kid-friendly adventures or campaigns suitable for an inexperienced party of two players. Do they exist? Can I realistically adapt other adventures to suit this severely limited party size and experience level?

I like this for a free introductory scenario:


It includes potential for exploration and social interaction, and it ends with a good old-fashioned bar fight!

I also recommend Dragon of Icespire Peak, which is the adventure that comes with the Essentials Kit. Even more than Lost Mine of Phandelver, it's made to be divided into short missions, so it should be ideal for a group that can't play too long in a session.

Word has it that WotC's next published adventure, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight (due out in September), may also be suitable for younger players.
 
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ECMO3

Adventurer
Hello EN World!

I used to play AD&D 1e at school when these were the player’s handbook and monster manual:
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_players_handbook_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_monster_manual_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg


Now, some 30+ years later, I have two primary-school children aged 8 and 10 who I’d love to get into D&D 5e. They absolutely loved the D&D Young Adventurers Collection:
ProductImage_300x449yacollection.png



How might I best introduce my kids to actually playing D&D, in a simple, age-appropriate way, in short sessions of max 1 hour to suit their attention span, and most crucially in a format that just three of us can play - the kids and I? We have a busy family life and I don’t see the opportunity for many four-hour play sessions with three other kids to make a bigger party happening on a regular basis. I don’t know anyone else who plays, or wants to start - yet! Maybe when my two are a bit bigger and have a taste for it we can organise something like that, but I would really love to have options for just us three to play now.

Should I get the kids to play two characters each, with some justification for why pairs of PCs might cooperate so closely? (Maybe the PCs they play are two pairs of twins?)

Should I try to play extra NPC party members to help with balance? Remember I am inexperienced as a DM… but willing to put significant effort in to prepare. It must be fun for the kids, and ideally me too, after all otherwise we will lose interest.

I’ve nearly finished reading the 5e basic rules, and (having a bit more money as an adult than I did back then) I have the core three 5e rule books, plus several others from WotC.

However, I have not yet found any kid-friendly adventures or campaigns suitable for an inexperienced party of two players. Do they exist? Can I realistically adapt other adventures to suit this severely limited party size and experience level?
I would start with the lost mine of phandelver
 

Word has it that WotC's next published adventure, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight (due out in September) may also be suitable for younger players.
My eight year old has explained that we will be getting Witchlight and we will be playing it, even if it's just her and a bunch of NPCs. (Luckily, she asked to turn her tabaxi rogue into a rabbitfolk when the UA version of the rules dropped, so I told her that she's probably going to encounter her thieving family in the adventure, which has her delighted.)
 

Mort

Legend
I would start with the lost mine of phandelver

Lost Mines of Phandelver is a great intro set. But a warning:

1. It has to be read through thoroughly before running - otherwise it can be a confusing mess. I would not recommend sight-reading and running it;
2. There are some seriously HARD encounters (certainly for beginners) within the mix. This is not a bad thing, but you need to decide how you want to approach it with young kids.
 



2. There are some seriously HARD encounters (certainly for beginners) within the mix. This is not a bad thing, but you need to decide how you want to approach it with young kids.
Yeah, there's a critter in the basement of the bad guy's hideout that can be encountered at low level if the player characters scout and find the secret entrance to the hideout that is rough. Full points for putting in something new to many players (it's an incredibly obscure monster from third edition) and interesting in the adventure, but unless you've got a full party ready for anything, it's a pretty scary monster to toss at them.

My players (two nieces, my brother and my son) wisely ran away.
 

Yeah, there's a critter in the basement of the bad guy's hideout that can be encountered at low level if the player characters scout and find the secret entrance to the hideout that is rough. Full points for putting in something new to many players (it's an incredibly obscure monster from third edition) and interesting in the adventure, but unless you've got a full party ready for anything, it's a pretty scary monster to toss at them.

My players (two nieces, my brother and my son) wisely ran away.
Mine did too. Lol!
 


Yenrak

Explorer
I play with my daughters, now 9 and 12. We’ve been playing for two years. They had no problem picking up the simple mechanics of 5th Edition. It’s much, much easier and intuitive than AD&D.

The adventurers are meant for smaller parties. Usually around 4 players plus a DM. So you can play most with just two players (your kids), without changing too much. Just give ’em some extra potions of healing.

We ended up with a bigger group because when I mentioned to one of my older daughter’s classmate’s father that we were going to start playing, he asked if he could play an elven cleric character based on the one he played decades ago. His son wanted to be a rogue (that’s what we call thieves now). So we had four players right away. We now have four more, actually, because over the two years of our campaign (a highly modified version of Storm King’s Thunder—we were in Waterdeep hunting the dragon heist and we’re in Chult now, hunting the Ring of Winter, which doesn’t happen in the published adventure) more people heard about it and asked if they could join with their kids.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
This seems like common since but its something I have seen a lot GMs drop from their mind focusing on running the perfect game... If its fun your doing it right and if they are losing interest find what they love about the game and bring it back around. You can have the "perfect module", in the "perfect setting", and the players can be hating it. If they de-rail a campaign or get side tracked but they are having fun, try to role with it and let them be side tracked. When they lose direction and/or interest in the side track then pull them back to the module to keep things going. Add to that one of your players may like talking and the other combat etc. You need to give them both "air time" for their fun while balancing how long the other player can sit in stand bye if they have different aims. You can "split" the party or even have a comical fight in the back ground (that is competitive but not life or death like arm wrestling etc) while one is talking to a NPC. If you get this right any module will work even a bad one. It might work out that your kids both like the same primary thing and your lucky so you can lean more heavy to that pillar of play. This shifts though so GMs who nail it at first create a formula and follow it sometimes run into confusion later when the formula stops working. Players change on what they enjoy as a person and because they got their fill for the day. If your players are having a meeting in a tavern and they seem to be getting restless in the conversation, perhaps their is a random not lethal bar fight that breaks out. If the players are tired of a fighting, perhaps a third group interrupts the fight forcing a stalemate that requires some dialogue. If players start drifting during your description of a setting or world building element, cut the description short and add it back in as information between interruptions so they get it but they get a break between information dumps to refocus them.

I hope this helps. Just keeping the thought in the for front helps me. I sometimes put a note on my GM screen facing me that says "Having fun?" just to remind myself that running the "perfect game" is not the same thing or as as important as the general environment of fun at the table. This sometimes leads to... interesting tangents, but fun is had.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Hello EN World!

I used to play AD&D 1e at school when these were the player’s handbook and monster manual:
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_players_handbook_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg
advanced_dungeons_and_dragons_dd_monster_manual_1st_edition_second_cover.jpg


Now, some 30+ years later, I have two primary-school children aged 8 and 10 who I’d love to get into D&D 5e. They absolutely loved the D&D Young Adventurers Collection:
ProductImage_300x449yacollection.png



How might I best introduce my kids to actually playing D&D, in a simple, age-appropriate way, in short sessions of max 1 hour to suit their attention span, and most crucially in a format that just three of us can play - the kids and I? We have a busy family life and I don’t see the opportunity for many four-hour play sessions with three other kids to make a bigger party happening on a regular basis. I don’t know anyone else who plays, or wants to start - yet! Maybe when my two are a bit bigger and have a taste for it we can organise something like that, but I would really love to have options for just us three to play now.

Should I get the kids to play two characters each, with some justification for why pairs of PCs might cooperate so closely? (Maybe the PCs they play are two pairs of twins?)

Should I try to play extra NPC party members to help with balance? Remember I am inexperienced as a DM… but willing to put significant effort in to prepare. It must be fun for the kids, and ideally me too, after all otherwise we will lose interest.

I’ve nearly finished reading the 5e basic rules, and (having a bit more money as an adult than I did back then) I have the core three 5e rule books, plus several others from WotC.

However, I have not yet found any kid-friendly adventures or campaigns suitable for an inexperienced party of two players. Do they exist? Can I realistically adapt other adventures to suit this severely limited party size and experience level?
Pick up the Starter Set. It has a great intro adventure. There’s one fight that’s nasty, a goblin ambush. Tone that way down. Have them play one character each and run two NPCs with them. As long as you have a tough front line character (barbarian, fighter, paladin), a healer (cleric or druid), and two damage dealing characters (anyone really), you’ll do fine. Also, you could cut the fights in half. Either half as many monsters or half as many hit points so they can handle the fights without you running two NPCs.
 

Lots of great ideas here! I ran Lost Mine of Phandelvar with my kids (6, 8, 10), and they had a blast.

My recommendations:
  • Add a DMPC (or sidekick). With smaller parties, a run of bad luck can be deadly. Adding an extra character can help mitigate that. Choose a character that complements the party but is easy to run (I would avoid bards snd druids for this reason);
  • Give the players a couple of extra potions of healing (this is s good idea for small groups period), and make it clear in the adventure where they can buy more.
  • Houserule that drinking a potion is a bonus action not a regular action, so the characters don’t lose their action when they heal;
  • Allow each character to start with a cool magic item. Not something like a +1 sword, but like an armor that allows them to misty step once per short rest, a cloak that turns them invisible once per day.
 

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