I am a huge geek; my wife, however, is not. She, like Luke, could never be turned, so the responsibility for making sure our two little kids end up liking stuff like Star Wars, Tolkien, Final Fantasy, Doc Brown and, of course, D&D is on me.
I still play Dungeons & Dragons with mostly the same group with whom I played with twenty years ago, and game night at my house is as much a social gathering between old friends as it is about killing kobolds and orcs. So naturally, I wanted to hook my kids on D&D as well. They have always been fascinated with what goes on at a D&D game. They love the funny dice, the miniatures, the maps and the stories. I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I was running them through an adventure; I just didn't expect it to happen so soon.
By the time my daughter was four, she was ready; she wanted to play. She'd roll dice and tell me that her miniature was attacking another miniature with its sword. She would invent stories about princesses in distress, and evil monsters walking through the woods. Without me doing much, she was already hooked. So I did what any dad would do: I tried playing D&D with her, only to find that no 4-year-old could grasp the complex rules that are part of D&D. While she understood how the game worked as far as telling stories went, the mechanical parts were too complex. So again, I did what any dad would do, I wrote a kids version of D&D for her: rpgKids.
rpgKids is a simple little role-playing game played with a 12- sided die and a regular 6-sided die. The rules are really basic; I made it easy for my daughter to grasp quickly, so we could quickly get to the stories we'd tell together. It's rules-light enough for her to grasp, yet still firmly a dice-based RPG, which makes her feel that she's really, really playing D&D with dad. Most importantly, what rpgKids has really done is bring us closer together.
Thanks to rpgKids, my daughter prefers to sit with her dad on a Saturday morning, and rather than watch cartoons, she wants to go fight goblins, evil wizards and pirates. Her imagination quickly takes over, and she sometimes dictates where the game is going, serving as both GM and player! But it wasn't just her creativity that blossomed as a result of us enjoying a role playing game together; her math skills shot up thanks to the dice aspect of it, and her attention span grew as well. All in all, I have to say that it's been a tremendously positive experience.
Now, my daughter jumps at the chance when offered to play. She also loves taking part in the game preparation. She loves drawing maps on graph paper, and she'll tell me how to design the monsters that her characters are going to encounter. Our story-building is usually a collaborative exercise, where the best ideas from the both of us make it into the final adventure. As a father, I couldn't be more proud of her wit and creativity, and as a gamer, I couldn't be happier to have a constant partner at the table!
Having been around the D&D blogosphere for a few years, I knew that there was a hunger from gaming parents for a way to play with their children. In response to that, I went ahead and shared my game with readers of my website, NewbieDM.com. The response was fantastic! People were discovering that their kids made great gaming partners, and soon enough I started receiving emails from people thanking me for providing them with a way to share in their hobby with their kids. And what about the game itself? Well, I'm not going to claim that it's a breakthrough in game design, because it isn't. It was made for a four year old after all! But I find that the simplicity of it is what makes it so great for my daughter and I. It's less time going over rules, and more time having fun together.
My daughter was the only girl in her pre-school who dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween, and the only little girl I know who gets excited when opening a box of D&D miniatures. I think I've succeeded. Yeah, she's turned. I did it. And what about my son, you might ask? He's well on his way, but at three he's still a bit too young. But soon, very soon.
The 24-page PDF of rpgKids is available at NewbieDM for $2.99.