D&D Kids Articles at WotC

On the official Dungeons & Dragons website, Wizards of the Coast is publishing a series of articles by Uri Kurlianchik, whose day job is teaching D&D to kids at Israeli schools and community centers. I’ve long heard that there is a thriving afterschool-D&D scene, and these articles are the most in-depth glimpses from that scene that I’ve seen in English. (Due to my low Intelligence score, I am unable to read any other languages.)

Character Generation talks about getting started when playing with kids. Interesting quote:

I recommend using this stage to give each player’s character a pet. Kids love pets. You should love them too because they create more opportunities for roleplaying, can save the group when the situation seems desperate, and add flavor and a chance for some goofy jokes to your game (passive-aggressive cat anyone?).

D&D Kids: Combat Encounters talks about battles, a subject near and dear to the hearts of the kids in our afterschool program as well. Interesting quote:

Younger kids (ages 7-8) often get very involved in fast-paced and exciting games. This is a good thing, but it is important to ensure they don’t get carried away and lose sight of reality. I recently joined the respectable club of people who had a shoe thrown in their face. The target wasn’t me, per se, but rather an evil wizard who taunted one of the heroes. However, it was not the wizard who took a purple shoeprint to the face, but me. So be careful—always be watchful for kids who get overly excited, and make sure to curb their enthusiasm. You should also be vigilant for friction between kids in and out of game. Disagreements in-game can lead to bad blood in real life. Bad blood leads to arguments, which can lead to physical violence. Strangle this demon in the cradle by spilling cold water on young minds that get too hot.

D&D Kids: Rewards talks about the fun stuff about D&D – what the author sees as the carrot. Interesting quote:

For me, it is fascinating to see how a group of young children deal with the responsibility of managing nations and shaping the fates of thousands. Some kids really enjoy it. One group in particular has designed a new religion, wrote a bible for it, trained evangelists to spread it across the land, and eventually raised a fundamentalist oligarchy of some 15,000 humans, elves, and dwarves with towns named after heroes. This religion now has a Facebook group and a fair amount of likes. Also, it makes the Spanish Inquisition look cute in comparison….

D&D Kids: Punishment talks about negative reinforcements as a tool in teaching D&D, and has raised some internet kerfuffle. Interesting quote:

Some kids are not serious. Some kids don’t come to play, but rather to socialize. Some kids do want to play, but their heads are up in the clouds. Some, likeBatman’s Joker, are a force of pure chaos. As a DM, it’s your duty to deal with them lest they deal with you (and your game!). The most traditional method of punishment is reduction of XP. Without a very good reason, don’t remove more than 50 XP at once—you want to warn the players, not cripple their characters. Severe transgressions, such as reading your DM notes, damage to people and property, or highly inappropriate remarks should be punished harshly. In rare cases, even the extreme measure of removing levels can be used, although this will often be a prelude to kicking the offender out of the group.

I hope to find time to say more about these articles soon; for now I’ll just point you to them as a very interesting parallel to the classes James & I are doing for kids the same age and at least theoretically using the same system (although both we and Uri diverge from canonical 4E in many places).

8 Responses to “D&D Kids Articles at WotC”

  1. March 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I read a little bit about this guy on Friday as things were getting heated up. Based on the quotes you threw in above, this guy strikes me as a really patronizing douchebag. Maybe it is a language issue.

  2. March 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Reading all four articles (which the author is frustrated that people aren’t doing before criticizing him), I wound up finding more common ground despite cultural and language barriers than I expected based on hearsay about the Punishment one alone.

    “Patronizing” is hard to avoid at some level when one is an adult with dozens of years of gaming experience & maturity interacting with kids who have little of either. As I’ve said before, I think the idea of hierarchy – someone being better than you, or visa versa – is endemic to gamer psychology (and indeed to human psychology). I try not to see myself as better than the kids – more experienced yes, but also staler and more ossified, less open to pure awesomeness. Note that buying into the idea of superiority & inferiority also causes people to be defensive about being patronized and to counterattack when they think it’s being done to them.

  3. March 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Man! I can’t imagine how insane the kids would be with pets to blither on about.

    Come to think of it, this is a really, really nice thing about your suggestion for the Cleric to use a spirit animal. Do you like pets, kids? Then play the Cleric! At last the class is appealing.

  4. March 22, 2011 at 2:18 am

    “I recommend using this stage to give each player’s character a pet.”

    You know, my question is, what happened to the list of animals in the PHB? Why is it that now, instead of them spending some money on a dog or a horse at chargen, the DM has to give the players a pet?

  5. March 22, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Spending money on equipment is well on the filling-out-tax-forms side of the character-generation process, IMO. I like doing that as much as the next hardcore gamer, but since the goal is to turn the kids into hardcore players, I fully agree with Uri’s sentiment from the character generation article: “In any case, start playing as soon as possible and start with a bang! Kids get bored very quickly and once you’ve lost them, it’s very difficult to get them back on track.” Just saying “yeah you have a giant lizard” helps cut to the chase.

    You might be asking a different question: what happened to the list of animals in the 4E PHB? I think the answer to that is many-fold and has to do with a shift in playstyle where you want your guy is powerful due to their awesomeness rather than the fact that they invested in war-dogs; a desire to codify things, so that “war dog, 5 gp” is seen as presenting too little information and leaving the players at the mercy of DM fiat; a perceived need for balance, which is easily thrown off if the other guy has lots of cheaply-purchased extra bite attacks every round; and also the insanity factor James is talking about above where you’re like “come on end your turn already, don’t start in on your dozen war dogs.”

    I personally don’t particularly support any of those arguments, and I have reason to believe the new direction in design from WotC is also pulling back from the current “a purchased animal is like a power is like a magic item” extreme. However, since Mordenkainen’s was pulled from the release schedule I’m not sure how that new direction is going to be expressed.

  6. March 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Yeah, I was wondering why they completely removed it. Thanks!

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Past Adventures of the Mule

March 2011

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