Content of the article: "Update and thank you from DM Stepmom"
I posted here looking for advice on DMing a campaign for my D&D-obsessed stepkids and semireluctant partner, and this sub really came through for me! There was so much encouragement, advice, and resources offered that you really gave me the confidence to forge ahead! Thank you thank you thank you!
We got sidetracked a little with another campaign, but started up a couple of months ago and it's going so well! I wanted to give back to the community that helped me and offer some tips for other parents who might want to attempt this with younger kids.
Things that worked:
- Short sessions. I found that our 9yo gets really squirrelly and has trouble paying attention after an hour, so we try to keep it to that several times a week. It's also helped me a lot as a first-time DM because session prep isn't overwhelming.
- Homebrew. A lot of people advised me to run a pre-written campaign, but a homebrew allowed me to even the playing field between the expert and beginner players, and prevent meta-gaming. I started with all characters in an unfamiliar place for the same reason.
- Pander to the crowd a little. Said 9yo loves animals, so every now and then the party encounters a cute baby animal and she gets to try to cast Animal Friendship. So far she's accumulated a miniature donkey and a fennec fox and that keeps her very happy when her character isn't the center of attention. 13yo is a bit of a know-it-all, so every once in a while I'll toss his character a softball so he can impress everyone with his knowledge. I also put him in charge of helping everyone level up.
- Don't be afraid to use accents! I was a little scared, but they don't mind that everything eventually devolves into Southern Belle or Jamaican Leprauchaun. It really gets them into the roleplaying, and they unconsciously start mimicking the accents, which is always hilarious.
- Lego! We have an absurd amount of lego, and I had everyone build their characters so we can use the figurines for combat. They love it and it gives me new ideas for NPCs.
Things that didn't work:
- Partner doesn't really roleplay. He keeps saying it's "out of his comfort zone", but I wish he would try a bit more. Our last campaign his character was basically Matt Berry as a rock gnome, and it was amazing. He doesn't really know what to do when he's asked about his character's background though.
- Kids can be dicks. 13yo can bully his sister a bit, and she's prone to shutting down instead of responding in character. Example: She tries to wake him up in the morning, and he'll punch her and say "well my character isn't a morning person". I hate breaking role to referee as SM instead of DM, but I have to more often than I'd like.
- Nobody wants to take notes. I get that it feels like homework, but when they can't remember anyone's name or who they've already met it gets annoying. I'm trying to keep things simple and we do a quick recap at the start of each session.
- I still kind of hate doing combat. I'm slow and hate looking things up, and the beginner players don't really have a good handle on the nuances of their abilities, so it's a lot of "no, you can't force choke the guard with mage hand" or "no, you can't search the entire warehouse for the heaviest box and throw it at the monster within one turn". I just try to be as descriptive as possible and vary the scenarios so all combat encounters aren't identical.
- Consider having a side campaign
- Considering stopping my campaign early but I just can’t make up my mind. Advice?
- One of my players just asked for help learning to DM! I’ve never felt so honored, and I’m so excited for them.
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