Introducing kids to roleplaying


This is a call for help.
I want to introduce my half-brother (8) and -sister (10) to Role Playing. However, I'm not sure how to go about it.

I've been thinking of setting up a short system-less (or using an extremely simple homebrew system) session of fantasy adventure, but I'm not sure what would make a good introductory story/adventure.
I'd love to hear your thoughts as to appropriate topics (e.g. no sexual themes), activities (e.g. no gruesome killings) and/or themes (e.g. no triple-crossing allies).

Your thoughts are appreciated.

You may want to check out the Risus system ( It's free, simple (the rules in their entirety are only 6 pages long), designed for light and humorous play, and can be easily plugged into any setting that might interest 8-10 year olds. It also encourages thinking about the actual story instead of rolling dice ("What, you don't have a skill you can use for fighting? Then explain how you use your "Hairdresser" skill to attack the orc.")

As for topics, I'd suggest finding out what their favorite movies, books, video games, etc., and splicing together a setting and themes from them. It may be better to completely rip off a setting that they're familiar with then to create a new one that they have to figure out. I know that when I was that age, I would have much rather played as one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then create my own anthropomorphic mutated animal superhero in a modern setting (In fact, that's what we DID during recess).

If you want to avoid violence but still have some "fighting," you may want to use a variation on the Power Rangers method: Your enemies aren't actual people, just mindless creations of the big bad guy, and you defeat them by punching them in the chest and watching them disappear in a flash of light when they hit the ground.

We included our then 8 year old in games of D&D by just playing a simplified event with simplified goals. Her job, as a player, was to play her character, roll her dice and enjoy herself. We don't play D&D "By The Book," so all that rigamarole about "weight" and "food" went by the way side rather easily. She got given a "20 GP kit" with the basics in her backpack(rope, hammer, spikes, food, clothes (incl. boots) and since she chose to play a wizard, she picked her spells (we don't use the INT limits) and then we started playing. She joined a group of grownups who were excited about introducing a kid (I think there were 3 of them) -- and they played any "extra" characters the party needed. I adjusted the monsters' HP up or down as necessary so the child wasn't overwhelmed (I tend to do this on the fly -- winning too fast? extra die thrown in. Looking like you're gonna die? Suddenly your weapon is blessed or the monster has a new weakness that matches your weapon or the die are reduced on the fly). The point was for her to have fun -- working out the "real rules" could come later ;>.

Since she was a spell caster, her "kills" were "monsters went away" or "monsters put to sleep" or the like. Often we set up puzzles for her to solve to "defeat the monster" -- so a lot of Lawful Evil monsters :>.

Wait a bit until their older before, but show them how you and your group play so that they get an idea of how things work.

You could even let them roleplay some NPCs without worrying about the rules

What he said.

Interesting. How was the kid responding to playing with grown-ups?

I really have to look into what "kids these days" watch and read...

I've actually tried to introduce my family to D&D, but it failed miserably. The big problem with D&D is you've gotta put a lot of time into it and my family doesn't have that kind of time. Also, the one most interested (my little bro, who's 12) has ADD, which made things difficult. I think the best way to introduce youngins is to use simple settings that let them do what they want. Risus is great for this. I bet there are several indie settings that are good for this, too, but I don't really know which (ask Lorthyne, him being the resident indie expert). I would make the stories short (one to two sessions) and simple. twilight's advice is some really good stuff. Little kids love it when the good guy suddenly discovers a bad guy's weakness and can exploit it easily. Just simple stuff, don't cling to the rules and be light on "consequences." When they get older, you can introduce them to darker and more serious roleplaying as they develop the capacity to handle and excel in it. However, I've never been successful in this, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

There's a yahoo group with some good discussion and links.

I recently began running my 11 and 8 yr old sons in a simplified version of d&d and they seem to get it quite quickly. The adventures are brief, that is one way to deal with attention span issues, and filled with excitement and interaction so no one is stuck on the sidelines (something I advise for any game of course).

The best thing I've learned so far is to play to their interests rather than attempt to force them into my mold... if that means an hour of hack and slash or 2 hours of shopping, so be it.

Don't introduce them to 4th ed, Introduce them into a system that actually lets them cuztomize their characters.

Dude, back off, it's getting really frickin old. We got that you hate 4e, okay? Now, either leave the site, shut up, or say something useful.

Thank you.

I'll say something useful, Don't buy 4th ed, it sucks.

I'm sorry, I just really really really 4th ed, it's all I can say.

Well, you've certainly said it, and we've all understood your point of view. Unless you're a robot that's been created specifically to campaign against 4E, I highly doubt that your vocabulary is completely limited to juvenile name-calling. Would you please either start saying something else, or find somewhere else to say it?

Good sirs, I feel it is my honest duty to consistantly
profess my reasonable dislike of the latest edition of the popular roleplaying chance game Dungeons and Dragons. Thus I advise any enthusiast of this game to refrain from purchasing any upcoming merchandise under the name of this latest edition.

Is that better?


I do like the sarcasm. What I was trying to say, albeit meanly, is that we all know you don't like it, and many agree with you on this site. The difference is that these have talked about what they don't like about 4e on the forums and articles specifically dedicated to 4e. However, just using the comment mechanic everywhere to espouse the horrors of 4e gets old. As a joke, maybe, but not this. You wanna argue about 4e, there's the articles concerning it particularly. I'd love to talk 4e there with you. But not here. This is about getting kids in rping, and I'm not going to let it get hijacked into another 4e argument.

Sorry, zip.

Oh sorry, I just can't get my lazy ass to bother making a thread on it, so I just talk about in in comments, if it really bothers you, I'll stop, I'm just miffed into stupidity about 4e.

I getcha. I'd just prefer if we talked about it specifically in the areas where it's being dealt with. Or you could make a new forum. Doesn't matter.

Yeah, I'm pretty tired of being mad at 4e. I'll just go with silent hatred and cling on to 3.5 for as long as I can get away with.

Ok, I've got a vague setting in mind, and possibly some characters. Now I only need to cook up a story line and find some time together with the little guys.

Cool! Keep us updated on what happens.

This particular kid *loved* playing with the grownups - i know not all do, but she had a blast. She was able to take out monsters as fast as any of us, so that helped - and occasionally she saved some adult's bacon - and she TOTALLY geeked out on that.

Of course, this is a kid, who a scant 6 years later (at 14) would be "chatting in binary" with her friends on Facebook and calling herself a Binary Dork.

Belated update:

Having completely not managed to find the time to set the thing up properly, I finally gave up on the original idea and ended up running a game session for my brother and my dad. Yes, my DAD.

What I ran them is the D&D adventure that's in the old red Basic Set. It's actually supposed to be a "choose your path" kind of thing, but it works straight up, too.
My kid brother was very enthusiastic, my father was bemused and we all had a good time for a couple of hours.
Later my dad informed me that the kid kept talking about it on the way home and later on.

Since they'd been recently translated into Hebrew, I bought him the D&D4 book set for his birthday, and now he's in a D&D after-school activity, although he doesn't have a home group yet.

I think this qualifies as a success.

lol I agree. I got my little brother the new Star Wars RPG cause he and his friends were really into it. He's had a hard time putting a group together though. But still a success, even if it's a qualified one.