In September of 2013, I picked up the reins for the Teen Intro to Dungeons & Dragons class at my local library. I spent a year having a blast introducing kids, tweens, and teens to the hobby, but Dungeon Mastering for kids aged 6 to 16 comes with its own unique set of challenges, especially for someone who is not a parent themselves. There are a few pit traps I had to learn to avoid along the way that I hope to point out here. Without further ado, the following is a list of five ways you can fail at hooking the next generation of gamers.
#1. Dumb Things Down
Kids are a lot smarter and cleverer than many adults give them credit for. You can “dumb things down” for young roleplayers and let them run roughshod over towns and NPCs Grand Theft Auto-style for lack of anything better to do, but then they’ll miss out on the most rewarding aspects of role-playing: character development, investigating mysteries, and progressing through a story.
Sure, they might not be ready for an intricate game of political intrigue, but most RPG campaigns I’ve played in don’t get that sophisticated either. Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, for example, was aimed at the general D&D populace but is perfectly suited for the 10+ demographic. In some ways, it seemed like it was written with kids in mind, given the hefty dose of humor in the form of the “dworcs,” curses, clockwork cat familiars, and a pet black dragon hatchling.
Kids will rise as high as the bar you set for them, in my experience. When you’re running a game for young people, take the game a step further than it was before. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how quickly they can learn and grow, and soon you’ll be able to take them to the next step after that.