Getting the Youngin's Into Tabletop Gaming

Getting the Youngin's Into Tabletop Gaming

Sep 06 , 2022

Jon Barry

More and more, this really has to be the big question: How can I get started in Dungeons and Dragons? Truth is we all started somewhere, and nowadays, DnD is more popular than it’s ever been. All the cool people are playing Dungeons and Dragons. Web shows like Critical Role really demonstrate how much fun it can be to roll dice with creative and imaginative people. 

Back in the day, the later years of the 20th century, tabletop gaming could be hard to get into. Kids back then had all their attention on TV and video games, board games were “old”. When people thought about board games back then, it was games like Monopoly and Yahtzee. It’s only when modern day classic board games like Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride came out that tabletop games had a bit of a resurgence. Dungeons and Dragons was along for that ride. Video games like Baldur’s Gate opened new worlds of possibilities for young gamers. It wasn’t just that game the old nerds played with funny dice. Eventually they made movies about Dungeons and Dragons. The movies of Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, and Howl's Moving Castle cemented not only how cool fantasy stories could be, but also how profitable they could be for a new audience. 

Many new gamers get into Dungeons and Dragons in several ways. The easiest way to talk about this is to divide them into four categories: Youngsters, Pre-teens, Teenagers, and Young Adults. Each gets into gaming in their own unique way.

Trying to get younger kids into DnD can be a bit difficult, but not as much as you might think. Young kids love to play pretend! What is DnD at its heart? It’s an excuse to dress up, play pretend, and amuse yourself for a few hours. With young kids, most of the rules need to be thrown out the window. The more you bog kids down with rules and math, the more they don’t want to play, because they aren’t being allowed to play. One way to get them interested and keep them interested is to treat a game of DnD more like a choose your own adventure book. Paint the scene for them and give them a choice for how they want the story to go, then let them deal with the consequences of that choice. Parents will be surprised how much fun they can have with their kids just playing make believe and weaving a story. 

Playing with young kids can be a very rewarding experience because kids will come up with some of the most creative ideas you’ve ever heard. In improv there’s a process called, “yes… and…” If you start an adventure with orcs and magic and a young kid suddenly decides that it needs a giant robot, don’t say no. Just go with it and see where the story goes. Encourage that kind of creativity.

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When kids reach those pre-teen years, it’s a good chance to bring out the rulebook. Kids in about 4th to 6th grade really start to dive into more advanced literature and mathematics in school, but that desire to play is still strong. DnD can be a great tool for learning, it includes simple math that must be done quickly and has many literary elements woven in. Some DnD campaigns out there are the rival of any Hardy Boys book they might read in school. It’s one thing to read a story about uncomfortable topics, but another to be immersed into a scene with those themes. Trust me, it won’t be hard to ask a 12 year old if he wants to stop studying for a couple hours and play a game with his friends.

As kids get into their high school years, DnD can be more of a social exercise. High school is stressful, it can be hard to make friends and forming bonds with people who share common interests is very important. Some schools now have Dungeons and Dragons clubs. For older gamers, the idea of having an after school club with all the DnD dice, dice towers, friends to bounce story ideas off of and help with mapmaking, and maybe older students to run games sounds like a dream come true. 

As we get older, and for those lucky enough to grow up with a wonderful hobby like tabletop gaming, it’s a good time to expand that experience. Maybe it’s time to invest in those metal dice or perhaps take up other hobbies like woodworking to finally build that dice box you always wanted growing up. Who knows? Maybe you and your friends will take a fancy to acting and will create the next great web series that inspires a whole new generation of gamers. 

For the old guard Dungeons and Dragons gamers, we need to remember that we all started somewhere. The wonderful thing about DnD is being able to meet people, have fun, and build friendships through amazing adventures. It’s more than a game. It’s a hobby. Hobbies are meant to be shared, because with every person involved the experience changes. That’s the wonderful thing about it DnD. Every game is different. Every situation is different. 

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Think about the first mimic chest you came across. Remember the shock and excitement of discovering a world where it’s important to expect the unexpected? We’ve all seen things you wouldn’t believe. Imagine those stories never being shared, it’s tragic to think about all those memories lost to time. Share them with your friends and your children. Pass on that love of high fantasy and adventure.