When my wife asked me to teach my seven-year old step-daughter how to play Dungeons and Dragons I knew that I couldn’t plop down a Player’s Handbook in front of her. The idea of teaching her had been floating around in my head for a bit but I never solidified anything. This last weekend when my wife suggested we all sit down and play I was on the spot to come up with simplified rules. Here’s what I did.

First, I didn’t introduce any rules for role-playing. She’s seven years old and I didn’t want to open up the can of worms that was “While your argument is compelling, you rolled a 2 for Diplomacy.” She’s a very creative child so I just let her make up whatever she wanted and rolled with the punches.

This means the “game” part focused on the traditional backbone of D&D; Combat. I pulled out a couple little maps, had her pick out a character, and had her write down her stats. Since I didn’t want to overwhelm her with Attributes, Skills, Feats, etc I decided to boil combat down to three stats; Armor Class, Attack Bonus, and Hit Points. I arbitrarily assigned numbers to her character, my wife’s character, and all the vile evil Orcs they were slaying.

Characters are allowed to move six squares, and almost immediately I had to explain that she could move diagonally. Once she understood that left, right, forward, and backward weren’t her only options she was flying around the board with ease.

When she was adjacent to a bad guy she would roll a d20, add her Attack Bonus, and compare the number to the bad guy’s Armor Class. If she hit she got to roll a d8 for damage and I kept track of how much she did to each Orc. When bad guys would attack her I would roll and tell her their total, asking if it was less than or greater than her Armor Class.

At the start no one had hit points. I wasn’t going to let my step-daughter die at the luck of the dice her first time playing D&D. I also was going to make sure she was the one that got the killing blow in on the Orcs. Eventually, the question came up about how much damage she could take and I had to assign a value for her.

Slowly, I introduced a few other rules into the game. If she could get her piece on the opposite side of a bad guy from her mom’s piece she would get a +2 Flanking bonus. If the bad guy wasn’t in the right place she could roll an attack and opt to Push the bad guy one square away from her, which she used to Push bad guys into Flank for that coveted +2 bonus. If she rolled really well on an attack, ten points or more over the bad guy’s armor class, she got to roll a d10 instead of a d8 for damage.

By the end of the mini-session she had adventured into an Orc cave, killed their chieftain, and claimed his dinosaur mount as a pet. Then immediately asked to play more. I told her I’d need time to figure out the next adventure, a concept that I don’t think she pick up on, but I’m looking forward to our next game. Hopefully, I’ll have more story, less Orc killing, and a few more rules ready for her.

As a post script, if you’re looking for more dice-rolly character creation I propose the following solution:

Armor Class = 14 +1d6
Attack Bonus = 1d10
Hit Points = 3d10
Damage Die = d8


  1. Nice. Last Gencon I ran ‘Little Wizards’ (a very free form combat-less adventure game for kids) for a table of 5-7 year olds (a 4 year old was there with his 7 year-old sister), and this last one a woman running kids events under the name Mother Geek did an “introduction to dice rolling and roleplaying a scene” for my son and two other 4 or 5 year-olds. As my son gets older, I’m paying more attention to experiences like yours and games like that.

  2. That’s great.

    I might also take a page from this new D&D and use ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’ rather than X situation grants Y bonus. I like their approach, when you have advantage you get to roll 2 dice and pick the better.

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