DM for Kids: Session Props

Heroic Tier, Level 1

The characters have just finished a tough and rousing battle in the main hall of the kobold lair, finishing off the kobold chieftain and his shaman side-kick, plus a bunch more of the nasty little humanoids.

But all is not finished with the adventure as yet. There is of course, the spit roasted pig to be devoured, and there are still more doors leading to rooms unknown… a large stone double set on the eastern side of the hall, and a smaller wooden affair on the western wall…

D&D Kids: We want to go through the wooden door first!

DM Dad: Ok, the door opens easily into a rough-hewn cave, lit by the cooking fires. The smoke from the fires escapes through a crevice in the roof, but …

D&D Kids: Dad, put down the map, we want to see the map!

DM Dad: There isn’t a map of this room, I’m just describing it.

D&D Kids: We don’t want to go this way then, we’ll go the other way …

This was my own fault really; I was a victim of my own success! 🙂

For virtually all of the adventure so far, I had produced hand-made dungeon tiles: drawn in CC3, printed out on card stock and cut into a jigsaw of pieces that I had laid out as the characters progressed through the kobold lair. Laid end to end, it covered most of the lounge floor. The kids loved it. This section of the dungeon, however, was just the kitchen and quarters of the kobold women and young – who had already fled, so there was no combat in the offing – so I decided not to print it out. Boy, did that backfire!!

More recently I ran a skills based encounter which had the characters clambering through the branches of a huge tree in the Feywild, climbing across rope-ladders, all the while dodging Xivort darts or fighting the little blue nasties atop wooden flets. I adapted the idea from a ‘street-chase’ skill challenge published a while back on Geek Ken’s blog, so had put together a simple ‘flow-chart’ as below:

I then decided to use a version (minus the DC and encounter notes) as a little game-board for the encounter. I’m sure a few die-hards out there might cringe, but it really worked in practice. Seeing the options visually seemed to inspire them to try different ways of attacking the challenge – after a couple of (Acrobatic) leaps between branches, one of which went wrong, they changed tack and started using Dungeoneering to whip up some rope contraptions. I even got a few quick sketches produced to ‘prove’ to me they would work. All-in-all, this was a fun and successful encounter (of course, the couple of short but exciting combats broke it up and made it suitable for my son…)!

Lessons learnt: 

  • Failure to provide suitable maps is at your our peril when DMing for kids 🙂 In subsequent sessions, I’ve tried to have a balance of using battle maps and not, and the kids are more used to this now, but there is no doubt that they prefer visual props in the game.
  • Props can be potentially have the danger of taking away from the imaginative nature of the game; however in the right circumstances I think they can really stimulate the role-playing experience.

Till next time, get your kids involved!

TolrendorDM

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7 Responses to DM for Kids: Session Props

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  6. Geek Ken says:

    Glad you found the city chase stuff inspiring. I think D&D stuff geared for kids is a little lacking. Even with my group of ‘adults’ I think folks tend to like some sort of written map or outline of a room, even if it is not to scale and on a grid. Not too surprised to see kids feel the same. Looking forward to more posts about your adventuring group.

    • tolrendordm says:

      Thanks for commenting! The city chase stuff was definitely inspiring – I’m a big fan of a good chase through the back alleys, so will almost certainly use the idea in its original form sometime as well!

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