Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 6

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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 kidswhy 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 ruleswent 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 and role playing an elf. That makes today, Halfling day!

I’ll be honest here, unlike elves and dwarves and humans, there are just not a lot of examples of halflings to base your characters on. If you have read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, those are essentially your guides beyond what is available in Dungeons & Dragons. And there is a lot in common with both the Halflings in D&D and those that Tolkien created. I’ll go through what that typically means in a role playing sense but in my mind, I tend to just think of them as shorter, longer lived humans, who mostly prefer staying at home. So essentially, me when you get right down to it. These characters are pretty good for kids to role play because most kids can relate to a reluctant hero and being dismissed or ignored because they are too small to take much notice of.

One difference you do see between D&D halflings and Tolkien hobbits is that halflings in D&D can be nomadic. They still want to be at home for the most part, it’s just that home can move with them. Also, the D&D halflings are actually, shorter on average than hobbits are. They tend to be about 3 feet tall and weigh 40-50 pounds.

You might also be wondering why in D&D they are called halflings but in Lord of the Rings they are called hobbits. Let’s just say that it was a long drawn out legal issue and therefore in D&D we play as halflings but it’s totally okay if in your mind you pretty much think of them as hobbits.

Halflings tend to be cheerful and friendly. They are loyal to their friends, kind and sharing. They also tend to blend into just about any society or culture. In addition, they are good at stealth and hiding because, well, they are small and everyone underestimates them.

One of the tougher to solve riddles to me if you play a halfling is why they want to leave their homes. Sometimes it is because they are different from other halflings and don’t really belong. Others it is because they have an adventurous heart. To me the most interesting reason, though, would be that they want to protect their homes from something that threatens it. This is why Bilbo and Frodo leave their shire and it’s still a gripping narrative to latch onto even if you are a kid. It’s easy to understand how you would want to do that and how difficult it might be to set out in the first place.

If you are playing with a kid, I usually would recommend playing to the most obvious of halfling characteristics. They are curious, and love their homes, they love their family and friends, and sometimes, they want a little adventure, even if they may not be aware of it in the first place. That being said, there is no restriction against playing against type. You could play a halfling who just can’t wait to leave home, is hardly ever hungry and simply doesn’t like most people. It’s all in how you want to play it and I think halfing is one of the playable races that tends to be pretty flexible. The only problem is that like I said above, there are not tons of examples to point to. So if your kid wishes to be a halfling that is a little different, I would say have them think of a human character they like and then just give them the halfling traits.

Speaking of which, here they are.

Halfling Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a halfling

Ability Score Increase

Halflings get a Dexterity increase of 2. If you don’t want to have to do complex math with your kids, just let them know that halflings are fast and flexible. Dexterity is one of the six abilities their character will be good at.

Age

A halfling is an adult at 20 but can live to be around 200 years old. So there is a lot of life in these characters and depending on what age you play, they may have a very different outlook than a human.

Alignment

Halflings tend to be lawful good. That means they are going to follow rules and laws the majority of the time. But don’t feel like you or your kids have to stick to that. Sometimes, breaking a law, is a good act and that doesn’t make the halfling bad if it happens.

Size

Like I said above halflings are about 3 feet tall and don’t weigh a lot. They are pretty much human child size and can easily be mistaken for just that, especially on first glance. Mechanically speaking, in the game, your size is small.

Speed

Shorter legs means it’s a little harder to keep up with humans and elves. These creatures walk at a speed of 25 feet. Basically they can keep up with a party of humans and elves, but they are going to be at the back of the line.

Lucky

This is one reason any kid might choose to play a halfling. They are lucky. Who needs to be able to wield a heavy sword when you can just be lucky enough to be bending over at the right time when someone attacks you? And then lucky enough that your frying pan accidentally knocks them out. In most situations in the game, when a halfling rolls a 1, they get to reroll the die. They have to take the new number but it at least gives them a chance at something better than total failure.

Brave

They might be small but never let it be said that a halfling lacked in courage. They tend to be brave in circumstances that would leave most other people cowering. Because of this, when they have to roll to see if they are frightened, they get advantage. Don’t worry if you don’t know quite what that means yet. Basically, when something happens that could impose the “frightened” condition on a halfling, they get to roll the dice two times and take the higher number.

Halfling Nimbleness

If you are a halfling and you are up against any creature that is bigger than small, you get to move right through their space if you want to. Considering the fact that almost all monsters are at least medium size, this can be used to huge effect (pun intended) on the battlefield.

Languages

Halflings speak common and well… halfling. Halflings tend not to teach anyone other than a halfling the halfling language so that second language is only useful in pretty specific circumstances. Also, it’s generally not a language most other players take as one of their optional languages. Just be aware that there is a halfling language and halflings speak it.

Subraces

There are only two subraces for halflings in the basic rules which is kind of nice because that makes it easy to choose.

Lightfoot Halfling

This subrace of halflings is a little more spread out and just a bit more adventurous so you tend to encounter them more often. Because they are affable and friendly, and not an uncommon sight to most other creatures, they get to increase their charisma by 1. This comes in really handy when you are trying to sweet talk a dragon out of it’s treasure or trying to get the best deal from a merchant on a hunk of cheese.

In addition, these halflings are really stealthy. If there is a creature that is bigger than the halfing, they can hide behind it. And depending how intelligent it is, the halfling might even be able to hide behind the creature they are fighting. There has been more than one halfling who was able to fell an ogre because the ogre didn’t realize there was a halfling riding on its back.

Stout Halfling

Some say that these halflings have some dwarven blood in them. That might be why the special things they get are very similar to what dwarves have when it comes to resisting poison. They get to increase their constitution by 1. They also get to have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned and have resistance to poison damage. In other words, it’s pretty hard to poison these creatures.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Halfling Characters

Usually this spot is reserved for me telling you what I think works best for kids in playing whatever race they chose. In this case, I am instead going to give you a reading/viewing recommendation. Our model halflings pretty much come from The Hobbit in which our halfling plays the reluctant hero called to grand adventure and The Lord of the Rings in which our halfling plays the reluctant hero called to grand adventure in order to save the world. I highly recommend reading The Hobbit book to and with your kids at any age. It’s a beautifully crafted and fun story. The Lord of the Rings is extremely more complicated and for older kids is amazing. But it can be hard to wrap your head around if you don’t have the vocabulary for it. Both of these stories are essentially the hero’s quest story. Even if you have never read these stories, you’ve seen the hero’s quest. It’s what Percy Jackson does, it’s what Will in the Ranger’s Apprentice series does, and it’s what Luke Skywalker does in Star Wars. Here’s the one major difference between those series and the ones with halflings; the halflings don’t want to leave home but the others do. That’s it, it’s that simple. Now like I said, the halfling can be played a bunch of different ways so you don’t have to stick to what I recommend but if you want an iconic halfling to base a character around, choose between Bilbo and Frodo. Sam’s also great for his loyalty but there is a reason he is not the main character. He’s not called to adventure, he’s called to his friend. And for a kid, that can also be an absolutely wonderful motivation for his character to leave home. Let your kids imaginations go as far as they want for these creatures, and then just remember that they have specific halfling traits.

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 how to be human. It’s definitely something we all need a little practice with.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 1

Hello again, it’s me your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon. Today I want to talk to you about how to prepare yourself to DM with kids. Don’t know what a Dungeon Master is? No idea how to play this with kids? Not to worry, I have some tips and advice for you.

A couple things before we get started. These posts will be for the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. If you are new to the game that might not mean much to you but it’s important to know that there are different editions and that they have different rule sets. Fifth edition is especially flexible for kids because you can be a total beginner and pick it up pretty quickly. Most of the emphasis is on the narrative rather than number crunching so it’s better for kids in my opinion. Also, it’s the current edition that is out everywhere and is super popular with the masses right now.

First. let me start by saying that if you already know how to play Dungeons & Dragons and have been DMing for years, bear with me, this is going to look pretty familiar. However, I may have some tips for doing this with kids that you haven’t considered so it might be worth a read anyway. I am going to give you a few steps on how to prepare yourself. This will take some effort on your part but you can do it.

Know what Dungeons & Dragons is and is not

Dungeons & Dragons, aka DnD is a tabletop role playing game. It’s a shared narrative story where one person, the Dungeon Master, narrates the circumstances and referees how the game plays out based on a set of rules. It’s not a video game. It’s not story time (it’s a shared story where everyone participates). It’s not something every kid is going to want to do either. My first and most important bit of advice is this, never make a kid play Dungeons & Dragons if they don’t want to.

There are some adults out there who love role playing, or just want their kids to get in on this fad that all their other friends are playing. While I think most kids will love this game, given the opportunity to play it, if they are forced to when they don’t want to, they are going to walk away in frustration and no one is happy. And this is important, this includes in the middle of a session.

Nothing will frustrate a kid more than when they get bored with something and an adult forces them to carry on anyway. By that point you have lost them. And then you, as the adult are also frustrated and want to give the whole thing up, thinking that this kid is never going to be into this. That might be true. But you might just need to wait a few years after you blow it to try again. My advice? Less is more with kids. Leave them wanting a little more if you can, but don’t get upset if they decide they are done for now. Don’t take it personally and just give it some time.

Most of us who play Role Playing games understand what is called, “The Social Contract.” This is basically an agreement that everyone who is at the table to play is there because they want to be there. And that they will participate and, you know, not be jerks while playing. This is pretty easy for teens and adults to understand and if someone violates the social contract, everyone at the table knows it. With kids, especially young kids, this is different. I’ll go over how to set a social contract with kids in a later post but for now, remember this, if it doesn’t go great the first time, or the kid gets bored and leaves, you still have a good shot at bringing them back for more. If you force a kid to stay when they are over it, you are done and good luck getting that kid to come back again.

Know who does what at the table

Experienced Dungeon Masters, you know how this goes. For all you noobs out there, the people at the table are pretty straight forward. The Dungeon Master leads the game, knows the basic outline of the story and makes judgement calls based on what the characters are doing. The DM also controls the Non-player Characters (NPCs). Basically anyone the players meet that are not each other.

The rest of the people at the table are Player Characters. They get to invent and pretend to be the heroes of the story. Most kids are going to enjoy this role waaaay more than being a Dungeon Master. That’s not to say that there are not great kid DM’s out there, it’s just that most kids want to be in the action, doing the thing, rather than be the one looking up rules.

If a kid really wants to be the Dungeon Master, you might consider doing a short session with them where you basically DM together. Let them roll the dice, let them make some decisions but you are the one driving the story. If they love doing that and want to take over more from there, just help them along the way, depending on the age of the kid. The older the kid, the more likely they can handle actually being the Dungeon Master. Personally, I would say for the most part until kids are around 12, let them be the players.

Know the dice

Okay, really experienced game players are going to think this one is silly but we all had to learn this at some point. I am going to go over the dice, pictures and all just so you know what they are. You may or may not use all these dice depending on two things. 1. The age of the kid and how high they can count. and 2. What their characters are. You as the DM will probably use most of the dice at some point but there’s a couple that really are more important than others. I am going to show you the dice, lowest to highest. Basically, in the rules you will read that a situation calls for something like 2D6 + 2. What that means is that they want you to take two six sided dice, (you know like in Monopoly) and roll them. Then take the total and add 2 to it. But, kids don’t necessarily know which die is which. So here it is in pictures. Also, just a tip so pro-gamers don’t jump down your throat, the singular of dice is die. So if you are rolling 1D4, you are rolling a die, not a dice. People will call you out if you say it wrong, so teach your kids early.

D4

Top Read D4
Bottom Read D4

The above are D4’s. They are four sided dice shaped like pyramids. The tricky part about these is you can have either top read or bottom read D4’s. I gave you an example of each. Do you need to know which is which? Not really. Here’s what you need to know, can you read the number as it would be printed on a page? If so, that’s your result. This die is usually used to determine damage for the smallest weapons in the game.

D6

The D6 hardly needs an introduction. You’ve used this kind of die before in almost any normal board game that uses dice. This one is used for determining damage done by spells and weapons.

D8

The D8 can be read by seeing what number lies flat on the top. Kids will mistake this sometimes for the D4 or the D10. This die is used for determining damage, depending on the kind of weapon or spell involved.

D10

Again you read this die by seeing what number lands flat on the top. Depending on how good your kid is at counting, this might be your big die to use most often. Experienced gamers will use the D20 as the most commonly rolled die BUT if you kid can’t count that high, stop here. I’ll show you how to adjust your game to use nothing higher than a D10 in a future post. In most games this will determine damage done from specific weapons. But if your kid still needs to learn to do some counting, this is also going to operate along the lines of what the D20 die does.

D12

The D12 is mostly used for battle damage. Any barbarian in the game will LOVE this die because they use it all the time. Like the others you read it by seeing which number lands flat face up.

D20

The D20 is any table top role players favorite and most hated die. Why? Everything good or bad in the game comes down to how well this sucker rolls. Again you know what the result is by seeing the number that is flat on the top. This determines everything from who goes first in combat, if you can succeed dodging a falling rock, to dealing damage to a sworn foe. It can sometimes be used in mundane situations too, like finding out how many potions a merchant has on stock to buy. It’s the essential die in the game and it does help if your kid can count to 20. If not, we can still use the D10 for that but it’s going to take some adjustment.

Percentile Dice

Percentile dice are sometimes called for in the rules. You don’t have to have ones like the ones pictured above. In the ones above there is one, the one that has two digit figures on it that you use for the tens spot and one that only has single digits that you use for the ones spot. You can use two D10s instead as long as you know which one is going to be for the tens spot and which one for the ones spot, and don’t change them. Most often, I see these rolled on a table in preparation for the game rather than during a game but some instances can come up where you need them. To roll a 100 on these, all the numbers need to show up as 0. So if you have the kind like pictured above, it would read 00, 0 and if you use two D10s it will show 0, 0.

Know the rules

I’ve told you my first rule, don’t force a kid to play when they don’t want to. I’ve told you who is who at the table. I’ve shown you what the dice are. Now it’s time for you to do some work. You are going to have to learn some rules. But wait, those books are big! And expensive! I don’t know if I want to invest in all that before I play with my kids. To that I say, you are right, and no problem, you don’t have to buy the books. There are free online resources you can use. I am going to link them for you right here in this post. We’ll be starting with the simple rules, rather than the three core books. If you want the three core books, Dungeon Master’s Guide, The Player Handbook and The Monster Manual, more power to you. I love those books but if you are starting play with kids, simpler is better.

I expect that after you see the simplified rules you are still going to say, but Slick, that is a lot of reading! Well, yes it is. You are not wrong about that. My plan for this blog is to go through the simple rules with you to help pull out the key elements to allow you to play Dungeons & Dragons with kids. Not everything in these rules is necessary for kids (or even adults) and they can be adjusted. The rules are more of a framework or guideline for how to play rather than everything being set in stone.

When you go to the link to look at the simple rules, if you look around you will see some information about how the game is structured, how you create a character and how to run an adventure. Read as much of that as you can, even if it doesn’t make sense right now or if you think you can’t get a younger kid to understand it. For right now, we are in the prepping stages so the best thing you can do is to inform yourself but don’t tell a kid you are going to start playing tomorrow unless you are really ready to do that. Give yourself some time to absorb the information. Also, not to self promote too hard here but come back to my blog and like I said we will go through the basic rules. I’ll give tips on character creation for kids, how to adapt things so they are more simplified and even point you to some cool stuff that might make your kids more interested in playing.

Come on, Slick enough talk, give us the rules already!

Here you go! Simple Rules for Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Read those and come back to my next post where we will talk about some good guidelines about setting up a D&D world for kids.

Critically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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!

P.S. Just gotta have the core books? You can get them here.

Dungeon Master’s Guide

Player’s Handbook

Monster Manual

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