Advice Needed: Child’s First Game

Here’s The Situation:

I’m going to run a small game of Dungeons & Dragons for my friend’s 8-year old son. The kid wants to play REALLY badly. I want to encourage this enthusiasm.

Now then, his parents never really got into D&D until we started playing 4th Edition. Before 4E, they were WoD players. So, all of the books lying around Mommy & Daddy’s shelves are newer stuff.
That said, the kid has been watching DVD’s of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, and LOVES them. So, it’s not like the older school stuff bothers him. He’s too young to grok concepts like edition wars, or D&D being a broad term. He just knows the important basics: D&D is a game the adults play that is like a board game, but uses imagination to create their own stories. The kid has a MASSIVE imagination, and we want to give him an out let for it that he can share with his parents and friends.

So what’s the problem?

I’m torn between how I want to introduce him. I considered using NewbieDM’s recently published rpgKids, but after talking with him he even agrees it’s aimed at a younger audience as an introduction. My friend’s son, he’s eight but he’s pretty smart. He’s already picking up Checkers, a few video games, and Choose Your Own Adventure books. What I was thinking of using for him was original, classic Dungeons & Dragons (as in, Elves are a class old school variety.)  I figured 4E would be a bit much at this point….requiring study of power cards and the like. Hardest thing I think Classic D&D could provide is THAC0, but if we use a standard “To-Hit” chart for him on his sheet I think that’s easy to skip.

But there’s a couple hurdles here: For starters, he LOVES all things lizards, dragons, dinosaur etc. He’s already stated time and time again: He wants to be a reptile, like the big Dragonborn on the cover of Mommy and Daddy’s book. He already knows the stories of our buddy whose Dragonborn Fighter leveled up and got his wings, and blows fire and lightening everywhere. He also loves to play on Daddy’s PS3 game Soul Calibur IV, and Lizardman is his favorite fighter. This also leads into the second problem….original Basic D&D is an edition different from Mommy & Daddy’s game.

So, my current plan of action is to simply wing it.  Aside from being a big Lizard with a tail, he wants a big sword and shield, and wants to clobber foes. I’m thinking of just statistically handling him like a Fighter for all intents and purposes, and maybe tacking on a dragon’s breath attack that he can only use once per combat. I already have a miniature lined up for him, and anything else he tries (like Tail attacks) just going with it and letting him roll the dice. I’m wanting him to at least walk away with the understanding that there is rules to the game, but imagination is still important above all.

But what do you guys think? Should I maybe consider instead just using the 4E books and cutting out the powers? That way, he’s at least learning the basics of his Mommy & Daddy’s game? Or am I doing the “right thing” perhaps by introducing him to the basic roots of gaming?
Gimme some feedback here, peeps!

6 thoughts on “Advice Needed: Child’s First Game”

  1. I actually think that 4e wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for him at all — especially if you stick to the Heroes of the Fallen Lands Essentials book as his point of introduction.

    You could also stat out the D&D cartoon characters in 4e style relatively easily and run him through The Slaying Stone. It’s a good adventure — though the Red Box DM adventure does let him talk with a dragon so that might be cool.

  2. What about the new red box? It seems like that might be a good place to start. When you look at Level 1 heroes, they only really have four or five powers. Give the kid a dragonborn fighter with a big axe at level one and watch him be immortal as he sweeps through rooms without a single concern.

  3. Does the Essentials Red Box even have Dragonborn in it? Also, it seems EVERYONE is recommending I buy into Essentials over the options of pre-purchased stuff we have. Hmm.

  4. The new Red Box doesn’t have Dragonborn, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use the dragonborn from the PHB, with the somewhat simplified fighter in the new box-set.

    I think the kid would like to be playing the same game as mom & dad, because eventually, he’ll likely be playing in the same game with mom & dad.

    I think you could easily strip a lot of the tactical rules and still have a fun game. Start incorporating them after he gets a feel for the basic mechanic.

  5. You would catch me just before I get this written. 🙂

    I’m starting a series about this topic on my blog soon but I will share some ideas I have found:

    First is from Wizards themselves:

    plus it is free 🙂

    If you were to want to try something else this was released free to the public and kids love super heroes:

    And we can always count on John Kim for the best rpg lists on the web, including for kids:

    Not knowing what all resources you might have on your shelves you could do a way stripped down model of D&D, even like the Fast Play rules in the Cardmaster Adventure Design Deck (which can still be bought at Amazon ). The combat system is very stripped down and keeps play moving.

    Or even go with one of the retro clones like Dark Dungeons or Microlite20 (my favorite system) at only 2 pages of basic rules-and free also.

    Lots of ways to go here, just depends on time and resources. Good luck with the game and I hope you guys find something you enjoy. Even doctors are starting to realize the value of role playing games for children.

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