Introducing Your Kids to D&D - confessions from a professional Dungeon Master
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Introducing something new to a child or adult is magical. You are privileged to see the confusion, understanding, appreciation and learning. You hopefully get to teach someone something that you yourself love. But be wary, the learning stages of anything new are fraught with danger. This is a time period when many people get frustrated and tend to quit. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good 1st impression. With this in mind, it is good to have a plan to follow when you introduce D&D to your kids. Here is what I do:
When I first introduce D&D I talk about how much I love video games. This question is enough to stimulate some engagement. I ask what they know about D&D to gauge prior knowledge, then I’ll say that D&D is better than a video game and why. I start explaining that D&D is a group storytelling game and that everyone has a say in how the story unfolds, and that there is no winning and losing. I explain that games could go on for weeks, months or even over 40 years! unlike board games or video games.
Next, I say that every D&D adventure should have 3 parts. Exploration, Role-Play and Combat. I will immediately talk about how combat is very straight forward, but does have two parts. First you roll the dice to see if “you hit? Yes/No” If yes, roll different dice to see how much damage you have caused. Exploration: going around checking out cool locations, but also looking under the rug, behind the bookcase… Role play is tricky because many players are too self-conscious to feel free enough to bust out an accent or silly voice. I try to explain that role play can be thought of as levels. Level 1 – you explain how your character reacts. Level 2 and up – you just have more fun with it and delve into improvisation. Of course, one of the awesome things about D&D is that the role play ultimately is controlled by the dice. Meaning that if you make the crazy speech in attempts to deceive the guards, you still have to roll the dice to see the game results.
Next, I introduce the races and classes from the Players Handbook. First the 8 races and then the classes. All I say regarding the races is that each one has strengths and weaknesses. Then we spend a bit more time on the classes. I distinguish when classes are true fighters (Barbarian, Fighter & Monk) and which classes are true spell casters (Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer and Druid) and which are a mix (Bard, Cleric, Paladin and Ranger). The Rogue being a spy, thief or assassin.
After that we start in on the character sheet. This area contains so much information it really deserves focus. I talk about how the character sheet is split into 4 columns and then I number them left to right. In column 1 we go over the six-character attributes. I am always ready to explain constitution as this word trips up some kids. I then talk about saving throws and some examples. Then I get into the skills and when during the game we use this area. In the center we point out where you can find your armor class, speed, hit points and where your weapons and spells are recorded. I mostly pass over the last column as this section is so custom.
That’s about it. Ready to play! Maybe I will talk about how some games are combat heavy and some are role play heavy. Or that sometimes people are really strict with the rules and some play the game rules-lite. But, at this point anything extra in terms of teaching the game is too much. From this point on we dive deep into experiential learning. We play simple adventure scenarios that have some loose connection and highlight skill checks and combat. At each step along the way I pay special attention to ways that I can clear up much of the confusion that I caused in my explanations. Having a game where you can do almost anything opens up so many possibilities that it could be viewed by your players as overwhelming. With this in mind, be prepared to offer multiple suggestions to your players so they themselves can start seeing their own possibilities.
Paul Lazrow is the founder and one of the DMs at Adventuring Portal, an online edutainment service that focuses on running live-guided fun, safe D&D games for kids and adults. Find out more at AdventuringPortal.com.
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