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, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf and role playing a halfling. Today we are going to talk about the easiest and hardest lesson all of us have to learn, how to be a human.
You would think that role playing a human would come naturally and easily to everyone. After all, we are all human (I assume) so it should come naturally. On the other hand, if you play a human that means you have the entirety of human experience to draw from. That’s a pretty large pool of experience. This can be hard to manage if you are an adult. I have good news for you though, it comes pretty naturally to kids. Kids understand what humans are because, well, they are also human (most of the time anyway). Some kids are just not into being an elf, dwarf, dragonborn, etc. There’s no problem with that because those children can play humans. The challenge for them might come into how humans relate to the other creatures in the game. It’s pretty easy for a human to forget how old and elf is, or for them not to understand that the reason a dwarf is angry at them has to do with something their great grandfather might have done.
Even in the game rules as set out, humans are everywhere. While there might be a few places you find few or none, most places in the game settings tend to have humans. If you want to experiment with that and have it be that humans are their own little civilization far apart from the rest of the creatures in the game, you are welcome to do that. The opposite is true, you can have humans just be everywhere all the time. That’s the way it usually is in my game. While orcs or elves or whatever might have a general attitude towards humans, each individuals’ opinion of them will vary. Not all orcs and humans have to hate each other, even though that’s the typical way it plays out. In fact it usually is the case that some humans and orcs get along because otherwise there would be no half-orcs. How you want to play that is up to you.
In the rules humans are not as specialized as the other playable races we will talk about. There’s not one skill that you can say, all humans are really good at that thing. So instead, they get to have all of their stats increase by one instead. There is a way you can change that with a variant rule where humans would instead be better at two abilities, one skill, and take what is called a feat. Feats are some kind of awesome thing that you can get to do in certain situations. Some dungeon masters absolutely hate these and will ban them from their game. Personally, I think they are pretty nifty, depending on what they are, and I love letting my players use them, but that’s just me. Just know that if you decide you want to let your kids take a feat, you should read what it is and see if it will completely interfere with what you think should happen in the game. Make sure you let your kid know why you are or are not letting them take that feat. For the purposes of the rest of this post, I am going to assume that you are not doing the variant rule but if you need to know more about that variant rule, check the text box in the basic rules, look at the feats, and then treat the human in the same way we did all the other playable races we have talked about.
Before I get into all the score increases etc., let me just give a word on names and locations that are listed in the rules. There is a whole section of names, and made up locations in the entry on humans in the basic rules. If you want to use those, absolutely knock yourself out. Personally, as a dungeon master, I have a really hard time keeping track of what human might be a Tethyrian vs a Reshemi vs an Illuskan etc. They give a bit of description and location as well as name suggestions for each human area in the game. Here’s what I do with that when I am playing with kids. I ignore that section. I mean, I do sometimes take the names out of those sections if I need to name a character or something but I don’t memorize all the rest of it. I figure that humans are everywhere and I can name my human any name from any human I want to. While playing with adults it might feel silly to name a character Jeff, just Jeff, kids will not mind this sort of thing at all. It’s all to your taste as a dungeon master. One thing I will recommend when it comes to names, and this goes for any non-playable character you have, don’t make the name one that is too difficult for your kids to pronounce. What those names are will vary kid by kid but it can be frustrating when they are trying to talk to someone and can’t say the name. If you do go with a name that is tough to say, maybe consider a nickname they can be addressed by as well.
One more note, some people will say that wanting to play a human fighter is boring and the most basic thing you can do in the game. Here’s why that is wrong. First, wanting to play a human fighter doesn’t mean you are boring, it means that… you want to play a human fighter. You know what’s wrong with playing a human fighter? Nothing if that’s what you want to play. Some of the mechanics are easier than other race/class combinations in the game but there’s still plenty of cool stuff to do with a fighter. Don’t discourage a kid from playing that if that’s what she wants to be in the game.
Now onto the traits
There are a few things you get for playing a human.
Ability Score Increase
Your ability scores increase by 1. That’s all six scores. Most other races only get one or two things to increase here.
Do I really have to explain how humans age? I mean, think of humans. They are somewhere in that age range. Playing a 100 year old human is going to look a lot different than playing a 15 year old human.
Humans come in all variations of good to terrible people. As usual, my recommendation here is to let kids play the hero. If they are really wanting to play an evil character, I would recommend telling them no in this instance. Most kids want to be the hero and having an evil character makes that very difficult for the rest of the people playing.
Again, do I need to explain human size here? People come in shapes from Danny Devito to Shaquille O’neal. There is no right or wrong shape to play so let the kids have their characters look the way they want them to. For fame rule purposes, whether you are very small or very tall, your size is always considered medium.
While you might make the argument that humans can be faster or slower than this, the movement speed for humans is 30 feet.
Humans are able to speak Common and any one other language. Humans do tend to know a little bit of everything so if you want to have a human character speak more, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do. Also, as I have said before in earlier posts, if you have a campaign that is going to be dominated by one language, Giant, for example, make sure that your kids characters speak that. If you have a human character, that’s usually a good character to have speak any language needed.
Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Being Human
Kids are generally pretty good at being humans. They understand human emotions and attitudes because they have felt them. What can be tougher, really, is how kids who play humans relate to kids who play other playable races. Try to have kids remember that humans don’t live that long compared to other playable races. The other thing that humans have going for them is that their institutions outlive them. They might not know all of the history of something that has happened in the game world, but humans make written records, long lasting structures and organizations that exist for centuries. For that reason, humans can find answers to things they were not around for. Have kids who play humans lean into this if possible. When an elf comments how a human is gone in the blink of an eye, they might reply that the organization they are working for will be there long after the elf is gone.
As always, it should be played more or less how the kids want to and how it works best for you. You can feel free to use all the tips I gave here or ignore them all, just do what works best for your kids.
Next time we will start getting into what are called, “uncommon races” starting with Dragonborn.
Until then, please, practice being a good human.
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