So, a few days ago, I introduced my two daughters, ages 7 (about to be 8) and 6, to the idea of roleplaying games. They were curious about a "game that never ends" and where they work together instead of against each other. And they especially like the idea of using all of my miniatures, so they can "play with Daddy's monsters." (They love the figures and set them up all the time just to play around with them.)
I wasn't supposed to get the kids this weekend, since it's technically an "off-weekend" for me due to the parenting time schedule, but my youngest had been wanting to see more of me, so I decided to make this weekend special. I got a PDF copy of the game Dagger by Brave Halfling Publishing, which is appropriately billed as old-school roleplaying rules for kids. It works perfectly. In combination with my Rules Cyclopedia for found treasures and additional monster stats (I usually just made up monster stats on the fly, however), I found Dagger to be one of the best rules-lite systems I've come across.
The kids chose to play Elves, since they are already familiar with fairies from cartoons and such, and they have watched The Hobbit and the first Lord of the Rings movie, and liked the elves in it. Plus they wanted to use magic and be good at fighting (which I made sure to emphasize as "defending themselves" - as Christians of the Mennonite denomination we are non-resistant and do not believe in violence as means to an end and I try to keep violent material in the home minimal where the children are concerned). They immediately chose Cure Light Wounds as their spell. Possible influence from Sunday School was noted by me here. They are learning of the various miracles of Jesus right now, focusing on the different healing miracles. I was happy with that choice, since I knew they would try to fight every monster. I did the same thing when I first played D&D.
They began in the elf city of Lightbottle in the Woodwind Forest (the forest was named by my oldest, I was proud!). Pretty soon they heard a scream, so they went to look. I had to prompt a bit here since they didn't realize they couldn't actually see what was happening, that it was in the distance. When they arrived at the scene, a giant spider was trying to get into an elf cottage, owned by their friend Myrtle (by the way, my kids named their characters Selena and Roknee Fear - excellent names!). They won the fight, vanquishing the spider and saving their friend.
Long story short, some Dryads from the forest came to find them and took them to the King of the Forest, a huge treant (for which I had a pre-painted plastic mini from an old D&D Minis line, and I'd been itching to use it somehow). They loved it when I sat that sucker down on the floor with their characters (we played on the floor, with me in a recliner - I don't have much furniture after the divorce, so we make do more often than not with less than optimal seating). The King of the Forest charged them with finding the spiders and what is causing their attacks. As it turns out, they discover in the nearby village of Pinecone that orcs are involved with the spiders. They track them to an abandoned castle surrounded by a huge graveyard, and getting through the graveyard involved fighting a group of skeletons.
Upon entering the castle, they immediately alerted the orc guards by barging in and making lots of noise (note that by this time I'm fudging all kinds of rolls to keep it moving, because they're out of spells and healing potions because they're fighting and not running - my youngest's exact words were "I'm always going to attack!"). They destroy the orcs and move on, but not before the last orc escaped and returned with an ettercap in tow! They chose to proceed directly to the largest room, the old throne room, where a swarm of spiders was located. The finished dispersing the swarm, searched the room (with a bit of prompting), and found the secret door to the dragon's lair.
At this point you're asking why I would subject them to a dragon at first level. Well, they love dragons, and I can fudge rolls all day and they won't know the difference. They had a blast and that's all that matters. Plus, I gave it 1 hp per hit die and an AC of 3. It breathed at them and "missed" but nailed one of them with a Magic Missile spell. The best part was when after defeating the dragon and finding evidence that the dragon was what was commanding the spiders and orcs, they wanted to clear every room in the castle. Unbelievable. Especially considering the recent OSR meme of empty rooms and completist players. It turns out my children are completists. They absolutely hated the two empty rooms in the castle. They looked at me like they got robbed! They wanted a monster behind every door. In a megadungeon I'd have to use every monster in the book to keep them satisfied. Sounds kind of fun....
Here's where I wanted to show them what the treasure in the game is all about. I loaded them up with GP, gems, and 4 magic items (an egg of wonder, a wand of magic detection, a short bow +1, and a scroll of something or other that I can't remember right now). They made out big time, and had so much fun. They went back to the King of the Forest and reported what they learned. I made them try to remember, especially since my oldest is having trouble with reading comprehension and remembering what happened in a story - very little prompting was needed here. Random rolls for a magic item reward were next, and out of it came a wand of lightning bolts and a ring of protection +1. Now, that may sound like way too much treasure, but it was meant to show them the cool things in the game. Plus, I can toss some tougher monsters at them.
In the end, they reached 2nd level, gained 2 more hp each, dropped their saves to 13, and got to pick a 2nd level spell each. They both picked Invisibility. My oldest wants to "haunt" someone while invisible. That should be a entertaining!
The only problem I ran into, and this is simply due to my youngest only being in Kindergarten, is that I had to spell everything she wrote down and help her to read what she wrote and read the character sheet. She can read, but not fast like my oldest. But they have both declared that Dagger is the "most fun game they have ever played." When I asked if it was better than Monopoly, I was treated to an enthusiastic "Yes!" I may have myself two new enthusiasts. They love playing games with Daddy, and I live for our time together, and it has become really the only thing I truly look forward to every week. We're inseparable when we have our time together and we love to play games together - they often fight over who gets to sit next to me, which is a good feeling. The hardest thing about the divorce has been coming home to an empty apartment with no children. If you've never had the experience, the pain can be awful, especially when you're used to those two munchkins running around and causing chaos. It's worse than just someone not being there when you get home. Think about it - your kids do not live with you any more and it's just the way it has to be. It's been a really hard year. Please, if you have kids, treasure each moment of time with them. You could lose that all too easily.