Every time I leave the house for my weekly Dungeons & Dragons game my son asks me, “Daddy, are you going to scare the dragons now?” To which I will invariably reply as I give him a hug, “Yes, daddy is going to scare the dragons.”
With this conversation completed I head out to scare the dragons. My son will be three later this summer, his concept of D&D is non-existent he just knows that every week his daddy goes to scare the dragons. I’m not even sure if he really knows what a dragon is, other than a big dinosaur.
The focus on my son’s question to me is on the word scare. He doesn’t ask if daddy is going to go slay the dragons, he uses the word scare. He might be just shy of three-years-old, but I think the word scare is an important distinction.
The other day I was contemplating when it would be a good idea to introduce him to role-playing games? Dice at this point are beyond him and a distraction I don’t want. However, role-playing or make believe isn’t too far away. Currently, our make believe sessions are confined to building forts out of the couch pillows and making up grappling rules as my son tries to knock over and jump onto daddy.
As I gave some thought to the question I began to think what would a gaming session with my son even look like? The answer is it wouldn’t. It would be my son and I using some stuffed toys and playing make believe. At its heart that’s what D&D is, make believe. As adults we’ve just added in a lot of rules to complicate our lives and add to the depth of the game.
In playing D&D with young children the focus isn’t on the rules, the powers or the dice. Instead it is on imagining the scene. Being creative and trying all kinds of crazy idea’s. Of course this is the joy of role-playing or of pretending, it isn’t real and different ideas can be explored. For a child this is a magical thing.
As I have explored the idea of eventually playing D&D with my son I realize that the first steps into the game will actually have nothing to do with D&D. No books, no character sheet, no dice. There will be dragons and that’s about as close to D&D as we will get in the beginning.
It all gets back to that word scare. We don’t need rules and dice because we aren’t trying to kill the dragon. That’s easy, just keep attacking it and hope you win the war of attrition. Any adventuring party can slay a dragon, sure it’s a difficult encounter. When you are fighting the monster that has it’s name on the title of the game it shouldn’t be a cake walk, but you can kill a dragon. In fact I imagine it happens rather often.
But when was the last time you had to scare a dragon?
How would you do it? How do you scare one of the most powerful creatures in the game? How do you get it to flee its lair in terror?
My son would raise his arms, jump up and down and roar. That would do it! The dragon would be out of there, fleeing with its tail tucked between its legs.
It’s at this point in my thoughts about playing D&D with my son that my focus shifts. I realize that my son would approach the game differently than I do. In his eyes nothing is impossible, he doesn’t have the rules to constrain him. I also realize that because I have rules when I play D&D, and because I’m trying to slay the dragon, I don’t think as creatively as I could when I do play.
D&D for me is more about how can I use my powers in the coolest and most effective way. It’s about rolling dice, killing monsters and taking their stuff. Rinse and repeat. I realize that I wouldn’t have the first clue on how to scare a dragon. Sure, I’d figure something out but it would take me four times as long and be no where near as spontaneous as my son.
My take away on all of this is to loosen up, and think more creatively when I play. Maybe I’ll even disregard a few rules.
I’ll let you know how it goes.