Tips for dungeon master parents, part 2: "Never underestimate kids"

201106090923 Last month, Tom Fassbender wrote about his experiences as a role-playing game master for his kids. Recently, he ran a real Dungeons & Dragons game with kids, and here's his report.
The game went great, even better than I expected, and the four 2nd-grade players really enjoyed it. Our Castle Ravenloft sessions helped a lot; turns out that Ravenloft's turn-based combat is very similar to D&D Essentials, which I'm sure is no coincidence. But as we found out, it sure takes a lot longer to slay the beasties in D&D. After considering some of the advice I got from Boing Boing commenters, I decided to stick with my initial plan run with the D&D Essentials rules. But when one of the players wanted to be a non-Essentials Shaman (which I thought was an inspired choice) and another wanted to play a non-Essentials Deva (some sort of immortal timelord-esque race), I had to do a little retrofitting back to the good old regular 4th edition. To speed things along on game day, I had the kids start to create their characters ahead of time. I did all the heavy lifting with ability scores, skills, and bonuses. The whole character generation process was somewhat confusing at first, but I think I got the hang of it eventually. I also gave each character a rudimentary backstory that the players will be able to use to build their own character stories. When that was all done, we ended up with a knight (my daughter, obsessed as she is with her hit points), a shaman, a wizard, and a sorcerer. The party came up a little short in the stealth/thievery department, but we rounded that out with some strategic skill selection. The game got off to a rocky start when my daughter spilled her water across the game map. But on the upside, we were happy to discover the map was “waterproof” (in the words of the players) and survived mostly intact, although it's now in two pieces. After we established a “no drinks on the table” rule, we just dove in. I decided to explain the finer points of combat and how their powers work as we went, and by the second battle they were using strategy, working as a team, and using their their powers for maximum effectiveness. Never underestimate kids. I enjoyed listening to them between combat sessions, when they had to figure out where to go and what to do. The discussions they had about their options were incredible. I told them they could do anything they could think of, and they really embraced that. This freedom was what they were missing from Castle Ravenloft, and it allowed them to bring the game they played in the heads at school to the table. I had planned to do two encounters, both retooled versions of the solo encounters from the Red Box to accommodate a party of four. But they made a case to do a third encounter, and after checking with the parents, we ventured into the Twisting Halls, the first group adventure included with the Red Box. The entire game session lasted six hours with a significant break between the second and third encounters. The total play time was about four hours. I think they could have kept going, but the parents (especially me) needed a break. But if all goes according to plan, the intrepid adventurers will continue delving into the Twisting Halls on Memorial Day. Photos: The Adventurers | The Adventure Journal | Red Box Redux

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