Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kids, why playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple rules, went through the Introduction of the simple rules with you and walked you through the first section of the simple rules. Today I am going to talk about the first step in creating a character for the game which is choosing a race. I will also talk about role playing a Dwarf.
There are a ton of choices when it comes to choosing a race for a Dungeons & Dragons character. It can be overwhelming for a kid, especially if you aren’t familiar with what each one is. The most common race in D&D is by far the human race. This is easily relatable to any human because, well, we are all human. But, for kids this may be dull. In each of my posts for a while, I will be delving into the separate races listed in the basic rules and talking about any unique challenges or benefits when it comes to role playing with kids. There’s really no limit on what kind of creature a player can be in the game, but the ones most commonly played do have a set of rules around them. Like anything in the game, you can change and adapt them to suit your campaign.
One thing I would recommend as a Dungeon Master when playing with kids, is to make sure to let there be all kinds of races show up in your world. The kid doesn’t have to play a fantasy race, like a gnome, to enjoy the fact that they are there. Just like in the real world, in fantasy settings, the larger the city, the more kinds of people you are bound to find there. So, even if none of your players are non-humans, be sure to include some characters that are. There can of course be sections or areas that are dedicated to say, only dwarves, but make sure that lots of creatures get encountered by the kids. It can be fun to play into what is expected with these characters but it can also be really fun to play against type. A half-orc that cries whenever it gets a paper cut? That is great and can make for a ton of fun role playing opportunities. Just keep in mind that whatever, “race” the character belongs to is not the only definition of that character.
No group in this game should be a complete monolith, even though certain races tend to have certain traits as described by the rules. The same thing goes when considering gender. A boy does not have to role play a male character and a girl does not have to role play a female character. And although, this comes up less when it goes to role playing with kids, this goes for sexual orientation as well. Just be mindful of how you want to play but just as in real life, there is no one right way to be someone.
Before we get into role playing a Dwarf, we need to talk a little bit about the mechanics of Racial Traits. The rules as set out, give each race some things that are common to members of that race. This doesn’t mean you have to use it, it’s just shorthand for role playing.
Briefly I will talk about Ability Score increases, Age, Alignment, Size, Speed, Languages and Subraces.
Ability Score Increase
When making a character, everyone has ability scores. These were listed in the simple rules and in the last post I wrote for this series. It’s one of six things that a character can be good at. These include Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Just know that depending on what Race your kid decides to play, they may be better or worse at some of these things. As I go through each Race, I will tell you what is usually the increase that the character gets just for being that race. If you don’t want to have to do a lot of math in your character sheet, you can just let the kid know that their character is good at x because y race is usually good at that. Then make sure to mark off on the character sheet what thing the kid’s character is good at. (P.S. let me know if I should do a post with a walk through of a character sheet as I know those can be confusing)
In the simple rules, they tell you at what age each race is considered to be an adult. It’s very likely your kid will want to play an adult, but it’s also fine for their character to be a kid if that’s what they want. Just use common sense though. If an Elf is supposed to mature at 100 years old but your kid plays one who is fifty, they are not going to be as strong or as experienced as an older Elf. Same goes for any race, relative to their maturity. If your kids want to play an older person, depending on how old they are, they may be less strong than they would have when they were younger. Generally age is not too much of an issue when playing with kids, as long as no one is trying to play an infant or someone who is extremely elderly. I would give broad leeway to letting kids choose the age of their characters.
If you spend about five seconds researching Dungeons & Dragons you will see that there is a huge argument about alignment in the role playing community. Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s one of the aspects of the game that can be totally irrelevant at times and at times can make for great role playing opportunities.
Each race is supposed to have a tendency towards a certain alignment. If you want to keep that, feel free. If you want to just ignore alignment, sure but I will give one word of caution when it comes to kids. I would not recommend letting kids play into any evil alignments. It gets too morally gray and messy. For adults, this can be hugely entertaining. And while kids are not necessarily thinking about the world in strict terms of good and evil, it can be difficult for them to navigate in a role playing setting.
I am sure that there are plenty of kids who would be fine with playing a chaotic evil character and have a blast doing it and have no problems outside of the game with it. But I recommend against it for two reasons. One, the point of the game is to get to be the hero of the story and that’s what most kids want in the first place. That’s pretty difficult when you are committing acts of evil in the game. Two, it can cause huge problems with the other players. If you have two kids who are being, “the good guys” and one who is, “the bad guy,” you are just inviting arguments. To me it makes more sense to simply, not consider alignment at all, and kind of operate on the assumption that your kids want to be heroes. As they get to be older, say 12 and above, then it makes more sense to bring alignment into the picture.
If you have read this and still have no idea what alignment is or why it is there, don’t worry. It’s not the most essential part of the game and it’s just there to kind of inform how a particular character might act in a given situation. That will change with every individual player anyway, so don’t stress too much about this part.
People come in all shapes and sizes. This is also true for fantasy creatures. Most of the races in Dungeons & Dragons are between 4-8 feet tall. There are a couple of smaller races that tend to be 2-4 feet tall. The main thing to know is if your character would be small, medium or large. This is strictly a height measurement for the game. You could have a large halfling, but that would be extremely rare and, honestly, I’m not sure how I would role play that. I guess like Buddy the Elf from Elf? Anyway, there are some rules that matter when it comes to size. It’s much harder for a halfling to wield heavy weapons and it’s a lot harder for a Half-Orc to hide. This doesn’t mean those things can’t be done, just that they are more difficult. For this part of character building, I would tend to stick to the book descriptions on size more for the rules that go along with it than anything. If you explain to a kid that halflings are small, but that they can easily hide from an ogre, they are going to understand that pretty quick.
This I would more or less strictly follow if you are planning on using miniatures in your game. If you are doing only theater of the mind, it’s a little less vital but you still need to know if the character can move a lot or a little each turn. Even if your kid can’t count past ten, you can have them know if their character is faster or slower than other characters.
This one can be a little tricky with kids. Each race has a particular set of languages that they can speak and write. These can be added to and changed around with the personalities and background section of the rules. Most of these are pretty obvious, a Dwarf speaks Dwarvish and an Elf speaks Elvish and a Halfling speaks Halfling. The player characters will also be able to speak common which is just the default language everyone talks. If you know Star Wars and that people speak different languages but almost everyone speaks basic, you can think of it like that. Common is essentially the basic way everyone communicates. However, if you plan on having a campaign that is just chalk full of Giants and you know that Giants don’t necessarily speak common, you need to do one of two things. You can either, just assume everyone in your campaign speaks basic so that you can role play with your kids or you can make absolutely certain that one or more player characters speaks Giant. With very young kids I would go with the first option, and with kids from say 7-12 I would go with the second option. Older kids can get into the fact that they may not necessarily understand everything that is said by a non-player character but younger kids might just get frustrated by that fact. It’s up to you how you handle this but think about whether even having different languages matters in your campaign.
Some races have subraces. In other words you could have a dwarf that is a hill dwarf or a mountain dwarf or something like that. Mostly this is just a bit of flavoring for role playing but it can be something to consider when building a character.
Role playing a Dwarf
Dwarves are bold and hardy. They tend to be tough warriors and skilled with their hands. They can live up to 400 years, so they take the long view when it comes to human friends that may only last a quarter or that time at best.
Dwarves can be stubborn and set in their ways, not just because that is who they are, but because they have been around a while and have a pretty good idea of what works and what does not. They also tend to remember it if you wrong them. Likewise they remember if you aid them. It usually is a good idea to be good to a dwarf.
Most dwarves are part of a clan and while they welcome outsiders who are friendly to them, there are things that dwarves never share. For example, dwarves who are good at crafting weapons may never share those secrets for fear that in the next century, humans might go to war with dwarves. Male dwarves tend to have beards and be as prideful of them as the hippest of hipsters. To cut the hair of a dwarf beard is not highly recommended.
Dwarves tend to be loyal to their friends but you really have to earn that loyalty. They are slow to trust, especially from a human point of view but they can make excellent allies.
Dwarves tend to become adventurers for a myriad of reasons, from just wanting to see more of the world, to finding a specific item for their clan.
I think the most typical trope you see about dwarves in fantasy role play is that they have a Scottish brogue. I for one, can not come even passably close to this accent. So when I role play a dwarf, I just tell people that they speak in a Scottish accent.
There are pretty handy suggestions for names in the simple rules for dwarves, just make sure you and your kids agree on how to pronounce it.
There are a few things you get for being a dwarf.
Ability Score Improvement
First your constitution score increases by 2. Or, if you don’t want to do the math, this is one of the things that dwarves are good at. That means it’s hard for them to get sick or poisoned, which can be greatly helpful in the game.
Dwarves are mature at around 50 years old and live to be between 350-400 years old.
Dwarves tend to be lawful but again see above for my thoughts on alignment. They also tend to have a sense of fair play so they are mostly good.
Dwarves are between 4 and 5 feet tall. This means they are medium sized for rules purposes.
Dwarves walk at 25 feet. That means for each turn that is how far they go. This is on the lower side of average so dwarves tend to be a little slower than some of the other races in the game.
One of the cool things about being a dwarf is that you can see in dark and dim lighting. If it’s dim light to everyone else, it’s bright light to you. If it’s dark to everyone else, it’s dim to you. That effect extends out 60 feet. But when you are in darkness, you can only see shades of gray and not colors.
Another great thing about being a dwarf is that you have advantage on saving throws against poison. And, you have resistance against poison damage. We’ll get more into what those things mean in later posts but just know that dwarves are pretty hard to poison.
Dwarven Combat Training
Dwarves are good at using battleaxes, handaxes, light hammers and warhammers. In other words, they are pretty deadly in a fight!
Dwarves can use smith tools, brewer’s supplies or mason’s tools. These are all tool sets that can come into play during a game but don’t necessarily. It’s up to you if you really want to get into these too much with kids.
Dwarves know about the history of stonework. There are some mechanical rules behind this but my rule is just that if a dwarf is looking at anything carved of stone, there’s a really good chance they know all about it.
Dwarves speak common and Dwarvish. If you do go with using languages one thing to note is that a lot of the other languages in the game tend to use Dwarvish characters so it is usually good to have someone who can read those symbols.
There are technically three subraces in the simple rules if you include Duergar. These are basically evil dwarves who live underground so might not be the best choice to role play with kids. It can work though if you make one of them a misfit who wants to go to the surface and do some good in the world.
As you might expect, these dwarves come from the hills. These dwarves get to increase their wisdom by 1 and their hit point maximum increases by 1, as well as increases by 1 with every new level. To boil that down, these dwarves are wise and hardy.
These guys are a little stronger than the other types of dwarves so they get to increase their strength score by 2. In addition, they have proficiency with light and medium armor, meaning they can use a lot of different defensive options to increase their armor class (how hard it is for an enemy to hit you).
Slick Dungeon’s tips on Dwarf characters
Now that you have read all that, feel free to throw as much of it as you want out the window. You can play a dwarf who has never done a days hard labor in his life if you want. You can be a dwarf who really loves climbing trees. If you are the Dungeon Master, I would recommend that you tend to have the dwarves be in several settings and have them all behave differently as people but maybe keep one thing in common with all of them. For my games, I tend to keep it that dwarves take huge offense to anyone insulting their clan or to anyone with the audacity to trim their beards. Other than that, I try to play them as individuals, but it’s up to you how you want it to be. If your kid is role playing a dwarf, I would have them look up dwarves in the rules, decide what they like about them, and keep that. Toss out the rest and fill it in with personality for the character.
Thanks for reading the post. I hope you got a couple of good tips out of this and I would love to hear how your games with kids go. Feel free to let me know in the comments.
Next time I will be writing about role playing an Elf.
This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!