Kids Kill Monsters – Why Kids Should Role Play

In my last post about Role Playing, I argued that parents should play Dungeons & Dragons with their kids. Today I am going to lay out why kids should role play. The posts after that will begin to show you how I role play with kids and some good strategies for preparing yourself to play with them.

What exactly is a Tabletop Role Playing Game?

In case you don’t know, a tabletop role playing game is usually played over a table. There is a Game Master or Dungeon Master who leads the narrative of a story. The rest of the players at the table create and play characters that act within that story. There are different rule sets for different games. Some are definitely easier than others to learn and play. For the purposes of these posts, the game I am going to focus the most on is Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the most popular and commonly known of all of the RPG’s and is extremely flexible, making it perfect for kids of almost any age to play.

Should kids play Dungeons & Dragons (or other tabletop RPGs)?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding yes. But don’t worry. I am going to give you some reasons why kids should play this game.

Imagination

Let me start with the obvious. Kids have huge imaginations. If you don’t believe me, ask any kid who is eight or under to tell you a story, any story. They can go on for hours about their favorite TV show characters, things they did on the playground, reasons their little sisters stink, or tell you all about some new species of butterfly they dreamed up. Role playing games let that imagination out.

When you play Dungeons & Dragons the whole point is to tell a story and it’s structured in such a way that kids can just roam free in a massive world in their own heads. They get to be the heroes of the story and feel good about the things they make up. It encourages dreamers and in point of fact, there are not enough dreamers in the world. We need kids to keep their imagination healthy. Dungeons & Dragons is a good, safe way to do this.

Socialization

The next reason kids should play this game has less to do with imagination and more to do with a vital life skill. Socialization. Kids playing this game learn how to socialize with others. That’s true whether they are playing with other kids, adults, or a combination of the two. Unlike a simple game of pretend, there are some rules about when you can do something. This helps kids to learn how to talk to others about what they are doing and be aware of what others are doing. It helps them learn to play cooperatively with other members of their group. And that can still be true, even if you are playing one on one. The Dungeon Master will almost always have at least some characters that the kid playing will need to get along with in order to accomplish a goal. While a game of pretend is extremely healthy for a kids imagination, a game of Dungeons & Dragons is healthy for their imagination and their empathy. That’s another thing we can always use more of in this world.

Problem Solving

Dungeons & Dragons also helps with problem solving skills. The game is set up so that there is almost always more than one way to solve a problem. There might be ten different ways to approach a nasty looking Ogre, from trying to attack it to offering it the hand of friendship in order to get the magic item the kids are looking for. That’s not to mention all the ways in between those extremes. Dungeons & Dragons constantly puts problems in front of kids and says to them, “What do you want to do?” The kids can experiment to see what works. They’ll quickly learn that one way of solving a problem doesn’t work for all problems.

Reading

If your child is of the age where they are starting to read or learning to read, Dungeons & Dragons can be an awesome tool to encourage that. You can have kids who are not able to read or don’t like to read still play Dungeons & Dragons (I’ll talk about how in a future post). But for kids who are able to read at least something, if you can get them invested in your Dungeons & Dragons world, they will want to know more about it. What’s a great way to learn more? Yep. Reading. And there is a vast wealth of reading materials for Dungeons & Dragons. I know you are all probably picturing the huge hardback books with pictures of monsters on the covers. Sure, there are those to read but those books do take a bit of good comprehension to really understand. Thankfully, there are books about Dungeons & Dragons geared toward younger kids. And even if you don’t want to have them read those, you can always give them a simple story about something in the Dungeons & Dragons world you created that they can read. I will go over how to approach some of the reading challenges that come up in later posts but just know that playing D&D absolutely makes kids want to read more. And any time you can do that, it’s a win for everyone.

Math

Okay, here is where a lot of parents get tripped up. They think that Dungeons & Dragons might take pre-calculus level math in order to play well. Why else would there be so many rules, so many oddly shaped dice and so many mentions of numbers any time you see someone playing Dungeons & Dragons? While it’s true that there are numbers involved and there is no way of completely getting around this, if your kid can count to 10, or even better 20, she has enough math skills to play this. And guess what? They will learn a little bit of basic addition and subtraction if they don’t already know it. But what about all those rules and things? How can they play if they don’t know all those? They don’t have to. You need to know some of them for sure, but the kids just need to know how to tell when something good or bad happens in the story. As long as they can count to 10, we can make sure they know.

Fun

To me, this is the most obvious reason to do anything with kids. It’s fun. It’s really fun. Did I mention that this game is fun? Don’t believe me? Give it a try and get back to me. I will admit that not everyone is as nerdy as I can be. Some people are just never, ever going to think it’s cool to pretend to be a wizard who is trying to stop an evil dragon from taking over the world. That’s fine. I’m sure there are other things you find fun. But check with your kids if they want to play this. Give it a shot. You might be highly surprised by the fact that once you start, not only is your kid having fun but so are you. What do you have to lose?

You convinced me, what’s next?

There’s probably a lot of you out there thinking, “But I have no idea what to do to play this game.” Not to worry, your pal Slick has you covered. My next post will be about how to prepare yourself for playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids. I’ll be honest, there is going to be some work involved on your part. You’ll need to put in some effort, but probably not as much as you think. I will point you to some great resources and I have a whole lot of tricks up my sleeve to make your life easier when you play this game with your kids. The point really is to have fun, not make it a headache. For a lot of the stuff I am going to write about, I’ve already had the headaches but I think I can keep you from experiencing the same. See you next time!

Enthusiastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – Role Playing Games with Children

Hi out there internet people, Slick Dungeon here. This post is going to be a little off topic from the usual for my blog but I promise I will get back to my review of terrible movies and books nearly no one is reading in the upcoming posts. I just had a thought and wanted to share it with all of you lovely people out there.

When I was a kid, there was a game that a few of us quirkier kids played called Dungeons and Dragons. My bet is that you have most definitely heard of this game. This was back when I was in elementary school and people basically knew only two things about it. One, it was for nerds. And two, there was a lot of math involved and maybe some Satan worship, depending on who you were talking to. Now, with constant streaming of content like Critical Role or Acquisitions Inc, the newfound inclusivity of the game, and celebrities talking about it at the drop of a hat, this thing couldn’t be more popular. In addition, you definitely don’t have to be a nerd or a math whiz to play it.

As much as I love Critical Role, Acquisitions Inc, the D&D references on Stranger Things and the celebrity endorsements, one thing has been bugging the heck out of me about all this for a while. Almost every one of those things is made for adults. Sure, kids of a certain age can watch Stranger Things and depending on how you want to raise your kids you might be perfectly fine with letting your eight year old watch Critical Role, f-bombs included. No judgement from me if that’s your parenting style.

When I was a kid, my dad had no problem with me watching R-rated films and reading plenty of Stephen King novels, but for Dungeons and Dragons I had to do that at someone else’s house. Why? Basically at that time adults didn’t really understand the game. They seemed to think it was either the work of the devil or just some incomprehensible fad that kids were into.

As an adult, I wanted to get to share my love of Role Playing games with my son. I have played countless sessions with him and his friends for years. It’s easy to get lost in the game and have a true bonding experience with your children through Dungeons and Dragons or other RPGs like it. But, when he asked me if there were podcasts or YouTube streams where he could watch, there was a lot of content that made me straight up uncomfortable with allowing him to view it.

It’s almost as if the whole idea of this game being one for kids that adults don’t understand has completely turned around into an adults only arena.

Well, I am here to tell you that it’s not just for adults and that if you are a parent, you should absolutely learn to play an RPG for an awesome day of family fun.

Sure, you can have a great time with your buddies, maybe with some adult beverages and snacks on hand, and come up with awesome adventures but do me a favor and at least try to get your kids in on this with you.

I’ve had a lot of parents tell me that they have a kid who really, really wants to play D&D but they just can’t get their friends into it. To which I reply, “Why don’t you play it with them?” The answers usually come in one of two varieties. It’s either, “I don’t have the patience to learn that.” Or, “My kid wouldn’t want to play that with me but I remember enjoying it in college.” My replies to that are, yes you do and, your kid does too want you to play this with you, and it will be even more fun than when you did this in college.

As far as patience goes, if you have ever in your life finished one complete game of Monopoly, you have the patience for Dungeons and Dragons. Sure, there’s some reading involved for you to understand how the mechanics of the game work, but you can also change and simplify those rules if you want to. It says so right in the rule book itself!

To the second point, if your kid is actively telling you that they want to play Dungeons and Dragons but they don’t have someone to play it with, here is what they are really saying, “Please play this with me and teach me how to play it.”

I guarantee you that whatever wild adventures you thought you came up with in your adults only group are not even half as creative as what your kid can come up with. I honestly thought I had seen it all until my son, playing a Halfling Rogue, proposed marriage to a Hobgoblin as a distraction and then attempted to sell cheese to a Hill Giant in order to avoid an attack. This stuff blows my mind every single time we play. Your kids are going to come up with insanely creative things too.

A more rare comment I get is, well is Dungeons and Dragons really worth all that time? I mean my kids are busy with sports, school and then they just want to play MarioKart all night. I can relate to all of that. MarioKart is awesome and who would want to put that down? But you know what? Role playing games are really, really healthy for a kid’s social interaction skills. Letting kids play a role of being someone that they are not helps them to accept themselves for exactly who they are. I don’t think there is a better gift a parent can give than that.

The next argument against playing this with kids is the fact that right on the starter set it says this is for kids 12 and up. Well, kids 12 and up enjoy it, sure, but you know what? Much younger kids can play this too. In fact, I can tell you how to make this work for a kid who doesn’t like to read, hates doing math, and would rather shove a pound of broccoli down their throat than put down a video game controller. I know, because I have done it.

That’s not to mention the fact that there are now books, games and other cool things being made for kids under 12 to let them in on the whole RPG fad. D&D can (depending on the kid) be good for kids even as young as 4. It’s more about how you play with them than what their age is.

I hope that in the near future we get more of this kind of content because I would seriously love to see more (for lack of a better term) family friendly or kid appropriate content. I know that a lot of people don’t want kids involved in this game and do want to just see the Matt Mercers of the world DM epic campaigns that have tons of innuendo and profanity. I have no gripe with anyone wanting that. What I do have a problem with is cutting kids (or anyone else really) out of this game.

So, for my part what I want to do is a series of posts about why and how you should play tabletop RPGs with kids. Or at least enable your kids to play them on their own. And heck, while you are at it, maybe you’ll make a YouTube stream that my kid can watch once you give it a try.

I have a whole system I developed that I can share with you for ways to play Dungeons & Dragons with kids, what the benefits of that are, and how to overcome some of the mistakes I made at first. But before I do that, I want to know if this something people out there would be interested in.

There might be a big portion of people out there who just want me to stay in my lane and write about cult cinema and do book reviews. You know what? I am perfectly fine doing that and I will keep doing that either way. There also might be a good chunk of people thinking, hey don’t you review a lot of horror films and stuff that my kid probably shouldn’t see? Yes, yes I do. But I also play a LOT of Dungeons & Dragons with kids and never once did I have to resort to horror film reviewing tactics to make it fun for them.

So, what do you think? Let me know in the comments if you would like me to post more about Dungeons & Dragons, Role Playing games and how to make it work for you and your kids. Just keep it family friendly, whether you are a Half-Orc Barbarian or a Gnome Paladin. I can honestly talk about this stuff for days on end but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear what I have to say. Just let me know either way.

Imaginatively yours,

Slick Dungeon