As many of you likely read in the Washington Post or End-of-Times Magazine, I will become a first-time dad in less than two months.
And because this kid is going to be blood of my blood and blood of my wife’s blood, in all that bloodiness, he’s going to grow up a geek. As we are (and will continue to be) fairly well-rounded nerds, our kid is going to have a number of different brands of geekiness to choose from.
Music geek, band geek, movie geek, book geek, comic book geek, art geek, and, most importantly, gamer geek.
It’s about time, too. I’ve been needed more games in my life. You know the old saying, “If you can’t find fellow gamers—roll them up from scratch!” This is going to be a kid who enters kindergarten knowing that dice come in all shapes and sizes.
Understandably, I’ve been doing research on gaming with kids.
While I don’t expect to get much gaming time with the kid during the first two or three years, I am hoping to get an early start nonetheless. I mean, let’s face it… time is not entirely on my side. I’m 49. I didn’t start playing D&D until I was twelve. If I waited until the boy was twelve, I’d be 61. That may not seem terribly old.
Ed Greenwood is… what? 100? He’s still running D&D games.
(Editor’s Note: John, Ed is less than 10 years older than you. Man up.)
The point is… I’d like to get the kid gaming as early as possible–and not just for selfish reasons, but because gaming not only encourages creative thinking and problem solving, but also gives kids a head start in using things like numbers. Could that be a bad thing? I don’t think so.
It was with these thoughts that I started exploring D&D-like gaming for kids–the younger the better. Here is some of what I found.
DUNGEON! – The Board Game
We’re not starting out with something strictly roleplaying, but with a board game.
It’s a fun game that has stood the test of time. It first came out in 1975. I first played it around 1980. I purchased a new copy around 2013 to play and it was still pretty fun.
The game is very much a dungeon crawl with little in the way of story, but plenty of dealing with monsters, traps, secret doors, treasure, and magic. You can house-rule it to accommodate varying levels of age or difficulty.
Technically, the game is for ages eight and older, but I could easily see someone as young as six playing it.
You can play as any one of the original classic D&D classes: Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, and Rogue. The game includes cardboard standups but you could just as easily substitute painted minis of your own. Monsters in the early levels are the usual cannon-fodder of goblins and kobolds and the like, but by level six you’re up against drow, black pudding, and an owlbear. I love owlbears!
Combat is just some dice rolls to hit or miss and then dealing with damage given or received. Fairly straightforward. Players can be killed or put out of commission, but you can apply house rules to make them either regenerate at the start of a level with or without half their treasure as seems fit for the kids you’re playing with.
Dungeon! is a fun board game for kids who are feeling a little competitive. Ask for it at your local game store. If they don’t have it, they’ll order it. Support your local game store!
Dungeons & Dragons – Monster Slayers
It seems to me that it took a long time for the folks at Dungeons & Dragons to realize it was in their best interest to get players as young as they could. Thus far, there are only two officially created roleplaying adventures designed specifically for kids, but they’re also both free to download and print out. Developed by Susan J. Morris, the two adventures are named Monster Slayers: Champion of the Elements and Monster Slayers: Heroes of Hesiod.
Both adventures are designed for years 6 and up. It’s a pretty basic setup with heroes presented with a challenge in which they must defeat a certain number of monsters in an arena-like setting. It’s mostly combat-oriented with some light strategy. Roleplaying as characters is something that has to be directed and encouraged by the adult running the game. The graphics are cute. There are little “trophies” to print out for the kids later.
If I had any criticisms, it would be that the game requires 5-6 players which can sometimes be challenging to gather. You can jigger around with the gameplay a bit by allowing for multiple characters for players and such, but right now the base game doesn’t include any alternate rules setup. Also, while it’s neat that this is a free download from the official D&D website, I’ve never been a big fan of constructing all that myself. If they come up with a nice, colorful, pre-assembled boxed set for these games, I’ll be at the head of the line to buy one.
Oh, and you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this game. While it’s very, very basic, it’s a quick game (about 30-45 minutes) so it might do as a quick fix for some adults looking to kill some time in a fun way.
For more information and links to download, visit: http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/monsterslayers
This is an award-winning fantasy RPG from Justin Halliday of Hero Forge Games designed for kids aged 4-10 and it looks fairly awesome. Halliday went to great effort to make this a fully-formed game with a complete starting town populated with fun characters, pre-generated characters for boys and girls in a variety of classes, and a large number of individual adventures in which the heroes go out on various missions from the town. The game mechanics are simple and streamlined featuring six-sided dice and very clear stats on the individual character and monster cards. Gameplay is fairly quick with most games lasting half an hour to an hour. The artwork is kid friendly and works well with the material.
The game is available through DriveThruRPG.com as a series of PDF downloads, although the core rule booklet (about 50 pages) is also available in print form. The core book comes with an introductory adventure “Basement O Rats” and ten characters (including cut-out stand-ups) all ready to go. While this is another case of having to print out the needed parts to the game, there is artwork designed for both color and black and white printers so you, at least, get a choice in how much ink to spend.
Oh, and get this… we’re not just talking fantasy adventure. There are a whole load of expansions including quite a decent collection of space adventures.
My only word of warning might be that the adult running the game should be familiar with running roleplaying games. While the Monster Slayer adventures mentioned above could use that as well, it’s easier for uninitiated adults to run a game. For Hero Kids, a little more experience on the part of the adult would not be a bad thing.
Just the same, this game will be played by my young ‘un as soon as he turns four. Maybe three. Count on it. For more information on Hero Kids, visit: http://herokidsrpg.blogspot.co.nz/
These folk started out as an Etsy store featuring baby and toddler-aged clothes with decidedly nerdy themes–comics, games, science, etc. From there it became a multi-geek-themed blog site featuring posts aimed at nerd parents–particularly new parents–and how to bring about some of that nerd love into family life. There are posts featuring gaming advice and reviews, science fiction and fantasy themes, creative Lego’ing, tablet apps, early learning, and, of course, their clothing line. All interesting stuff–even the baby clothes. Yes, our kid will be going with us to conventions. It might be a little too crowded for a ComicCon, but the kid can certainly be sitting nerdy when we do our own vending at other conventions.
Nerdy With Children is a pretty good site to start your own exploration into becoming a parent and keeping with the geek. I was quite taken with their post on planning your kid’s first D&D adventure.
If you’re a new nerd parent, or about to be one, this is a good place to drop in on at least once if not more.
Sometimes even nerd parents need a little bit of break. That’s why I think the blog site D&D Kids by Uri Kurlianchik is such a nice little spot to take a breath. Yes, there is much on the page about gaming with kids, but it’s not all about gaming with kids. Sometimes, a lot of times, it’s just about gaming. Topics range from tame to a more adult, and go from talking about classic games and reviewing new ones, to various gaming scenarios and the occasional gaming rant. There’s a lot here for any kind of RPG gamer regardless of parenting status.
One thing I am rather impressed by here on this site is the large number of mini-adventures available. If you’re ever in need for a quick game setup, this is a good place to go to. Most of the adventures include maps and are easily adaptable to a variety of gaming systems, or can be played using simplified rules provided. The author gets quite creative in spots. There’s one adventure inspired by William S. Burroughs’s novel Naked Lunch! I never saw that coming.
Obviously, we’re not just talking standard fantasy D&D type games despite the name of the blog. There are scenarios for horror, science fiction, and mystery RPG games as well.
The author includes many discussions on gaming with kids, but it’s not a heavy “this is how you game with kids” theme–if that makes any sense.
It’s a lighter-seeming blog site than Nerdy With Children, and a lot of fun to visit.
While searching for more resources on gaming for kids, I also came across some creations by fantasy illustrator James Stowe.
He created some simplified and artistic character sheets for a group of 2nd-graders’ first D&D game.
It reportedly went well. Here’s the link to what he created.
These are just a few places online to find discussions on gaming and parenting. There are loads of others. Just take some time to explore.
Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to breaking out the blocks and the Legos and the Playmobil figures and getting my kid’s creative juices running as soon as possible.
And I’m not alone in this attitude.
We’re going to raise a generation of thinkers–creative thinkers.
Look out, world!