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Truly, Madly, Deeply: A Starter Adventure for Kids

I’ve recently been chatting to fellow D&D blogger, Patrick Higingbotham, and he told me about his latest project: a starter adventure designed to make introducing D&D to new and young players (from around 9 years old and above) a smoother, more immersive experience. It sounded really cool, and I thought who better to introduce it than the man himself… so here’s Patrick with a guest post about Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Learning anything can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Learning Dungeons & Dragons shouldn’t be a strictly academic pursuit. Asking an experienced RPG aficionado to pick up a copy of the Player’s Handbook and create a character by game night is one thing. Expecting a new player to read 320 pages of material and distill their preferences into a single character is another. Even asking them to focus just on the race and class sections can be overwhelming. Particularly for younger players. I think there is a better way to introduce new players to D&D. In fact, we created an adventure so players could create their characters while they are playing.

Kids have great imaginations but may not have the patience to wade through 320 pages of boring rules. But with resources like Truly Madly Deeply: Level Zero to Hero at your disposal, that doesn’t mean you have to wait 10 years for your kids to grow up. Instead, you can harness their imaginations to create detailed, fun, and D&D-compliant characters organically as you play. Using Truly Madly Deeply, you’ll naturally flesh out the characters and demonstrate how to play D&D without taking a deep dive into the rules.

Learning Dungeons & Dragons Through Role-playing

When we wrote Truly Madly Deeply, our goal was to simplify things. We acknowledge that our adventure module is no substitute for eventually reading the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide for the DM. But we also empathize with the players who have kids who may be old enough to grasp the basic concepts of the game yet still can’t be expected to learn everything through study. That’s why the first section of this adventure starts slowly. In fact, players will come to the table with little more than a character concept and an uncompleted character sheet. It’s up to you and them to roll your stats (or choose them with the standard array or point-buy system) and choose a background and equipment. But through actively engaging with one another at the table, your players will get to narrow down the ideal class based on their desired style of play. Or just simply what interests them. Regardless, by the end of the first section (“Module 0”), your players should have completed character sheets. They’ll even get to experience a little action in the meantime.

Levelling Up

The next module lets the players explore some basic mechanics as first-level players who are training to join the Harpers. They have a tutor, a dwarf named Adoward Axeager, who will guide them along. Dungeons & Dragons is not a game that lends itself to endless toe-to-toe slugfests. Instead, players should learn some basic mechanics to become more tactically proficient fighters. This part of the adventure will present opportunities to learn these things. This is when the players will start to understand their character options and how they can influence their style of play (hopefully a player who wants to be in the enemy’s face didn’t choose to be a squishy wizard).

Removing the Training Wheels

Up until now, the adventure has been set to Easy Mode, having suspended the usual rules of character death. But now things are getting real and the characters are adventuring outside of a controlled environment. Anything goes now, but they have the added constraint of having to “conduct themselves as Harpers” would. As second-level characters, some players may have to choose some character options (like druids) that others won’t until they reach level three. Don’t let them get too wrapped around the axle on their choice. They will have the opportunity to change it when they level up again later in this adventure. The important thing is to keep the momentum going. That’s probably the second-most important rule to remember. The first being to have fun.

At any rate, in module 2, the adventures will be traveling overland to the guildhall in Berdusk. There they will be officially inducted into the Harpers records (using pseudonyms they are to come up with by the time they get there, of course). Complications along the way, and a (metaphorically) ticking clock, will mean the group will have to make decisive and strategic decisions. Dally too long on the road and they’ll miss their own graduation. Ignore people in need and they could be found unfit for duty as Harpers.

Honeymoon’s Over

Module 3 is where players start to put it all together. At this point, all players should have chosen a druid circle, or an oath, or a martial archetype, or whatever is required for their particular class. Those who had to decide at level 2 should be allowed to change it at this point for the sake of this adventure. They don’t have to. The newly-graduated Harpers are given their first official assignment which involves, naturally, some overland travel. They will, hopefully, arrive at their destination and chat with the locals and then figure out how to help. Discretion and cleverness will be the players’ allies during this portion of the adventure. It’s simple to charge in and kill anything in your way. But the players have to remember that they are Harpers and working on the faction’s behalf. If they were unaffiliated mercenaries or treasure-hunters, it would be different.

While this is certainly not the only way a player could approach learning Dungeons & Dragons, I think it’s one of the fastest ways to get the players to the table that I’ve seen, which still respects the full spirit of the player game. There are other modules geared towards kids that I think are wonderful, but most of those are targeting younger kids (ages 6 years old or so) whereas we aimed to target an older audience of kids (from around 9 years old or above), or even adults who have no RPG experience.

Buy the Adventure!

You can grab a copy of Truly, Madly, Deeply on the DMs Guild for just $4.99.

Further Reading

You can also read more about the adventure on Patrick’s blog The Summoning Grounds, and keep up with him via Twitter.

Or keep reading for more recommended 5e D&D adventures on Hipsters & Dragons.

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2 Comments

  1. Justin

    Oh I so needed this about 2 months ago! I DM for my daughter and four of her friends, all ages 9-10. I really like this concept though, and will definitely check it out.

    I found that they LOVE creating characters, perhaps even more than playing them doing adventures. I did most of the character creation for them after asking a few guided questions to establish race, class (starting with just the four core classic options), etc – but for example I gave the spellcasters their starting spells, and didn’t even tell the cleric about all the other spells she could prepare instead (too overwhelming for a 9 yo!).

    At first I also simplified all dice down to d20 and d6 (eg. d10 = d6+2), and in the very first adventure I did all the maths in my head and just gave them the d20 roll they needed to beat.

    Then progressively took away those training wheels, such that they now have access to all PHB races and classes, and are at level 3.

    The other thing I’d say I’ve learned is that you really need to bring the adventure to them – open sandboxes just lead to paralysis, and slow transitions inevitably lead to distraction.

    (Also agree 100% with your comment that ‘kids’ content is mostly for 6-7yos, and 9-10 range is a gap in the market)

    • Hi Justin, I’m the author of this guest post that Duncan has graciously shared. It’s too bad Truly Madly Deeply: Level Zero to Hero didn’t find you sooner! I hope you do check it out and share your thoughts with us!

      Happy gaming!

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