(Updated February 2021)
This was too fun to pass up and I feel like I’m not the only one that wanted to know this information.
My kids know that my wife and I play Dungeons and Dragons. We were on a podcast for a while (AWFUL GOOD, rip), so just about every other weekend, they had to go to bed a little earlier so that we could do our show. Frankly, I’ve even done very short improv D&D with the kids before, but it’s always been so fluid that, similar to the rules of Who’s Line Is It Anyway, “where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.”
And, as I want to become a Game Master for some things upcoming, I need practice. I needed practice writing out a game with NPCs (nonplayer characters) and monsters and encounters and a plot!
But the kids would never sit still for that long…or would they?
Turns out, they were really into it. And when our 40-minute adventure was over, my 6yo said, “when’s the second session?”
Which made me a very happy dad and DM.
What I’ve tried to do here is provide some information for what I did, and give you some ways to start TONIGHT. Kids don’t realize that they have the freedom to do anything and everything under the sun, so you can whip something up fairly quickly using these simple tools.
- Roll dice and do math
My kids are 6 and 4, so I wanted them to have the fun of rolling dice, and the challenge of doing math. Might as well get a little learning in.
- Kids are superheroes
I also wanted them to win, to be honest. There’s nothing more discouraging for a kid starting a new game (in my experience) than not being able to win. So I overpowered them. The game is still a game of chance, so there’s always a world where they can still lose, but I stacked the deck.
- Give them a story to win
In my previous improv versions, they were in a dungeon and there was treasure if they made it to the end. That was it. No real story. This time around, I wanted to try to engage them a bit more and give them “options.” Or at least ways they could go about solving the problem. It was simple though. Someone took something and the Queen/King needs you to find it. Maybe there’s a secret tunnel or villagers that saw the bandit run off. It can still mostly be made up, but giving them more to accomplish than just “finish the thing” will help them roleplay a bit more.
- Have fun
Don’t forget that they’re kids. In the middle of our match, my 6yo (who was playing as a alicorn wizard) says, “now my wings turn into swords.” She’s 6, and frankly, that’s pretty awesome. Go for it. My 4yo who was also a wizard, decided she wanted to be a different character and decided instead to be “Power Man” and punch everyone “in the eye.” Rad. You do you.
I made some custom character sheets. They’re all based and pieced together from real Wizards of the Coast brand Dungeons and Dragons character sheets, so I have no rights to it. I made it a half sheet of paper so you can print two at a time.
So, this is pretty straightforward, but have them write roll 3 dice, add it up and decide where the amount goes for the stats. Do this until all your stats are filled up. Then refer to the normal stat modifier rules and write the modifiers in the blocks to keep it simple.
AC -10 + whatever makes sense (it doesn’t matter, truly. This is just to get them into the concepts, not the nitty gritty rules) but probably AWESOME.
STRENGTH – how strong you are and how hard you can hit with your weapon.
SMARTS – essentially INTELLIGENCE, but just how quick you are with being able to figure things out.
AWESOME – honestly a catch all that sort of wraps up CONSTITUTION and CHARISMA but is very fluid.
MAGIC – Magic abilities and how great your magic is.
DEXTERITY – how good your jumping, acrobatics and quick you are.
HP – HP I just made up. Just gave them 20. I still want it to be fun, but not impervious.
Below is armor, weapons, and magic items/spells. And this was completely made up on the spot. Melee weapons used STR, ranged weapons were DEX, magic I used MAG. Again, pretty fluid. I allowed my kids to just make up weapons and spells. I had a couple in mind just in case (sword, lightning, bow/arrow–the usual), but they didn’t need them.
PLAYING THE GAME
Kids don’t need to get bogged down by the specifics of a “Perception roll” so we just did a d20 + relevant modifier. Perception would be “looking around” using Smarts. Melee attack would be Strength, and magic would be…magic.
Bad guys just have 1d20 with no modifier.
All damage is 1d6 for the kids. This means they can have whatever weapons their brains can think of. My girls chose “fire swords.”
All my bad guys have 1d4 for damage.
I started with the D&D 5e Starter Kit story, but I’ve written a few as well. The key is keeping things simple and relatively quick moving (at least for my kids). Use funny voices. The more you get into it, the more they will too.
Something that was interesting is introducing them to the concept of exploring with their imagination. And the idea of just thinking about everything.
In the Starter Kit, there’s a moment where some bandits attack the party. My kids found a goblin who was terrified. It was interesting to have the situation where I could tell them that they didn’t have to destroy the creature…that they could talk to it, be friends, ask it questions, etc. It was really fun watching them get it. Like, this is the fun part about D&D that video games don’t have. Limitless possibilities. 🙂
Anyway, just remember they’re new both at life and gaming and have fun. My kids got wild. My 4yo said her character sprouted wings made of swords (which is rad as hell), then was so done and quit and my 6yo was enthralled and was a princess ninja. Just roll with the punches and have fun. The more fun you allow you and the kids to have, the more likely they are to want to play again.
Have fun! Happy gaming!