Discover & explore for grade schoolers: Tabletop roleplaying games

By Children’s Librarian Hal Patnott

Have you ever wished you could explore the worlds of your favorite characters? Do you dream of running off on a grand adventure with your friends by your side? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you might want to try tabletop roleplaying at your next game night. 

Tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) surged in popularity with the release of the 5th edition of the game and exposure in popular media like the Netflix series Stranger Things. Unfortunately, they have a reputation for complex rules, so even if you love fantasy, it might feel intimidating to try to figure out where to start. 

I am a huge fan of tabletop roleplaying games, but not because I love dragons, unicorns, and all things magical. Tabletop roleplaying opens up opportunities to explore identity, name emotions, build problem solving skills, learn teamwork, and practice math and creative writing, all in the context of a fun game. 

They can feature stories of any genre, and they don’t need to focus on killing monsters with swords or magic. In fact, roleplaying adventures can encourage young people to listen, build empathy, and find other avenues for navigating conflict.

Want to give tabletop roleplaying games a try?

Here are some resources to get you started!

How to play Spell

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to get started playing Spell, a whimsical modern fantasy roleplaying game about Speakers who cast spells with the power of words. Get started by clicking on the picture of Miss Beronica.

Want to give the game a try? Young people in grades 4-8 can join us for a virtual game of Spell on Saturday, January 30 from 2 to 3:30 pm. Register in Zoom now »

More resources to explore

  • Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules: The basic rules you need to get started playing D&D are available for free as a downloadable pdf.
  • DnD Adventures for Kids: These 14 free 5th edition D&D adventures are great for a new Game Master. The stories are written with young people in mind as their target audience. 
  • d20 Dames: Listening to others play D&D can be a great way to get ideas for games and to learn more about roleplaying. This podcast is hosted by five women, who aim to make their show inclusive and appropriate for a younger audience. The episodes typically run for less than two hours.
  • Handbooker Helper: If the rules of D&D feel overwhelming, check out this video series by the cast of Critical Role. These short videos break down concepts from the 5th edition player’s handbook. 
  • Rolled and Told (on Hoopla): Two volumes of Rolled and Told are available for checkout on Hoopla. Each volume includes maps, adventures (compatible with 5th edition D&D), tips, and comics. The Rolled and Told website also has more content available for free download.
  • Wanderhome Free Playkit: This pastoral fantasy game encourages full collaboration. Everyone takes part in shaping the world and story around them. 
  • Willpower: This one-stat, one-dice roleplaying game system can be used to tell stories in any kind of setting. All you need is a standard six-sided dice and your imagination.
Hal Patnott

About Hal

Hal Patnott is a children’s librarian who specializes in serving LGBTQ+ young people and their allies. He is passionate about identity exploration through collaborative storytelling and imaginative play.

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