• Welcome to this new upgrade of the site. We are now on a totally different software platform. Many things will be different, and bugs are expected. Certain areas (like downloads and reviews) will take longer to import. As always, please use the Meta Forum for site queries or bug reports. Note that we (the mods and admins) are also learning the new software.
  • The RSS feed for the news page has changed. Use this link. The old one displays the forums, not the news.

Kids playing dnd?

abe ray

Registered User
How would you fine people get young children into dnd? What house rules would you implement? Any special monsters, spells or backgrounds?
 
Depends on their age.

For young kids, all the stats may be a little overwhelming, the character sheets a little too cluttered, and the monsters perhaps a little too scary or even too abstract. Typical campaigns are also too long. I'd keep sessions to max. 1-2 hrs, and then send them to outside the house to run around.

I think that the Honey Heist is a great roleplaying game with much simpler rules. For young kids, the most important is the realization that they are really allowed to do anything in such a game. After that, you can drop a hint that there exists a far more awesome version of that game called D&D.
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
I got my 7-to-11 children into D&D in the following way:

1) Fully pregenerated characters stats, while the non-stats (e.g. name and description) are added by the children themselves: in other words, all the crunch is on me, all the fluff is on them. This removes the needs for understanding any rule and spend time filling a character sheet before starting to play, without removing the concept of character creation entirely. Then, as soon as they levelled up to 2nd level, they got to also make crunch choices, but by that time they had already played a few times.

I needed a trick with races: I wanted them to choose race as part of designing their characters identity, but I still wanted the stats to be pregenerated and ready to use, so all the pregenerated characters used Human stats, and race was demoted to a cosmetic choice only.

2) Simplified character sheets: http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1415

I wanted the character sheet to have less stuff but more open space, so I removed anything that was non-essential, duplicate, or temporary.

3) No rules explanation until a rule needs to be used. This allows to start playing the game very quickly. The only thing I explained was the role of each character class (only 5 of them were used in the pregens) in the world, so that they could choose the pregen they liked most.

4) Gradual introduction of complications. The first adventure was short (1 session), with straightforward plot, and TotM combat encounters against 1-2 monsters at a time. Then I introduced the idea of investing treasure in upgraded equipment. With the second adventure, they got more freedom in choosing what to do. Then a combat against one monster per PC. Then a more complicated combat with terrain features, which prompted us to start using minis (but no grid, thanks!)... Trying to add ONE complication at a time and its required rules helps a lot. It could be cover, darkness, flying monsters, stealth, etc.

5) Have some gadget, novelty or multimedia boost added to the game every few sessions if you feel they are getting tired a bit. In their first session it was the character sheet and polyhedral dice, something they've never seen before in other games they played and they were immediately interested into. The character sheet was later expanded with a page for treasure/equipment, and another page with more room for character description, history and social connections, as they grew with the story. Then we added Lego minis, followed up with more Lego bricks constructions to represent obstacles and terrain features. Then we added appropriate music in the background, to change the mood with the adventure scenes. Now we start using action cards to better visualize/remember which spells or abilities they can use, and using what action type. Kids seem to love every new idea being used to expand their gaming experience!
 

abe ray

Registered User
I got my 7-to-11 children into D&D in the following way:

1) Fully pregenerated characters stats, while the non-stats (e.g. name and description) are added by the children themselves: in other words, all the crunch is on me, all the fluff is on them. This removes the needs for understanding any rule and spend time filling a character sheet before starting to play, without removing the concept of character creation entirely. Then, as soon as they levelled up to 2nd level, they got to also make crunch choices, but by that time they had already played a few times.

I needed a trick with races: I wanted them to choose race as part of designing their characters identity, but I still wanted the stats to be pregenerated and ready to use, so all the pregenerated characters used Human stats, and race was demoted to a cosmetic choice only.

2) Simplified character sheets: http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1415

I wanted the character sheet to have less stuff but more open space, so I removed anything that was non-essential, duplicate, or temporary.

3) No rules explanation until a rule needs to be used. This allows to start playing the game very quickly. The only thing I explained was the role of each character class (only 5 of them were used in the pregens) in the world, so that they could choose the pregen they liked most.

4) Gradual introduction of complications. The first adventure was short (1 session), with straightforward plot, and TotM combat encounters against 1-2 monsters at a time. Then I introduced the idea of investing treasure in upgraded equipment. With the second adventure, they got more freedom in choosing what to do. Then a combat against one monster per PC. Then a more complicated combat with terrain features, which prompted us to start using minis (but no grid, thanks!)... Trying to add ONE complication at a time and its required rules helps a lot. It could be cover, darkness, flying monsters, stealth, etc.

5) Have some gadget, novelty or multimedia boost added to the game every few sessions if you feel they are getting tired a bit. In their first session it was the character sheet and polyhedral dice, something they've never seen before in other games they played and they were immediately interested into. The character sheet was later expanded with a page for treasure/equipment, and another page with more room for character description, history and social connections, as they grew with the story. Then we added Lego minis, followed up with more Lego bricks constructions to represent obstacles and terrain features. Then we added appropriate music in the background, to change the mood with the adventure scenes. Now we start using action cards to better visualize/remember which spells or abilities they can use, and using what action type. Kids seem to love every new idea being used to expand their gaming experience!
Have you allowed any children playing wizards to have familiars yet? Or do you prefer the term life-link?
 
Last edited:

akr71

Explorer
I started with my dad & brother around 8 or 10. My kids started at 6 and 11 and I ran a game for my daughter's birthday party (a bunch of 11 & 12 year old girls). That was 4 years ago & we still play as a family - here is what I've learned.

1) Short sessions, especially for younger kids. Be prepared to end the session when you notice attention waning, but not in a negative way - don't say "you aren't paying attention, we're done" - find a hook to engage them and say you'll pick up there next session.

2) They get really attached to their characters, so be careful of the difficulty of the encounters. Again, this is especially true for younger players.

3) Its a game and its meant to be fun. If that means handing out more treasure and magic than normal, so be it. They'll think its awesome and feel like heroes.

4) Sit back and be prepared for their creativity to blow you away. There have been a number of times that my kids have approached problems from an angle I hadn't expected and to be honest, their solutions have been ingenious.
 
I started playing Pathfinder (full core rules) with my kids when they were 11 (son) / 8 (daughter), with 2 friends of them the same age.
The big boys really gripped it fast, but they are both rather talented in the math & logic division.

We switched to 5e about 4 years ago, I really prefer 5e - even more so with kids.
And after Pathfinder, 5e is sooo simple...

My son is 16 now, and for 3 years now he has perfected 5e min-maxing so far that he usually outshines his co-PCs...
He started DMing quite early as well, for 2 years now it's actually okay (lacking in the role-playing department...).

Just keep it colorful, use lots of NPC-roleplaying, many pictures.

AND as someone already said: be really careful about killing their PCs. I definitely remember my daughters' tears (at the age of 10) when she lost her once played paladin.
 

OB1

Registered User
The advice from [MENTION=6801213]akr71[/MENTION] is spot on with my experience over the last year. I started my nieces and nephews ages 7, 9, 11, and 13 with the starter set last Christmas and we continued throughout the year and are getting ready for our second adventure. My wife and I helped them create their characters, Druid, Bard, Cleric and Fighter and as I DM'd she would help them (especially the younger ones) with what they could do while playing along side them as a Paladin who could take the brunt of my attacks if they got into trouble.

When the youngest wanted to play Luke Skywalker, it was simply yes, and we created a champion fighter for him named Luke Skywalker, described his longsword as a laser sword, and went on. The pure excitement in his voice every time he would roll a critical 19 and yell "nat 20!" was amazing. For the next campaign that my wife is running (they asked for a Wild West theme) he asked to be Spider Man, so we've made him a Tabaxi Sun Soul Monk who's blasts we will describe as web slingers.

Playing with a younger group really forced me to go back to the basics as a DM. Describe the scene, let the players describe what they want to do, then describe the results. They came up with a lot of creative out of the box stuff, and it was my job to connect what they were describing with a rule when necessary. The Help action was my friend in combat, allowing me to always say yes to their plan by describing it as giving help to another team mate. IME this has worked better than trying to figure out ahead of time how to lighten the rules, with the older ones quickly figuring out that if they wanted to do something specific, they needed to know the rule they wanted to use and describe that.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
How would you fine people get young children into dnd? What house rules would you implement? Any special monsters, spells or backgrounds?
I started my sons at 6 and 8 (and their friends ranging from 7-10) on 4e. I didn't really change anything. We just played it straight. I only did a few things different:

1) I helped with character creation
2) I helped with character leveling
3) I explained the rules as we played. They didn't have a copy of the PHB so we just started with the basics (actions, powers, what to roll, when and why) and then I would introduce rules as it became relevant or they asked questions.
4) I tried to encourage more exploration & investigation over straight combat as I originally didn't want it to be overly violent - but that went out the window after about 6 months.

Since every character was fairly complex with lots of choices in 4e, I imagine it is even simpler to do this with 5e.
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
Have you allowed any children playing wizards to have familiars yet? Or do you prefer the term life-link?
None of them chose to play the Wizard, and the one I had pregenerated did not have the Find Familiar spell known (I chose spells which IMO were the simplest and most iconic such as Magic Missile and Mage Armor). But had one of them chosen the Wizard and later learned the Find Familiar spell, I don't think I would have had problems with that.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For young kids, I might well choose to start them on something else - "No Thank You, Evil" for example.

Back in my day, my first game was actually Tunnels and Trolls - a good choice, as it was rather simpler than D&D, and didn't require the GM to edit things down.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Don't start with D&D. Start simpler and work up.

1.) Tell stories with them. Go through a story like Goldilocks that they know and ask them what Goldilocks does at each of the pivotal moments in the tale. Then tell it again, but give her some other choices - Does she drink from the giant cup that is too big, too small or just right? Then tell the story with her again, but add in the trip to the cottage... Each time you make the story more expansive with new challenges. No dice. No damage. Whatever they attempt, works.

2.) Then add a simple rules mechanics system to add a chance to fail things. I like the Dread system for the simplicity: Set up a Jenga tower. Whenever a player needs to have their character try something, have them pull a piece from the tower. If it falls, they fail. I modify it when 'training' to roleplay by having both the DM and the player pull from the tower and whoever pulls that piece that fells the tower 'loses' the encounter at the climax of the story.

3.) Basic D&D is now ready to be played. Simplify the rules and handle all the math for them so that all they need to do is tell a story and roll a d20. They should roll to hit, roll saves, roll initiatives, etc.... but you should tell them what they need to roll to succeed before they roll. Then, as you play, explain the math that is going on 'behind the scenes' and ask them if they want to start to roll damage, etc...

There are also some great roleplaying light games, like Mice and Mystics or Betrayal at House on the Hill, that can give some idea of being a character.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
My copy of No Thank You, Evil just arrived yesterday. I plan on using that to introduce my 4 year old to RPGs. She's seen my friends and I play, and she seems fascinated, and I've let her roll my dice for me on a few occasions, and it just seems like something she'll be into. But I don't think she's quite ready for the complexities of D&D, so I wanted to get her feet wet with another game first.

Having looked through it, it seems perfect for her age, so I'm looking forward to it.
 

Ath-kethin

Explorer
We started with HeroQuest and No Thank You, Evil! when my kid was 4. He's 5 now and is capable of GMing HeroQuest dungeons by himself (with a little help on the bits that require reading).

But I've been talking to him about D&D and RPG concepts literally since he was born, and so he gets the idea of levels and progressions and numerical values for abilities.

Patience will get you farther than anything else in my experience.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Everyone else has made great points! I would add the following based on my experience teaching the game to kids and young teens-

Kids grow quickly. Teaching the game to an (average) eight year old is a lot different than teaching it to an (average) ten year old or an (average) twelve year old.

The simplifications you should make for very young kids you would not need to make for young teens.

Not all kids are the same. A precocious nine year old might understand the ruleset more easily than a disinterested 13 year old. While it's helpful to think about ages as a general guideline, there can be some extreme variance within a given age bracket.

Stop trying to make fetch happen. One of my grognard friends has tried, repeatedly, to get his kids interested in D&D. And failed miserably. IMO, he tried too hard. If you provide an opportunity to play, and it seems interesting, many kids will naturally want to learn more. More often than not, that's how you get them hooked. The absolute worst thing you can do is to try and make them like something. That never works.

Unlearn. One of the best things about running games for kids is you quickly realize all of the assumptions that you have built into how you play the game. Unlearn the things you know, and roll with what the kids want to do. You'll have more fun that way.

Don't just sit there. Even up to, oh, 12 or so, make sure you don't schedule long blocks of gaming. Try to keep it to no more than three hours or so at a time- revise downwards if they are younger. You'll thank me later for this.

Simplify. Others have made great suggestions, such as pre-gen characters. I can't recommend this highly enough; as fun as making character is, it's really really hard to do when you don't even understand the rules. But as the DM, you can handle most of the "mechanics" and keep the players involved in the fun things- announcing their action, and rolling a d20. :)

Let them spread their wings. If they are into it, eventually they are going to want to read more, and run their own games. That's when you know you've done a great job!
 

Bupp

Villager
I wouldn't do anything different with kids than I would with any new player. I taught my kids to play a few years ago when they were 13, 8 and 8. In the past year, I've taught a group of 30-40 year olds. Honestly, I think the kids grasp the mechanics better than the adults do. Video games and apps use a D&D type structure, so many terms are already familiar to them.
 

Eltab

Villager
Plan to be rules-lite.
Prepare ahead of time anything that involves math.
Explain the game as "make-believe for adults".
Set up a simple familiar scenario - bandits are robbing the bank!
Let the kids' characters swing from the chandeliers. But not the kids, not literally.
Take turns around the table to talk.
And gently remind the players that teamwork and cooperation work better than charging in all alone.
 

Eltab

Villager
Let the littlest kids roll the damage dice: more is better, nobody is ever disappointed. Even a 3-year-old can do it! (I know this from DM experience.)
 

LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
I would suggest "Magissa" but this RPG for children is still only Spanish-languange.

About background I suggest some mash-up with parodies of famous cartoon, or videogames, characters, Shreck, Disney's descendants or Ever After High for example, but with other names, and some ideas of background from "Changeling: the dreaming" and "Changeling: the lost" by White Wolf game.

To avoid violence you could allow magic item with no-lethal damage effects, like dreaming spells or spider webs. or no-living enemies like constructs.

If players are your children, then you could give extra XPs rewads for solutions by means of social skills (points of virtue as reward), good behavior at home (real life) and for creating their own stories, or adding new things to the world (new characters and ideas).

The first games may be like mixing Hero Quest and the game-books "Endless Quest". Simple and fast. Offer oportunities to be jokers and spending jokes to no-good nPCs. Later Allow monster pets but with gradual responsabilities about caring them.

Little kids are easily distracted and with a lower tolerance to fustration.
 

CydKnight

Villager
I found the Starter Set campaign Lost Mine of Phandelver worked just fine for a group of 10 year olds. They had the option of using the pre-generated characters that came with the set but they all wanted to roll up their own. I tried not to bog them down too much with details but give them enough to keep their 10-year old minds engaged for 3 or 4 hours. They even wanted to keep going after we ran through the campaign so I supplemented with some of the After Lost Mine adventures on the DM's Guild. It went fine for the most part though we did have one player death late in the game when the Wizard decided to go solo against Glasstaff and his henchmen. The player was fine with it in the end as he rolled up a Barbarian that he seemed to be even happier with.

I would just watch out for too much graphic horror or gore descriptions or adult-oriented themes especially if you are playing with kids not your own. What you may find is just fine for your child, may not be ok for someone else's.
 

Advertisement

Top