Creating an RPG campaign for children, Part III

The lad's intrepid band of heroes is crossing the peak of a snow-capped mountain, where they are outnumbered by frost zombies.

This is the third installment in a series about designing and playing an RPG campaign with my 7-year-old son, from setting design to playing out battles. The first article in the series can be found here, while the second is here.

After three sessions of play using the free Dungeon Squad! rules, the lad’s campaign is starting to take shape. His character was approached in his home town of Tiny Village by the village elder, a fellow named Sedgewick; the elder asked if the hero would deliver a message to the tower of the wizard Snevlin, which is located across the mountains. Sedgewick warned that it would be a dangerous trip, and that the hero should round up a few friends to help him fight off the dangers. After recruiting an adventuring party, with members named after the lad, his favorite stuffed animals and Mom the Deadly (playing herself in this drama), the group set off for the mountains.

At the outset of this project, one of my goals was to keep the lad involved in the creative process, and so I allowed him to select foes from my miniature collection. Using the figures as a guide, I crunched up combat statistics for the beasties using other Dungeon Squad! monsters as a template.

While we did play one battle on a printed poster map from a D&D module, I found that the lad had more fun when he had an active role in designing the battlefield. We used D&D Dungeon Tiles, particularly from the Wilderness Master Set and the Witchlight Fens supplement. Usually, my son had as much fun creating the battlefields as he did playing the game. The only exception was when the party was crossing the mountain’s snow-capped peak, and we used the Caverns of Icewind Dale; he enjoyed the tiles even more than the battle on that occasion.

Time for an important note to self: the greater my son’s role in creating the game, the more he seems to enjoy it. At this point, I don’t know if that is true for most children, or if my son is a born gamemaster and inclines toward that side of the screen (chip of the old block and all that).

At this point, the lad seems more interested preparation for and playing battles, an interest I’ll feed by asking his help in determining combat abilities for monsters, which have all been homebrewed thus far. I’ll try adding more story elements before the next report.


Product Review: Dungeon Squad

Author’s note: this little gem of a free game was published more than five years ago, but this writer just learned about it last week. For those Gentle Readers who already know about this game, I offer apologies. For those who, like me, haven’t yet heard about Dungeon Squad, keep reading; the download is well worth the effort.

Dungeon Squad is hardly a new game, but it certainly isn’t as well-known as it should be; it is reviewed here for that reason.

In the spirit veteran gamers will remember from the Moldvay Basic Set, the rules for this free role-playing game (RPG) are short, with “short” being defined as five pages, including a sample character sheet.

The precis describing the rules – which can be downloaded by clicking here – reads:

Dungeon Squad is a role-playing game designed expressly for young players with short attention spans who demand action and fun. There is a lot of die rolling and some amusing shopping and number-crunching. Characters can be generated in 3 seconds.

The author, Jason Morningstar, is not joking.

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