I turned my 4-year-old daughter into a Dungeons & Dragons geek

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.


  1. + infinity!!!

    Lovely, lovely idea. Downloading this for sure and sucking my daughter in. Though she’s now old enough to play the “big kids” version.

  2. Reinventing the wheel … you’re supposed to start them off with the microgame “Melee”.

  3. Of course, you could start her off with Toon, but she might not be able to stop laughing long enough to play…

  4. That is some awesome parenting right there. Congratulations on raising a girl geek – we need more of these. Loads more.

  5. Oh, you’re taking me back…to my father and I, with a bewildering box of vaguely instructive pamphlets, sitting down and alternating being DM and player, while my mom kept suggesting we go outside and really DO something…rather than playing our spanking new 1974 Dungeons and Dragons game.

    Sorry, Mom! My dad DM’d most of my D&D games (also my favorite: “Empire of the Petal Throne”, as well as “Traveller”) til I left for college, and found more kindred spirits/gamer-girls to play with–many of whom are still good friends!

    Keep it up, Enrique. You’re making excellent Daddy Points!

  6. Hmmm… My kiddo is 4, but is most of the way through first grade. I as wondering when would be a good time to play. She even asks about that “Dragons and Knights” game.

    I told her she had to read better to play – but thinking about it – most of good gaming is the adventure, the dice, etc. So I am going to read up more on this. It could be super fun for us.

  7. Simply awesome! I have to forward this on to my friends who have little ones.

    Think I’m going to buy the game just to buy it…Don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to run a niece or nephew through an adventure, but they are coming up on an age where these rules should be perfect from the sounds of it. Here’s to being prepared!

  8. Thanks guys!

    Yeah, I’m glad I could share the story with readers from outside the regular D&D blogosphere. I suspect that there are tons of parents out there like me itching to start gaming with their kids.

    I’ve had nothing but fun doing it. It’s been a blast. Thanks for the nice comments everyone!

  9. I bought a set of 6 D&D 3.0 books at a garage sale. I figured my son would get in to them around age ten, but he devoured them from the age of six. Great for his reading skills and vocabulary; plus !nataS !nataS

  10. Ah, what you want is Melee/Wizard/The Fantasy Trip from Metagaming. Google is your friend. The system is d6 based and its heritage is as old, if not older than the Three Original D&D books. It is a short, tight and very fun game, with much for expansion. DarkCity http://www.darkcitygames.com/ has free rules, and cheap adventures that can even be run solo. They are the spiritual inheritors of TFT (The Fantasy Trip), and I do not say that lightly.

  11. How lovely, and how appropriate given that children are so naturally prone to creativity and invention and are generally fascinated by monsters and heroes and magic. In a way, it’s bringing back D&D to a part of its roots.

  12. Myself and some friends run monthly games meetup via meetup.com (currently ~5 tables in Amsterdam NL). This month includes Traveller – Hitchikers Guide, D&D 4e – RPGA Fantasy, Savage Worlds – Fantasy, Lady Blackbird – Steampunk and Starwars.

    If people are interested in finding out more about the hobby, finding a local game group, or just want to hang out with gamers, meetup.com is a great place to look.

  13. Thank you for sharing, and spreading such charming sanity in parenting!

    My kid learned arithmetic on his own rolling up characters from the Shadowrun books I had lying around the house even though I never actually found time to play, he had a calculator and he just eventually didn’t need to check it any more to be right. Gaming is such a great education in so many different ways without doing anything that is not entirely for fun. Including the kids from an early age is so much saner than the standard modern-world zombie production approach to parenting, I feel better knowing it is going on out there among complete strangers, the more kids who grow up knowing how to think the better our chances are, and the more fun life will be. Thank you.

  14. I’m very disappointed that this hasn’t devolved into a D&D Edition War thread yet… (btw, 2E 4EVAH!)

    I haven’t introduced my daughter to RPGs yet- she’s 7 years old- but I’m thinking about starting her with the old Ghostbusters RPG from West End Games, as the mechanics are wicked simple and she gets to carry a proton pack. What’s not to like?

    1. Good call — didn’t that game have equipment cards? Kids love manipulables. (And as for the system, Risus was inspired by the Ghostbusters game (and its rules are only six pages long) and works well with kids, in case they ever want to be something that’s not a Ghostbuster.)

      1. Yes, the game does come with cards- I still have most of ’em, but a few enterprising souls out there have created their own printed PDFs as well (not just for replacement purposes but to add some 90’s and 21st century tech items, as well as some experimental items from the FUUUUUUUUUUUTURE!).

        As for Risus, I did not know that it traces back to the Ghostbusters RPG. I’ll be sure to check it out… thanks for the tip!

  15. Looks like it’s a little slow right now (as in the last month or two), but http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/kids-rpg/ the kids-rpg Yahoo! group has a lot of good people on it.

    I started my oldest with the old Marvel Super Heroes game when he was about five or six, and we went through various rules-light things. A fair bit of Fudge, right now my two oldest daughters are sometimes playing a Risus-based RPG in the Hunger Games setting.

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