How to play D&D with kids

The time is here! You had kids, and you’ve been waiting until the day you can finally game with them.

They’re probably as excited as you are after seeing books full of gorgeous art and tables stacked with sparkly dice and funny little monster miniatures.

To do things right, it’s best to prepare a little before your first session of Dungeons & Dragons with your kids.

The last thing you want to do is sour them on the experience, so they never want to game with you again. Then you’d lose out on the always-available gaming group, which was the main reason you had kids. (Right?)

We have some pointers to help you out.

Pick the Right RPG

D&D is a hard game to learn. It has a lot of rules and even more exceptions to them. Though your heart is set on D&D, you might want to start with something else.

Made-for-kids RPGs like Amazing Tales or Hero Kids are wonderful for children. They’re like D&D but are simple and adaptive. It might also be worth looking at Genesys, which uses narrative dice full of symbols rather than numbers.

Some board games might scratch your RPG itch without overloading your child. You could start with a board game like the classic Dungeon! that has easy-to-follow rules.

If You Must Play D&D, Keep It Simple

RPGs can be really complicated with loads of rules. It’s best to keep things simple and distraction-free when you’re playing them with children. For starters, play with level 1 characters who have very few abilities. Provide them with pre-generated characters. Pick an exciting, but relatively uncomplicated adventure.

Also consider simplifying the character sheets, writing down only what information is vitally important (armor class, hit points, attacks, proficient skills) to play the game.

Color-code the Dice

Kids aren’t always great at figuring out the difference between a d10 and a d12 — many adults aren’t either — so you could try color-coding the dice. Use only red d6s, blue d8s, green d10s, etc. Then there’s less searching for what they need. “Roll two red dice!” Much easier.

Let the Game Show Them How It Works

It’s better to let them learn by playing than trying to explain every single rule before you go. Good adventures for kids (and any beginner, really) start with a small encounter or a simple trap, and then move onto skill-based playing. Introduce some roleplaying. Slowly build up combat encounters with more bad guys until they get the hang of it.

Team Up

For the first session, it might be better to let each kid team up with a parent or other adult who has played before. They can play the character together and ask their mom how things work or what their character can do next. After a few sessions, the adult can start playing a second character.

Be as Visual as Possible

Maybe it’s video games or maybe it’s just how kids are, but they seem to be more visual creatures. That means it’s helpful for them to have something to look at. A theater-of-the-mind-style game will not work as well as gridded maps and miniatures. With a grid, it’s more like a board game, and they can count each square and see exactly where everything is.

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