I think that if you explain to him what exactly you do in a D&D game and he’s interested, then he’s not too young. I’d be wary if he seemed half-hearted about it. But if he really shows interest, he’ll learn. Natrually don’t start with the most complicated campaign you can think of, but don’t simplify the rules, if he shows interest he’ll learn how to use them, and if he doesn’t, don’t force it because eventually it won’t be so much a something to do for fun, but rather something he’d feel forced to do. But, I am not a child psychologist or a parent, but I was a kid not too long ago
Eight isn’t too young, but I would be a little wary of overburdening rules. An 8 year old, like any other person just starting into RPGs shouldn’t be handed a book and told “get to it”.
The way I have always started new players out is by letting them sit in on a session, if possible, so they know what sorts of things happen in a game. Then I ask them, “What would you like to do or be?” This results in me walking through creating a character with them. (Some people say to just give them a pre-done character so they can start, but IMO this doesn’t work well.) From there, playing with a new character is asking them what they want to do and showing them how they can accomplish that with their character. Then, as they get into it and want to do more things, more rules come out.
If it takes, many players at that point don’t mind skimming over the books and learning more about the possibilities.
In an astonishing run, I yet again agree with Lego. The sitting-in part especially. What I would do also, would be to start him off maybe in D&D 2nd edition. Six stats, Thac0, AC, saves and that’s it. Keep the monstrous manuel around and make sure to show him all the pictures of the monsters.
In a couple years, maybe he’ll want more complex play. At that point it’ll be easy to convert the charactersto 3rd edition and get lots more out of the skill uses and rule improvements.
Keep the stories simple. I’d use a simple metaplot with bajillions of exciting little adventures - maybe one-shots - making up the “campaign”.
My niece, Hannah, and nephew, Nick, are 8 and 9, and they have a great time with Warhammer Quest. It’s more of a board game/RPG hybrid, with cardboard floor plans divided into squares, and movement allowances. A lot of card-drawing to determine encounters, random events, and treasure is involved. Characters earn experience and increase abilities as in straight RPGs.
The sprogs haven’t really got into the roleplaying aspects, but they have a whale of a time smiting the monsters, and it is great to see them reading the cards and figuring out what they need to roll to successfully splat something.
Hannah is particularly fond of her magic Elven Daggers, and the look of concentration on her face as she rolls the dice is priceless
I don’t know about that. In 2nd edition, things don’t make sense without a LOT of math and charts, and it’s confusing when you want to roll high and when low. I think the 3e rules are a lot more streamlined and transparent. Higher is better, you simply add numbers to rolls.
Of course, if learning math is part of your goal, have him start with Champions. He’ll either become an accountant or hate you forever.
Well, I’d postulate that any version of AD&D, regardless of how simplified it is, is still unnecessarily complex for an 8-yo.
Dig out your old red boxed set of Basic D&D (you remember; all fighters, clerics, thieves, and magic-users were human, and if you wanted to be a dwarf, elf, or halfling, THAT was your class?) and start with that. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the simpler days of gaming, but it’d probably be easier to start with that and then make the jump to AD&D 2E or 3E.
Or, of course, pick a non-D&D system and have fun with that.
I wouldn’t worry about the rules too much: Since you know the rules, he dosen’t need to, at least not right at first. Just tell him to roill his to hits and his damage and saving throws, and tell him what happened: he dosen’t need to know how to min-max everything.
In fact, I think one way to make the game intriging is to tell him that he isn’t allowed to know a bunch of this stuff–be a high priest, not a GM, and tell him he cannot read the MM or the DMG (though show him pictures of monsters) , and that he will be in Big Trouble if he does.
If he ienjoys drawing, I’d have him draw his charecter: it seems to me that that would help a young kid with the role-playing part of it.
I agree that simple adventures are the place to start, with some rather straight forward moral dilemna as the turning points in plots: do you kill the unconcious, wounded bugbear? If not, how do you keep him from following you and killing you when it wakes up?
My daughter started playing Amber at 9. Four stats, five powers to choose from (I only gave her one to start with though), no dice, and with the concept of shadow, she could pick whatever setting she wanted to play in, which made it comfortable for her because she could pick places based on things she was familiar with.
She moved from that to Changeling, to Werewolf, to Vampire, to D&D to Shadowrun. She’s 15 now and is quite the litte gamer.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try to create a setting based on your son’s favorite video game. This would work best for an adventure game like Zelda or Spyro. Come up with NPCs and monsters that are similar to the ones in the video game, and run a game similar to the video game at first. You can gradually make it more complicated, and present choices that wouldn’t be available in the video game.
My suggestion – pick a simple RPG system. No need to get bogged down in rules and minutae for a beginner. Toon,Ghostbusters, and Marvel Super Heroes are examples of what I have in mind (yeah, I know, they’re also defunct).
And the idea of modeling an RPG based on your son’s favorite cartoons/properties isn’t a bad one. I remember spending some time creating Transformers characters in the Marvel Super Heroes system just for some introductory RPGing.
You might also consider simply creating your own simplified style of play that encourages the aspects of what he’ll like about it without getting too much into the rules. The most fun I ever had role-playing was when I was around 12 or so – my best friend and I would just tell each other stories, but would narrate the combat to each other, too. We did this with no books, or dice, or anything, just adventures (and whoever was the GM was allowed the final say in combat).
One side thing I’d mention - do any players in groups you’re in a favor and don’t start just showing up with the kid. Now, you sound like you’re thinking of just running some simple games for your kid, which is good. If you’re going to bring him to an existing group, though, talk it over, and see if anyone has objections. Some people may not want to deal with an 8-year old in their free time, some may not want to tone down any potentially ‘inappropriate’ content, some may not want a complete newbie breaking up a fast-paced game, and some may have another reason for not liking it. My annoyance isn’t neccesarily with a kid, but with anyone not really interested in playing - I’ve run into people who will drag along an uninterested SO who ends up being bored and making things significantly less enjoyable for everyone else.
He’ll throw it out real fast, when he discovers that all weapons do 1-6 damage. (So my 18-strength fighting man with his two-handed sword does as much damage as my 7-strength magic-user with a dagger? Pah!)
If you haven’t before, check out Big Eyes, Small Mouth: The Anime Role-Playing game by Guardians of Order.
For one thing, it is exceptionally simple. Three stats (Body, Mind and Soul) plus skills rolled against 2d6. Everyone loves bell curves, right? The core game has a good selection of powers and customizeable skills so that a new player can emulate their favorite comic book, cartoon or anime characters.
And the fast play rules are available as a free download from that page linked above, so you don’t need to lay out any cash to try it out.
There are a number of sourcebooks available, for some of the more popular anime series; and a line of more generic supplements coming out soon (BESM DUNGEON, and BESM FANTASY BESTIARY).
You’ll either turn him off gaming, or raise the kind of DM I, and most of the people I game with despise playing with.
I prefer to let the DM handle all the mechanics when I play, but if he insisted I wasn’t allowed to know them, I’d chafe, and refuse to play with him. If your kid’s anything like me, making that part of his first experience with gaming (and thus implying This Is The Way it Is) could turn him off it permanently.
Or else, of course, it could get him into the habit of expecting games to be like that, and thus if he begins DMing, he could become one of the above-described hated DMs.
(But, hey, I’m CG…Maybe the kid’s LN. ^__~)
Saying ‘You don’t need to know this, so I’ll just take care of it for you (unless you want to do it yourself)’ should be sufficient.
Mathematical nitpick: 2d6 is a lousy approximation to a bell curve: It’s just a triangular distribution. To get inflection points, you need at least three dice. The more dice you use, the better the approximation to a Gaussian distribution.