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Has anyone had new characters roleplay their childhoods?


Hello all - first post actually though I've been lurking since GenCon Indy when I heard about this place properly.

Here's my query: I'm planning on starting a new (3.5e) campaign with 1st level characters. The plan is that they are pretty ignorant of the world (I'm probably setting it somewhere in the World of Greyhawk, which is a setting the players aren't familiar with and I've only really experienced through LG so far). Most if not all the characters will have been born and brought up in the small town/village where the campaign starts. Long-term, they will begin to engage with regional and national/international/inter-planar (!) plot-lines but that's a way off at the moment!

I was planning on spending some 1-to-1 time with each player to develop background to the character before the 'party' formed... and then I had the thought: why not do that, but have them start at age 8 or something? So we can roleplay some of the key points of their upbringing, or at least discuss it.

Has anyone tried this? Did it work? If it does work, has anyone thought about rules for children in D&D... can you have a negative BAB etc? I don't expect to do combats etc etc but if the players like the experience they might want to have some aspects of their previous experience based on skill levels or how well they did in a fight with another kid in the town or such-like.

The advantages I see is that we could have some real interaction over the nature of the character's relationships within the town, and have shared understanding and experience of the background rather than it just being something created by the player and not necessarily 'lived' in the history of that PC.

Any thoughts gratefully received!

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Mod Squad
Staff member
Childhood? Discuss, perhaps, but rarely roleplay.

For one thing, to be brutally honest, most folks don't play little kids very well.

That and, at least to me, it doesn't seem like people generally make life-altering decisions while they are children.


First Post
HârnMaster suggests what they call a 'pregame, where over a short time, usually without dicerolls, the player & referee run through how the player has ended up where they are. This is made simple because HM can generate parent occupation & family size.

Cons: it takes a while!

Pros: many! I've had players buy unusual toys for their favourite niece back home. Plus, siblings in jeapardy makes a good hook.

Aaron L

And you have the problem of tieing all of the characters to the same location. And race, usually. If someone wants to play an elf thier childhood is going to be much, much longer than than everyone elses.


Mod Squad
Staff member
Aaron L said:
And you have the problem of tieing all of the characters to the same location. And race, usually. If someone wants to play an elf thier childhood is going to be much, much longer than than everyone elses.

If you're doing the prelude 1 to 1, you don't need to link them at all. You just say the character has some history before he met the other PCs, and deal with each separately. Eventually, as the party forms, you have to link them all to the same location, but that's no different thant he start of any other game.

Varianor Abroad

First Post
I have had players detail their childhoods a bit after I've described their hometown. I did have one really great heavy roleplaying game where I had the PCs adventure for two sessions in their teens before they became adventurers. I did two one-on-ones with each player. I thought it worked out great. But unless a player asked to roleplay incredible youth, that seems like time that could be spent better on other things.


First Post
Started a campaign where the PCs started at minunum class age, they played at being adventurers until one day while they were running about in the woods they came across a raiding party that was leaving their home. It was a hook that lasted for a long time and made the characters legends within the world. Now at 11th lvl they are running into people that know them from Bardic tails and people that are happy to see them.

Coyote6 had a GURPs campaign that was pretty close to Smallville in weirdness and "stuff happening" where all the PCs were teens (this was early and mid 90s).

No one has made up a children starting campaign, but I can see where that would be a neat idea on starting the weirdness. Good luck with that. :)


First Post
I've both played and GM'd in a few games that did this. I like it. A lot!

Especially in a short one on one game I ran about a similar village of elves... ran through seven scenes or so that showcased how the character grew up, what her disposition was, who in the town was her friend, who was an antagonist, who was in-between, how her family life was, etc... really good idea if you're doing a homebrew and nobody knows what to expect, they can experience the game itself as a child for a bit.

In playing a game of this, we started as 12 year old gypsies... it was a really astounding game, and we played a large chunk of it on the run from goblins as more and more of the camp kept dying while we ran.. we aged and got more powerful in "game time"... it was fun, the characters had a real interaction -- we could roleplay being at camp, or an inn, the "calm after the storm" scenes, for a night, and everybody actually had fun with it because our characters had been through all that together as kids... well, I guess that could go for any characters at all who have been through a lot and were fun to roleplay together, but regardless -- it's a success story for starting as children! :)

But yes, all the PCs must be similar origin. But, ah, I really prefer games to be like that... I like games where the PCs are friends, and I like more where the PCs are essentially each other's family. Intra-party conflict can still happen, but it's not the "ok I don't care what you think I'll just kill your character" -- it's more, I dunno... compelling, I suppose.


We did - sort of. In KidCharlemagne's campaign, two of the characters were wizards-in-training at a wizard's college (think Harry Potter) and we started the campaign at 1st level, with the characters about 16-17 years old. Our first "dungeon" was non-lethal, students playing pranks on each other and getting into a "duel" because of it.

No, we didn't role-play the characters entire childhood, but the characters did start as kids. KidCharlemagne was careful to space out the adventures so that are characters are a little older (almost twenty now) as well as more experienced (5th level). It was a good compromise: I feel like the party does have that sense of history, but we were also able to jump in right away with the plot.


First Post
I never ran a kids adventure as a prelude for a campaign. But in my last 3.5 campaign I ran an adventure for the characters when they had gotten to about 5th level where they encountered a powerful fey spirit that was causing a murderous jealous rage to well up in people. When the player characters found the correct clues about what the monster was I told them, they new exactly how to defeat it. The players all looked at me with big blank eyes. One finally asked me, how they knew that off the few vague clues pointing to what the monster was.

The campaign jumped back to when they were children (ages 7 to 12). The trio had grown up in the same castle together and two were cousins so it was an easy thing to do. They then had the adventure as children where they had first encountered and defeated the beast. When they figured out how to do it as kids and succeeded, I flashed them back to the present where they scrambled to gather the needed components for the ritual to take care of the beast permanently this time (they had missed that part of the binding originally as kids, worked out perfect).

So that was my brush with kids as PCs in recen ttimes.