Kids and tabletop role playing games

Has your kid seen you playing D&D and thought it was awesome? Or do you want to get your kid to think it’s awesome? Most kids – I’m going to be talking about under 12’s here for all intents and purposes – don’t have the patience to sit through a whole Pathfinder session without getting bored with others taking their turns, so it’s not a great idea to just bring them into a game. But there are other ways you can foster their interest and enjoyment until they’re ready. Here are some things to try:

 1. Bring them into a game.

That thing I just said wasn’t a great idea? It might just be – if you can handle it. I don’t mean draw them up a character and seat them at the table with your adult group, but put together a simple campaign for your kid/s and maybe their friends to play. This is a lot harder than it sounds, since you have to think about the balance of fighting stuff and thinking skills you want them to use, take their attention threshold into account, and be prepared for anything from going off in a completely different direction than you planned to considering ‘stomp on their foot’ the ultimate in goblin fighting technique. (I recommend the Behind the Screen series as a good guide for DMing, although it’s aimed at grown-up games)

 2. Play games for kids that follow an RPG structure

When Lego released their Heroica series, it looked pretty awesome – you set out a dungeon or adventuring area, and characters made their way through it, fighting monsters with the aid of dice rolls. I never got to play it myself, but those that did found it fun, and playable by young kids. Which means they’re already enjoying the mix of exploring a world they’re presented with, and the mix of building a character while luck and the situation influences the results of what their character attempts. I found luck myself for my kid with the board game Mice & Mystics, where you help pre-built characters navigate rooms, gain skills and gear, follow quests, and fight enemies, again with the roll of dice. Whatever game you choose, make sure it fits your kids age and interest level, or it won’t work. And whatever you do, familiarise yourself with the rules and gameplay BEFORE you play – it might be the occasional staple of your D&D sessions but sitting around poring over the rulebooks does not a fun game time make for kids. Be prepared to skip inconvenient rules or simplify them in favour of streamlined or aged-down play, because your goal is for the kids to have fun and want to play again, not follow the rules to the letter.


 3. Find games that are about things they like

Is that previous suggestion a struggle because your kid is only into console, mobile, or computer games? I’ll bet there’s a board game based on their favourite one if it’s a big name title. I managed to get my kid and their screen-obsessed friend to actually sit down in front of a board game instead by finding one that was Skylanders themed even though it had nothing to do with the video game itself. And that opened the door to other board games, like a gateway drug but good. If they have no interest in your boring old analogue games, try finding one that’s already about (or just looks like) what they like, and once they enjoy playing you can find one that takes you to step 2, closer to RPGs. If they’re seriously not interested in the games you try and introduce later, don’t try and make them – you might just have to be happy playing Finding Dory Top Trumps until they’re older and you can bribe them with snacks into playing TRPGs with you.

 4. Help them build their own game

Get a big piece of paper, some crayons or pens, and help them draw out a map of their own dungeon or adventuring ground. Lego minifigs, random toys, figures from some other game, all of these can be props, enemies, NPCs, or characters, as long as the map comes close to fitting them in rooms and such. This is great for everyone from young kids to a group of older ones just having fun together, and will actually help build things like storytelling skills. Get them to think about what they want their character to do, who they’ll meet along the way, and what they might find, to put into the map. You can introduce dice to determine the outcome of different things, or just make it up as you go along.

 5. Get them to think about characters they already love

When playing something where they get to build their own character – if you’ve decided to take the plunge and DM a simple game, or you’ve chosen the draw-out-an-adventuring-map option, for example – they might not be great at immediately imagining a character that’s not just them but as something else. This is OK, but you can encourage thinking outside the box by suggesting they think of their favourite book or show character and playing as them. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What would they do when faced with a giant flying shark asking them riddles before they can go to the next room and get treasure?


 6. Read to them

Read to your kids a lot early on, or even just make up stories to tell them, and get them to tell you stories in turn; being able to listen to and tell stories is what RPGs are all about, and interjecting the stories with things like “What do you think will happen?”, or “What do you think they should do?” will get kids thinking about being in control of a character. If you’re lucky you’ve got some old Rose Estes ‘Endless Quest’ books; they’re for older readers but are fun and slightly crazy and directly based on Dungeons & Dragons.

These are just some suggestions based on my own experience and what I’ve heard or had recommended from others. Kids of different ages, upbringing, interests, and abilities will all have different things that might get them involved with your interests, so figure out what works for your kids. If you have some cool experiences or suggestions yourself, don’t be afraid to tell me in the comments!

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  1. grimmantle
    May 5, 2017 |
    • July 7, 2017 |