I grew up playing and DMing AD&D 1st edition. Have played a few other systems like Paranoia but really know the AD&D system well enough to not spend time constantly looking up rules. Do you have any suggestions, from experience, about what's a good age to introduce my kids to the hobby and how to do it?
When they want to. When they are interested they can probably handle it. Just tailor what you are doing to their needs.
My 6 and 10 year old play and have a great time. But we didn't pick it up until the 10 year old started asking some serious questions and stating he wanted to play.
This answer assumes that you currently roleplay and the kids see it is something you do (my kids are long used to roleplaying in the house). If you don't currently roleplay, and your kids don't have any friends who currently do, then you may want to approach the matter differently than I did.
Can they keep track of the difference between reality and fantasy? (Typically, starts between ages 5 and 10, tho' some teens still haven't.)
Can they do the math for whatever system you are intending to run? AD&D needs signed addition/subtraction, and at two-digit integer precision. White Wolf's Storyteller requires addition only, and single digit integer. Rolemaster needs 3 digit precision, multiplication and division...
Can they read/write the character sheet?
If yes to all, start with pregens, and show them the ropes. If they grok the mode of play but not the rules, simplify as needed.
If not ready, just collaboratively tell stories. Have your preschooler tell you new stories about Dora or Mrs. Bunny or Mario & Luigi... or have your child who can't distinguish reality from fantasy predict character actions in a story at story time. (Your child's reading teacher will thank you, as well.)
I play with all my little brothers – they're 12, 9, and 5. We play D&D 3.5 and we have a blast.
I think if a child is somewhat intelligent and can roleplay fairly well then he or she is ready. My 5-year-old brother is by far the best roleplayer in my small group. I think little kids are awesome to play with. Just don't burden them with rules at first – slowly add the rules, focus more on the roleplay, and they will be on the path to becoming epic roleplayers.
Hope you have many great adventures!
I think by age 10-12 most every kid could handle full blown DND. There isn't any reason you couldn't start younger.
The first step is get them interested. Younger kids aren't going to want to do much that you force them to do. If they see Mom and/or Dad playing there is a good chance they will want to join in! Let them roll your dice.
Get out some dice and a few minis. Depending on how young they are, just strip out more and more complexity.
I started my daughter at age 4, rolling a d20 and telling her what number she needed to have her prince kill the monster. One she killed 3, she rescued the princess. That's all she was looking for. :) I narrated my heart out to bring it alive for her. Unfortunately for me, she hasn't shown a lot of interest in growing the complexity, but I'm patient.
Take a look at Happy Birthday Robot, which is a very simple but fun storytelling game that uses coins and dice designed for very young kids. I'm a new father, and I'm pretty excited about getting to play with my son in a matter of years, even if it's just simple stuff like this.
I introduced my son to D&D (3/3.5) at age 7. I chose D&D over the games I had abandoned it for because it offered a couple of advantages for kids:
D&D is full of splats. Splats are simple decisions that define large chunks of character.
- Classes provided a shortcut to character concepts. "Do you want to be a fighter or a wizard?" is a much simpler question than, "What kind of character would you like to create?"
- Races are splats that offer a choice between well-rounded stats or a trade-off like strength at the expense of dexterity.
There was a ton of free support out there. Maps, adventures, monsters, NPCs, etc.
The world was unambiguous:
"Dad, why are those guys attacking us?"
"Because they're evil. Look, it says 'evil' right there in the 'Alignment' box"
He eventually dropped D&D for the same reasons I did and now runs a variety of games himself.
We started our daughter at 8 years old with a game called Faery's Tale. The story concepts were familiar and pretending to be a pixie was easy and enjoyable for her. It also had very simple mechanics that involved odds and evens on die pools.
She had her first D&D/Pathfinder experience at age 10 as she would occasionally play an NPC for me that happened to be a child. She played it perfectly and quickly wanted to have her own character to play with us. We now have an established game with our family plus some friends.
She still struggles with thinking like her character than as herself, but that's something every kid goes through. I'd like to get another kid into the group as she seems reluctant to suggest things for fear of making a mistake. This is despite us regularly telling her that it's fun to make mistakes.
For characters, I would say you want to make characters for them to choose from to start. Even in a game as simple as Faery's Tale, creating a character is a very different experience. After they've played a bit, let them loose with a rulebook to see what art or what things interest them for a character.
There's only a very short time I believe that it's too early to begin playing with your kids. When's the first time you picked them up and had them pretend they were an airplane while you swung them around?
I know, not quite a roleplaying game. However, very early on you build the foundation of playing games with your child, and there's absolutely no reason 'Let's pretend' can't be a huge part of that. At 3-4 when your kids are pretending to shoot bows and arrows, play with him/her. Dice aren't even neccessary. At that point, you're roleplaying. Your child the bit of an archer, and you of whatever else. Maybe you're both pretending to shoot deer as my nephew and his father did.
Move on from there as they're ready. You can introduce settings, creatures, let them play out and pretend they're in their favorite Disney movies or the like. Can introduce the concept of not -always- succeeding, show them how in the movies that it's more exciting when the hero isn't perfect. Sure he always wins, but, there's usually a hold up. If he rescue'd the princess right off, there wouldn't be much entertaining about it would there? Aladdin never would have met the genie if he could have just hooked up with the princess, for example. Still don't need dice, or character sheets, at this point in time, use a coin, or play rock paper scissors.
When they're ready, you can start introducing the concept of statistics, when you pretend you're 'blah', he's -really- strong, right? So, when he tries to do things that require alot of strength, he has an easier time, right? ...
I could probably babble on the better half of a novel, but, I think the point is well on the way to leading to many more possibilities. Hope this helps!
Chatty DM has an article about his 8-year-old son playing Talisman and letting him pretty much invent the game as he goes.
Newbie DM blogged about playing a kind of D&D lite with his 4-year-old kid a while back.
Geek Dad has a series of blog posts on this topic as well.
In April, WotC published a D&D lite adventure, The Heroes of Hesiod, intended for kids.
The D&D 4e Red Box has a solo "character creation" adventure that older children could enjoy.
I definitely plan on getting my daughter started as soon as she's both developmentally capable and interested, but don't know when that will be. I did want to throw out these links to The Chatty DM's play reports on some games with his kids I think it helps give a sense of how at least one set of kids plays, and it definitely makes me excited about playing with my kids.
For young children (grades 2+) I recommend something like SimpleDnD it really removes most of the complexity from the game and sticks to the basic 6 ability scores and a few skills. The system is D&D, but without the million rules and enough variety to keep the kids engaged. It's bonus is that once your child is 10 you can always make the move to a more complex system like 5e or pathfinder and they children won't have to relearn how to do things.
If you mean actual RPGs with dice and the like I'd suggest waiting till 12 or so years old. But many children start "role playing" at a very young age. We've all played "Cops and Robbers" or some variant of pretend (more LARPing really).
The point is, children naturally role play, feel free to participate with them, or guide the interest. Just wait a while to introduce all the rules (and maybe the people at your game shop).