In May 2017, I began running a D&D campaign for my two sons and our friends. I use D&D here generically. The rulebook we use is Basic Fantasy, which is D20 refactored to behave similarly to Basic D&D. This successful campaign came after a few false starts with Microlite20, Pathfinder and Dungeon World. These initial failures were some combination of the kids being too young and the rules being too complicated. In retrospect, we probably would have been fine with Microlite if we’d waited a couple of years, but I took a left turn into trying popular games before sorting out what I really wanted out of the game.
My initial aim was to provide for my sons the experience of gaming I had as a child and a young adult. Remembering my own playing fondly, lead me to reading retrospectives which would turn my thinking towards a return to playing. My group of friends had stopped playing after giving D&D 3E a good shot and after we all had babies to take care of. Boardgames were an easier format for constantly shifting players. General dissatisfaction with the 3E game also meant any talk of returning to D&D triggered hard lobbying for 2E from our most fervent RPD advocate, Jeff.
The conversation about the 1E DMG’s Appendix N I’d stumbled into enabled my successful run by focussing attention on the inspiration behind the original role-playing games. I began identifying why the older games were more fun than the newer games we’d tried. And given my primary goal of exposing my two sons to the tabletop RPG experience, I discovered the lever I could use to pry Jeff away from 2E. The pitch: a game for the kids with rules simple enough for 8 year olds and with dads at the table for coaching.
The regular game has evolved over the past two years to bring the adults in as equal players. We continue to learn and adapt to best serve each player’s needs, which makes the games better over time. I can now consider D&D a primary hobby rather than something I had fun with as a kid. And when I observe my sons engaging with the game away from the table, planning their own adventures, I feel deep satisfaction.