It’s been a while.
I’ve been running a new business, and that’s been eating up a lot of my time. I’m running two after school D+D programs at a local community center (the always awesome Miles Nadal JCC), and as I move through this process I thought I would blog about what I’ve learned, and what might be useful to other DM’s running games for kids. Because I run games at a community center the group is strangers, and the age range is 8-15 or so. That produced some unique challenges. The next few blog posts will be about managing those challenges.
Kids are awesome to game with, but sometimes hard to run a game for, they can be mercurial, distracted, it can be SO LOUD. I’m going to post ideas as they come up, a few every day. I invite others to comment or add their experiences in the comments.
Gaming with Kids
Age Separation: We have two groups, in the first the class is longer and the majority age is 14+, there is one younger (10 year old) in the group. In the Friday class everyone is 8-9 years old. Although there are exceptions, I find that the age outlier is often a bad fit, so this works well. You will learn from your group. Our Thursday group has a few older kids and one younger boy, but he started before them and was very attentive, so he has been useful to the group and integrated well. The key is to be attentive and see how the group dynamics work when there are big differences, and to some degree to minimize them.
Time: The Friday group for younger kids is shorter, only an hour, which is good as individual kids have different tolerances for seated, listening and talking play. My 8-9 year olds are good for the hour, some are ready to bug out by then, so it’s good to end.
Role-Play: The only difference I have seen here is that the conversational component of role-play is generally shorter for the younger kids. They are happy to talk to NPCs, but not for too long. My older group is happy to do an entire session of primarily role play, my younger group is not.
Behavior Management: I had one participant whose first session was challenging. The participant spoke over others, shouted constantly, declared what would happen for their character and others, and generally made it almost impossible to game. I spoke with the parent and indicted that this sort of quiet, social game might be a bad fit, the parent had a discussion and things improved immensely. The participant is still enjoying the game, but the parental intervention helped a lot and I was given some tools to use in game that helped too.
Refusal: I never say “no” to a player asking to try something in game, I’ll let them know it’s a bad idea, but that’s on them. I do say, “no” to requests that don’t fit the context of the current game, e.g. “Can I have a vast army at my command?”. That can be a no. But kids don’t like hard “no’s”, so try giving them options. “No, you can’t have an army, but you can hire henchmen”, that sort of thing.
That’s my first 5, more to come soon.