Dungeons and Dragons 4yoE (Four-Year-Old Edition)
As gamers age (And trust me, D&D is over 30 years old, they are ageing plenty), more gamers want to introduce the hobby to their children. There have been some notable attempts at this, such as RPGkids, but I decided to take an even simpler approach when playing with my cousin who just LOVES dragons.
I downloaded a game called Dragons a while ago, and while it was designed for kids, I still thought it might be too difficult for him. I had some larger dice ready so I could show him the game, but I decided to back off from that. Instead, I looked around the room and saw his toy castle, a giant foam dragon, a viking ship, and a Power Ranger. I took out my dice and said “Hey, do you want to play Dungeons and Dragons.”
I had him at “dragons.”
So here’s how we played his first game of “D&D.” I asked if he wanted to be the knight or the dragon, and he decided to be the knight. I told him that I was the evil dragon who kidnapped the princess and imprisoned her in my castle. The knight needed to sail in on his boat and fight the dragon so he could rescue the princess.
I gave him a d12 for the knight, a d4 for the boat, and a d20 for the dragon. Each turn we would roll our dice and see who rolled higher. Each time he won, he hit the dragon, and he could sail his boat towards the castle. He needed to hit three times to make it to the castle. If the dragon won three times, the boat was sunk and he couldn’t roll the d4 anymore. The knight could only be hit two more times before the dragon ate him.
Every time we rolled, I would encourage him to say what his knight said or did. I would dive at the ship with the dragon, while the ship sailed across his living room carpet. Eventually, the boat was sunk, but he still made it to shore. He had a final confrontation with the dragon, and rescued the princess!
He had a great time, and he immediately said “Let’s play again!” I made the next adventure a little more complex. I added more bad guys, and I gave them each different die sizes to represent their power, so the idea of “stats” would sink in a little bit.
What really happened is that he was playing two different games.
First, he was playing pretend with his toys. It wasn’t really anything he wouldn’t do anyways. All I did was add the second layer of the dice, and he treated that like a separate game. He liked rolling them, and it let him recognize the numbers and do some simple math.
It was really easy to set this game up, and it kept him engaged. The other times I’ve tried to teach kids how to roleplay, they get lost in the rules. This style of game is perfect between bridging the gap of telling a story and adding an element of chance.
Kids already roleplay, we just think we need to make it more complicated when we grow up. Sometimes the rules and the dice get in the way of that, but they do have their purpose. It’s important to reflect on why you roleplay. Do you want to tell a story, or do you want to play a game? Neither answer is wrong, and neither answer is incorrect. Personally, I want to sail a ship, kill a dragon with a flying kick, and kiss some princesses. If I learned anything from playing Dungeons and Dragons with a kid, it’s that you don’t need 500 pages of rules to do all that.
Photos from Fisher-Price’s awesome Imaginext toy line.