DM'ing for children, need advice/ edition decision

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So I decided I am going to DM for some of the kids at the scout group I help out at. this will be after school and last about an hour per session.

I think I am a competent enough DM and have been DM'ing for about 5 years now, and have introduced a few people to D&D 4th edition quite well. The campaign I have in mind in set in my own continent of Drecovak, I have ran campaigns before within the world so feel confident using it. first of all, I’m torn between witch edition of D&D to use either 4th or D&D next. i am familiar with 4th ed and am confident using it. on the other hand I really like the direction that D&D next is taking and would love to introduce D&D to the kids in that format, the only drawback is that it is not complete yet. I ask for your feedback.

If there is anyone with advice, maybe you yourself have DM'd for kids, anyone can give it will be appreciated.


Thanks in advance


Tom


EDIT:


Just to clarify for everyone, The children are aged from about 9 to 12. the game does not run on a pack night but after school at the local library. the parents consent id required and i have provided a simple overview of the game and how it can be beneficial to thier children, improve social skills, maths, decision making etc. I will not be describing the gore of the battles nor will i be using bad language. i have been helping within scouts for a long time. i am capable of taking care of children and allowing them to have fun.


I mearly want advice from people that may have run for children before, and ask for advice. The children have watched films before, they have played video games bith which depict violence. both at the descression of thier parents. Am i responsable for the children when they are in my care? Yes, but i will not be alone there will be another adult present. Am i responsable for a parent sending thier child to play D&D? No it is their desision for thier child, and i will try to make it enjoyable.


Also children are not idiots I think they can pick up the game, and quickly, no matter which edition i use. its also not like im going to throw the rule book at them and tell them to learn it. 


sorry for long edit.



 


how old are they? 4th is going to be really tough for younger kids to grasp, especially with such a limited time for sessions.
Personally i never let kids get into DnD.  Cut off age for me is 16.  Childrens minds are too vulnerable.  They should be socializing, running around not rolling dices.  Treat the game like the movie ratings.  Seeing violence on the screen and seeing violence in their own imagination are the same thing, especially when they are the actors in the game.  I take this very seriously.  Especially at a boyscout group & without parental consent?  That is empitome of irresponsibility as boyscout leader.  Thats not something you would want others to do with your kids you entrusted to a organization promoting outdoor activities, exceptable social behavior etc..

May seriously consider this.  Decision should be whats good for the kids in line with parental expectations and not what you want to do.  Even as a helper, you are responsible & liable for the organization.

Sorry, im sure thats not the answer u wanted to hear..
16 seems high, I started at 13. Parents permission would be good to get though, as I can imagine some would object.

"Encouraging your players to be cautious and risk-averse prevents unexpected epic events and-well-progress at a decent pace in general."-Detoxifier

"HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA NOT REGENERATING DUE TO FIRE" -iserith 

"If snapping a dragon's neck with your bare hands is playind D&D wrong, then I don't want to play D&D right." -Lord_Ventnor

I think Ghost007 couldn't be more wrong in a half a dozen ways, but to each his own, I guess. As a note, I too was a Boy Scout and went away to Scout summer camp, and the summer our scout leader played D&D with us was amazing. And it didn't stop us from going on swamp hikes and learning about red efts and archery and lifesaving all the other outdoorsy stuff...in fact, there was probably a pretty powerful synergy between our Scout activities and the stuff we were interested in in D&D.
I think Ghost007 couldn't be more wrong in a half a dozen ways, but to each his own, I guess. As a note, I too was a Boy Scout and went away to Scout summer camp, and the summer our scout leader played D&D with us was amazing. And it didn't stop us from going on swamp hikes and learning about red efts and archery and lifesaving all the other outdoorsy stuff...in fact, there was probably a pretty powerful synergy between our Scout activities and the stuff we were interested in in D&D.


Just because it turned out well for you does not excuse responsibility & liability of individuals working in & representing a organization such as Boy Scout of America.  No one should use their position in a organization involving taking care of other peoples children as a platform to do what he/she wants with the children without the expressed approval of the organization & the parents.  

What you do with your children is up to you.  What you do with other peoples children is not entirely up to you.

It's your bigger premise that's wrong--that D&D is dangerous, risky, possibly damaging, etc. In your initial post, you didn't primarily take issue with his procedure for obtaining parental permission; you said blatantly false and misleading things like "Childrens (sic) minds are too vulnerable" and wrongly depicting playing D&D as precluding outdoor play; worst of all, you implied that the sort of mild violence built into D&D was damaging, and topped it off by hinting that playing D&D reduced a child's ability to develop "exceptable (sic)" social behavior.

And to top it off, the original poster didn't even say he hadn't obtained parental permission. Maybe he has.

Let's stop jumping to conclusions and promoting a pack of 80s-style myths and lies about the "dangers" and "risks" of D&D. 
Wow, I didn't even notice the acceptable behaviour section. That makes the post a whole lot worse, especially coming from a player.

"Encouraging your players to be cautious and risk-averse prevents unexpected epic events and-well-progress at a decent pace in general."-Detoxifier

"HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA NOT REGENERATING DUE TO FIRE" -iserith 

"If snapping a dragon's neck with your bare hands is playind D&D wrong, then I don't want to play D&D right." -Lord_Ventnor

It's your bigger premise that's wrong--that D&D is dangerous, risky, possibly damaging, etc. In your initial post, you didn't primarily take issue with his procedure for obtaining parental permission; you said blatantly false and misleading things like "Childrens (sic) minds are too vulnerable" and wrongly depicting playing D&D as precluding outdoor play; worst of all, you implied that the sort of mild violence built into D&D was damaging, and topped it off by hinting that playing D&D reduced a child's ability to develop "exceptable (sic)" social behavior.

And to top it off, the original poster didn't even say he hadn't obtained parental permission. Maybe he has.

Let's stop jumping to conclusions and promoting a pack of 80s-style myths and lies about the "dangers" and "risks" of D&D. 



I apologize if my 1st post was mis-leading to you.  I didnt mean it precludes outdoor activity.  What I meant was in the context of parental expectation of what their kids be doing at a scout camp.  In that light, "dangers" & "myth" of DnD for kids isn't for you, me or anyone else to define and implement to other peoples kids while holding a position of authority in an organization such as Boy Scouts. Its for the kids parents to decide. They may not want it for their kids.  Simple.  How we feel about it is irrelevant.  

I am not saying DnD is bad for kids.  I'm just saying before the OP implements a DnD game to kids placed in his care at the camp, he should seriously get the approval from the person in charge (organizational approval) & in turn organization can inform parents and/or obtain consents or what have you.  Not everyone is DnD fan after-all, and parents didn't sign their kids up to Boy Scouts to learn DnD, or expect them to even take a "guess" at it.  
I do believe 4e had a simplified rules package published in one of the Ezines for use with younger kids. Might want to look into that if you're gonna introduce them to the rules sets. The complexity would also allow the shorter time frame a bit of leeway as well. Aside from that, one of the board games might be a better idea than one of the systems itself. Either one of Ravenloft or Ashardalon is simple enough to grasp if there's a rules jockey to help through the chunky bits.

Hope this helps. Happy Gaming
Please see the edit to the OP. please know that this is an opt in activity. i am by no means forcing them to do anything. remember i know these children, and thier parents, i belive i can explain things so they get it. I mearly want advice on the DM style or edition advice.

on that note. thanks ToeSama for your input, 4th is looking like the easier one to run i think.
Please see the edit to the OP. please know that this is an opt in activity. i am by no means forcing them to do anything. remember i know these children, and thier parents, i belive i can explain things so they get it. I mearly want advice on the DM style or edition advice.

on that note. thanks ToeSama for your input, 4th is looking like the easier one to run i think.

I am also a Scout Leader (in the UK) and do not see any issue with what you have proposed. As long as you have consent, it isn't interupting you pack meetings and you have been upfront with the parents about what the group is going to do how is it any differnt to any other club? As far as I can see it looks like ou have made a Dnd club for kids rather than an add on to Scouts.

On to you original question..

I don't see vast issues with 4th.  Just keep the level low so they are not overwhelmed with a massive list of powers.

Also think about party balance. I know when I was that age I wouldn't have wanted to play anything but a striker (and know adults that are still like that) but as you say you know the kids so know if someone is going to be happy being a cleric. If there are not don't have a leader and have lots of potions.

Maybe look at the E-Classes as they are reall easy to play as mostly work off MBA's to a certain degree.

Also if you know there is one kids who's math isn't as hot as the others maybe have his PC's attack modifier +10 so it is easy for him.

Also try and get input from the kids, if hey wanna fights orcs because they have seen and love LOTR, fight Orcs. The more input that they give you that you put in will get them to want to join in more and suggest other things to add (BTW this advise isn't just for DM'ing Kids!)

P.S Good Luck

 As a parent of 4, I can say unequivocally that 9 is not too young to play.  My older 2 started playing at 8 and 11, and have had not problems with 4e what so ever.  The next one, still in preschool, will be playing as soon as she can handle reading, or mostly reading, a power card.


The only thing I would say, is to remember your audience in the game.  Require all characters to be good alignment and avoid any sexual themes and things like torture.  Think about Disney movies when you design the game.


Also, given the time frame, combats that don't require all mobs to die to win might not be a good idea - like say, if half the goblins die and the leader is bloodied, they all turn an run away.


Another thing is that you have a bunch of blank slates before you.  How you run the game is going to make an impression on them for a long time to come.  Kids can be very creative.  Saying "yes" or "yes and ..." as much as possible is going to be very rewarding for you and them.  Encourage improvisation and reward creative play.  I wouldn't make it a complete sandbox, because the often need some direction, but a certain amount of open endedness would be good.  Also at the end of every session, have the kids nominate and vote a couple of rewards - 2 I like are Moment of Glory and Moment of Mercy.  Moment of Glory going to the player that did the coolest or winningest thing, Moment of Mercy going to the player who did something particularly compassionate or helpful for another player, NPC, or even bad guy.  As the weeks go by, try and make sure that the same players aren't getting these over and over and that they get spread around, maybe by suggestion or whatnot.


If you have access to some of the past D&D Encounters season, that might be a good place to start - Lost Crown of Neverwinter or Beyond the Crystal Cave are both pretty decent - because they are designed as more short sessions.


There is a D&D Parents group on these forums where you might get some more advice on play with kids.  It's not a very active part of the forum, but I bet If you put the question there you would definitely get some very good feedback.


Best of Luck,


TjD

I am an Asst Den Leader for my son's cubscout den.  He is 9 years old and I have started running a small D&D campaign for him 4 months ago.  Albeit that isn't a lot of experience with DMing for kids but I do have some perspective on both DMing for kids and scouting.

I agree that 9 years old is definitely NOT too young.  My son picks it up no problem and he has a blast.  He's always asking me when we can play next.

From a scouting standpoint, my understanding is that the OP is not having this as a scouting activity.  As stated by someone else before, this is basically a D&D club just like any other after school club.  So if the parent understands what the club is all about, they can then make the decision as to whether or not they want their child to be part of it.

As far as which edition to use, I think 4e is probably the best to go with for right now.
Whatever edition you play, please read over the sections in the 4th Edition DMG about "interesting failure" (it's in the skill challenge section, but applies to any kind of encounter, if you let it) and saying "Yes, and...." Then read what the 4th Edition DMG 2 has to offer about collaborative storytelling. With these tools, you're on track for being able to show these kids what roleplaying games are about. Downplay (or eliminate entirely) concerns about characters using player knowledge or otherwise "metagaming." Instead, embrace it and make it another tool you and the players can use to enhance your game, rather than something that needs to be quashed.

Bottom line: trust is the name of the game. "HELP other people" is part of the Cub Scout promise, and holding and earning trust is an important part of that. Show them that when you can trust them and they can trust you and each other, that the game can become much more than its rules. Blocking ideas, tricking players, and keeping things secret are all antithetical to this, and I think young kids will lose interest if those approaches are taken.

Finally, see if any aspects of roleplaying (such as "Yes, and..." which is a core tenet of improv theater) can help them earn Cub Scout accomplishments.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Thank you Tom for your edition.  Smile
FYI I have a friend who brings his 10 year old son to our games time to time.  I didn't like it, but he wanted his son to play.  So we allowed it but made major adjustments.  We treated the game sort of Disney & hero theme, and rest of us adults behaved.  We play 4e.  Really is one of the best, easiest system. 

We play paragon level and with the varied encounter, daily powers it can be confusing for beginner kid so what we did for his son was, we made a stream down version of his charactor.  Made his charactor with 1-At Will, 1-Encounter (recharge at 4-6 on 1d6), and 1-daily as encounter, 1-utility as Daily.  This made it easy enough and he was able to jump right in quickly, picking his actions by himself out of the 4 choices he had.

Kids out of their pure innocence can be actually more mean & brutal then adults.  Ever watch kids play in play ground?  They can be mean towards each other not knowing they are being mean, and adults constantly have to keep them in line, how to treat or not to treat other kids.  What's right & wrong etc.  Share your toys what have you...  Don't push or hit...Go apologize etc. 

So it is in the game as well.  Gave my friend's kid a barbarian and a big axe and all he wanted to do was break everything, hit things, "I want to kill it!" all the time.

So we also made sure to keep him in line, and npc's respond accordingly.  We really had to cater our game for him so he can have fun but also maintain acceptable behavior in game, no different then out of game.

Sometimes as adults we can forget where we came from, & how impressionable our minds were when we were that age.  We quickly realized running a game with a kid wasn't just about having "fun".  You can do whatever you want that you can't do in RL thing like how us adults play.  We really had to cater our game for my friend's son.  But it was the sacrifice our table was willing to make for him to participate, and we didn't mind.

His kid came 1st, before our adult fun so heh.





I have started playing with my 7 and 9 year old. They both love it. I make sure that they do all of the math themselves so they can learn and I try to give just enough direction where they have to think about their options. During battles, they have learned about strategy and using the tools at their disposal and teamwork.

We are not graphic in the story telling. We do not talk a lot about blood and all that. The game is no more violent than when we play Risk and conquer countries. The attacks are played as slapstick more than violent. Some of the skill check encounters are played for maximum entertainment value. PCs slipping on ice and such.

The biggest challenge I have is the differences between my boys. One is into all aspects of the game. He likes getting the new powers and collecting gold and items and leveling up and doing the role playing. My youngest is the Slayer of the group. He will get bored with the talky talky and just wants to get to the monster fighting. So I make sure there are enough battles to keep him entertained. I might throw in a random animal attack if I see him getting bored.

The game is all about spending time together and I love seeing them work stuff out.
After seeing them online and thinking they were awesome, I'd highly recommend these premade character sheets: jamesstowe.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/dnd-fo...

Just print them out and let the kids pick one they like.
I think kids that age are old enough to make their own choices, and that as a society we are too scared or ill-informed about what kids actually see and experience.

So to the OP, please do entertain these kids with what I consider an innocent game, that teaches them to play together, some basic math, think on their feet.


Having said all that, I would suggest you stick with 4e. More than likely, for the first couple of sessions, you will have to memorise not only the story, but also each and every character sheet.
(do go with premades, even if you have to prep 15 of em. That also gives you control of reflavoring some of the darker stuff)     
I had the opposite experience of Centauri. I began playing at an early age with my much older uncle as DM. He let us know what our characters knew but kept secret from us things our characters did not know. Many of our adventures were dungeon crawls where there were many secret tunnels that involved interacting with the environment. Rather than saying, "There's a secret door in the room," my uncle would say something like "The walls of the damp cellar are covered with a dark green moss except in one spot in the middle of the opposite wall, well above eye level where there is a very big handprint."

Discovering such mysteries was a big part of the fun for my brothers. Many of the challenges he created could often be overcome with creative uses of our equipment, meaning we weren't just writing them down for our health. When we went into one of his dungeon, we knew we'd have to be prepared.

As far as editions go, there are plusses and minuses with each system.

Second edition is I think a very simple version of the game but has some really quirky mechanics.

3.0 has better mechanics but quirky rules scattered everywhere.

3.5 has better mechanics and many of the quirky rules were eliminated... also the layout of the books are better organized. Characters are customizable in a systematic way. It's pretty easy to simplify any rules that become over-complicated by simply setting a difficulty number and having the player make a check. This is the one I recommend; there are actually simplified versions of the various rules intended for younger players but I think they were designed with younger DMs in mind.

4th edition is enjoyed by some people as well, although I'm not one of them. I felt like this version actively did everything it could to alienate people who enjoyed playing dungeons and dragons by eliminating aspects which required problem-solving and learning how to deal with setbacks. Much of the advice given in editions prior to this one have stood the test of time. The 1st edition DMG is still worth a read from time to time. Much of what is advised in 4th edition is workable only for a small subset of players with a specific play style or people who haven't already tried the recommended play style "ages" ago and discovered that (at least for them/us) its flaws outweighed its merits. Bad advice and philosophy wouldn't be enough to avoid this edition, but these concepts sneak into the rules as well. Otherwise, mechanically, 4th isn't drastically different than 3.0 or 3.5... a high roll is good; a low roll is bad generally. Positive modifiers are good and negative modifiers are bad. It's difficult to make a critique without appearing overly negative. These boards have plenty of 4th edition fans, I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to their positive review since I was disappointed in the edition.

I figure the kids are going to have a blast no matter which edition you pick.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
4th edition is enjoyed by some people as well, although I'm not one of them. I felt like this version actively did everything it could to alienate people who enjoyed playing dungeons and dragons by eliminating aspects which required problem-solving and learning how to deal with setbacks. Much of the advice given in editions prior to this one have stood the test of time. The 1st edition DMG is still worth a read from time to time. Much of what is advised in 4th edition is workable only for a small subset of players with a specific play style or people who haven't already tried the recommended play style "ages" ago and discovered that (at least for them/us) its flaws outweighed its merits. Bad advice and philosophy wouldn't be enough to avoid this edition, but these concepts sneak into the rules as well. Otherwise, mechanically, 4th isn't drastically different than 3.0 or 3.5... a high roll is good; a low roll is bad generally. Positive modifiers are good and negative modifiers are bad. It's difficult to make a critique without appearing overly negative. These boards have plenty of 4th edition fans, I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to their positive review since I was disappointed in the edition.



Edition warring? Right here? In front of the children? You monster.

Maybe you should give 4e another try sometime. There is no lack of problem-solving or setbacks in our games. It's a simple matter of the DM creating challenges but leaving the solutions to the players and making failure both interesting and consequential. That's edition neutral and 4e does nothing on its own to negate those aspects.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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4th edition is enjoyed by some people as well, although I'm not one of them. I felt like this version actively did everything it could to alienate people who enjoyed playing dungeons and dragons by eliminating aspects which required problem-solving and learning how to deal with setbacks. Much of the advice given in editions prior to this one have stood the test of time. The 1st edition DMG is still worth a read from time to time. Much of what is advised in 4th edition is workable only for a small subset of players with a specific play style or people who haven't already tried the recommended play style "ages" ago and discovered that (at least for them/us) its flaws outweighed its merits. Bad advice and philosophy wouldn't be enough to avoid this edition, but these concepts sneak into the rules as well. Otherwise, mechanically, 4th isn't drastically different than 3.0 or 3.5... a high roll is good; a low roll is bad generally. Positive modifiers are good and negative modifiers are bad. It's difficult to make a critique without appearing overly negative. These boards have plenty of 4th edition fans, I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to their positive review since I was disappointed in the edition.



Edition warring? Right here? In front of the children? You monster.

Maybe you should give 4e another try sometime. There is no lack of problem-solving or setbacks in our games. It's a simple matter of the DM creating challenges but leaving the solutions to the players and making failure both interesting and consequential. That's edition neutral and 4e does nothing on its own to negate those aspects.

I probably should have just stopped at "I recommend 3.5 because..." and let someone else say "I like 4e because..."  but c's post about "what roleplaying games are about" needed a counterpoint, since he and i seem to get enjoyment from very different aspects of the game.

How's this...

Buy them all! Each one has pros and cons. Try every edition until you find the one that's right for you!

A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
If you can get your hands on AD&D books, that is 1st edition, then that would probably be the easiest to play.

There were no skills, no feats, no domains, no opportunity attacks, no extra stuff.

Races were few.
Humans were the only race that can excel in levels.

Warriors used all weapons and armor if they were proficient in it, no other skills other than chopping and bashing
Clerics wore armor, used blunt weapons, turned undead, and cast spells
Mages wore no armor, cast spells from a book, and had fun with wands and staves.
Thieves wore light armor, enjoyed cool backstabs and had set skills.
Monks were lame for a long time until they got better skills in later level.
Bards were the optional class back then.

XP was based on kills and number of gold pieces found and taken.
Magic items were plentiful.
+2 weapons were not dangerous over +1 weapons like 3.5e and 4e with level requirements.

It was a rough around the edge type fo D&D but easy to play.