Updated: Dec 2, 2020
My son is fascinated with D&D, especially as he's grown up watching me enjoy the hobby. I invested in Hero Kids (created by Justin Halliday) a few years ago and have taken him and my daughter through a couple of the adventures. Hero kids is an introductory RPG for kids, 4-10 years old. Each adventure lasts for about 30-60 minutes which is more than enough time for their attention spans. What's great about it is that they also provide premade characters with illustrations that the kids can choose from, name themselves, and colour in! They also provide loads of other print outs (maps, bad guys and character tokens to use on maps).
With his 7th birthday quickly approaching (and the sad realisation that Lego Land closes for the winter), I decided on the crazy choice of running a homemade Hero Kids adventure for his birthday party!
We invited 4 of his friends over. So counting his sister, there would be 6 kids playing total. (During the actual game, his sister opted to watch Numberblocks with their little brother. So we had 5 players in the end.)
First of all, I came up with a simple adventure idea.
Evil wizard cast a sleeping spell on the group's home town. A magical crystal needs to be retrived from caves beneath the town - this will break the sleeping spell.
Simple adventure hook sorted! But then I needed to add the encounters. Encounters in a role-playing game consist of something the Players need to overcome. This can be combat, social, skill-based or a puzzle.
So as this needed to be relatively short, I needed only a couple encounters.
1) A intro fight against a T-Rex and Ninja minions (because it was a 7 year old's birthday party)
2) A skill challenge of getting across a river.
3) A boss fight with the Evil Wizard and more of his ninja minions.
4) A puzzle to put the magical crystal back togeether.
Knowing what the players would encounter, I rolled out a big piece of white parchment/butcher paper, grabbed some sharpies and went to town making a BIG map of the jungle-filled cavern that took up most of my dining room table for a couple days. It included a river on the far end of the cavern and a raised area filled with gems and crystals in the walls.
Now, when you run a game for adults, there is a certain expectation that they'll be able to maintain focus and be relatively invested in what's going on. With kids, if they aren't directly involved, their attention wanes. If there's a lot of talking, their attention wanes. So, to help combat these things, this is how I set up the game and what I added to it:
While waiting for everyone to arrive, the kids sat down and picked out their character from print-outs on the table. They got to colour their character sheet and their mini (also printed out but glued to thin cardboard to be inserted into a game piece holder... like from other kid's boardgames). Everyone also picked out a pencil (with fun eraser) and their own set of dice (the game only uses d6s. I bought a collection of sparkly d6s from online).
At the begining, I gave special in-game magic items to each kid. They were all different items that they got to use during the game.
Having minis and a colourful map helped hold their attention.
I was strategic in having the enemies be a big T-Rex and then LOTS of ninjas. Who doesn't want to fight a ninja? The boys were all over it.
Because sitting for a long time is hard, no matter what you're doing, the river challenge involved them getting out of their chairs and moving. Their characters would have to cross the river by jumping from mushroom to mushroom. I had inherited a bedsheet with mushroom caps painted on it from a friend (who had run her own TTRPG birthday party). This was a great way to get the kids out of their chairs to stretch their legs, and to physcially jump across the "river!"
And finally, I wanted to include a physical prop for the puzzle. It took me a long time to settle on what to do, but then finally it hit me. I loved Tangrams as a kid! So when the party finally found the crystal, it was BROKEN. They had to put it back together. I have the kids a silhouette of a crystal, and they had to make it using the Tangrams.
Overall, it was far more successful than I expected. Especially as I was the only adult in the house with five 7 year olds, one 5 year old and one 3 year old trying to run a TTRPG adventure. Numberblocks saved my butt. Not going to lie.
Some highlights included the sole girl of the party defaulting to being the Healer, and after a fight, very tiredly saying, "Does anyone need healing?" My poor girl, I feel for you. For someone who seemed very confused about how to play the game, she settled into the cleric role pretty swiftly. Also the excitement when they finally defeated the big bad and then completed the puzzle! To top it off, one of the boys went home and showed his "lucky dice" to his mom. It makes my nerdy heart happy.
I'm happy with how it all turned out, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. But I'm not going to lie, the glass of wine was well received and earned that evening.