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D&D After School

D&D After School: Getting Started

When I visited my local library and asked about the meeting rooms that could be used for group meetings I knew I wanted to run a Dungeons and Dragons game, but I had no idea that I’d end up running a game for teenagers. The teen specialist happened to be there, and she informed me that if I was willing to do so I could use one of the rooms for free when doing so. My first gaming group happened to have two teens in it, and I didn’t see any reason not to give it a try. I cannot stress enough how helpful Gigi the teen specialist has been in establishing this program. She makes sure that we always have one of the better rooms and that other events don’t conflict with ours.

Now this is something you may not be aware of, but your library may require that you undergo a background check in order to be allowed to run one of these programs. Unless a member of the library staff is going to sit in on all of your games. There is a fee for processing the paperwork and I think that cost might put some people off, luckily the library where I run games actually paid the fee for me because they really wanted me to run games there.

I chose to use Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition for a couple of reasons. At that time it was the edition I had the most experience with, and it was the most current edition so players could get their hands on their own copies of playing materials if they were interested in doing so. I also like that 4th edition tends to make it easier for players to survive, and I didn’t want any of my new players to get discouraged because their first character died immediately. Since then I’ve run other one-shot campaigns using different systems there and they’ve all been pretty popular. For example I also ran a Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition game set in the DC universe that went extremely well. I was really surprised because I made a ton of DC superheroes for it and we ended up with some interesting choices in that game. We ended up with a Justice League consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman (who was played with a Russian accent), Batman, Green Arrow, and Plastic Man. The players had a blast figuring how to bust up an auction hosted by the Calculator who’d created a computer program he claimed could deduce the secret identity of any superhero. Nearly all of the big DC villains had turned up to try and buy the information, leading to a huge pitched battle in the warehouse where the auction had been taking place. I’ve also run a Gamma World game, and a Star Wars Saga Edition game which were both well received by the teens. I advise choosing a system that you’re familiar with, and that you feel comfortable teaching others to play.

Since this was a public game, and I wanted to be respectful of people’s backgrounds and faiths, I decided to removed devas and tieflings. I think those are easily the most controversial races, and I would advise setting them aside to spare yourself some trouble.

I ran two one hour play sessions with huge groups just to test the waters and see if there was enough interest to maintain a regular program. I think we had something like twenty teens turn up to play that day, so we got them all signed up and started monthly meetings. Our games run for two hours and we have seven players. I think seven is a good number of players, it is a big group but I’ve learned to manage it and as a bonus it has vastly improved my ability as a GM to manage table talk and run the group. If that’s something your struggle with in your own games this is a great way to get some practice with it.

At first I toyed with the idea of walking the teens through the character creation process, we even had a character creation session. In the end I just explained what all of the options for classes and races were, and then I asked them what they wanted their characters to be good at. Then I used that information to create character sheets for them and I’ve never had any reason to regret doing it that way. Keep in mind explaining character creation to up to seven teens who’ve never seen a D20 before can take a while, and I wanted to ensure that they weren’t getting bored by spending hours building their characters, which isn’t something all adult players enjoy doing. I also made them custom power cards, and cheat sheets with information about their races and classes.

I’ve included copies of the files for the power cards and the fact sheets that I use in my game, I think that they work pretty well and help the players.

Fact SHeets

Power Cards

To get started I would suggest reaching out to your local library and just ask if they currently have anyone running RPGs for them, or ask if they have a teen specialist that you can talk to. Libraries are usually on the lookout for programs and in my experience most of them will be more than willing to hear you out.

D&D After School

As some of our readers know I’ve been running a free monthly Dungeons and Dragons program for teens at my local library for the past couple of years. When we started playing I decided to go with 4th Edition because I think it does a great job giving players the feeling of being better able to survive in combat, and I think some players enjoy having powers when they choose certain classes rather than repetitively smacking ogres with swords, clubs, and javelins.

Each of the sessions runs for about two hours, and I usually have between seven and nine players in a group. At the moment our party consists of an elf druid, a dragonborn warlord, a drow ranger, two halfling rangers, and a human fighter. All but one of the current players have been showing up for years with all the enthusiasm one could hope for, and I’ve continued to be astonished by how much they love the game. I started out running the program because I felt like I needed to give something back to tabletop gaming. It’s helped me out in so many ways, and I want to see it continue to be something younger players will take an interest in. In my experience I’ve found that it can be hard for teens and younger kids to find a place at tables in friendly local game stores in RPG campaigns, and that is nothing against those establishments. Parents are sometimes understandably nervous about the idea of their kids hanging around with a bunch of adults playing what amounts to a game of pretend. Some GMs simply don’t have the patience to work with them either. Plus a ton teens and kids are less inclined to have fun when they’re not playing with a group of friends closer to their own age. I want the teens in my program to walk away with fond memories of gaming, a few new friends, and the confidence that comes from entering a dungeon and emerging victorious. I think everyone deserves that and I truly believe the program has been a success.

I’ve been told more than once that the program I run is one of the most popular programs at the library, and one of the most well attended. There have been a couple of other programs that have been started up by others but none of them lasted for very long. Those were all being run by teens who were on the waiting list to get into our group though, and a more successful program has been running for a little while now. I’m thinking of running a Game Master workshop to help them out a bit. People have also encourage me to try and start up some sort of a business running similar programs at schools, summer camps, parties, and even as team building exercises. I’ve always resisted that idea because I don’t think it’s something that I could actually make a living doing, but I’m warming up to the idea more as time goes on.

There aren’t many things that I’d classify myself as an expert in, but running this program is one of them. So from now on I’m going to be posting little tips that helped me shape and improve it over the years int he hopes that others might start up similar programs at their local libraries, community centers, or schools as well.

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