Next Generation of Roleplayers
If you’ve never had the chance to run a D&D game for kids, you absolutely should. I know that many people who end up running games do so only for their friends, but I discovered something when I organized a Pathfinder campaign at my local library; there is a whole different experience out there that is extremely satisfying and meaningful. Any DM who is interested in growing their experience, and equipping themselves to be a better DM overall needs to find a way to do this, because it can only benefit you.
The group of girls I ran this game for were: a grade 5, grade 6, two grade 7s, and a grade 9. One of these kids had never played a roleplaying game of any kind, including video games, and had never read a fantasy novel. She was a blank slate, and she ended up being an incredible player. It was also amazing to watch a grade 5 and a grade 9 playing in the same group and getting along as if they were peers. The party dynamics were never in question; every one of them loved what everyone else was doing. This natural and genuine party loyalty was refreshing.
Earlier I put out a post talking about slap-in-the-face puzzles. These puzzles very rarely work on kids, and they tend to see right through them. Typically I’ll present a puzzle, and someone will almost immediately try the first simple solution that comes to mind. I once presented a trap in which a wall of thin stone was blocking the path, and set in it was a sliding panel puzzle, in which players would try to move around the panels to create a picture in the hopes of opening the path. The fighter player, picking up on the dropped hint about the wall being thin, immediately decided to smash through the wall. This being a dungeon of chaos, that was actually the solution I had planned (the panels couldn’t actually make a picture).
In my campaign, the players had set out to find a lost queen who had fled her country decades earlier. They came to the island she was rumoured to have fled to, but could not locate her. The encountered an old witch in the swamp who directed them to a nearby castle, and when they went there, they still found no queen, but they found a kingdom that needed their help. After saving this castle from the evil that plagued it, they were celebrating in the banquet hall when the old swamp witch hobbled in. When I told them that the illusion faded from her and she revealed herself to be the lost queen, the girls literally jumped out of their seats cheering, excited, minds blown. I couldn’t believe it, because I thought it was the most cliché thing I could have done.
I believe that it is valuable for DMs to experience as many different opportunities to run games as possible; running a roleplaying game is an art, which involves creativity, wit, and the ability to manage multiple things at once. Running a game for a group that is exceptionally enthusiastic about your story, pays attention to everything that happens no matter who is currently doing the talking, and comes up with the wildest, most creative ways to try and solve problems is extremely satisfying and will certainly keep you on your toes.