Sunday, 26 September 2010

The young DM

Regular readers of this blog may remember last autumn that I was busy introducing Junior Grognard to the delights of AD&D via my Training Dungeon concept (click on the Training Dungeon label to review this series). We then moved into a bit of sandboxing but with the lengthening days of spring and other demands on Sundays, things went quiet. As he was the only player, the workload of running a party of six or so got a bit much and if he didn't feel like doing a session, there was no game, full stop.

There was also some trouble with the degree of scariness involved in my adventures (hell, I like CoC, I'm a dark dude) and after some discussion with Mummy Grognard, we decided that it would probably be best if I put things off for a couple of years (he's seven and a half at the moment).

However, just the other day, we were walking from school back to the car and our route took us past the cemetery. I made a few comments about skeletons and turning them, he countered with a comment that he would use his hammer (as it was a blunt weapon) and before we knew it, he was wanting to game again. He wanted to re-do the Training Dungeon but his conversation left me in no doubt that he remembered all the tricks and traps and it would be no good going down that route.

Then I had a flash of inspiration and proposed the following:

If he could get three or four of his friends to form a party and he felt he was up to it, he could DM the Training Dungeon for them. The responsibility of selecting and recruiting his players would be up to him, giving him an incentive to be a bit more evangelical about the game. I would sit in and give advice and adjudication on points (if required) where his understanding or confidence was a little short. I even dug out and gifted him a downloaded AEC so that my vintage 1e books would remain free from creases, stains and notes.

I'm quite keyed up for this; I hope it comes off for a number of reasons, not least because it gets us gaming again, expands his knowledge of the rules and the skills of DMing and hopefully establishes a group of players who can then spread the word that D&D is cool - and good - for kids.

Anyone got any ideas as to ways that we could make this work out?


  1. Interesting! I guess the only thing I'd have to offer is that fun will be more important for longterm recruitment than the kids getting it "right." Which will be an important point for your son to realize when he's dealing with his friends learning curve, perhaps.

    I'm not sure what's the best age to introduce kids, but I dig the basic concept.

  2. My ten year old prefers to be GM in our games. We predominantly play Supers! by Simon Washbourne He said he liked controlling the entire world.

  3. Make it work out as in help him to recruit players, or make DM'ing easier for him the first time around? Both tough questions. I have few suggestions, other than to provide pepperoni pizza, make sure existence of said future pizza is known to prospective players, and maybe provide a free mini to the players as theirs to keep after the game if it goes well. That'll keep their imaginations stoked when they’re at home later, and help make them want to play again. After a few games maybe give them each cheap dice that they’ll always use for their own rolls. Sure it’s bribery, but whatever gets ‘em rolling. If they take them home, they’re gonna want a reason to roll them some more. No kid can resist the power of polyhedrals. Along the same lines, if you can print them up a player’s manual of some kind to take home, they’ll read through it to find out more about the cool spells they can learn, magic items they might find, and other weapons and armor they can buy once they've played a while. The lure of the powerup. Not only this, but it might be that one or more of these other kids will turn out to be the DM’ing type. This might become obvious in the course of that first or second game.

    The harder part is how to make it easier for a first time DM. Sink or swim might be best, that’s how most of the kids I knew and myself learned. What seems like awkward gaming to adults is often fantastic fun for kids who aren't as concerned with the details of rules. I imagine the hardest part of teaching the game to new DMs is how to be spontaneous and keep the game moving. It sounds like he'll already have a tailor made beginner's adventure. I wish you both good luck!

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys - loads of ideas there for me to take on board. Looks like I'll be getting a lot of pepperoni pizza in!

  5. Speaking from experience, I'll add: Keep the spells simple and make sure to clearly state their effect and duration.

    You don't want to inadvertently create some junior rules-lawyer with an ongoing ball of fire, because *someone* didn't say "...when it turns off."

  6. One thing that I will do is to limit the characters to the four core classes and probably have them play humans - there's too much to take in with the demi-humans.