One of the best things about running a Dungeons and Dragons adventure is never, ever being able to predict how a group of characters will react to any given situation.
However, some things should have been predictable. Here are my top 10 Dungeons and Dragons lessons learned about running adventures for 12-year-olds.
- They need a mentor non-player character to help them out, to inspire them in some cases, to guide them to their next adventure, and to explain what may or may not work, without taking them out of the story. It’s why Gandalf is there with the hobbits, why Moiraine arrives to talk to Rand Al’Thor, why Dumbledoor advises Harry Potter. I goofed that one up.
- They are completely uninterested in learning about the backstories of the people in the world, the politics in the town, or the greater world as a whole. Maybe this will change, since a ton of stuff was thrown at them on the first day, but right now, it’s ‘where do I have to go and what do I have to kill?’
- Sugar intake control is vital to playing a successful game. Too much too soon, and they become like Vikings bent on looting and pillaging everything in sight. Or, to use the new Dungeon and Dragon adventure terms, they become murder hobos. Kill everything. Take everything.
- Fighting rats is not fun. Gosh, why didn’t I see that one earlier. Sure, they are tough, and, statistic-wise, a pretty good challenge, but who wants to go home talking about killing rats. To be fun, the players needed to overcome something with swagger, something they can brag about, something larger than life. Doh!
- To simulate healing potions, I bought small vials, washed them thoroughly, and filled them with Gatorade. When the boys had to heal themselves from wounds in battle, I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have them drink the Gatorade vials? However, what I should have foreseen is that they like Gatorade and so would take damage just so they could drink the Gatorade. (sigh)
- Never let the characters damage each other. In the game, when the players roll a ‘1’, something bad happens, but if you let that ‘something bad’ be hit another player, then that player wants revenge and pretty soon they’re swinging swords at each other. It’s funny, for a second, then the whole party dies and everyone is mad at everyone.
- A good fart noise goes a longer way with 12-year-olds than with adults. Ok, wait, no, it goes a long way with adults as well…but be careful, if you let one boy make a loud fart noise because one failed ‘1’ roll, then they all start wanting ‘1’s so they can make that noise. Over and over and over and over again… and, perhaps to no one’s surprise, sometimes those noises are not faked. Never make this a farting game. Ever. No.
- I stressed and stressed about painting miniatures for the boys. I spent hours making sure their characters looked amazing, but, being nearly blind in my old age, and with shaking hands and a rather feeble ability to paint small things in the first place, I wasn’t able to really do anything to a pro-level (despite watching 200 YouTube videos). However, it didn’t make any difference. The boys were so excited to have painted miniatures of their characters and didn’t care that I’d not been able to paint a microscopic belt buckle.
- Food matters. There’s a post on what happens when there’s too much sugar, but not feeding them is a bad idea as well. Balance is the key here, and I don’t mean lots of carrots and celery sticks, no, just better management of pop, chips, candy and, for supper, pizza. Failure to properly control the food results in an alien-like transformation of good kids into scary, drooling monsters.
- They knew nothing about the rules but what I told them. I was so used to running dungeons and dragons adventures with people who knew more than I did so I had studied hard for these sessions, but it really wasn’t necessary. So what if I forgot about ‘opportunity attacks?’ So what if I goofed up how minor illusion worked? So what if I didn’t quite get how ‘sneak attack’ works? I will make sure it to make it fun, first and foremost.