D&D General Struggling to get started


Ignore this. You have a couple of quite young kids and a reluctant player just along for the ride. They need quite strong direction, not a sandbox.
A town with a dungeon is not a sandbox.
Well, I've been playing D&D for 40+ years, but I was bored with dungeon crawls by 1984. D&D can do a lot more interesting stuff than that, for all ages.
You have strong opinions about dungeons for someone who doesn't play with dungeons since the 80s. Thinking all players will dislike a dungeon just because of your bad experience during Reagans presidency is a bit weird. In general tons of people love the fantasy of exploring a dangerous, mysterious, exotic location. Thats why tons of adventure novels, games, movies with these exact tropes and themes exist - I really wonder how you take your confidence that OP's family would hate it.

I found the restricted structure of dungeons quite helpful, especially for newer groups. A good dungeon is not just
fighting monsters in a hole
but full of exploration and social encounters too. Often you have a very clear goal and direction - exactly what you said what the kids need. You can also built in a mystery part through the exploration, so the wife has something to think about and discover. Maybe the dungeon has a secret purpose that they will find out hint by hint. And if you don't like the thought of being in a classic dungeon you can just dress the structure as something else, should be quite easy. A pointcrawl through a deep fairy forest for example. It feels different, but if you draw the structure as a flowchart its just a dungeon.

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