The Ultimate Guide to Running D&D with Kids

Kids who are lucky enough to have parents that encourage them to be creative and imaginative may also be lucky enough to have parents who will teach them to play Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a wonderful game that allows kids to imagine themselves as heroes of their own story, fighting against monsters in a quest for treasure or fighting off the evil forces of darkness. If you’re looking for more information on how best to run DnD with kids then this article is for you!

The Benefits of Playing D&D with your Kids

There are tons of benefits to playing D&D for kids. Some of these are:

  • Helps improving basic maths skills
  • Helps develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Practice teamwork and sharing
  • Work on empathy and communication
  • Gives them a chance to exercise their creativity

What to Keep in Mind

Dungeons and Dragons can be a lot of fun for children, but playing with kids can also have its challenges. It is important to prepare ahead of time, set appropriate expectations with your young players, and always keep things light-hearted.

Set Expectations Before the Game Starts

This isn’t about the rules of the game but instead, you want to focus on setting expectations for how you want your child to behave as they play. A few things to guide your children on are:

  • Don’t interrupt the other players, be respectful and take turns to speak
  • Try to work together with the other party members. Do not backstab them or the game won’t be enjoyable for everyone
  • You’re expected to behave like a decent human being – no killing everyone you see
  • Don’t tease your friends, don’t make inappropriate jokes or insensitive comments, and no profanity or other inappropriate language at the table.

Stay Light-Hearted

The game can be a lot of fun to play, but the rules get a little difficult once in a while. To avoid these difficulties and keep kids entertained, we recommend keeping the rules-light so that children don’t get bored. We recommend:

  • Let the kids use their imagination – ask them to describe a scene or encounter
  • If something seems cool or fun even if a bit unrealistic let them do it. If it’s a bit too much try to use “Yes but … ” and give a consequence for the ridiculousness.
  • Let them come up with creative ways to solve problems, you don’t want to stifle their imaginations by shutting their ideas down
  • Don’t get too bogged down in all the rules, just go with what seems like a reasonable decision to keep the game moving
  • When needed, introduce new monsters or threats that shifts the attention to another child
  • Let them roll dice – kids love rolling dice
  • Give them pets – kids love pets even more than rolling dice!

Picking an Adventure

When you are deciding which adventure to pick, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • What kind of stories your kids are interested in. Adults tend to like complex stories, but for a child, simplistic fictional stories are easier to follow.
  • It’s a good idea to keep the length of your sessions short when you’re playing with kids. You’ll want to pick a shorter adventure that takes less than an hour or two.
  • Commit to one stand-alone adventure rather than a full campaign.
  • It’s important to select the right setting for your child – pick a suitable environment that you know will thrill them without crossing the line into being too scary or violent.

Adventures to run for Kids

One-shots are usually the best type of adventure for kids because they can be run in a reasonable amount of time, without too much effort and aren’t too complicated.

A few good adventures that are designed for kids (or suitable for all ages) are:

  • An Ogre and His Cake – A simple introductory quest where the players must retrieve a stolen birthday cake from an ogre.
  • Clonker’s Guide to Being a Hero – A collection of exciting and fun adventures for children from the same team who wrote An Ogre and His Cake.
  • Yeryl’s Super Happy Fun Murder Dungeon – Suitable for slightly older children this is an over the top dungeon crawl filled with puzzles, combat, and traps that will test their brainpower.
  • Grammy’s Country Apple Pie – a wizard wants his favourite apple pie, but when he gets to the bakery it’s overrun by goblins. This is a fun and quirky adventure.
  • The Fairy Grove – In this adventure the local apothecary hires the party to find some potent mushrooms that only grow in a certain location, but it’ll be a challenge for the party to collect them.
  • The Truth of the Matter – When a silly apprentice pours a truth potion into the town’s well, things quickly go wrong. Can your heroes help the town sort out what’s happened?
  • Monster Slayers: Heroes of Hesiod – this is not a D&D adventure, but a rather cut down monster-fighting adventure ruleset released by Wizards of the Coast (who make D&D) as an introduction for kids.
  • Humblewood – if you do have kids that have played a few full sessions and are looking for a longer campaign, this is a nice story that is relatively linear, not too scary, and lets them play as animals!

Let Kids Build Personalities Not Character Stats

You don’t want your kids to get too caught up in the complexities of making a character, so we recommend using some kid suitable pre-made characters to make things easier. You can then let your kids pick their name, backstory, personality, likes, and dislikes in order to make the character feel like their own.

 You can find some resources for kid-friendly characters here:

  • Some good kid-friendly premade characters can be found in the adventure for An Ogre and His Cake
  • Another decent option for premade characters is Kid-Friendly 5e
  • The same people who made An Ogre and His Cake also make some great kid-friendly character sheets. These aren’t pre-made characters so keep in mind that kids might need extra help with things like filling out stats and figuring out what spells they have.

Alternative to Dungeons & Dragons for Kids

D&D is great but can be a bit complex for some kids. If you don’t feel that D&D is right for you, here are some other tabletop RPGs specifically designed for kids or beginners that you might enjoy:

  • Hero Kids – is the perfect introductory role-playing game for kids who are just getting interested in RPGs, think of it a bit like D&D for Dummies.  This is my favorite choice for a fantasy RPG for younger children.
  • No Thank You, Evil – is a tabletop game that lets children create their own epic fantasy adventures based on characters with special skills and companions.  This is also a great choice, especially for an out of the box thinker who wants more than just fantasy.
  • Mouse Guard – is a game where players take on the roles of mouse warriors that are forced to protect and defend mice against predators and the environment.
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Adventure Begins – this board game is a basic introduction to D&D in the form of a dungeon crawl. They teach following rules, understanding components like dice, keeping score and have little set up time.  This is the best choice if you your kids are absolutely insistent that they want to play D&D.

Conclusion

Introducing kids to a tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons is the best way for them to learn about the wonderful world of gaming. They’ll learn many new skills and you’ll be introducing them to a hobby that will bring you years of fun as a family. So why not pick one of the adventures we recommended for kids and run a game for your family?

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