Gaming with the kids ...


Azer Paladin
Hey all,

My kids (Alex and Katie) and their friends (Patrick and Alliya) are chomping at the bit to be gamers, and I thought I'd share with everyone what does and doesn't work in my experience as I try to run something for them.

My family and I recently attended Gen Con, and my son and I went to the seminar "Getting Your Kids Into Gaming", which was well-run and enjoyable for both of us. Previous to this, my son has already burned through the 3E Basic Box adventure (the Black Dragon version), has figured out D&D Miniatures reasonably well, and is now ramping up for the big hurdle of the Player's Handbook (which is going to take a while, since he's 8 and his reading skills and attention span just aren't quite there yet). I must admit the preview of the new Basic Game at the seminar seems to be geared towards a group of independant 12 year olds vs the previous version, which is friendlier to an adult running a game for 8 year olds, but I came away from the seminar with some really thoughtful ideas.

The seminar run by WOTC gave me several great ideas which I liked. They suggested the use of tactile items such as miniatures, poker chips or pennies for hit points, and expendable index cards for spells. Thy also suggested to keep the adventure simple and get the kids' input on the kind of monsters and goal of the adventure they would like.

I didn't agree with all the suggestions that the seminar had, such as throwing rules out the window in favor of imagination, allowing kids to fight human-like monsters like goblins or orcs, or allow the characters to die, but I see why they made these suggestions with kids in mind, and I'm keeping them handy in the back of my mind if need be.

After the seminar, my son has been bugging me constantly to run a game for him again, so here's my experience thus far ...

Last night, I built custom character sheet for the kids that is simple and with big boxes (see attached), based on the Black Dragon Basic Box character sheet. I talked with the kids about what kind of characters they wanted (Alex wants a Half-Orc Barbarian, Katie wants an Elf Druid, and their friend Patrick wants a Half-Elf Sorcerer).

We created characters tonight for Alex and Katie (about an hour each), and here's what I've streamlined for the kids:

* We picked a miniature first so they had a visual reference
* simplified alignment (good, neutral, evil)
* simplified skill choices (they had to pick class skills and automatically got 4 ranks in each)
* used the basic equipment packages in the PHB, except they picked their own weapons
* I gave them a few feat choices to choose from the PHB to keep it simple.

Things I learned tonight:

* My kids learned a whole bunch of new words (illiteracy, empathy, etc)
* The math on rolling 4d6, keep the best three took a while but was worth it
* They wrote out their own characters, and copied hard words from the PHB
* Showing them pictures of armor and weapons helped them choose

I still need to write out the Druid and Sorcerer spell index cards (keeping them simple, removing wierd choices, and color coding them by level).

I asked them all over the last few weeks what sort of adventure they want, and they told me they want to fight zombies and find the king's ruby and return it to him for a reward. I'll be using the Dungeon Tiles and the Basic Set Tiles to build a 5-8 room dungeon they can explore. I plan on including 1-2 simple traps, some zombies, some spiders, a rat swarm (so the druid can shine), and finishing up with maybe a Vargouille.

I should be running the game in the next week or so, and I'll keep you informed how it goes... if any one wants to chime in with their experience or ideas, I'd enjoy that.



Thanks for posting that character sheet; it may be very useful.

My 13-year-old decided he wants to be a GM, but I told him he would have to run games for his brother and sister. (The grown-ups already have plenty of GMs.) Yesterday he helped the 7-year-old roll up a character for Castles and Crusades, which we picked up at GenCon. He analyzed the system as "halfway between First Edition and d20", which was about how we had pegged it, and he would rather try to run that than 3.5. We'll see how long it is before they do anything more with it.


Indeed. It's good to see others bringing their children into the fold. It makes for some nice family bonding.

I recently started running a game for my twelve (almost thirteen) year old son and my wife, and it's already making for some entertaining moments we can share. He's already started to develop a healthy dislike for monstrous spiders and howler wasps! :lol:
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That's very cool. A nice "prize" for the kids that surreptitiously solves cheating issues are those one inch sized d20s. I found that girls like to kill things as much as boys. Be incredibly patient with the rules - I like to offer incentives for them like a miniature of their own if they can correctly remember an important (read: complicated) rule.

The most fun part is the excitement. These are kids exercising their imagination in a fantasy world. Their heads are full of images and they want to see them come to life in some way. So whenever you can say 'yes' instead of 'no' to something cool, it's a good thing. Conversely, saying 'no' to something time-wasting is better than 'yes'.

Congrats! Good luck. Enjoy. :)


Nice work. This is the first I have heard of the Gaming with Kids seminar. I'd love to hear more about it.

I game with my sons, ages 8, 6, and 4. As you might expect, things are even more simplified than your ideas. For starters, we are using a C&C/D&D hybrid, basically the simplest parts of each.

Also, I am ignoring alignment for now. I expect the PCs to do good deeds, and so far they have lived up to that.

One issue I have noticed is religion. It seems that a good percentage of the modules out there involve evil cultists or some sort of religion-based issue. I'd rather not deal with fictional gods when gaming with young children. So I have eliminated the cleric class altogether. Instead, I am letting sorcerers pick from any spell list. So a healing-themed spellcaster is easy to create, without dealing with the deity and such. For now, we just have a DMPC healer, which is also helpful for offering in-character suggestions to keep them on the right path. And I can fudge the healer's remaining spells as the plot dictates.

As you mentioned from the seminar, I'm not including much risk of PC death either. 0 hp is knocked out. When they get older I'll take the kid gloves off, but not now.

On edit: I almost forgot to mention, several months back I posted in the Gygax Q&A thread that I was thinking of gaming with my kids when they got older. His response is in my .sig, below. Now I am even more indebted to him for the countless hours I have enjoyed playing the game.


Azer Paladin
The religion issue is a good point!

I have presented the cleric class as a "healing spellcasting" class, and none of the kids wanted to play it, but if they chose it, I think I would tackle the issue - the kids have watched Disney's Hercules, and one of them reads Thor comics, so they have a concept of mythological gods, I'd just have to keep it in that perspective, somehow.

Tolen Mar

It may not be well known, but there are a few of us trying to usher in the next generation.

My eight year old son Luke is back in Drogo's shoes (as I posted a couple months ago). We've been playing a lot of alternate games, including several sessions of a d20 modern game. Now were are in Eberron, and planning for the long run. The little bugger is a chip off the old block. When I was younger, all I ever wanted to play was a halfling, now that's all he plays (and I have explained all of the different choices he could make), moreover, everyone agrees that he has, halflings down pat.

One thing I've noticed is that for Luke, its all about rolling dice and fighting things. He gets bored during the RP parts if it doesnt directly involve his character, and when the GM lets him go and RP, he tends to crowd everyone else out.

Needless to say, pacing is key. Moreso than with an adult group, the GM for younger players needs to balance 'screen time' for each player. Next week, we are going to be dungeon crawling most of the session as we try to recover a stolen macguffin (once I dispose of a Sharn...without being noticed...). There should be plenty of opportunities for Drogo to kill things, which means more combat, and an all around happier eight year old.

Another thing I've decided is I wish I had his luck. Drogo started the game with 10gp in his purse. when we went to the skyblade tournament that afternoon, his betting on the underdog earned him 50 (over several rounds, it was uncanny. The GM assigned a base 30% chance for his fighter to win, and the dice favored him every time but one). If I could tap into that somehow, none of my characters would ever die...


Community Supporter
I have been running a game on and off for my two kids for nearly a year now. We began at level one and now are nearing level 3.

I tried to alter the game rules as little as possible. How I present the game is very different. They both want to play regularly and my son is trying to DM to his friends. His rules as hardly recognizable but they are having fun so I don't bother with it much.

hey- level 10 halflings could in theory defeat a twenty CR dragon..... ;)

The advice given above I mostly did. I asked about characters and used figures as a visial aid. Plots began as rescue the noble's daughter from the goblin thieves or locate this criminal. Now we are progressing to where they are the "body guard" types for explorers in Eberron (see Khyber Crawler SH). Its simple and thus fun.


I started letting my daughter play when she was seven. She is now 14 and her two brothers are 10 and 13. We play as a family now and it has been great. My wife and I also use it as a forum in which to teach them about very tough and ugly issues via their characters. We think that "distance" of it being dealt with by their PC's rather then themselves has been very helpful. Plus being able to bring the bad guys to justice is also a big help.

We have even dealt with their characters getting married, buying homes, earning refgular incomes, having childrn, caring for their children, being a responsible parent and spouse, etc... Our kids have been "enlightened" on a lot of things they didn't understand about why we did things the way we do as parents.

They understand now, not completely, but a heck of a lot better than we ever did at their ages, and they make obvious effort to behave better, and to control their "teenagerness".

They are even a lot better about cleaning their rooms and the house!

Most importantly it has been fantastic family time. How many families do you know where the parents spend 6 to 8 hours per weekend, often two days per weekend, in dedicated playtime with their kids? Our kids like spending time with their mom and dad, two of them are teenagers! They would rather play C&C with us then go over to friends houses and do who knows what, and they even prefer to play with us then spend time on the PS2!

I think it has made us a very "tight knit" family. My wife and I know we are a much closer family than she and I came from. Plus it gives our kids avenues to talk, even about real life stuff. I strongly suggest parents really encourage this kind of play, and that both parents play too. The family rewards should make it worth while even to those spouses who insist on disliking the hobby they tolerate.


Archade said:
The religion issue is a good point!

I have presented the cleric class as a "healing spellcasting" class, and none of the kids wanted to play it, but if they chose it, I think I would tackle the issue - the kids have watched Disney's Hercules, and one of them reads Thor comics, so they have a concept of mythological gods, I'd just have to keep it in that perspective, somehow.
Edith Hamilton's classic Mythology book might be a good intro to the entire concept. It covers Greek, Roman and Norse myths. The reading level might be slightly high for them at that age, but there are dozens of sourcebooks for the classic gods and heroes that are aimed right at their reading level.


My partner and I recently babysat a couple of six-year-old girls. They were getting a little bit bored, so I handed them a box of D&D Miniatures and a big bag of dice. They had a blast just setting up the dice in different patterns and structures, and arranging the miniatures all over the floor. Kids are naturally drawn to the minis and and the weird, colorful dice. I'm sure dungeon tiles would help too. When I first got into gaming at the age of ten, I was very impressed with the elaborate terrain set-ups in the back room of my FLGS - they were for Warhammer, of course. Interestingly enough, girls seem to be just as excited about this sort of thing as boys.

Our own daughter is only 6 months old, but my partner Beth is coming along nicely; she has a 2nd level Pixie in our Eberron game. We're definitely looking forward to family game nights. By the way:

6-year-old girl: "Why is the dice bag made out of chains?"
I: "That's chainmail. Knights used to wear armor made out of it."
She: "But why is the dice bag made out of it?"
I: "Um... I don't know." :\
Good point on the religion. I don't run a game with alignments or clerics usually (since I started with Arcana Evolved for my family - plus elves).

You should also encourage your children to help you paint miniatures and terrain! Start simple and have fun! :)
The games sounds like it will be great. Enjoy it!

But, I have two small concerns:

Archade said:
a rat swarm (so the druid can shine), and finishing up with maybe a Vargouille.
Swarms are deadly in third edition. A swarm nearly TPK'd a group of first level PCs I was playing with once (all very experienced players). A couple of PCs brandishing torches finally (and only with much luck) prevented that. How do you think a druid will shine against a swarm? What if the druid is out of spells? Remember, a swarm only has to occupy your space to do damage. It's a "creature" that can auto-hit multiple PCs each round.

A vargouille flies. Make sure they can all be effective against flying creatures. It's very frustrating when you can't even attemp anything during combat.

Good luck with the game!


Azer Paladin
By rat swarm I meant a group of rats, not the swarm monster -- something that will allow the druid to use wild empathy (hopefully she'll think of making friends with the rats). That'll encourage diplomacy.

Vargouilles are creepy but fragile. It should go down from a thrown dagger or an arrow reasonably well. I'll add two skeletons to the final battle as a distraction, I think.

Thanks for the input guys!


This is a great thread! My nine-year-old twins (boy-girl) want to play and initially I was planning on starting them with C&C / AD&D modules, but, I've decided to start them with a stripped down 3.5 game. I too worried about religion and the whole killing sentient beings but I decided to take others advice and make the cleric a healer class and only have the kids go after rats and similar creatures. I will post updates here if others are still interested.

One question. My son's best friend lives next door, and that boy has shown real interest in wanting to participate, but, I am finding it difficult to address the topic with his parents even though we get along. I'm concerned about the negative image D&D still gets to this day, and I know that some of our neighbors would view introducing D&D to kids akin to practicing 'evil'... Because of this concern, I had to explain to the kids tonight that other people might view their participation in D&D as evil and sinful. My main arguement will be that D&D is no different than the xbox 360 games these parents let their kids my kids are not allowed to play. Have any other parents that allow their kids to play encountered anything along these lines?


If they have internet access and they are christians send them to the Christian Gamers Guild website. If they see that other Christians play it and even have a website dedicated to it they will probably be more receptive. Of course this particular site is Catholic, so that may or may not be helpful.

BTW, I am non-denominational, and I am not trying to insinuate anything about anyones particular beliefs, so no flame war or debate about religion, that is not allowed on this website. Go to Circus Maximus if you want to discuss such things.
One of my players asked earlier this year if his 14 year old step-son could join our game. As the DM I had no problem with it, and the other guys went along with it just fine.

When it came time for game play, I just kept things a little simpler for the younger player. I tended to present him with choices instead of just asking "What do you do?" I kept his barbarian character involved in combat where he could shine, and presented NPC encounters in a way that was straightforward. It has worked out pretty well, and when we start up again in October after the summer break I expect him to be there at the table with my other players.
I can look at this thread and think "I remember when..." My son started playing around the age of 5. Yep, 5, regular rules, no stripping them down (AD&D 2E, even). He started small (literally - forest gnome fighter) and branched out as he went.

He turned 17 in May, he is now an active part of my current campaign and is playing a very surly, but effective dwarven cleric... My advice for all of you is to take the time to explain things, help them understand what is involved when a character dies and help them bring the world to life. Occasionaly they'll do something really dumb, don't chide them, punish them (in game of course) and they learn not to do it again. Use the game to help with real world explainations of world affairs and make sure they read things other than just sourcebooks.

Vocabulary will increase and mental accuity will skyrocket. I hope all of you experience the joy of bonding that I have had with my family. I am currently helping two other sets of parents introduce their kids (11 & 13) into gaming. Q (my boy) is right there helping them understand the rules and when to jump in and when to "wait for it."; yes the future of gaming is in good hands.


Treebore said:
If they have internet access and they are christians send them to the Christian Gamers Guild website. If they see that other Christians play it and even have a website dedicated to it they will probably be more receptive. Of course this particular site is Catholic, so that may or may not be helpful.
Thanks for the heads-up, Treebore. The site looks interesting.