Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dagger: The RPG for Kids (apparently my kids...)

"Be sure they notice our cool t-shirts!"
My five year-old twins (fraternal, in case you're wondering) had their first RPG experience this last Sunday, playing the excellent Dagger RPG by Brave Halfling Publishing. There's both a free, condensed, b&w version, or a color version with a few more useful pages for all of a $1.00 (worth it.) This is a game made with young kids in mind, and AFAIC, John hit it out of the park with this one.

The game is really a stripped-down version of early D&D--stripped down meaning no stats, only one saving throw, only four character classes (knight/wizard/elf/dwarf). Well, and an optional halfling. I got the twins (Nate and Sam) thinking about their characters the night before, so on Sunday they were ready to go: Nate wanted to play a knight named...Nate. Sam wanted to play an elf named Spike. At this age, they love to write anything, and the character sheets were perfect:

Spike the Elf

Sammy actually first wanted to play a wizard, but we were using the figure stand-ups and map from the Pathfinder Beginner Box, and the only male wizard was an old guy, which wasn't doing it for him. He finally found a pretty bad-ass elf, made even bad-asser by the fact that he had a wand and could cast...MAGIC MISSLE! 

Nate found a stand-up knight with a gigantic shield shaped like a lion, and it was love at first sight.
Nate the Knight

I used descending AC because it was easier to tell them the AC of the monster they were fighting and then have them find the number they needed to roll to hit. I also let them roll two dice for HP and pick the highest one, 'cause I just can't play without at least one house rule. Or, actually, two. It wasn't completely clear to me from the rules how many times a magic-using character can cast their spells, so I limited it to once/spell/encounter. That magic wand needs to recharge, you know...

As for the Adventure, Nate the Knight was summoned to the throne room by King Kesher. He explained that their elfish ally, the Elf Queen, had had her magic bird stolen by Garg the Ogre, who wanted to eat it to gain magical powers. Nate was given the quest to rescue the bird and slay the ogre, which he promptly accepted. Accompanying him would be Spike the Elf, one of the Queen's favored heroes.

At the entrance to Garg's cavern lair, they were taunted by some goblins whom they promtply slew. Faced with the choice of an open doorway or a stairway leading upwards, they chose the stair, went up it, and then crept down a short corridor. Ahead, through an open doorway, they heard some strange scuttling sounds. Spike strode boldy ahead, and his torch revealed a large room completely covered with spider webs, especially the ceiling.

This was interesting in that they weren't sure what to do--there was no immediate threat, only a mystery. I told them they could do whatever they wanted; what did they think their characters would do? So Spike decided to touch a hanging bit of web with his torch. It flamed up and out, and something moved through the webs up above from the middle of the room over towards the door where Nate was standing. The dithered a bit more, so then the (surprise!) spider dropped a coil of webbing around Nate and began wrapping him up.

Though they could now see the spider, Spike decided to shoot an arrow at the strand of webbing and see if he could cut it in half to set Nate free. Um, awesome, so yeah, do it! Roll that twenty-sider! He rolls a 19... 

With Nate now free, they make short work of their foe, and then it was time for them to go over to their grandparents' house, so we paused the adventure. 

It was a blast. Could we have done it using ODD, or B/X, or whatever? Sure. However, Dagger had it all laid out already, all the changes I might've made, and a few good ones I probably wouldn't have. 

The other great thing about the game is it's easy reskinnability (I leave with a neologism...) As John points out in the $1 version, let the kids play whatever they want. Just use a current class as a base and tweak as needed. Play in space. Play in the time of the dinosaurs, pirates, pokemon, whatever. And of course, the rules can be used to good effect in adult groups, too. Simple, fast, flexible. Worth every dollar. :) 


  1. Awesome and sounds like much fun. I'd like to hear more of their adventure and their thoughts of playing these characters in the game. I think sometimes we old Grogs forget the thrill of that first rpg session.

  2. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

    1. My pleasure, John! Thanks for the game, and feel free to use the pictures of their character sheets if they'd be useful at all.

      @bliss_infinite: I'll keep you all updated, and I agree that it can be hard to see things with beginner's eyes again. That spider, I mean, c'mon, any of us crusty bastards would've just lit the web on fire... :) They had no idea what was up there, 'cause giant spiders are NEW hat for them!

  3. Thank you for your article. I have a son of 6, and a daughter of 8 years. I would like to introduce them to RPG and I found Dagger (and I bought it). I will probably use the universe of Beast Quest, as we read some books, to allow them to be more interested in the experience.

    I have one question: Did your boys understand the name "Armor Class" ? I don't know if my children will understand this ... Need to try :).

    1. My pleasure! Yeah, using a fictional background they're familiar with is a great idea.

      As for AC, well, I'm not sure if they understood it the way you and I do, but I simply explained by saying "It tells how hard it is for a monster to hit you; the higher the number the better." Then I had them compare between their two characters to see who had the best AC.

      I'd definitely suggest using minitures/tokens/etc. for characters and monsters--the more concrete the better!

      Hope you have fun playing---Dagger's the perfect game to get them hooked!

  4. Very cool -- I got my kids started at about the same age, but hadn't found Dagger yet (we went Mentzer).
    When I did discover Dagger I started using it with an after school gaming club, then decided to try it out on an entire class of 23 middle schoolers! So far so good ...

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