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Tips for Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Kids!

A lot of gamer parents ask us about how to get started with playing tabletop RPGs with their kids. In fact, we’ve given (and heard) so much advice that we thought we would just put it all down on a page and publish it here on EFG!

This list isn’t the be all and end all for playing RPGs with your children, but this is going to be a great place to start. Take a look below, and make sure to let us know in the comments if we missed anything.

Note: Most of the text here will refer to Dungeons and Dragons, but the majority of these tips will be applicable to any tabletop RPG out there.

Start with a Kid-focused RPG

Lots of gamers have dreamed of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs with their kids for years. It stands to reason that some of those gamers would design their own games to help fill in that void. Darcy Zalewski from the Stay at Home Gamers suggested playing some of those games first!

Some examples include:

Hero Kids

No Thank You, Evil by Monte Cook Games

The Tales of Equestria Tabletop RPG

Establish The Ground Rules

Lots of tabletop RPGs are full of rules, charts, and tables to search through to help understand how to play the game. But, those aren’t as important as the general rules for playing at your table.

You will likely have your own rules, but some suggestions are below:

  1. Respect is key. Make sure to respect your fellow players and the DM.
  2. Be courteous.
  3. Don’t draw in, or rip up game books that are loaned to you. Treat them like your own toys.
  4. No cussing or inappropriate jokes.
  5. If everyone isn’t having fun, then no one is!

Focus on Shared Storytelling

A lot of folks assume that the story comes from the DM, but that’s actually untrue. At the end of the day tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are collaborative storytelling games. This means that everyone is working together to make an interesting story. I think it is important make sure kids understand that.

The story isn’t just happening TO them. It is happening AROUND them. Let them describe their actions whenever possible. Encourage them to talk about how their character does the things they are doing. That adds layers to the experience for everybody!

Let Them Drive (Unless They Aren’t)

It is important to let the kids drive the bus. They might take wrong turns, get hyper-focused on something weird, or kick your sandbox over in any number of cruel, unusual, and exciting ways. Let them do it. As long as they are engaged and enjoying the experience you have won!

With that said, Dungeons and Dragons depends on the players to direct the action. The stories expect the players to move forward, find clues, and discover the solutions. Kids (and even inexperienced players) can have trouble with that. Which means their indecisions can stagnate the experience for everyone. You, as the DM, are the only person who can fix that.

There are lots of great Dungeons and Dragons Products out there, and lots of them have previews online. Make sure to check out what they can add to your campaign!

Keep It Short!

Adults that play Dungeons and Dragons can play for hours without real breaks. We often brag about marathon gaming sessions. That isn’t going to be possible with younger kids. They just don’t have the attention span to focus on these games for long periods of time.

Instead, make sure to plan for your gaming sessions to be more compact and to take more breaks. You won’t make as much “progress” through stories (especially if you are using adventure modules), but they will be more engaged in the experience.

If You’re Going to Go Big – Bring a Co-GM

Rob Kalajian of A Pawn’s Perspective regularly runs a game for ten kids. (WHOA!) He loves it, but he has found that it would be impossible without the help of his wife who co-DMs with him. This lets him focus on the story and the creatures while his wife helps make sure the kids are ready to take their turns. It minimizes downtime and ensures that kids get more direct attention from a GM.

Have (Quiet) Fidget Toys!

Kids will often have a VERY difficult time sitting still for a long time without fidgeting. Dice are terrible fidget toys because they are loud, and they can get lost easily. (Nothing is more distracting than a handful of kids rolling dice and dropping them on the ground.)

Make sure you have a small collection of quiet fidget toys on hand to give them something to fuss with. Some great suggestions are fidget spinners (that you can probably get for super cheap since the fad is over) and Play-Doh.

Simplify The Game!

Dungeons and Dragons is pretty complicated. You can take steps to simplify it though. Some examples of things you can do are:

  • Only give them the dice they need. A player will very likely only needs 2-3 different dice in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (the most recent one).
  • Create a cheat sheet to go along with their character sheet that explains in simple terms what they should do when the
You don’t need to invent your own adventures either! There are plenty of pre-made adventures available!

Don’t Make Them Manage Their Stuff

Kids are notorious for losing things or failing to take care of them correctly. And, nothing can set a game back like a player having to find a new mini or to craft a new character sheet. The best way to solve that problem according to John Christopher over at Wooden Shoe Games is to collect their character sheets at the end of the session. That keeps organization nice and simple.

You could even store all of those character sheets in a binder with some sheet protectors. They’ll be virtually indestructible.

Make Sure the Villain Is AWESOME!

Treavor Bettis and Allie Deutschmann from the Difficulty Class Podcast both emphatically told me that villains for kids need to be cool. They don’t necessarily need to be interesting and nuanced like villains for adult players though. They can, and should, be completely over the top!

What do you all think? What tips do you have for playing tabletop RPGs with kids? Let us know in the comments!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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My Little Pony: Tales of Equestria is the MLP Tabletop RPG We’ve Been Waiting For!

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a franchise that has managed to transform a nearly forgotten 80’s toy property into a cultural icon. The cartoon, created by Lauren Faust, is about to enter its 7th season on April 15th. The toys are a massive hit and you can see merchandise everywhere. But, the franchise will be going in a bold new direction on April 21st.

My Little Pony: Tales of Equestria is an officially licensed tabletop roleplaying game that is being developed by Ninja Division. The game will release just about a week after the 7th season of the cartoon airs.

my-little-pony-tales-of-equestria-900x692

Tales of Equestria is a pen and paper storytelling game that is designed for two to six players. It will play similarly to other games in the genre. One player will take on the role of Game Master (GM) and the other players will create their own pony characters. The players will then adventure together and overcome obstacles using the power of friendship!

The game will launch with a full color 152-page rulebook that will help with character creation, provide adventure scenarios, and teach the group how to play the game. The goal is to give fans of the series a chance to bring the world to life. Players will be able to use the rulebook to create themselves as citizens of Equestria.

It’s not all rulebooks here though folks. My Little Pony: Tokens of Friendship is a game expansion that includes 12 plastic gemstones to help give the game more visual flare. It also gives younger kids something to play with while it isn’t necessarily their turn.

We don’t know a lot about how the game will play. But, I can confirm that our house is already excited to get our hands on this game. We are HUGE My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans and we getting this one right away!

Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more info about the game as it comes close to launch!

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Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

Episode 62: D&D: (Branche Management and Balazaar Boogie)

Hello and Welcome to Engage!: A Family Gaming Podcast! This is episode 62. This week we are talking about boardgames. Specifically, tabletop roleplaying games and our game of Dungeons and Dragons that we started with our two sons. Today we are joined by my wife Jenna, and my brother Mike (The infinite co-host who was k.o.’d last episode, but don’t worry… He’s back!

My name is Stephen Duetzmann: Editor and Chief of EFG Gaming. You can reach out to us via our community page at www.EFGgaming.com/community. You can also reach out us viar Twitter: @EFGgaming, and our new email address: EFGpodcast@engagedfamilygaming.com. I am a co-host of the Gaming with Mom’s Podcast and a contributing writer to Pixelkin.

Show notes:

Overview topics/questions:

What is tabletop gaming?

What do kids need to know to play tabletop games?

What are some games that can get kids started on table top games like Dungeons and Dragons?

  • Adventure Maximus
  • Hero Kids
  • Mice and Mystics

What were the initial challenges of inviting the kids to play D&D?

Interview!: J-man and E-man share their stories of Branche and Balazaar (And Leaf)

Getting into the weeds:

How do you balance the role of parent/adult and player/GM?

What kind of things do we recommend when you are playing a mixed ages game of Dungeons and Dragons with your kids?

Our final thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons, and what we would do in the future.

Thanks for listening! You can find any of the games that we talk about here on Amazon.com. Please use our affiliate links so that your purchases support our staff!

Finally, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon. As always: Thanks for listening to Engage!: A Family Gaming Podcast.

And Remember: Get Your Family Game On!

Below are all of our website and social links. If the links appear broken, then go to the social media site and search for Engaged Family Gaming. You’ll find us! Thank you!

Website

Facebook Page

Facebook Community

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

Patreon

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movies-dungeons-and-dragons-logo

We love to hear about parents trying new types of game experiences with their kids. We recently found a father on Facebook named Casey (shout out to the RPGs with Kids Facebook group) who not only introduced his six year old son to Dungeons and Dragons, but created an awesome placemat style character sheet to help guide him. Take a look at the picture below. It’s AMAZING.

We thought it was cool enough that we wanted to chat with him briefly about his experience with his son and maybe get some perspective on Dungeons and Dragons with a youngster.

How long as you been gaming?

To be honest, I’ve only been into the tabletop life for 2 or 3 years. But I’m the type to dive in head first and completely submerge myself into a passion. In that time I have become my group’s main DM and have been the one to teach them all the rules. I’ve studied under the YouTube masters to perfect my craft, though I still have a lot to learn.

Be honest, how long have you been waiting to introduce DnD to your son? Were you putting giant fuzzy dice in his crib or what?

Pretty much from the moment he learned to read and do basic math. (Haha)

Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

We love the character sheet that you made for him. Did you find a template for that online or was it entirely your design?

It was my own design. I remember, starting out, the questions my buddies all asked, and the difficulties they seemed to have. “What do I roll for this?” “Can I use my bow at close range?” “Which one is the d20?” So I just tried to make it as detailed as possible. I made a little bar up top to organize his dice. I labeled his weaponry and drew a picture of them next to it. I added little stickers to his stats to help him know the differences. It really seemed to help. So much so, that I made a v2.0 sheet the next morning.

It looked like he was playing a halfling character based on his name. Was it a stock character? Or did the two of you do any custom character creation?

Ah. Dudley Bumbleroot. This was actually the FIRST PC character that I ever played. Kind’ve a family heirloom. I updated him for 5e D&D but, barebones it’s the same character.

A lot of people that want to tabletop with their kids hesitate because some of their early struggles can disrupt a game groups flow. How quickly did your son take to the game?

By, probably, his 5th turn he was going strong. He was giving the group his ideas and telling them things like, “hey I can fit through this Crack in the wall, right?” I was so proud.

I have a six year old myself and have been thinking of taking the plunge. What advice do you have for me? Anything I should make sure that I do?

Just have fun. Be his buddy. Or if you’re the DM, have another PC be there for him. Kids can pick up on things more quickly than you realize.

He was the only person in the picture when you posted on Facebook. Did you play with anyone else? Or was it a one on one game for simplicity?

I had a couple other buddies with him. He fit right in.
You indicated that you ran the Lost Mines of Phandelver as your quest with your son. Did you have to modify it at all? Or did he pick it right up? He picked it right up. As far as difficulty, that’s a level one adventure, as it is from the starter set. He did have a BIT of an advantage, though. He and the others at the table were level 3 to begin.

What’s next for your gaming group? Are you going to create your own campaign? Or perhaps run some of the prepackaged adventure books Wizards is putting out?

I usually create my own, but they always turn out very linear. I wanted to try my have at something with some depth. Side quests and plot twists, you know? After one session, I’m pleased. I’ll still make you own, but I’m learning new tricks as I go.

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Plaid Hat Games

1-4 Players

Ages 7+

60-90 Minutes

MSRP: $74.99

COOPERATIVE

Prince Collin clutches his sword tight as the evil minions advance. The glow of magic forms around the end of the Maginos’ staff, accompanied by a faint hum, as the wizard readies a spell. The blacksmith Nez steps forward, swinging his hammer, and lets forth a mighty battle….. squeak?

Mice and Mystics is a 4-player cooperative game where players take the roles of mighty heroes, still loyal to the king, battling against the evil forces of the sorceress queen Vanestra. The catch? The heroes have turned themselves into mice in order to escape the dungeon where they have been imprisoned.

The heroes will face a variety of perils – rats, cockroaches, spiders and centipedes – as they try to escape the castle and save the kingdom. The game plays out over 11 unique “chapters”, each contained in a gameplay session lasting one to two hours. Every chapter builds on the last, weaving together an ongoing story of the heroes’ adventures. The heroes gain new abilities and find different equipment, leading to some role-playing game style advancement as the game plays out.

As a fully cooperative game, there is no “game master” or “overlord” type player controlling the monsters and villains. Instead, players move their adversaries via a programmed/established logic, depending on the opponent, and roll dice to represent the monster’s attack or defense. This allows players to focus instead on working together to control their individual hero or heroes to victory.

Component Quality

First and foremost, Mice and Mystics looks gorgeous. From the evocative cover illustration to the beautifully sculpted miniatures, everything about the game is a treat for the eyes. Each chapter is played out on a “board” built out of three or four of the eight included modular tiles, all painted to evoke the dappled light of the dungeon cell or glow of underground moss, further enhancing the immersion in the world of the game. Players advance from tile to tile either at the edges, where tiles connect, or in a unique manner where mice move up or down a level in the castle by flipping over the tiles to reveal the another level of the same area.

All of the graphic design is fantastically handled as well, with natural textures reminiscent of wood grains and stone throughout. The iconography supports the gameplay and is easily interpreted even by the younger gamers. The custom dice serve many different functions in the game, with different symbols on the same sides of the dice representing everything from searching, defending, attacking and more. There are a number of tokens used for various statuses and special characters (perhaps an overwhelming number for newer players) but each is clearly labeled and easy to read, or explained on a summary page in the rulebook.

A Hero is Born

Each of the six included heroes in Mice and Mystics feels unique and has a personality of their own, further enhanced through story moments scattered throughout the game. All six conform in many ways to fantasy archetypes, for those familiar, but the mouse theme and character development make them feel fresh. Each character will have a moment to shine in the story, be it the matronly healer Tilda, to the shady rogue Filch. The sculpts (That’s artist for “figure”. – Stephen) for the figures are beautifully crafted, but are unpainted. Even the budding painter will want to finish them off to really bring the immersion in the game to its fullest.

While there are six playable characters in the box, only four are selected in most chapters, and different chapters have different setup rules on which characters should be included. Those who are really looking for an RPG experience, where they level one character up through all the stories, may be disappointed in their inability to become too attached to one character. However, the choice works overall in service to the ongoing story.

Gameplay

While the theme of Mice and Mystics hits squarely in the all ages category, don’t mistake the game for easy. The enemies all move and attack with predictable patterns (as one would expect from a fully co-op game) but a timer system, in the form of a cheese wheel, keeps the tension up and the gameplay fast and furious. Filling the wheel, either by delaying too long in a room after the enemies have been defeated, or by the rolling of cheese on the dice when taking enemy actions, results in a “surge” of new enemies appearing. In addition, the page marker advances, moving the players one step closer to chapter end and utter defeat.

Cheese is not always bad, though. Players can earn cheese on their die rolls as well. These cheese are then used to power special abilities, or buy more abilities as the game progresses. The cheese mechanic certainly helps to balance out the unfortunate die rolls, as a missed attack or fumbled defense can result in cheese to help in future turns.

Even with the balance provided by the unique cheese mechanic, Mice and Mystics is a challenging game. With experienced adult gamers, it’s not uncommon to fail 20-30% of the games played. This can be especially frustrating for younger players, and we have often “house ruled” certain scenarios to improve the enjoyment of the younger kids.

The Good, the Bad and the Squeaky

Overall, a lot of what players get out of Mice and Mystics will depend largely on what they come in expecting. While the game has RPG elements, it doesn’t allow the freedom of choice that a true RPG system has. In addition, the levelling system from chapter to chapter may leave the hardcore RPG fans wanting more. For those coming to the game from a dungeon crawl style board game background, the game may feel too dice-dependent and lacking in strategy, especially given it’s fully cooperative nature.

The problem with all these expectations is that Mice and Mystics is none of those things, even though it shares characteristics with them all. In the end, much of Mice and Mystics charm is the knife-edge balancing act it strikes between story-book tale, Dungeon-crawl gameplay and RPG advancement, while still feeling unique from all of those things. If we were to leverage one complaint against the game, independent of expectations, it’s that the game is almost a *must* at the four-player count. Chapters are designed and balanced for four mice heroes, and any lower player count doesn’t result in fewer heroes on the board. Instead, one player just controls more. It’s certainly *possible* to play with three or two (or even one) player, but doing so feels like an incomplete game.

Conclusion

In the end, Mice and Mystics is incredibly successful at what it does well. It creates an incredibly immersive story with gorgeous components and a saturation of theme. With one small-box expansion (Heart of Glorm) and one large box expansion (Downwood Tales) already available, and more sure to come in the future, there is no shortage of stories to experience in the world of Colin and his tiny companions. Given that chapters tend to be quite variable in how long they play out (usually in the 60-120 minute range) the game requires setting aside a full afternoon or evening to play, but it’s an adventure we strongly recommend making the time for.

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If there’s one word parents dread, it’s “more.”  Once a child latches onto something they like, they want as much as they can get their hands on, whether it’s french fries, piggyback rides, or roleplaying games. As I’ve said before, Hero Kids’ straightforward mechanics make for a great introduction to roleplaying games.  Once a kid decides they like it, though, the challenge comes to keep them in new adventures, a trial experienced Game Masters will be familiar with.  Real life is filled with so many things that eat away at your time that it can be tough to come up with missions for the players, ways to link them together, or places for them to explore.  Even a game as straightforward as Hero Kids requires time and creativity to set up new trials for the heroes.

Adventures in Bayhaven cover art

Adventures in Bayhaven looks like a lot of fun!

Adventures in Bayhaven, by Roving Band of Misfits Press, takes care of some of that legwork for you, alleviating that stress with a series of new adventures, centered in the port city of Bayhaven.  Adventurous kids will interact with the locals, establish themselves as heroes, and carry out acts of bravery. What sets Adventures in Bayhaven apart from the main Hero Kids game is not the list of the twenty-one adventures planned to be released this year (though that is entirely awesome in and of its own right), but the gazetteer and optional rules that come along with the adventures. The gazetteer expands the world, providing information on the city, including a list of inhabitants (complete with descriptions and personalities) and several maps (including an unlabeled map that the adventurers can label…or just color when they are bored).  The consistent location links the adventures together around a central city, providing recurring characters for the players to get to know and work with.  While the adventures are technically all independent, as they all center around the port city of Bayhaven, and given that the Kids will interact with certain characters over and over again, it’s easy to string them together if needed.

Were your hero kids successful in catching a thief?  The captain of the guard is more likely to trust them to escort someone now.  The optional rules allow the players to pick up extra perks from continuing their adventures, up to and including becoming apprentices to assorted adults (and getting the benefits from that job.) If you’ve got dedicated Hero Kids to entertain, Adventures in Bayhaven is a solid route to take.  The sheer number of available missions means they’ll be busy for a long time, and the additional rules and setting information makes game mastering a lot easier.

Take a look at our review of Hero Kids – Space Heroes to see some other content for the game!

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Hero Forge Games
Ages 4-10
2-7 players
Playtime 30-60 minutes
TABLETOP RPG
COOPERATIVE

Hero Forge Games is at is again with the release of the expansion to their blockbuster Hero Kids – Space Heroes! If your kid is more into sci-fi than fantasy, or just wants to branch out to play a guardian of the galaxy far, far away, this is definitely something to put on your wish-list.  As shown in their first teaser, the straightforward mechanics are staying the same, meaning parents and children will be able to dive into sci-fi adventures quickly.  While the Space Heroes are compatible with the normal Hero Kids adventures, there’s also three new adventures specifically designed to make user of the new setting.

 As with the base game, the expansion is is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG.  While the base game is required to get the basic rules, the expansion has the now-standard 10 different characters to choose from (and cut-out paper markers for each character), along with a number of blank character sheets for players who want to draw their own characters.  The expansion also gives details on the new skills the space heroes have, which experienced players can quickly find analogs for in the base rules.


If you’re not familiar with the base Hero Kids game, I’d recommend checking out our review.  If you are, the biggest change you’ll want to be aware of is the introduction of Nadic-Binding, which is the Space Hero equivalent to magic (and may bear a resemblance to a certain Dark Lord’s “sorcerous ways”.)

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Hero Forge Games Ages 4-10 2-7 players Playtime 30-60 minutes TABLETOP RPG

What happens when your town is in trouble, and all of the adults are off saving people in far-off lands? It’s time for the kids to show off what they’re made of! Designed to be an introduction to tabletop pen-and-paper role-playing, Hero Kids is all about playing, well… heroic kids. The characters are the young yet capable offspring of some of the land’s greatest heroes, who have inherited their parents’ adventurous spirits and impressive talents. Whether it’s facing off against rats who have kidnapped a friend, or trying to protect the local farm from hungry wolves, these kids show that bravery isn’t linked to size.

The rulebook, which is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG , include the rules, a starting adventure, and 10 different characters to choose from. The rules are fairly straightforward; all of the actions are done by rolling a set number of six-sided dice (which you’ll need to provide), and comparing the highest outcome on each side.

Like any good roleplaying game (RPG), there are plenty of supplements available: extra adventures, new characters, the ever-important loot, and even pets. Or, for those feeling adventurous themselves, you can create your own material, using the information that comes with the basic rulebook as a guide. This will likely come in handy later, as some kids may chew through the available pre-made missions faster than new ones come out. It will also help with older kids who feel they need more of a challenge, as the basic material is a little bit more geared towards the younger end of the age range.

There’s no reading necessary on the part of the players, as there are symbols next to each of the relevant statistics (a shield for defense, a sword for attack, etc.) Math skills are fairly basic: reading a six-sided die, comparing two numbers, and the basic addition and subtraction of getting wounded and healing. The most critical skill, though, is imagination and problem solving. Beginners can be guided and prompted, but there’s a good chance that parents will find themselves surprised by how fast kids pick up on this form of make-believe. As gameplay progresses, concepts like tactics and teamwork can be stressed, helping the young heroes face ever more difficult challenges.

As with many independently published RPGs, Hero Kids does have some grammatical and spelling issues that you might need to watch out for. Keep in mind that this is a simple system, and it does lack one of the basic components of pretty much every RPG: leveling. The game is built to allow for children to easily swap characters after each adventure, with character cards are provided for ten different classes in the basic set. The full PDF bundle offers another ten characters mostly resembling cartoon characters that may be familiar to little gamers. Each character also has a corresponding coloring sheet which will allow your kids to personalize their pre-constructed characters a bit.

Older children who are ready for more complex play might enjoy the blank character cards, which are provided along with simple guidelines on how to build npp steroid your own character. Each card comes with a paper stand-up mini that matches the picture on the card for use on the maps provided with each adventure, and blank cards allow you to draw your own mini.

For gamer parents wanting to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, at $6-$15 ($6 gets you a PDF rulebook, while $15 gets you a PDF rulebook, coloring pages, extra features & 9 pre-made adventures), Hero Kids is a fantastic stepping stone to future gaming. For non-gamers looking for a good outlet for their kids’ imagination, this system requires very little additional investment (just a couple of standard dice), and will give your kids hours of creative entertainment!

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