Thursday 12 January 2017

ODnD Campaign for Kids

My 8-year-old daughter's been after me for a while to run a D&D game for her(we've moved beyond Doggie Game). Her brother's got half a year of 1st grade under his belt, so I figured me might want to play too. That got me thinking how to run a pen and paper RPG for kids. The basic guidelines I came up with were as follows:

General Principles

  1. Rules-Light: the kids aren't going to read much, except their character sheets and perhaps equipment lists, so the smaller the rule-set, the better
  2. Short Sessions: due to short attention spans, sessions shouldn't last much longer than an hour
  3. Standard DnD: I want to use the game to help the kids learn DnD rules, as opposed to choosing a simpler, non-DnD based kids RPG
  4. Visual Aids: there should be lots of visual aids to orient them geographically, bring the game world to life
  5. Light Tone: game should be G-rated and occasionally scary(but not too scary!)
  6. Books
  7. Cultural Context: the kids should be able to relate to the game world. They don't have much exposure to Tolkien, so the game should draw on other more familiar media

Swords and Wizardry

I ended up ordering a copy of Swords and Wizardry, a cleaned-up clone of ODnD. It's a very lightweight version of the rules, at under 150 pages. The one thing that surprised me is that, while Labyrinth Lord uses Race as Class, S&W keeps them separate, though with many limitations.

The Party

In any case, S&W is nice and simple and the kids rolled-up characters, and I helped them fill out their sheet. I limited their their options to keep things simple. So, for instance, I only offered them the 4 basic classes and I had to walk them through picking weapons and armor. I tailored the options I gave to each kid's developmental level, so when my 4 year old insisted on also getting a character, I had him roll the dice and offered him only the most basic of options. I also opted for ascending AC since the rules support both systems and it's a bit more intuitive.

Palace of the Silver Princess

Player Prep
In searching for a module to base the game on, I remembered a B3 Palace of the Silver Princess play-by-post game I played in years ago. It had a light, fairy tale sort of vibe.

The DM modified the starting scenario in a number of ways:
  1. You start out visitors in a city for some big festival
  2. You wake up in the morning in your room in the inn. All hell has broken loose- an army of Goblinoids are invading the city. A dragon rider was seen landing at ruler's palace.
  3. The party fought their way through the streets to the palace, snuck in through the sewer
  4. The palace was the the dungeon from Silver Princess, except occupied by royalty/servants
  5. Our first encounter was a kitchen full of angry sentient furniture/silverware. Reminded me of Disney's Beauty and the Beast
I decided to adopt a lot of this for the kids' campaign, though the dungeon itself will still remain in the wilderness, 500 years abandoned. There is a connection between the invasion and the dungeon...

Game World

I had been wondering whether to set the game in the Faerun or perhaps Warren's Deep. Another great thing about Silver Princess is that it comes with a mini-sandbox in the form of a kingdom-map and descriptions of settlements, so that gives me a good basis to build on. Gulluvia will keep it's Amazonian vibe, though a more benign, sympathetic version.

Visual Aids

Maps of the Realm and the city of Gulluvia
Besides the kingdom map, I found an appropriate city map and printed it out to help the kids navigate the city during the invasion. Between S&W and DCC, I have pictures of all the Goblinoids the party is likely to encounter. The kids had fun coloring-in copies of the kingdom map and the dragon-rider illustration prior to the game.

Appendix N

Here are some influences to draw on for world building:
  1. Munchkin card game
  2. Fairy Tales
  3. Tooth Fairy
  4. Scooby Doo
  5. Ninja Turtles
  6. Superheroes
  7. Octonauts
  8. Disney Movies
  9. Where the Wild Things Are
  10. Mouseguard
  11. Martial Arts lessons
  12. Archery lessons
  13. Family camping trips
  14. Biblical stories
  15. Jewish Folklore


  1. Yes, yes... get 'em while they're young! I think my older brother started playing D&D with me when I was 6 (he was 10), so if your daughter is 8 now, she is right in the wheel house!

    BY the way, I think it's funny that you're starting with the Silver Princess as a kids adventure. If memory serves, after it had been first printed in the 1980's, TSR decided that the illustrations were too risque. They ended up pulping almost all the copies before re-releasing it with some new illustrations. Every once in a while, one of the rescued original modules appears on ebay and sells for an astronomical sum.

    1. That's funny- I was not aware of that. So in trying to choose a fairytale module, I ended up picking an R-rated deconstruction of the fairytale genre? Is this game going to give my kids an existential crisis?

      In any case, I'm going to be modifying the dungeon quite a bit, so I guess part of that needs to be, how to make it G rated...