How to DM for Kids

Young wizard from DnD book cover

With the huge growth of tabletop RPGs like D&D, there are more young players than ever before. Here are some tips to DM for a younger party.

With tabletop RPGs like the Wizards of the Coast-produced Dungeons & Dragons more popular than ever, entirely new demographics are becoming interested in the genre. One of the fastest-growing groups of players is young people. Due to several factors, such as the pandemic, online availability, and gamers from past generations now having kids of their own, more and more kids are enjoying the challenging and creative gameplay TTRPGs offer. Since the genre requires a Dungeon Master to run the campaigns, it is important for the person controlling the narrative to make some adjustments so that younger players can understand and enjoy the experience.

RPGs can be a complex genre and new players can easily be overwhelmed by the volume of rules and content available from the beginning. Younger players especially will have trouble parsing what is important to know right off the bat and what is for more niche case parts of the game. Games can also have settings that are alarming or scary to some players, and it is important to know what may make young gamers uncomfortable. Different ages and individuals will be able to comprehend and enjoy different amounts of the game content, and the DM’s job is to make a fun and welcoming experience for their group overall.

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Figure Out Which Rules Are Most Important

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Since rules paralysis can lead to people taking forever to make a move or abandoning games before they even really start, it is important for the DM to decide what is worth enforcing and what is more malleable. Things that feel natural and simple to veteran gamers can be very overwhelming to younger people. RPGs have complex systems surrounding things like combat and spellcasting. Young players should be able to easily understand the basic ideas of what their character can do and have the opportunity to feel powerful. Depending on the party’s ability, the DM can reduce requirements for certain actions or fudge rolls to let young players see the most fun parts of the game without getting bogged down in the rule nuances. As a DM for a younger group, an increased focus on the story over mechanics will keep players interested.

Another part of the game that the DM needs to decide early on is how they will deal with character death. A lot of younger gamers do not do well with characters dying due to the sensitivity of the topic and the fact that it feels a lot like losing. Although character death can be an interesting part of campaigns, for many younger groups, the DM may want to find other options for difficulty. Characters losing items or being unable to do certain actions for an amount of time can be better options for younger playgroups. DMs can also just scale down difficulty on the fly, so players feel like an encounter is dangerous, but it never quite becomes deadly.

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Make Sure Players Get To Show Off Their Characters

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Lastly, make sure all the characters have a chance to shine. It is okay to craft the campaign around some character skills and specific abilities. For example, if a player is a Ranger, help them end up in a situation where they can use their tracking powers. Some classes are easier than others since their skills are more generalized, but choices like Artificers may need to be directed a bit more than with older groups. It is important all the members of the party feel like they are contributing to the story.

Being a DM for younger players can be a very rewarding experience. RPGs offer a unique experience that allows kids to use creativity, reasoning, and teamwork to overcome fun and interesting situations. However, when running a campaign for younger people, it is important to remember the core goal of a campaign is to have fun. DMs should always keep this in mind when deciding what aspects of the rules to enforce or how hard the campaign is going to be. Keeping an eye on those aspects while making sure all players influence the story will create engaging experiences for young gamers and keep them playing for years to come.



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