Role-playing games can be a great deal of fun, but they can also be very stressful. If you think about it, though, we have been “role-playing” since we were kids.
Dungeons and Dragons has been around for decades and is a role-playing game that has become more and more popular over the years. If you have a child who is interested in playing D&D and are not sure if he/she/they is old enough to play, take the following into consideration.
Is the activity applicable to your child’s age?
As I stated above, D&D is a role-playing game and kids are always role-playing. It could be “Cops and Robbers”, or “Cowboys and Indians”, or playing with dolls and having a tea party. The difference between those games and Dungeons and Dragons is that D&D has rules to follow. If your child can follow rules that they are given, then I would say they pass this first hurdle.
Does your child have the ability to play?
We have already established that most children can role-play. Let’s say that they pass the first hurdle and can follow the rules. Your next hurdle is if they can understand the game. Can they do the math? Can they read?
D&D can be a very complex game. Not counting the role-playing, you also have the different abilities for each character. You have spells and weapons that you need to know how to use. You have different tools (i.e. lock picks) that you need to know how and when to use. If your child is able to do all the above, then I would say they have passed this second hurdle as well.
Now if your child struggles with these skills , you can use the game at home to help them develop them (i.e. math, and reading). I wouldn’t put them in a group setting, but maybe setup a mini campaign that you can run for them to learn the game and the skills needed to play.
Is the content appropriate for your child?
D&D is a game that is usually set in a fantasy realm with lots of fighting and death. There is more to it than that, but it is a large part of it. You need to decide if your child is old enough to understand that aspect of the game. You need to decide if you want your child to be subjected to that type of environment. Can your child handle their character fighting a goblin or a dragon and possibly having their character die in the attempt?
The industry has set ratings on games and movies, but it all comes down to how YOUR child can handle it.
Does your child play well with others?
D&D is a group activity. Most times it is played among friends. This is usually at one friend’s house and supervised by the parent of the house. This is probably the best way to get your child started, with familiar surroundings and people.
Sometimes you go to a game store. With game stores they have groups playing and you just sit down with one and start to play. In these situations, you are usually with total strangers. Can your child socialize with strangers? Do you feel comfortable taking them to a game store to play? Do you feel comfortable leaving them there while you go shopping (D&D usually runs for a few hours). You can sit and watch, or even participate. You can also drop your child off and run some errands then come back and pick them up.
Basically, this all comes down to how mature your child is, not necessarily how old your child is. I have known kids as young as 8 to play and handle the game better than some 30-year-old.
Sit down with your child and see what they can handle. Teach them the rules and help them learn to play. If content is an issue, create your own stories and campaigns until you feel they can handle what is already out there.
When should you call it quits?
Oh… I almost forgot the second part of this article. When should you stop playing?
This one is nice and easy: when you no longer enjoy it.