DM for Kids: The Menagerie

Welcome to the debut of a new column  ‘DM for Kids‘, which will highlight some of the great times I’m having playing D&D with my (currently) 12 -year old daughter and 10-year son, and some of the lessons I’m learning. My inspiration for the format of this column is the excellent ‘Dungeon Master Experience’ column on the Wizards of the Coast website. If you enjoy this column a fraction as much as I enjoy Chris Perkin’s writing, I’ll be thrilled 🙂

 Heroic Tier, 1st Level (in fact the first ever adventure!):
The party are fighting their way into a heavily defended kobold lair, attempting to rescue captives from an earlier raid on the King’s Road east of Fallcrest. The kobolds have retreated deeper into their tunnels, releasing some captive monsters to (they hope…) destroy the heroes. A hard fight ensues against a Spitting Drake, a Dire Boar, and a Scuttling Centipede, resulting in the first two slain, but the Centipede fleeing back to its cage and being locked back in. 
Son: “Ok, what do we see in the room.” 
DM Dad: “Well, there are the two large winch mechanisms that are clearly used to raise the monster cages to the trapped tunnel above; there’s a passage to the south leading into darkness. Oh, and a glowing brazier in the middle of the room. I guess the kobold guards were cold.”
Son: “Drakkar [the Drake, the dragonborn ranger’s beast companion] goes over to the brazier. Is there anything cooking in it?”
DM Dad: “Ummm … yes, there are some potatoes baking in the embers.” 
Son: “Drakkar pulls them out and starts eating them! Oh wait, he also takes some down to the cage to feed the Centipede … can we keep that as a pet …” 

My D&D campaign with my kids unfortunately stutters a bit, with sessions at the mercy of homework, weekend sporting and other activities, and my work schedule! As a result, although we’ve been going well over a year, the kids’ characters are even now just on 3rd level,… but already they’ve managed to assemble quite a menagerie!

Both of them are animal lovers – in real life we have cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and horses – so when it came to rolling up characters, both of their primary characters ended up as a Ranger Beastmaster! My daughter plays Shannaira, an eladrin with ‘Tawny’ the panther, and my son Torrin the dragonborn with ‘Drakkar’ the drake. As well, the party has an eladrin wizard originally rolled up by my wife (even though we can’t get her to actually play…),  who has a pet war-dog, Phyias (you can see where they get it from…)!

Recently the party have had a bit of downtime (of sorts) in Fallcrest, and as mentioned, the first task on the list was to go and buy horses … so the group now includes 5 riding horses, and a major quest is on to find enough gold to come back and purchase a Fey warhorse. No stronger motivation for adventuring is required!

The Menagerie comes to town...

To be honest, sometimes the menagerie can cause things to get a bit bogged down, as the kids focus on the minutae of their animals’ actions, but it’s generally a price worth paying. Some of the best role-playing snippets come directly from this, as you can see from game play snippet above. The beast companions, especially, are role-played with as much investment as the characters themselves.

Combat is interesting as well; the two have quite different approaches to managing this. My son is pretty fatalistic, and Drakkar will charge into combat alongside his master with little regard for safety (“I can always raise him if he gets killed …”). Tawny however, is treated more carefully; she’ll get into the fight, but as soon as she’s taking damage steps will be taken to remove her from the critical action!

Lessons learned: 

  • As an [adult] DM, sometimes the animal related distractions can be a bit involved. I’ve learned to roll with it though, as it clearly forms a key part of my kids immersion in the story and encourages role-playing. Anything that does that must be a good thing, right?
  • Adventure hooks are easy when there are motivations driven from the characters’ (players’…) desires.
  • There hasn’t actually been an animal death yet, but I know I will need to tread carefully here …
  • Draw the line at a giant Scuttling Centipede as a pet .. 🙂

Until next time,


This entry was posted in Columns, DM for Kids, Roleplaying with Kids. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to DM for Kids: The Menagerie

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