On Violence – Playing D&D with Kids

Themes of Violence in Media (and my family)

Themes of violence and death are the elephants in the room when discussing D&D with kids. They are also inescapable themes in most media, old and new. Those suppositions, and treating violence as a theme, is crucial to what follows.

Dungeons & Dragons is rated PG-13. This point is not up for debate. I have far too much respect for the people at Wizards of the Coast to dispute it. That said, if recent cinema trends have taught us anything, PG-13 doesn’t mean as much as it once did.

For my family, we will watch a PG-13 movie with our 5 year-old, dependent upon the value of the content. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter all deal with violence and death. Those stories can provide great value for children, but I prefer to be on-hand to answer questions and provide context. D&D makes this easy, as we are telling the story together.

My Solution

The question then becomes, “How shall we utilized the themes of violence and death in our games?” I have come up with a couple solutions which will be playtested during the podcast. My intention is to share these guidelines in an attempt to get constructive feedback, and other ideas.

First, is Assumed Nonlethal Damage. Putting on my Rules Lawyer Hat, since nonlethal melee damage requires only a declaration of intent, the DM & players can agree that normal melee damage is done with nonlethal intent. Particularly, when targeting intelligent, self-aware creatures.

Second, never let the PCs commit manslughter! Ranged and spell damage is always lethal. So, either give the monsters a bit more HP, or make sure the player is cognizant of the consequences.

These two guidelines provide a minor but important modification. Violence is given a purpose and focused on self-defense and accomplishing goals. And the consequences of death are in the players mind and not taken lightly.

No Doubt I’m Wrong

At least, that’s my belief. When I am proved wrong I will throw this out and try something different. There has to be as many ways of playing as there are PCs. There is little doubt that as I learn there will be more blog/vlog posts on this subject.

If you want to see these ideas in action, please follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, @thedevelopingdm. Make the world a better place; roleplay with kids!

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