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Hero Kids: Introducing D&D to my children

The other day I was thinking about how much I wish I had a D&D group when I was a kid (or heck, even now), and that made me realize that I have a potential party of roleplayers right under my roof. I got fascinated with the idea of introducing pen-and-paper roleplaying to my kids to see how they’d take to it — and to spend some quality time playing a game we all enjoyed.

So I polled friends and did some research on what a good introductory PnP game would be for kids ages 5-9. There were a few interesting suggestions, but I ultimately landed on Hero Kids.  It turned out to be a perfect choice and affordable as well. I bought the entire bundle of print-it-yourself materials — which included the core rulebook, over a dozen campaigns, five packs of heroes, two packs of pets, and one pack of equipment cards — for just $20. Past that, all I needed to do was print out the materials, scrounge a handful of regular six-sided dice, and we were good to go.

While Hero Kids is kind of a very streamlined D&D-type game, its strengths are that it’s easy for kids to grasp and start playing without trying to explain a billion rules to them. There’s no leveling or complex stats, just easy-to-intuit strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and equipment on each character.

The idea for Hero Kids is that it focuses on youngsters who are called to take care of local issues around their home town while their parents and other adults are off adventuring somewhere else. Each player takes on the role of a character whose attributes are dice — one for strength/melee, one for dexterity/ranged, one for intelligence/magic, and one for armor. This is flexible enough so that it can be used both in combat and in adventuring scenarios (the same strength dice are used to swing a sword, lift a door, or bend iron bars, for example). Each character gets three hits before they’re knocked out (but they can be revived or healed as long as someone  is still up and around), and everyone gets three abilities and an assortment of special skills (tracking, lore) and equipment (healing potions, rope, gold).

With that, the GM — that would be me — takes the party through a campaign that’s broken up into encounters. If the party completes an encounter, which usually but not always has a fight, then they can move on to the next one. There’s a lot of flexibility for roleplaying, teamwork, and creative solutions, and the system is simple enough that the GM can quickly decide what ability rolls need to be done and what is and isn’t possible.

My kids got really hyped up about this over the week, as I had them choose their characters (one tank and two ranged attackers), think of names (Shelly, Rebecca, and Cederick), and come up with a title for their group (Team Cuteness). Then we sat down and played through the introductory campaign — which dealt with rats in the basement of a tavern, of course — in about 45 minutes.

There was a bit of a learning process, but overall it went smoothly. We took turns and I gave them hints as to various options they could take. Early on, my daughter threw some food into a corner to distract one of the rats, who took the bait. Then my oldest son decided that since he had a speech skill, he’d go over and try to make friends with the rat. This just cheesed the rat off, because rats can’t talk, and Shelly the Knight got bit for his trouble.

Everyone wanted to feel special and there was some anxiety over someone else getting a kill or people blocking each other. We didn’t have a healer in the group, but I was proud that my kids rushed to each other’s aid with healing potions if someone got hurt (which rarely happened, since these were really weak rats).

My five-year-old’s time to shine came when his amphibious frog-kid swam down into a 30-foot pool to retrieve a chest of treasure at the bottom. It wasn’t anything super-useful, but everyone was happy to draw a random equipment card even so.

The highlight came as the team squared off against the Rat King, which I embodied as a madly cackling jerk. I had a really good laugh for him, let me tell you. I think all of the three of them got a whack at him before he finally went down thanks to an arrow from my daughter. That made her day.

We’re all looking forward to our next session, which I hope will be more than just combat like this one was. I might have to tweak it if not.

9 thoughts on “Hero Kids: Introducing D&D to my children

  1. I went and bought the base package, will have to give this a go this weekend with the squirts. Hard to find the right balance in an open RPG setting – or one where it doesn’t feel like DM vs players.

  2. Wanted to add a bit more. I played the first adventure with rats. As you mentioned Syp, it’s heavily combat focused. I read the encounters ahead of time and made some adjustments throughout that required some creative thinking. For example, the water cave had a box at the bottom of the water, but it was frozen over. When they finally got it, it was locked and they needed to find a way to open it. One wanted to use her hammer and the other was afraid it would break the stuff inside. It was neat to see them grow through the course about what is possible, rather than what is presented in front of them.

    The simple mechanics are the joy here. The skill checks are fun, but I needed to think what it meant if they failed them so that it was a hurdle, not a complete failure. Like “your magic wasn’t enough to float both of you up the cliff, only one of you. what next?”

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to try a few more of these adventures. 60m a session is just right. And 6$ a pop you can’t complain.

  3. I love the sound of this but never played D&D myself so not sure I’d know what to do. I guess it could be a way for me to learn too. My daughter is nearly 11 too so I guess it might be a little young for her or is that all down to the GM and how the story evolves?

  4. Why there isn’t something like that in a video game MMORPG. A kid-focused game would not only be a safe and good entertainment, but also get off weight from the “adult” titles of the publisher. Now a 12+ video game must cater to a 12 and a 42 at the same time and it’s not easy for the dev (or particularly fun for the 42)

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