[D&D For Kids] The Wildlings Intro Game

The player's kit for The Wildlings is ready for your perusal and feedback.


This game was inspired by discussion about "D&D For Kids" after WotC posted their Heroes of Hesiod introductory D&D module. It's also heavily influenced by Penny Arcade's "Lookouts"</> comics.

The game is meant to be run by an experienced gamer for players who are new to RPGs (kids or otherwise). The GM's kit isn't finished yet, but will contain the full rules, the adventure module, and techniques for running the game.

Take a look and let me know what you think. There's enough here to play it if you're so inclined, too.


  • Of course, it's awesome.

    My nitpick is the character sheet. I dig the simplicity, but I think having space set aside for name, gear etc, is worth it. Especially for kids, having empty spaces is a way of making sure they fill in that info.
  • edited May 2010
    I wonder why I left it blank, then? Must have been a reason...

    Anyone have any ideas?
  • edited May 2010
    To se what the kids actually write down maybe? ^__^ (*)

    Anyway, I'm intrigued by the "descriptors" on the successes and the way they will change the fiction.

    Do you already have the GM handbook down, or is it still in flux?

    (*) Plus, they need the space to draw the markings... which is another thing I'm intrigued about; I sense some parallel to Beast Hunter's tattoos...
  • I see what you're implying, but I still stand by having reminders of what shit is supposed to go on the sheet.
  • Very handsome, John. That success metric using adverbs is pretty damned clever. I may run this (or Blackbird) at Shared Worlds this summer, to introduce some of the kids to RPGs.
  • The players kit passes the kid test - my daughter (6) seems pretty keen on it. The animal spirit stuff in particular got immediate attention.
  • Thanks for the responses. I'm glad you're diggin' it.

    @Mike: Great to hear!

    Some Questions for You All:
    1. How do you feel about the age of the wildlings? They're 14 in this draft. I keep changing it. Maybe it should be a range?

    2. The adverbs. Any I'm missing?

    3. Pets? Kids love 'em. I considered this item under Weapons: "Not a weapon, but a loyal animal friend that follows you and fights by your side." Then I thought, well, everyone will pick that one and we'll end up with a bunch of animals to keep track of. What do you think?
  • The scenario set-up makes me think this is how Beowulf got his start.

    The design is gorgeous, of course.

    GM? What's that? I suppose since this is designed for an experienced gamer to introduce newbies, the Player's Kit doesn't really need to introduce the term "game master", but still it'd be easy enough to write "the game master (GM)" on first use.

    You might want a note under "Assign your dice" pointing them to the next page so they have a better idea of what each spirit means in terms of game actions. Or perhaps you want them to just go on instinct at that point, rather than thinking it out, in which case the text's fine as is.
  • Age: 14 could be fine, but is it really that important to be so specific? Some kids will prefer their age (whatever it is), some, if 15 or 16 (esp. boys) will frown on playing a younger boy. Others will like to imagine themselves as a bit older, cooler and braver. An age range might be more flexible, without even requiring the players to specify, if they don't want to.

    Adverbs: your spread is pretty good here. Adding more could really depend on your preference for the tone. Some other possible options: Accurately, Covertly, Cleanly... I don't know, the possibilites are endless. ^__^

    Pets: again... is it necessary to give it a mechanical aspect? If you think everybody will want one, give them one. Say "your wildling can, if he/she likes have a loyal animal companion". Then it simply becomes an extension to the narrative options of color described when taking action: the pet can be seen as a part of the character, giving him some more possibilities ("I send my sparrow high to spy on the path" is not functionally much different from saying "I scout ahead and gather reconnaissance info for the path").
  • I was going to post what Renato said about ages and pets.

    With regard to the adverbs,the range looks okay. Are they going to have mechanical weight beyond describing how things happen? If they don't, then you may just want to let people come up with their own if they want, and have that list there as the common ones.
  • I think somewhere in the 12-14 range is good for the age. Thirteen seems significant since it's the first "teen" year, fourteen is good because you're not a "new" teenager anymore. Older than fourteen strays into "grown-up" territory for younger kids, I believe, so fourteen's a good age for players who are, say, 7-9: they can imagine being that age, it's relatable, rather than being in the distant realm of adulthood. (I am not a childhood development specialist, obviously, so grains of salt are recommended.)

    Adverbs: Not sure about "calmly"; given the reasons to roll the dice, when do you think a player might choose that outcome? "Bravely" seems like a better adverb; bravely/boldly, kindly, cunningly/cleverly are a few possibilities.

    Pets: Not having any idea what you already have in mind for Marks, I'd think that one possible benefit of earning a Mark would be getting some kind of pet. I think you're right that if you put pet under Weapons, you'll end up with a bunch of pets and no weapons.
  • All I've got to say is: Dammit, John, you keep raising the bar for the rest of us. :P
  • edited May 2010
    Thanks for the answers! They're really helpful.

    @Phil: Good catch on "GM"! I meant to change that and then forgot. That role is called "The Guide" now (I updated the PDF).
  • It's beautiful.

    The Adjectives are great. Calmly has some overlap with Carefully, and Bravely (or perhaps Boldly?) sounds like a great replacement.

    What's your target age or age range?

    (The answer to that question has an impact on the Wildlings' age, AND on how statements like "is secretly in love with me" and "I will have my revenge" are played out.)

    I'm going back and forth on the character sheet. I keep wanting like, a special place for Marks (little circles under each spirit's big circle), but on the other hand I don't want to upset the beautiful and wordless simplicity. If you had a spot for Marks you'd have to label them "Marks" and then the whole thing's marred.

    By the way having your rewards/bennies/improvements be DRAWINGS instead of words or numbers or "points" is pure genius. And yeah, shout out to Beast Hunters!

    I'd love to see a graphical chart of the "If you roll a X, choose X outcomes" progression.

  • I like this a whole lot. I'd print the character sheets double sided with the rules on the back, or make a sheet that is just a list of outcomes and animal power associations for everyone to reference. Putting the outcomes across the bottom and the animal's powers beneath their circles appeals to me from a usability POV but I appreciate the openness of the sheets. That's probably more important than the reference material.

    I'd just say your character is your age.
  • I don't know if it helps, but I explored a verb+adverb structure for RPGs back in 2008. Nothing really came of it, but perhaps the adverbs would be of some use? Here's the thread, such as it is.
  • I wouldn't say anything about the age at all. No range, not "your age", nothing.

    The "pick 3" part of the mechanics makes me think that someone had Apocalypse World on their brain :)

    Overall, looks awesome (like I already said elsewhere). I'm going to see if Aidan wants to try this out sometime.
  • edited May 2010
    I'm just a lurker, but I had to unlurk to say how cool this is. Gorgeous-looking, and the rules are slick.

    I wouldn't worry about the ages. Let the players imagine them as they like. There's sort of a standard in junior/young adult fiction that kids like to read about characters a litle older than themselves.

    And now, back to my lurking.
  • When you first list the spirits, you put them in the order of Wolf, Boar, Owl, Snake, Stag. The art on that page presents them in that same order from top to bottom. On the next page, you again list them in the same order. But then on the character sheet, you order them Wolf, Snake, Stag, Owl, Boar. For some reason, I found that slightly jarring.
  • Looks totally organic created from somewhere good feel to it.
    Will try this with my daughter age 9 and older sister.
    Trying to introduce pets could be dam upsetting when the critters get lost or killed. Should have seen the sad faces when the gerbil got half eaten by the cat!

    How about spirt pets as guides? cant be killed. They could be called on to help like a separate dice pool? (if the child could come up with a good reason how there pet could help.)
    This might confuse things with people being made up of animal spirits as well. but could change that to people are made up of the five elements
    Earth strong Physically water Caring helping Air Quick nimble Fire Quick mind Spirit Awareness of life
    Pets could be spirit helpers.
    Sounds a bit like Ever-way is it?
    Thanks for sharing
  • Using elements though does loose that lovely organic feel with the animal spirits and peoples way of acting and doing things.
  • Being able to call on your totemic animal for advice or assistance might be cool, but we're well out of 'pet' territory and somewhere approaching polytheistic indoctrination.

    Personally, if I overheard a ten-year-old intoning 'O great snake, come to me in this, our hour of need!' I'd be like sweeet, but more upright citizens might get sniffy.
  • Spirit pets are cool and all, but honestly for this game I like just having the kids and their weapons going off to save this kid. Simple and direct.
    Posted By: Christian GriffenI wouldn't say anything about the age at all. No range, not "your age", nothing.
    OK, sure, but I'd still like to know what the target age is in John's head.
  • edited May 2010
    "You have yet to undergo the Trials Of The Warrior and become a grown member of the tribe..."

    Just enough to define the story as coming-of-age but not enough to limit the imagination of its players, perhaps.
  • Finally got a chance to look at this some more. Wow. Just...WOW.

    I can't wait to see the GM portion. The whole picking a number of outcomes based on the roll is brilliance. I've seen similar things, like with Donjon, but this is the first I've seen with smaller dice. I am SO wanting to try this out.
    Posted By: Ron HammackBut then on the character sheet, you order them Wolf, Snake, Stag, Owl, Boar. For some reason, I found that slightly jarring.
    Ah, but the positioning on the sheet makes for a near-perfect symmetry.
    When I get a chance to play this, I might just make a variant sheet, with the animal symbols down one side, the words "The Tale of..." at the top in a kind of runish font, and then let the kids draw their characters, showing their weapons and armor.
    I'd probably want to make sure everyone had watched "How to Train Your Dragon" first. That seems a good fit to the theme.
  • - love the blank sheet, very subversive and cool
    - ask the players what age they are
    - I feel like I'll have to see the adverbs in play, but you probably want the list of them on the sheet, for easy reference
    - I agree with whoever that pets seem like a potential distraction from the core of the game; why not just let the characters be able to talk to animals of their highest die type or roll their die to attempt to talk to animals of that type?
  • Very nice, John. Beautifully presented and elegant as usual. I may try this with my eldest daughter, though she's more into faeries and princesses generally.

    Maybe a pet could sub for a useful item, so that it becomes a choice for the kid. But it's not material to the larger game. I also agree that indeterminate age would be the way I'd go.
  • As usual It's nicely put together and just browsing it gets me excited to play it.

    I got each of my older kids (4 and 8 years) a set of dice for Christmas with the promise that I would make them an adventure and I have yet to deliver so this is it. If the younger ones actually nap at the same time we might actually get a chance to try it out today (Sunday is officially our family "Game Day").

    I'll let you know how it goes if we do.
  • I'm gonna go with an indeterminate age for the wildlings. Good call, everybody.

    @Daniel: Thanks for the link. There's definitely stuff there to inspire me.

    @Joel: I don't know what the target age is for kid players. I really don't know much about kids. I guess I'd leave it up to the parent's judgment.

    I'm really torn on the character sheet. I like the blank simplicity, but agree that the animal actions and outcomes really ought to be on there, at least. I'm gonna try something today and see if I can strike a good balance between stylish and useful.
  • edited May 2010
    John, you don't need to put those on the character sheet, either.

    You could just make a separate cheat sheet: I bet all the rules will fit on that quite handily, and a table will only need 1 or 2 copies, not 1 each, much like a boardgame rules summary.
    Heck, all the rules will probably fit *half* a sheet: make it half-a-page so that printing one sheet and cutting it in half will give the group two summaries!
  • John does it again.

    My favorite thing is that every character has to pick one spirit at d12 that outranks his or her fighting style, d10. At first I kind of balked at that in my mind. But it a) prevents the game from being just about fighting and b) prevents every fighter from looking the same.

  • edited May 2010
    John, I just played this for a few minutes with my four-year-old son tonight before dinner, and we had a terrific time. Since it was just the two of us, we haven't used the relationships yet, and I'm waiting to see the DM Kit before using the Marks, but Elias was able to pick up on the animal spirit stuff and how the dice worked pretty quickly. I think it was really helpful that we could just put the different dice right on the character sheet under their respective animals, and I also used a different colored die for his Warrior Die. Since Elias can't read yet, I had to remind him a few times what the different outcomes were - he mostly opted to do things quietly and forcefully anyway - but that was pretty minor bump. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we really liked it! I'm sure we'll play some more in the next few days, and we're getting together in a couple weeks with a friend of mine and her eight-year-old daughter to try out a game with a few more players.
  • Harry, you are why Story Games is awesome.

    Thanks so much for giving it a try! I'd love to hear more about your game. What kind of action did Elias's character get into? Since he can't read yet, did you write anything on his sheet? Did he draw anything?

    I'm hoping that some of the more advanced language like "hold steadfast" will create opportunities to teach new words and phrases to kids (like "melee," "portcullis," etc. did for me when I read D&D as a child). Did anything like that come up?
  • John, considering this takes some inspiration from Lookouts, have you thought about posting this in the Critical Failures tabletop sub-forum at Penny-Arcade?
  • edited May 2010
    That's a good idea, Hans, but from what I've read, it's not kosher to register there just to promote your own stuff. I figure if someone who's a regular poster wants to start a thread about, that's cool, but I don't want to be "that guy," if you know what I mean.

    I tweeted Tycho (Jerry) about it, but he probably gets buried in tweets every day. :)
  • Since I wanted to wait until we had multiple players to use the 'Into the Ruins' hook, and because I wanted to see if this was even something Elias would be interested in, we only played a short little episode. It was the middle of winter, and the village was going hungry. The adults had left for several hunting expeditions, only to return empty-handed. In the dead of night, Dov decides to sneak away from the village and make his way to the forest, in hopes of bringing back something to share with his people. The subsequent adventure mostly involved a lot of tracking animals through the snow (Wolf rolls), battling a hungry bear (again, a Wolf roll - Elias's Warrior Die), lifting a boulder in order to frighten a cave troll (a Boar roll), knocking the troll down with the boulder (a Wolf roll), wrestling with the troll after it knocks Dov to the ground (a Boar roll), and finally slaying it with his sword (a Wolf roll). Dov returns to the village with troll meat for everyone, where he's welcomed with cheers by the villagers and relieved embraces by his parents.

    I wrote down the name, weapon, and armor Elias chose on the character sheet, but those were all things he remembered easily, and were more for my benefit. He hasn't drawn anything yet, but I imagine we might fold that in on later plays. And it's funny that you mentioned "hold steadfast" - that was one of the terms that we spent a minute puzzling out as I explained how to play. So yeah, mission accomplished, John.
  • edited May 2010
    This is really heart-warming, Harry. Especially after hearing that Elias wanted to play Mouse Guard with us (the big kids) on Thursday. I'm looking forward to hearing about this more as you play more.

    I didn't start until I was about ten, but I'm reminded now about all the weird words and phrases I knew from my involvement with role-playing games when I was younger. So cool.
  • edited May 2010
    Very pretty!

    My main negative comment is:

    I know at least *some* kids will want to know why the adults aren't the ones going to rescue the young one. Not most, granted, but some will.


    Also, I want to second the opinion that the d10 warrior die is SO slick. Not only does it give each warrior their own "shtick" (i.e. "what's my special ability?") but it also makes each character unique in terms of "how do I fight?".
  • Hey Paul,

    The adult warriors aren't going because: "The men and women warriors of your clan are far away across the dark sea, raiding."

    The wildlings are the only ones left to do it.
  • Signed up to run this at GASP Games Day in Pittsburgh this Saturday. I'll post afterwards on how it goes.
  • I don't mind the order of the spirit totems changing. After all, you don't want to imply any sort of hierarchy.

    I also love the largely blank character sheet. Maybe kids would rather DRAW weapons rather than write them on a fill-in-the-blank line. I know I would. The blank space just begs for me to put cool stuff into it.

    If you don't mind a little constructive criticism ... the map. Simplicity is good, but the two strong 45 degree angles formed by the shoreline make the visuals on that page a little boring for me, especially since the map fills 2/3 of the page. A bend or two in them would make them more interesting. (Yes, I know they have a few kinks, but overall they are pretty straight.) A path through a woods would surely not be that straight, though I realize you probably aren't going for realism. My two cents.
  • Dr. Harper, I will play this with my six-year-old and get her to write the AP on it for you. :D

    Have I told you that you rock lately? Or bought you a drink? You rock. Here's a drink. (I'll make good on the latter part at GPNW.)
  • One thing I might add to your character sheet is spaces as prompts for illustrations.

    Remember old-school activity books? They'd have a page depicting, say, He-Man looking up at something, but leave that big open space blank. The caption would ask "Draw what He-Man is looking at."

    By a similar vein, I think it would inspire a bit of creativity if you had illustration prompts like "Draw your weapon here" and so forth.
  • Jason, Matt: I look forward to your APs.

    FYI: The first thing the Wildlings have to do is find the Woodsman's Shack. When they do, it's being attacked by fiery crows! The woodsman is trapped inside and needs help.

    Troy: Good call on map edits. I'll make some tweaks to the shore and the path.
  • Posted By: Ron HammackWhen you first list the spirits, you put them in the order of Wolf, Boar, Owl, Snake, Stag. The art on that page presents them in that same order from top to bottom. On the next page, you again list them in the same order. But then on the character sheet, you order them Wolf, Snake, Stag, Owl, Boar. For some reason, I found that slightly jarring.
    Me too.
  • Seems to me the reorder was done for symmetry reason--the stag is TALL and WIDE.

    I'd fix it by trying to re-arrange them in the main art (p.3) and body text (p.4) to suit the character sheet's order. That could make the stag's horns a bit... invasive... on page 3, but just look at it as a design challenge! ;)

    Otherwise... beautiful work, as always.
  • Constructive criticism #2 on the map on page 2.

    I'm an art guy, and I'm being picky. However, I'm also trying to see this from the perspective of a young child. I'm not sure someone who was 6 or 7 would understand what the black line leading from The Houses to The Ruins (although it is implied very well). Maybe replacing the black line with small footprints or shoe prints? These are shown on maps in cartoons all the time, and children would better understand what was happening in the story with a visual element like that.
  • Posted By: John Harperfiery crows
    Fiery crows are almost as scary as fire keese.
  • Just updated the PDF.

    - Tweaked character sheet
    - More adverbs
    - Different path on the map

  • I like the updated character sheet, John. A really nice way to get the useful info there and not intrude on the empty space.
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