Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Running a 1 on 1 campaign for your kid

It's no exaggeration that Bowen likes D&D. He's mapped himself into D&D stats. He's turned Defense Grid into a D&D game. He'll play it at home with dice, and he'll play it on the back of the tandem using me as a randomizer.

After his first session with a now semi-regular D&D group, he wanted to roll up a fighter, and asked when he could play it. It turns out that back in 1992, TSR published a bunch of second edition modules in the HHQ series. These were designed for one on one play and came in the 4 major classes: Fighters, Wizards, Thiefs, and Clerics. One of the nice things about the 5th edition of D&D is that conversion is fairly straightforward, and the monster manual does most of the work, including even "leader" type characters that can be used straight out of the book.

It's fairly straightforward to download the PDFs from the internet, and given that these adventures are long out of print, you don't even have to feel guilty about downloading and using them.

Well, it took him 2 sessions, but he managed to get his 2nd level fighter to 3rd level and then TPK'd his party by walking into a bandit lair (after taking care of the sentry) and attempting to talk to the leader and losing surprise. I'm was very surprised that Bowen took it very well: no moaning or whining as you would expect from a 6 year old.

Here, however, are a few tips for parents running this for their little ones:

  • Start them off high. If the module says, "for 1 character of level 2-4", just start the kid off at 4th level. I started him off at second because I thought it'd be a good idea for him to get used to his character's powers one level at a time. But even at 3rd level, one mistake in the game could kill you. (I roll dice in the open, so there's no fudging --- that's the way I've always played, and I wouldn't play any other way) A high level character would at least let the child make one or two mistakes without being penalized.
  • It's great to have NPCs help, but don't let the NPCs lead the PC by the nose. All decisions should be the players'. This seems really hard, since the child will always ask, "What do I do next?" The correct answer is: "This is D&D, not some computer game. YOU decide what you want to do next."
  • Always ask the kid: "Is this what a Neutral Good character will do?" if his character is about to step out of alignment. The D&D alignment rules are there to help guide character behavior, so make use of them.
  • It's ok to deceive the kid. Some of the characters he or she meets are going to lie to him and manipulate him for their own ends. RPGs are great venues for exposing your child to that type of behavior (and teaching him to spot those issues) in a safe, controlled environment that's relatively low stakes. Far better for him or her to learn these things in a D&D game than in real life.
D&D is a lot of fun, and I hope to see Bowen solve problems in more interesting ways in the future. He seems equally inspired by the NPCs he meets as by the characters he read about in books. I'm having fun with Bowen, and these 1:1 adventures written back in 1992 are surprisingly good.
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