My son loves the idea of playing D&D. He sees my home (fully vaccinated) crew play and finds as many reasons as possible to buzz through the room, or strike up a chat, or ask as many questions about the game as he can. Lately he has been asking to play, and I hear about folks letting a 5 yr. old be the dragon, or roll the dice, or whatever all the time. It doesn’t feel right to me, and I’m not a big fan of imposing my kids on friends who are really just trying to let off some steam at the end of the week. So last night, when he mentioned it out of the blue again, I decided it was time. His first D&D game. Some of the most devoted readers of the blog may know about my Simple RPG, but even that is a little complex. He can add, subtract, and read, but it’s too many rules, even for kids his age.
Over a night of thinking, and officially one (2 hour) playtest session, I introduce my kid’s version of D&D.
Arrange 2 sticky notes on the battle map in a row in front of each player. In one, write HP in big letters and place a D20 set to 20 (spin down d20’s for MTG are great, if I could have found mine). In the other, write Defense. Then, place 5 sticky notes in a second row below the first. In each of these, write Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. We cut out Con, because it doesn’t add a whole lot, especially if every PC has static hit points. Each player then arranged a D4, D6, D8, D10, or D12 on each ability score. Lastly, each player picks a special power from the list. Defense is a derived attribute, equal to 10+Dex score (so d6=6), and you can write that down on the Defense note.
Abilities and Their Uses
- Strength: Melee attacks and damage. Every character can make melee attacks, and if they do, they use Strength to hit and Damage.
- Dexterity: Dexterity is a bit of a God stat, but he didn’t notice. It’s used for initiative, Defense, ranged attack and damage. To tweak in a further review, I may remove Dex to init, and add some form of reloading to bring it in line with Str.
- Intelligence: For solving puzzles, getting hints, and general advice.
- Wisdom: Used for awareness, spotting things, seeing stuff, and the like.
- Charisma: Used to make friends and influence people. Any social skill.
Each ability score can also be used to roll opposed checks, or against flat DC improv-ed skill systems. 2 or 3 is easy, higher is harder. Opposed checks like “I want to sneak up” are done as opposed Dexterity vs Wisdom, and “I try to trick her” are Charisma vs Charisma.
Each attribute also has a special power associated. I let them be used once per fight.
- Smash: You roll your Str twice for damage.
- Teleport: Make a Dex check. You can teleport that many squares.
- Fireball: You can set squares on fire. Make an Int check to determine how many squares. Being in a flaming square does d6 damage per turn, even if just for a little bit. We did not apply a range to this ability, but you probably should.
- Heal: You can heal someone Wisdom hit points.
- Charm: If you win an opposed Charisma check, someone becomes your friend.
We also allowed each power to recharge if the player spent a gold coin.
Combat was quite simple. We rolled an initiative, or Dexterity checks, and then determined turn order. Each character can move six squares. Each enemy had 4, 6, or 8 hit points, tracked with the associated die. (Future games could go to D12). Characters make attacks with 1d20+Strength or Dexterity vs the enemy’s defense. The Strength or Dexterity die also shows the damage of the attack. So 1d20+1d8 to hit, giving 11 and 3 for 14 to hit and 3 damage. Enemies almost always do flat d6 damage, but you could scale it if you needed to.
I have a ton of prop coins and brought in a rule my adult players use. In D&D I give a coin on a 1 or 20. You can spend that coin to increase a die roll or DC by +/- 1 point. In this, we dropped the nat 1 coin, and just gave it for nat 20s. In addition, he started with five coins, for kicks. In this game, the coins are both in game currency, and out of game resources. It’s a bit metagame-y, but no complaints.
We assumed the characters had whatever mundane items they claimed they did. I don’t know that tracking it matters. We did give out two magic healing potions. One was a D4 that you can drink to heal 1d4 hit points, and one was a d10 that you could drink to heal d10 hit points.
You should level up each time you play. To do so, have them increase one of their die a size, to a max of d12. You may also want to consider giving more powers after a certain amount of levels.
The Story so Far
Before we dive in, I have a bit of DM advice that might be more important than anything I’ve seen printed. Have a couple of adventures you can run without a second of prep. This is one of my go adventures, and it lets me drop what I’m doing, and run a game of D&D at any moment. I’ve run 3.5 games with 15-20 min of character generation, and then turned them into multi-session campaigns with brand new to the hobby players. Why? Because I had something on hand while they asked about it. I’ve used this one at least a dozen times. There is always one or two people around (if you surround yourself with nerds) who can strike up a D&D conversation, and a couple who have never played. Throwing out “Do you want to?” makes it actually happen. Especially because those one or two who have played, if left to their own devices will usually say “it’s a shame we can’t, it needs a lot of prep”.
The heroes Redcoat Smasher (Son named himself), and Opal Moondust (Wife played too) have been saving the countryside and helping people out far and wide. One day, Redcoat awoke to a letter. It seems Queen Alexandria has requested a meeting with him and Opal at the palace.
At the palace, Redcoat met with the Queen and her guards. It seems her son, Prince Domino has gone missing. He was on his way to check on the people of the mining town, Burnam, and hasn’t been seen since. If they can bring him home safe and sound, she will grant them 15 gold coins! Redcoat, a true mercenary, asked about what happens if he’s brought back, but not so safe, to which she said 10 gold coins, as she is still grateful for her son’s return.
Opal and Redcoat set off on their journey, through the woods to the town of Burnam. Unfortunately, the normally keen-eyed Redcoat and Opal got a little lost. While exploring the dark and spooky forest, they heard a chirp, and revealed a Cheep Cheep under attack. A giant spider had it in its web and was dragging it away, and all the Cheep Cheep (a small furred, winged creature) could do was chirp. Redcoat and Opal leapt into action, and drove off the spider, only to be ambushed by three more! After saving them, Cheep Cheep was more than happy to lead our heroes through the forest and decided to accompany them on their trip floating just ahead. Redcoat named this Cheep Cheep [my son’s actual name], which didn’t confuse anyone at all.
On the outskirts of town, keen eyed Redcoat noticed something seemed off. It seems the town had been abandoned. The heroes rushed to the mines, to see if anyone was deep below, and took a minecart ride deep below. In the deep dark of the mine, Redcoat lit torches and scattered them around, to light up the tunnels. Unfortunately for him, something else saw the light and came to check it out!
Six goblins rushed the heroes, and Redcoat and Opal managed to defeat all but one who ran away in a tense battle. The party gave chase, only to catch the fleeing goblin warning his chief, the Goblin King about them. The Goblin King had the villagers, and Prince Domino in a cage, and the party leapt right into combat with the King, his guards, and one giant Ogre. At first the party was scared, but Redcoat blasted it with his fireball power twice! Rolling max damage twice, knocking it down before it could do much. The King tried to surrender and sneak away, but the villagers and Prince Domino helped catch him.
Redcoat and Opal helped the villagers out of the mine and offered to escort Prince Domino back to his mother. They were incredibly happy to see one another, and Domino told her how brave everyone was, and how much they helped him back through the woods. The Queen gave an extra gold coin to Redcoat as a special thank you.
He then let me know that since he is so good at D&D, he wants to try to battle some of those guys next time, and pointed to some of my giants and pit fiends and stuff. So next game might have to step it up a bit.
2 thoughts on “A Game for Kids”