Running a game for kids

I have a game coming up that I’m running for third-graders — my kid, a couple of his friends, and one friend’s older brother and dad.

I’ve decided on a few things:

I’m going to simplify combat. No opportunity attacks or shifting; no FRW. For characters that have attacks that target FRW, I’ll just put a +2 on their sheets to make up for the higher defense. (Well, maybe +2. I’m going to look closely at the monsters I’m using first, to make sure that’s a good number.) I’m also eliminating healing surges as a limited resource — characters will have a heal value, but won’t have to keep track of surges used. (And the adventure won’t require them to get anywhere near using them all.) And temporary hit points will just be added to normal hit points.

I’m making pre-gen characters and allowing them to choose. The characters will match figures. The dad will get less choice; he’ll have to cover unpicked roles (so probably end up with the cleric). All the powers will be the simple ones; high-damage, simple effects.

I’m making my own character sheets. Page one will have their skills. Page two will have their at-will attacks, AC and hit points.

They’ll receive their encounter powers on cards at the beginning of the first fight, and turn the cards in when they use them. In the second fight, they’ll get their encounter and daily powers on cards.

The story is, the PCs are students at the Baldur’s Gate Academy for Defenders of the City — basically, adventurer’s school. The school’s mascot, an animated statue of a hedgehog, has been stolen, and they have to find it.

I’m threading a needle between making it awesomely violent for the kids, and keeping the violence down to suit my wife. I want them to use their skills to investigate first, to figure out where it went. I’m thinking right now the first fight will be against a flock of rats and stirges in a cave tunnel, and the second will be the goblins from the Chaos Scar adventure “Eyes in the Forest.” The goblins will have captured the thieves — kids from the rival Neverwinter School of Sword and Sorcery — but the PCs will have orders to bring the thieves back alive.

A lot of the action will be choose-your-own-adventure type; my kid has played D&D before, but the others haven’t. I’m still brainstorming ideas for how to give the PCs leads — I want to have at least two things for most skills, but I suspect it’s going to be a matter of fast thinking on my feet to reward a successful use of just about any skill. You rolled Arcana? Sure, you can detect echoes of the magic they used to get past the defenses. Um, streetwise? Sure, you see the kid across the yard, I bet he knows something. (If you have any ideas, I’d love them.)

It’s going to be a nerve-wracking experience.

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