Playing with the Younger Generation

Updated 7/11/21

"Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein

When looking for a stable D&D group, sometimes family is the closest options you have for an active player base. Maybe you have children, younger siblings or younger family members that are eager to spend time with you. I am here to say, if you think they are interested give them a chance to play Dungeons and Dragons with you. Even the Starter Set and Essential Kits have 12+ written on their boxes. You don't have to be an adult to play this table top game. Though serious topics can appear in Dungeons and Dragons it gives a safe environment to explore not only a fantasy world but to also figure out social interactions.

When did you start?

-DM Bork started playing in 3rd grade with his father dming. He started with AD&D

-Dm Wolfsfox started in 11th grade with DM Bork running a game for his family that she joined. First campaign joined was Sabre River; AD&D.

-Mr. Meow started in middle school (6th or 7th grade) with DM Bork running him through Keep on the Borderlands AD&D and then Chateau d' Amberville.

-DM Pie started playing at age 11. Now his kindergartener and first grader is preparing to join our table.

What Children Can Do

My experience running games for children have gone super well, and was a lot better than expected. I was impressed by the pure creativity that comes from children. The younger children needed help with math a bit, but the 2nd grader helped our kindergarteners and I could step in as well when needed.

I had each kiddo roll their own stats, working on adding up each of the numbers. They were able to pick their race, class and where to put their rolled stats. I helped with some of the reading and explanations but all of the writing on the character sheet was done by them.

The only thing to look out for is attention spans. Children can either never want the game to end or they will get distracted.

Why do D&D for Younger Players?

There are lots of educational benefits for playing D&D. The players need to work cooperatively together where they use their imagination to co-create a story. Each decision they make in the game has them use problem-solving solutions that they can use to meet real life needs. D&D builds other skills such as improving emotional expression, creative play, social skills and patience. There are also educational purposes with math (addition and subtraction), reading, and figuring out patterns.

Tools for Success

Number Lines

Number lines are a great tool for younger children to lean how to do their own math. Number lines allow children to find the number they rolled on the paper and then add the correct modifiers to their roll. Using their fingers they can do basic addition and subtraction.

I also have a card that has some of the modifiers that they can use to help as well.


Nothing like having dice goblins in training. The satisfaction of rolling the dice and the thrill of adventure brought the kids together. They enjoyed picking the colored dice they used and would roll them for the sound.

I brought this plastic container filled with Dollar Tree and Walmart dice so if a die got lost I wasn't heartbroken. Each day they got to pick which color/set they wanted to play with.

Modified Character Sheets

The WotC character sheet is a little complex for elementary students. I used a modified character sheet that I found on reddit created by user eyerait. You can find your own copy here.

I would recommend a modified version for younger elementary students though middle school and high school students can use the official character sheets.

For the youngest player I had (a 4 year old) I walked through their character with D&D Beyond. I read what they said and they got to pick the pictures/options they wanted.

DM Wolfsfox's Experiences

Nap Time Explorations

My first experience with younger explorers was when I was working at my previous day care center before we got shut down during the plague. I worked with "school age" kiddos during nap time and they were tired of the Pre-K toys in my classroom. I offered them a game of Dungeons of Dragons and they loved it. We had a kindergartener playing a Blue Dragonborn Fighter, a Kindergarten High Elf Sorceress, and a 2nd grade Dwarf Barbarian as my main players. There were two other children (kindergarten & 5th grade) that played but took up "guest spots" rather than daily playing.

Due to working at a day care there were some rules in place. One being that the children's distance learning homework had to be completed before we played and the most important I had to follow was children WERE NOT allowed to have weapons. Being in a no-violence center the kids were not allowed to pick weapons with their gear and when we were looking at character art/pictures they had to be empty of weapons. This meant that we relied heavily on skill checks and the smarts of the children to make it through encounters.

When the party came across a fallen tree the fighter and barbarian used their strength to move it. When they came across a sickly unicorn they used animal handling checks and a spell to take care of it. There were a lot of fetch/find quests, some diplomacy and when running into "villains" (aka. monsters). I made sure that there was something they could do to be victories that didn't require swords and bow.

Sadly our center got shut down and we didn't get to finish a full campaign, but we did get about three weeks of daily play and the kid's couldn't get enough. The children in the room who didn't get a parent permission slip signed still enjoyed listening to the story being built by their classmates.

The Lone Dragonborn Adventurer

What do you do when one kid in your class of 20 can't nap, teach them D&D. Boss and parents gave the go ahead so today another 5 year old got to use math to have fun. He didn't roll to bad if stats either as he created a white dragonborn sorcerer.

He is learning that hurting things are not always the answer. I am using parts (mostly locations and de-buffed monsters) of Lost Mine Of Phandelver with a bunch of homebrew to teach the 5 year old D&D. I had him come across the two dead horses in the road, but I'm running this as White Breath is going through after my Sat crew went through.

White Breath's first encounter was a goblin child poking through the remains looking for anything good. The Dragon Born sorcerer speaks goblin and I had the child speak in goblin to him. As I expected, my new Dragonborn player wanted to use his weapons. The Dragon Born pulled out his quarter staff to hit the goblin. The goblin returned the attack with her club yelling in goblin Go Away. White Breath got some good hits but also took some good damage as his AC is not fantastic.

I had the goblin retreat up the trail and I told White Breath that he was badly hurt, many cuts bleeding (which my child player understands as he is very physical and has lots of boo boos from his real life adventures). As the Dm I told him be could continue to town to heal or chase after the goblin. As expected the Dragonborn took to the dirt trail after the goblin. The first trip wire he saw and White Breath excitedly jumped over the trap excited as I explained the success of his roll. The pit trap he fell into, taking him down to 2 hp. The goblin child laughed and peeked over the edge, big brown eyes and pointed green ears looking down at the Sorcerer.

I wanted to use this as an opportunity for the Dragonborn to learn social skills and RP, and I think my 5 year old player is starting to understand that using fists and mean words aren't going to help him as he yelled and scared off the goblin. Now he is considering what to do for tomorrow's session as digging a tunnel, not being able to fly and yelling at the goblin after asking it for help wasn't working.

Climbing and jumping were no goes. He was smart to remember he had two daggers and used them to climb up the side of the pit. He then went to town, got healed and is having a hard time returning to the spot to find the goblin. Thinking next week I will have an NPC come partner with him so more actions can be done and a squishy sorcerer has someone to protect him.

We started using some of the first encounters from Rise of Tiamat as he was most interested in Dragons. It was interesting and a learning experience for me. Finding role play experiences to help promote social interactions (nothing like a goblin child to fight back XD) and trying to help guide away from murder hoboing, along with teaching about hit points (he "died" twice, both times had consequences but no permanent death), and by the end he did have lots of fun. I also learned that I am definitely not an artist but my doodles do make kids giggle.

We started using some of the first encounters from Rise of Tiamat as he was most interested in Dragons. It was interesting and a learning experience for me. Finding role play experiences to help promote social interactions (nothing like a goblin child to fight back XD) and trying to help guide away from murder hoboing, along with teaching about hit points (he "died" twice, both times had consequences but no permanent death), and by the end he did have lots of fun. I also learned that I am definitely not an artist but my doodles do make kids giggle.

The Young Adventurer's Collection

The publication of this boxed set is what first got me thinking about Dming for younger players. The four books included in this box set are: Wizard & Spells, Dungeons & Tombs, Warriors & Weapons, and Monster & Creatures. Each of these manuals provide a more kid friendly introduction to some of the information found in the Players Handbook and Monster Manual. These books have some beautiful art work that can spark the imagination of any young adventurer.

These books are great tools to look through to get children information on some of the classic races, classes, items and monsters that can be found in Dungeons and Dragons. These books are not manuals to play with specifics but to help build creativity. Though you will find monsters in the Monsters & Creatures book it is not meant as a Monster Manual type book, rather to give interesting facts. That is the same with the weapons, the spells, and the dungeon information.

These books are not substitutes for the players handbook, campaign books or players handbooks but rather are a series of books to help children become interested and give some of the information in a more understandable manner.

Dungeons & Tombs

This book features some of the famous dungeons and monsters found in some of the Wizard of the Coast Modules. Some of these places include: Ironslag, the Temple of Elemental Evil, Ravenloft and Undermoutain to name a few. Each dungeon section features a intro to the location, an overview and list of important places, and a "spotlight." To help build creativity and start a conversation there is a story prompt labeled under "Dungeon Master" questions for the player character to consider based on that location/adventure and then a prewritten "encounter" which is a story about a hero at that location with questions on how the dear reader things that hero should proceed. There is also a small Dungeon bestiary and a section that talks about building your own dungeon. The building the dungeon goes over creating a concept, what to put in a dungeon, traps and map making.

What I loved most about this book: I like that there is interesting information on each of these creatures that you don't always see in the monster manual. There is also "Do This/ Don't Do This" sections to help adventurers be successful. The bestiary does have different monsters than the Monsters & Creatures book.

Warriors & Weapons

This book goes over different fantasy races that an adventurer can choose along with some more of the classic classes to choose from. The races also have some of the more exotic races including dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling and tortle. Each race comes with some basic yes/no questions to see if that race might fit your character. The classes in this book does not include the magic classes featured in Wizards & Spells.

Pages 28-55 features classes that include paladin, fighter, barbarian, monk, and some others. Each class also has a featured legendary hero that made that class famous (such as the barbarian Wulfgar, and Bruenor Battlehammer the fighter). There is also information on some character backgrounds to inspire a backstory, and thinking points on what makes your character special.

The second half of the book goes over character gear from what your character is wearing to what is in your bags. The book goes over weapons and armors by type. There is also a warning and two pages about Rust Monsters and how they affect your gear.

What I loved most about this book: I love the gear breakdowns of the book. I love that it shows labeled diagrams of what is considered your survival gear, what comes in your adventuring kits and helps with the image of what is your player character toting around to make sure of their survival. You don't always get to see what is in the packs and I love the artist renditions.

Monsters & Creatures

This book is a young adventure's book teaching about the monsters. The book is organized into sections based on terrain and ecosystems. Each section has quite a few examples of monsters from different difficulty levels. In each terrain there is also a written out "Encounter" that can be read to bring out the imagination of young adventurers to think about what they would do in those situations. There is also a featured Legendary Monster in the different areas. The Legendary foes include: Demogorgon, Duke Zalto Fire giant, Count Strahd Con Zarovich and Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons.

What I loved most about this book: I love that this book is not just another monster manual. It could be used as a research guide that your young adventurer found in the library while doing research on creatures. I enjoy the art work, the little notes on its special powers and the non-technicality that comes to each of the entries.

Wizards & Spells

This book covers the magical world of Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard. After reading all the class info and an example hero from each class, a flow chart is also provided on page 28 and 29 to see what magic class might be best for you based on some simple questions/answer combinations.

Pages 31-75 all focus on magic. On page 31 there is a lot of text to briefly go over all the types of magic. The book gives an easy understanding of how rituals, scrolls, and spellcasting works. Following a brief explanation on concentration the next part gives examples of some spells from a variety of cantrips up to level 9 spells. There is 2-4 examples in each of the levels show casing a spell from different schools of magic. It has some classic spells such as cure wounds, magic missiles, call lightning and hero's feast.

The last section goes over some of the Magical Items. It talks briefly about attunement before show casing some of these magical goodies. Some subsections also has a legendary item page to go with as well. I particularly like reading about the Wand of Wonder to my students.

What I loved most about this book: I love in the spells section that it gives more information on the spells and little spell tips to help guide players in the right direction. I also love that after each of the classes it gives a two page story of a legendary hero of that class (such as Mordenkainen).

This article I referenced material and reviewed: Zub, Jim; King, Stacy; Wheeler, Andrew. The Young Adventurer's Collection (Dungeons and Dragons 4-BBook Boxed Set). Wizards of the Coast LLC, October 6, 2020.