When everyone in town falls ill and the local merchant's medicine is stolen only some brave kids can save the day.
That was the only plot needed to delight a pair of children and spark their imagination. My middle two children have seen us play D&D and the like before, they've marveled at the dice as if they were precious and magical gems even. But up till now they have never really gotten the chance to take part. As I recently became reminded of how their older brother used to have a similar curiosity and how he came to start playing it really got me thinking. Especially since his earliest teachers marveled at his math skills not to mention his familiarity with problem solving.
Playing something everyone else perceives as complicated and relegated to nerds in a basement actually helped him in ways I had never considered. He quickly grasped adding and subtracting as we handled dice rolls. Honestly, he even shocked his own mother and me with how he could figure some situations out. He even used to out think some adults at the table a few times, much to their dismay. All things considered, he had a blast playing and I enjoyed our little mini-sessions.
Now, let's get something clear right away though; he never played with all the advanced rules. Something that many adults I know have to admit as well! There was no combat maneuvers like trips or bull rush, and we never really forced him to track all his gears weight(at first). Even with lightening the rules load the truth of the matter was he was still playing the actual game.
Fast forward to present day and he sat watching down the table as his siblings started their own journey. Again, I kept it as simple as I could. Here is my notes for the adventure:
For my son(4 yr old), we have the brave and tough little fighter 'Bear-Claw.'
Fighter level 1
Hp - 12 Ac - 17
Weapons - Greatsword (We called it his giant's sword) +3 to hit, 2d6+3 damage, Dagger +3 to hit, 1d4+2 damage.
My daughter(5 yr old), we have the lovely young woodsman's daughter 'Lula-Belle.'
Ranger level 1
Hp - 11 Ac - 18
Weapons - Shortsword +2 to hit, 1d6+1 damage, Long Bow +4 to hit, 1d8 damage.
For monsters we had about 6 naughty little kobolds and a mean white dragon wyrmling. Again, their stats consisted simply of their respective hp, ac, and attacks. The dragon was confined to bites, claws and a 2d4 breath weapon with a short range. Nothing overly complex or too scary, this was to be fun.
To start things off I called the kids to the table and sat down with my notebook, a pencil and my dice bag. I carefully explained, rather told them as simply as I could that we were about to play a little game. I looked to my little boy and told him he would get to be this tough and strong boy named 'Bear-Claw' who had a giant's sword and a knife in his pocket. His sister watched as I told her she was going to be a young lady from the woods who know lots about hunting and animals. Her name was 'Lula-Belle' and she had a short little sword as well as a big bow with a lot of arrows.
For atmosphere I kept my descriptions short and lively, trying to keep their attention and let them really get into things. They listened as I explained how everyone else in town had fallen sick and only they were still well. As I gestured like a wounded man they watched me pretend to be a mugged merchant on the way to deliver medicine. They took the hook right away and declared they would stop those pesky monsters!
Quickly they ran into the direction the merchant pointed and spotted 6 kobolds trying to make off with sacks of medicine towards the mountain. I decided to use age in place of initiative so the youngest could go first to maintain their excitement and too so that the monsters(me) always went last. Bear-Claw charged forward to slam his massive blade upside a kobolds head and knocked it out. Lula-Belle took aim and sent another to the realm of the unconscious(you may notice nothing died, only knocked out - they're kids, I opted to forgo the element of death and physical harm). After the kobold missed, Bear-Claw mopped the third up only to find the other three had ran ahead into a cave with the medicine.
Now, I'll admit I did guide the kids just a bit, even reminded them that caves are dark places. But my son actually(in his own way) knew just what to do and pulled out a torch to light the way. [His actual response was that it was okay he had a magical flash light in his head, so I merely redirected him to look through his backpack and therein he found a 'magical torch' instead.] After the brave little band thoroughly thrashed the other three kobolds they decided to head to the back of the cave to retrieve the medicine.
This was the fun part, I won't lie. Because here was my chance to let them feel triumphant over the kobolds only to find something else lurking in the shadows. A strange sound like the crunching of ice they could hear and the cave felt colder. As they approached they spotted a wyrmling white dragon taking up position by the medicine and growling angry. It was here that my son surprised me, for he wouldn't attack the dragon. Was it the fact it was a small sized baby one that he inherently felt mercy for, I dunno. But his sister saw no such restraint and let an arrow fly. However, it can be said when the dragon strove to unleash it's chilling breath upon her that he saw all hesitation removed.
Between the two of them it only took a handful of rounds to dispatch the beast and reclaim the medicine. To their grinning faces though they found a couple items - the meager horde the young dragon had thus far managed. Upon returning the medicine they were each rewarded with a small sack of gold(about 25g).
The whole of the adventure passed quickly enough, lasting only about 30 to 40 minutes at most. But the result was both of them were excited and begged to play more immediately. Actually, with my son's autism he saw it difficult to control his enthusiasm and launched into a string of stories he started imagining. My wife even remarked when she asked if he had fun how his pupils were literally blown from sheer excitement. I should also note he surprised me further when it came to the dragon when he asked if he had any 'magic sleeping dust."
Already I think I have their interest for sure. Not to mention the knowledge that I need to keep an eye on my son and his creative mind. We will definitely have to do this again. At least as long as the kids enjoy it and want to.