I have a large number of Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures sitting around, mostly unused since I haven't been playing nor running a D&D type game for awhile (our group is currently focused on Shadowrun and BattleTech). I also have two young kids who are very interested in what Daddy does when he goes to his friends house to play. A few weeks ago, a great RPG blogger going by the moniker NewbieDM published an article which showed how to bring these two together. I initially filed it in the back of my mind as an interesting way to introduce the kids to structured roleplaying in general, and D&D specifically. Then I saw a blog post by Paul Haynes on how he took those rules, made some changes, and ran with his son. Both gentlemen's kids are around 4, which is slightly younger then my two kids, who are 5 and 6 (Boy and Girl respectively).
This, along with some chatter on Twitter, convinced me to give it a try. When I told the kids we were going to learn how to play an adventure game, they were a little excited. I quickly realized it may have been easier to try to teach each of them separately, but once I started teaching both at the same time, I stayed the course. After a quick snack of Triscuits with cheese (which Boy did not eat, as usual), we cleared the table and brought out the character sheets and Dungeon Tiles. This also brought the avalanche of questions, mostly from Girl (while Boy started to create his own game).
I started by trying to explain the rules. For our first game, I dispensed with the bonuses and penalties, changed movement to 5 squares, only the Magic person can give medicine, and decided monsters only need to be hit once to be knocked out. The kids, however, were impatient to get started, so I moved us along to choosing minis. I let each of them choose two characters. Girl selected a Magic Girl and a Bow & Arrow Guy, which she named "Annie" and "Rocky." Boy selected a Sword Guy and a Bow & Arrow Girl, which he named "The Boy" and "The Girl" (we're going to need to work on imagination there). Daddy got six minions due to their weakness.
We each rolled a D6 for initiative. I got a 6, Boy got a 2, and Girl got a 1. Order of play being quickly set, we got started. The game only lasted three rounds. Boy rolled well, hitting nearly every time, while Girl only hit about a third of the time. The monster's got a few hits in, but none of the players were knocked out. Girl had to be reminded a couple of times that she and her brother were on the same team, and that she can only roll the dice once, even if it's a one. Boy had to be reminded that he has to wait for his turn to move his pieces. All the while I ensured that both the kids stuck to the rules. Both kids had no problems with the numbers involved. As to the reading, Girl had no problem (she's reading at a level a couple years ahead of her age), but Boy needed help (as I expected).
Overall, it was a fun game session. I didn't last long, maybe about half an hour, with a lot of time spent helping them keep focused. The kids were excited to play again, but unfortunately, this was a finals weekend for me in school, so we didn't have time for that. It was challenging keeping them both on task. I think next weekend we'll play around with NewbieDM's rules a bit more, I may even try Mr. Haynes variation with them. I'm also going to spend a bit more time on story elements. This time around, I nearly completely eschewed story in favor of teaching them the basics of structured play. If I come up with any significant changes to their rules, I'll be sure to share it here.
If you are interested, the complete photo gallery for this session can be found on my Flickr account over here.