Introducing your child to D&D

photo credit: mrdestructicity

photo credit: mrdestructicity

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most popular pen-and-paper games today. In it, players are tasked with creating a character and navigating their way through an adventure as it is told by the gamemaster (GM). To play D&D you will need a rule book, the board, the various dice and of course, lots of imagination. One player is assigned the role of game-master and will be in charge of running the game (or campaign) and controlling all the NPCs (non-player characters) that the players encounter.

When we say “D&D” we refer to a specific set of rules and a specific game setting. Dungeons & Dragons is an RPG set in a fantasy world. There are other pen-and-paper RPGs out there, from sci-fi settings to those taking place in the modern world and more. RPGs vary in complexity, some requiring only minimal rules and details while others can boggle with the level of detail required to play a simple game. D&D is intermediate in this aspect in that you can play it using only the basic rules but you can always delve deeper and use the hundreds of additional books for different settings, campaigns and additional detail.

Once you come to grips with the fundamentals, the game becomes very addictive. A game is rarely “completed” in the traditional sense, and it’s played in sessions, players usually opting to resume the game that they were playing before. If your child is fascinated by heroes, dragons, castles, exotic monsters and so on, D&D can be one of the most interesting games you can introduce to him. The fact that the majority of the game requires imagination for the stories to unfold is a sure way to get your kid hooked. However, for kids under the age of 12, the initial learning curve can be a turn off as few have the patience to go through the minute details.

However, if you as a parent help them understand the basic rules, you will not only help develop their intelligence and imagination but also strengthen your relationship with him. D&D is indeed the perfect family game as everyone can participate in the game.

To play a game of D&D you need a minimum of two people. However the real fun starts when 4 or more players get involved. It’s more fun to play with a group because each character can complement the features of another, so a group dynamic is created. In addition to this, you may want to add pencil and paper, dice, character figurines and written rules for a more immersive experience.

The most basic form of a D&D game is when the gamemaster begins by describing a scene. For example, you could start by describing your kid in a deep, dark forest. You can explain what it looks like, what sounds are heard and other details as you see fit. With kids, it’s important to focus more on bigger elements and action rather to get bogged down in details as they can quickly lose interest.

After this, you can present your kid with a number of options of what he can do. Of course, you will want to limit descriptions so that their character doesn’t stumble into dark cave that is teeming with werewolves. Instead, give them some kind of puzzle to solve. If they’re unable, you can always introduce a fairy that magically appears to guide their way.

When this type of storytelling becomes more natural to you and your child, you can add more tools and game mechanics into play. For example, the concept of playing a character is one of the basics of D&D. Your child can choose a class (such as a Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and so on) and a race. You will write down the name of the character and some details about him/her such as height, weight and so on. Next, the mechanism of rolling the dice in order to determine whether an action is successful or not can be introduced. For example, if the wizard tries to cast a Magic Missile spell, you can roll an 8 sided die. If a 3 or greater is rolled, it means that the spell was cast successfully. If the task is harder, you can increase the minimum number that has to be rolled.

Props and figurines also add another dimension to the game. You don’t have to get anything fancy. Doll houses, cardboard and pieces of paper can be used. If you want to get more “official” you can always purchase set of role playing figurines.

By slowly introducing new elements to the game, you will be able to keep their interest without overwhelming them. Once you’ve got these basics down, you will want to introduce written rules. You can either use the official D&D rule sets or use your own invented rules. The D&D Basic set is good for beginners. Once you’ve mastered that, you can always proceed to use the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books.

We also recommend that you have a scheduled time and day for your D&D sessions. You want your kid to look forward to spending time with you. Don’t get caught up in rules and details when starting out. You want to keep it fun and lighthearted. There is plenty of time to get serious, but that’s only when you’ve got the essentials down.

The best place to play D&D with your kid is without a doubt at home. Here you can have the privacy and the quiet you need to spend some quality time.

If you or your kid doesn’t get excited about Dungeons & Dragons, you can always take a look at alternate pen-and-paper RPGs such as Star Wars Roleplaying Game or The Wheel of Time.

Pen-and-paper RPGs can be a great opportunity to connect with your child. If your kid isn’t excited about traditional sports or outdoor activities, these can be a great outlet for their energy and imagination. Remember: take it easy, keep it fun and lighthearted. Before you know it, they will be creating complex characters, citing rules from the books and doing advanced dice rolls. The trick is to get them hooked enough to want to learn more.