For over a year now, I have fretted over which RPG to start my kids out on before settling on D&D 5th Edition. I’m talking about an 8 year old girl, 9 year old boy, and 15 year old girl. The boy has some experience from playing in some Fate Core and Dungeon World games while my eldest has played Fate Core, Pathfinder, and D&D 5e. My eldest may have played some other games at her school gaming club, although I am unsure. I also had the added caveat of needing to find a game that my wife would enjoy playing. So, why did it take me so long to decide and why, in the end, did I choose to go with the latest iteration of Dungeons and Dragons?
How Hard of a Choice was it, Really?
Believe it or not, choosing a game to play with my family was actually quite difficult. There are a lot of awesome games out there. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. I thought about playing some version of OD&D or OSR, but I wanted something new, something with a bit more creativity written into the rules. Don’t get me wrong. OSR is great for encouraging creativity, but the rules are set around combat and there isn’t a lot of customization built right in. So, I moved one. Maybe Hackmaster. This has the old school feel, but is newer and the skills and such give a lot of customization and optimization. My wife really pushed for this one, because she liked the random background rolling. I’ll get to why we didn’t choose that one in a little bit.
Now, I also looked at both Savage Worlds and Cortex. Both of these systems allow the kids to roll all those funny looking dice. The rules are streamlined, so they should be easy for the kids and wife to pick up. There’s also a lot of customization available. However, with this type of game, perhaps there’s too many options. I have to get everyone to agree on which type of game to play, what’s possible, what’s not, etc. Such a task might not be the best option for just getting started. That’s one of the same reasons I avoided Fate core. Very easy to pick up, but a lot of player agency, a lot of agreement and understanding between the GM and the players. That’s the same reason I avoided a game like Dungeon World. These games that put too much control in the hands of the players: I had a concern I’d have to deal with someone trying to pull a purple dragon out of their pocket and then having to say “no.” Saying “no” as a GM is something I don’t always enjoy and I feared it could limit their enjoyment, especially if the rules weren’t set properly in the beginning.
Next, I looked at Pathfinder. This had a set series of rules and expectations. It was based off of a system I know pretty well and I know enough about Pathfinder to start running it and learn more along the way. The reason we didn’t choose Pathfinder in the ending was because of all the options. My wife and I agreed that having so many races, classes, and feats to choose from could cause a sort of brain freeze for both the kids and us. The rules are also a bit more complex, with so many combat maneuvers, restrictions, and options.
So, we were at the point where I really had two options: Hackmaster and D&D 5e. D&D 5e won out based on two things. First, its rules were a bit more streamlined. Yes, in some areas, the rules are so streamlined, they are even a bit broken. Also, D&D 5e has some pretty well explained math when it comes to planning out encounters. I didn’t see this with Hackmaster. I could go on. Hackmaster can be quite the deadly game and character creation takes about 2 hours whereas character creation in the sometimes less deadly 5e can be done in about 15 minutes. I’m more familiar with the D&D rules. There is also a ton more information and support out there for D&D.
How has the Game Been So Far?
Well, not to toot my own horn, but I have to be doing something right. Daily, the kids have asked me if we are going to play that day. They definitely want something more than a weekly game. We’re still setting up the gaming area properly, making improvements throughout the weeks, but it’s going great. We’re using a lot of different tools to make a grid map work, because we started out with mostly hack and slash—the role-playing taking place between the characters. The actual role-playing is going to be kicking in over the next couple of games as we make it into town.
It has been a lot of fun for everyone so far. And, I’ll talk more about the specifics of what’s happening in the game and what tools we’re using in upcoming posts. For now, I wanted to explain why we chose the latest iteration of Dungeons & Dragons.
Yes, many of my concerns may have been unfounded. If I just went ahead with any of those other games, we would’ve found a way to deal with anything that came up. After all, that’s kinda what my family does—deal with things. But, I am happy with our choice and everyone else seems to be as well. What about those of you out there with kids? Are you gaming with them yet? What games are you playing? Why did you choose that game?