I recently introduced the kids to Role-playing Games. We’ve been gaming as a family for a couple of years now, but mostly card and board games. Roleplaying games present a different challenge to the kids of today than they did to the kids of 35 years ago (when I got into RPGs) – Good God, that statement makes me feel old.
In this article, I want to look at the challenges involved in introducing kids to RPGs and some hints and tips I’ve come up with based on the sessions I’ve run.
The core concepts are surprisingly familiar
When I got into Dungeons and Dragons in the early 80s, concepts like characters, NPCs, XP, levelling up and temporary buffs (e.g. Bless) were completely alien. Nowadays, thanks to the influence of D&D which permeates modern day video games, kids are familiar with these concepts. The learning curve is less than you would think.
Keep the adventure simple
Official published adventures tend to have complex NPCs with complex motivations, often connected to the internal politics of the setting. While this is interesting for us as adults, kids won’t necessarily pick up on most of this so keeping the adventure goal and the behaviour of it’s main antagonists simple and logical. There’s a bad guy. They’ve done this bad thing or stolen this artefact. They can be found here. Go and kill/capture them or recover the artefact etc. Winghorn Press produce a number of really cool but very simple one-shot adventures (including one featuring a “Bed Dragon”) which use the free to download D&D 5e Basic Rules.
Roll the dice
With kids, role-playing is going to be less important than roll-playing in the first instance. If your kids are young then they’re likely to struggle with coming up with dialogue. Getting them to make skill rolls or attack rolls keeps them involved, adds excitement and reinforces the feeling that they are playing a game rather than slightly more abstract concept of shared story telling.
Narrate the rolls
Make hits and misses and skill checks exciting. Narrate them. If the player fails then make the failure humorous. Kids remember these descriptions more than they remember a simple “you hit” or “that’s a miss”. Make them laugh and get them excited about the game.
Fudge the rolls if you need to
You may not fudge the rolls in your games normally, but be prepared to when playing with kids. You don’t want to be the DM that made a child cry because a Hobgoblin critted on the first attack of the combat. Exercise common sense. It’s all about having fun.
Choose your ruleset carefully
I initially thought that Basic Fantasy would be a good place to start with the kids. B/X D&D was where I started so this seemed like a good system for the kids to start with. In reality, it’s possibly a wee bit too brutal (Magic user with d4 hit points anyone?) to hold their interest. Characters die too easily and there’s a good chance they’ll be dispirited long before their chronically underpowered characters start to gain useful powers. You also don’t want to choose a system that is too complex to begin with otherwise they won’t grasp it. I’ve found that Basic 5e rules (from the Starter Set or free from the D&D website) are a good place to start. There are also some great RPGs designed entirely for kids such as Hero Kids or No Thank You Evil.
So go play, have fun and let them live out their dream of being heroes.
I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.