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Thread: DMing Teenagers

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    HalflingRogueGirl

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    Default DMing Teenagers

    Hello all,

    I just became a DM to two teenage boys, and want to know if anyone has any advice specifically for DMing teenagers. I don't have any children of my own yet, so I don't have much personal experience dealing with teenagers as the Responsible Adult. One of the two is my neighbor's kid, who I'm friends with. They know he's going to start playing D&D over at my house, and they are actively encouraging it. I don't know the other one's parents or if there could be any potential issues if they know/find out that he's playing D&D. They may very well be cool with it. I just don't know.

    This will also be their first time to play D&D, aside from the one impromptu/poorly organized, but still very fun session we played on Labor Day.

    Any advice with regard to DMing for teenagers in general, and dealing with parents if that should become an issue?

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Quote Originally Posted by TaraSilverwind View Post
    Hello all,

    I just became a DM to two teenage boys, and want to know if anyone has any advice specifically for DMing teenagers. I don't have any children of my own yet, so I don't have much personal experience dealing with teenagers as the Responsible Adult. One of the two is my neighbor's kid, who I'm friends with. They know he's going to start playing D&D over at my house, and they are actively encouraging it. I don't know the other one's parents or if there could be any potential issues if they know/find out that he's playing D&D. They may very well be cool with it. I just don't know.

    This will also be their first time to play D&D, aside from the one impromptu/poorly organized, but still very fun session we played on Labor Day.

    Any advice with regard to DMing for teenagers in general, and dealing with parents if that should become an issue?
    My rule when dealing with teenagers/kids is, should their parents get mad about something, let the parents decide what they want. That might be unfair to the kid himself if his parents say he can't play D&D and I say I'm not comfortable putting myself in that position. But that's my rule.
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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Treat them the same as you would anyone else. :x

    As a former teen, that's what I'd have wanted.

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Why would their parents even be upset that their kids are playing D&D?
    Black text is for sarcasm, also sincerity. You'll just have to read between the lines and infer from context like an animal

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Teenagers are animals. May Pelor have mercy on your soul.

    Nah, just kidding. I wouldn't expect much maturity out of them as players. Not because they're teens but because they're new to the game. Looking back at my forays into D&D in middle school is at best cringe worthy.

    What I've seen from new players is that they go through a few phases. This is just what I've observed and it's just a pattern, not something I expect everyone to hold to.

    The first is that they don't get RP. They just play themselves. Or they get that they're supposed to be playing adventurers and they're all chivalrous knights pretending they know what middle english sounds like.

    The second phase is that they want to explore the game's freedom. They'll do things they can't do in real life just to see what happens. Sometimes you get GTA killing sprees. Sometimes it gets darker as the players try to gross each other out by seeing who can cross the most lines. Again, I'm not saying that everyone goes through this, just that it's common. If I were you, I'd indulge them. Fighting them on it will only make them come on stronger.

    Once that gets boring they might be willing to open up as RPers.

    On dealing with teenagers, all I have to say is treat them like adults. They resent being treated like children. You're playing a game together, not babysitting them.
    Last edited by valadil; 2013-09-11 at 01:36 PM.
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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    I used to run an RPG club for students at the school I worked at during my studying days and have a bit of experiences when it comes to playing with kids between 12 and 16. Because this was at school and the kids could participate voluntarily, I never had any issues with parents (the only time a father mentioned the gaming thing at all was because he used to play as well and looked for a new group).

    Actually, what most teenagers want is to be treated as adults (or at least as what they think adults are treated like), so if you want to do them a favor, just a run a game like you would for any other people you would play with. Otherwise, try to make the game fun and entertaining, and ask them what they want to play. Treat them like their opinion matters. That's usually a good idea for any player, but in this case you can activate the "I am treated like an adult" button of empowerment.
    What can be difficult when playing with younger players is to find the right mix of assistance (you don't want to be condescending, but you still want to help) and giving a direction to the game (because railroading is bad form at best, but for many new players, especially younger ones the responsibility to pick sensible decisions can be a bit overwhelming). Depending on the kids in question, the issue of frustration tolerance can be relevant, so it usually is recommendable to not block ideas they have only because they seem outlandish to you. The whole 'don't say no if you can say yes, but...' advice works really well when it comes to playing with this age group.

    When it comes to the issue with the parents, well in this day and age, I think that most parents will be more concerned to the idea that their kid spents some time with a strange man they don't really know and not because they play role-playing games, in which case 'not being a strange man they don't know' might actually help. Talk to the kid, talk to the parents (on your initiative, just give them a call or something and explain ahat the game is about and what you have planned and if they are okay with it. Ask them to participate; they most likely won't, but it emphasizes that you have nothing to hide so to speak. And if they do join, well you just won over a family to a really fun and slowly dying hobby. Which would make you officially one of the good guys in my eyes.
    Play the world, not the rules. Numbers don't add up to a game - ideas do.

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Quote Originally Posted by TaraSilverwind View Post
    Hello all,

    I just became a DM to two teenage boys, and want to know if anyone has any advice specifically for DMing teenagers. I don't have any children of my own yet, so I don't have much personal experience dealing with teenagers as the Responsible Adult. One of the two is my neighbor's kid, who I'm friends with. They know he's going to start playing D&D over at my house, and they are actively encouraging it. I don't know the other one's parents or if there could be any potential issues if they know/find out that he's playing D&D. They may very well be cool with it. I just don't know.

    This will also be their first time to play D&D, aside from the one impromptu/poorly organized, but still very fun session we played on Labor Day.

    Any advice with regard to DMing for teenagers in general, and dealing with parents if that should become an issue?
    Depends on the teenagers in question. Teenagers are as diverse as adults and need to be treated as individuals first and only teenagers second. I'll also second the opinion of treating them like anybody else, really teenagers are smarter and more mature than people, especially Americans in my experience, like to give them credit for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    Why would their parents even be upset that their kids are playing D&D?
    Sadly, it does still happen. There are still people out there (a lot of them!) that think D&D will make people evil and warp their morals, just like there are still people out there that think playing video games will make you violent. Hopefully, that's not the case here, but you never know until you do.

    Teenagers are animals. May Pelor have mercy on your soul.

    Nah, just kidding. I wouldn't expect much maturity out of them as players. Not because they're teens but because they're new to the game. Looking back at my forays into D&D in middle school is at best cringe worthy.

    What I've seen from new players is that they go through a few phases. This is just what I've observed and it's just a pattern, not something I expect everyone to hold to.

    The first is that they don't get RP. They just play themselves. Or they get that they're supposed to be playing adventurers and they're all chivalrous knights pretending they know what middle english sounds like.

    The second phase is that they want to explore the game's freedom. They'll do things they can't do in real life just to see what happens. Sometimes you get GTA killing sprees. Sometimes it gets darker as the players try to gross each other out by seeing who can cross the most lines. Again, I'm not saying that everyone goes through this, just that it's common. If I were you, I'd indulge them. Fighting them on it will only make them come on stronger.

    Once that gets boring they might be willing to open up as RPers.

    On dealing with teenagers, all I have to say is treat them like adults. They resent being treated like children. You're playing a game together, not babysitting them.
    Thanks. In our first gaming session, one of the players decided to play an evil character (already in phase 2, it seems). I let him do this because I don't want to stamp out their fun and try to tell them how to play their characters. Fun is what the game is about, after all. During that first game, they killed an NPC that helped them escape prison. Though, to be fair, the NPC was kind of a bullying jerk that tried to steal their bread. Still, I've got some plans afoot for them to meet with a large group of fellow escapees (too large for them to fight off by themselves), the leader of which is the father of the NPC they killed. If he finds out what befell his son, the PCs will have just made themselves a long-term enemy through their actions. If they don't end up killing him too, of course.

    I think my basic plan is to create the dungeon they're in, including the backstory and NPC/monster/enemy behavior, and then have them ignore and/or bypass all of that, leaving the knowledge of my wonderful creation to be trapped forever in my head. Le sigh...

    But I'm totally looking forward to it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    What can be difficult when playing with younger players is to find the right mix of assistance (you don't want to be condescending, but you still want to help) and giving a direction to the game (because railroading is bad form at best, but for many new players, especially younger ones the responsibility to pick sensible decisions can be a bit overwhelming). Depending on the kids in question, the issue of frustration tolerance can be relevant, so it usually is recommendable to not block ideas they have only because they seem outlandish to you. The whole 'don't say no if you can say yes, but...' advice works really well when it comes to playing with this age group.
    I'm also enlisting my boyfriend to kind of be a player's aid while they get the hang of stuff their characters can do and figure out how the rules generally work. I remember my early days in D&D when I'd be asked, "so what do you want to do?" and all I could do is stare blankly and ask "uh, what would a character in this world normally do in this situation?" - except not quite as well-worded as that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    When it comes to the issue with the parents, well in this day and age, I think that most parents will be more concerned to the idea that their kid spents some time with a strange man they don't really know and not because they play role-playing games, in which case 'not being a strange man they don't know' might actually help. Talk to the kid, talk to the parents (on your initiative, just give them a call or something and explain ahat the game is about and what you have planned and if they are okay with it. Ask them to participate; they most likely won't, but it emphasizes that you have nothing to hide so to speak. And if they do join, well you just won over a family to a really fun and slowly dying hobby. Which would make you officially one of the good guys in my eyes.
    Strange woman in this case, but I get your point
    Last edited by TaraSilverwind; 2013-09-11 at 02:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TaraSilverwind View Post


    Strange woman in this case, but I get your point
    I should have seen that. Sorry.
    Play the world, not the rules. Numbers don't add up to a game - ideas do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    I should have seen that. Sorry.
    No worries! I didn't take it personally

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    Valadil has good advice. The things you need most are thick skin and patience. The default form of roleplaying, from 10-year-old girl scouts to war veterans, is wanton murder-hoboism. It'll take time and teaching before they'll grow out of it.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Maybe most common, but not universal. My gf started with Kult and several people at the club managed to play D&D-ish games without killing everything in sight. Some of these were even in the prime age group for MHing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Valadil has good advice. The things you need most are thick skin and patience. The default form of roleplaying, from 10-year-old girl scouts to war veterans, is wanton murder-hoboism. It'll take time and teaching before they'll grow out of it.
    Actually, I am not sure if this is not some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy, perpetually recreated by the introduction of new players to the hobby through older hands, back to the days of CoSims and the like. You know, war gamers.

    When I played with my students, the exploration aspect (discovering strange places, finding sunken cities, and most importantly treasure was deemed much more important than beating up monsters. The idea that 'monsters should be tricked (or even better befriended) if possible' was really common (and because it was in school and I had to write a report about the pedagogic effects of the whole project, I officially supported the "search for non-violent solution strategies and conflict resolution through alternative means" and it worked just fine (and because I am me, I couldn't really avoid the other message "... and sometimes, you need to fight, because all other alternatives are worse" in there as well, but that wasn't the main part).
    Roleplaying games are really flexible when it comes to what you are going to do. There is no reason whatsoever to limit oneself to just one sort of style, only because it is a common one.
    Last edited by Black Jester; 2013-09-11 at 05:26 PM.
    Play the world, not the rules. Numbers don't add up to a game - ideas do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    Actually, I am not sure if this is not some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy, perpetually recreated by the introduction of new players to the hobby through older hands, back to the days of CoSims and the like. You know, war gamers.
    Well, to this end, I've actually got their next encounter set up to hopefully encourage role playing rather than fighting, though fighting will also be an option if that's how they want to go. The next room they enter is going to have a guard playing darts all by himself, because the other guards don't like him very much. He's very cowardly and will try to convince the party to tie him up and punch him a few times to make it look like he didn't just let the prisoners go. If he feels sufficiently threatened, he'll even offer to tell them where he hid his treasure if they just tie him up and let him live. If the players think to do it, he could even tell him more about the dungeon they're trying to escape from. We'll see if they take the bait though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TaraSilverwind View Post
    Sadly, it does still happen. There are still people out there (a lot of them!) that think D&D will make people evil and warp their morals, just like there are still people out there that think playing video games will make you violent. Hopefully, that's not the case here, but you never know until you do.
    Here are some more fairly solid reasons why parents might not want their kids to get into dnd:
    • Some parents donít like the idea of their children hanging out with adults they donít know for hours on end.
    • Some parents simply donít want their kids to grow up to be geeks and nerds. I know it sound incredibly stupid. But itís something Iíve actually encountered.
    • Some parents are afraid that their kids are going to cost them a lot more money by getting into this hobby than they already cost them.
    • Some parents are control freaks and donít want their children doing anything that they donít have control over.
    • Some parents just donít like DnD or hobby games like it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheThan View Post
    Here are some more fairly solid reasons why parents might not want their kids to get into dnd:
    • Some parents donít like the idea of their children hanging out with adults they donít know for hours on end.
    • Some parents simply donít want their kids to grow up to be geeks and nerds. I know it sound incredibly stupid. But itís something Iíve actually encountered.
    • Some parents are afraid that their kids are going to cost them a lot more money by getting into this hobby than they already cost them.
    • Some parents are control freaks and donít want their children doing anything that they donít have control over.
    • Some parents just donít like DnD or hobby games like it.
    Also some parents don't want their children to become witches and warlocks! Magic is evil after all. Especially pretend magic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gavran View Post
    Also some parents don't want their children to become witches and warlocks! Magic is evil after all. Especially pretend magic.
    Wouldn't want our poor, mentally defenseless children to think they could become something extraordinary in their spare time, would we? They might start getting ideas.
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    Personally I wouldn't change much at all, I guess I've very occasionally thrown in sexual elements into a game I'd give a pass on for teenagers (one "you're gonna get raped" taunt, one openly sexually sadistic bad guy). That would be excluded less because I think teenagers couldn't handle it and more because I think it would be contextually extremely inappropriate.
    Last edited by Mr Beer; 2013-09-11 at 09:37 PM.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    Personally I wouldn't change much at all, I guess I've very occasionally thrown in sexual elements into a game I'd give a pass on for teenagers (one "you're gonna get raped" taunt, one openly sexually sadistic bad guy). That would be excluded less because I think teenagers couldn't handle it and more because I think it would be contextually extremely inappropriate.
    Putting aside the fact that you should never use a comment about rape as a taunt for players in the first place, I think that while most teenaged players could handle sexual themes just as well as adults it'd make things with the parents rather awkward once/if they caught wind of it.
    vape naesh

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaycemonde View Post
    Putting aside the fact that you should never use a comment about rape as a taunt for players in the first place, I think that while most teenaged players could handle sexual themes just as well as adults it'd make things with the parents rather awkward once/if they caught wind of it.
    I know what I should and shouldn't say with my own friends but thanks anyway.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I know what I should and shouldn't say with my own friends but thanks anyway.
    Just because you (and your friends) find it acceptable does not make it acceptable.

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    I ran a few games for teens when I was a teenager - and I would say that they are just like any other beginner at the game.

    Except, maybe expect a few more off-color jokes from the teens. But that depends on your regular group. And if not serious murder-hobos, at least plan on one of them wanting to be a tough-as-nails anti-hero. I would encourage against cross-playing. In your situation, keep it rated PG for both violence and sexuality.

    Treat them like any new person at a table. If you're starting a new campaign, (highly suggestible for the learning curve anyway), talk with the teens about what they want in a game. Do that (if appropriate), with a twist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiery Diamond View Post
    Just because you (and your friends) find it acceptable does not make it acceptable.
    Correct, being acceptable is what makes it acceptable.

    EDIT

    Although, myself and my friends finding it acceptable is a necessary pre-requisite for it being acceptable.
    Last edited by Mr Beer; 2013-09-12 at 04:05 AM.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I changed my mind, myself and my friends finding it acceptable is a pre-requisite for it being acceptable.
    I'm going to agree with Mr Beer. And while the topic may be in bad taste, and easily abused if done poorly, the GM is playing villains. Much like villains in the source material that likely inspires most GMs, his (and my) bad guys are very bad guys.

    If the players give informed consent to mature themes, then its okay to use mature themes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FallenGeek View Post
    I'm going to agree with Mr Beer. And while the topic may be in bad taste, and easily abused if done poorly, the GM is playing villains. Much like villains in the source material that likely inspires most GMs, his (and my) bad guys are very bad guys.

    If the players give informed consent to mature themes, then its okay to use mature themes.
    Thanks.

    Those kind of responses do my head in, it's totally acceptable for participants casually wholesale slaughter dozens of imaginary enemies on a daily (or session-ly) basis and no-one bats an eyelid.

    But have a villain make a crude and unpleasant threat and suddenly everyone draws in their breath, wags their fingers and says "well you can't ever say that! That's never OK!".
    Last edited by Mr Beer; 2013-09-12 at 01:33 AM.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    any teenage parent who gets up in arms ask her how many years she let her kids watch Miley sirus.......

    then say sorry mom D&D isnt sending your kid to hell......

    but twerking will.... so take your outrage, find the nearest mirror and express it all. But I have a job to do here and I cant focus on this.

    T

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    Trying to remember what my education textbook said on the topic of teens... Middle school and high school teens were sufficiently different in mental development that the book had two different sections detailing how they should be treated, so it might help if you could tell us the exact age of your players.

    Besides that, the most applicable fact about teens I remember is that they may sometimes put up a tough front, but they are actually very very sensitive to criticism from adults, especially adults in authority positions (like teachers, but perhaps also dungeon masters). The book recommends that you avoid implying or stating that they are stupid or inadequate because their skins can be quite thin. Teens also like to make crude/offensive jokes and use crude/offensive language often. If you want them to stop, chide them gently but firmly - they are likely to be just learning the boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable.

    Personally, though, I would go with my gut and treat your teen players based on what you've observed of their personalities. I doubt the generalized advice from any book would be as accurate as what you see with your eyes and hear with your ears.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Jester View Post
    Actually, I am not sure if this is not some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy, perpetually recreated by the introduction of new players to the hobby through older hands, back to the days of CoSims and the like. You know, war gamers.
    Nah, I've seen it happen without any prodding from my part. The remark about 10-year-old girl scouts was not hypothetical - all I needed to do was to say "there's a merchant..." and their reaction was "We rob him!". (The scenario I was aiming for was "day at the market", but it turned to "cops and robbers" in about five seconds.)


    It is a variant of the same phenomenom as people playing with Tamagotchis having a fit of cruelty and leave the thing starve just to see if it will die.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: DMing Teenagers

    When I started DMing, it was with teenagers. Of course at that time I was one too. As someone mentioned, "teenage" is a fairly long span (to my knowledge, it would be 13-19?) but that aside I don't think age should determine how you treat them.

    In those early days, I made sure that there were plenty of things that it was okay to ruthlessly slaughter which I suppose made it easier not to kill everything. Although none of my early players wanted to be evil as such so I don't know how that affects things.

    Basically treat them as any person new to roleplaying and you should be fine.

    I can't think of any valid reason why a parent would not want their child to do roleplaying in their spare time so if any of them tries to forbid it, just organise sessions in secret. Teenagers are amazing liars (to their parents). The world needs more chaotic good. Ideally though you should first try to talk with the parents and try to convince them. If they have reservations. Which they shouldn't.
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2013-09-12 at 04:08 AM.

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