D&D Workshops: Activities for Young Players

It’s no secret (or surprise) that D&D is bigger now than it has ever been, reaching wider and more diverse audiences than ever before. Each week it seems as though I’m getting a new message from families who want to start playing this much loved pastime as a way to rekindle the joys of older editions or bond over newer interpretations of this timeless storytelling game.

The D&D Workshops are just one way in which I have partnered with Heffers Booksellers to not only introduce young players and their families to the game, but help them learn how to create RPG stories of their own! If you’ve read my previous posts on the Workshop Series, then you already know the basic focus areas. If not, you can check them out here:

As a quick re-cap, the workshop series is split into three parts: Plot/Elements of Story, Character Building, and Basic Game Mechanics. Each of these themes focuses down even further into activities that help the group develop some inter-/intra-personal skills that will help them on both sides of the DM screen: Teamwork, Empathy, Confidence, Critical Thinking, and Improvisation.

Each activity is a fun and easy way to get the group interacting with each other (instead of just sitting down and listening the whole time) and feeling more comfortable with the role-playing aspect of D&D:

Where Are We?

This activity is part of the Elements of Story lesson, in which we learn how to create immersive descriptions through our words. All you need is a set of flash cards (I just used index cards) with the names of different settings that might appear in a D&D game, such as a Wizard’s Tower, Goblin Camp, Dragon’s Lair, Swamp, Forest, and so on.

You can sit or stand in a circle (standing can bring a fun element of pantomime into the game) and take turns drawing cards. Each person takes a few minutes to think about their setting before beginning their description. The key is to describe the scene with as many of the five senses as possible, without ever saying what the setting is. The rest of the group then guesses what that setting is!

Things I’ve Learned: This has been such a hit with the groups that we will sometimes go around the circle twice! I would recommend encouraging the group to wait until the description is done before they shout out their answers, to avoid interrupting the person with the card. You can then spend a few minutes talking about the description and the senses used. If the person with the card is struggling a bit, they can ask the group for help. This game shouldn’t be a competition, but a collaborative way to transport the group into the scene.

Who’s in the Inn?

As part of the Character Building session, this activity focuses on perspectives and thinking about the NPCs of a story. We start with a simple setting (usually something that ties into the plot the group developed) and think about who might be there beyond the usual Innkeeper or farmer. We talk about each NPC’s motivations, goals, and perspectives by asking “Why are they there?”, “What do they want?”, “What do they think about [place]”.

At the end of the activity, the group can take turns introducing themselves as one of the NPCs, to experience stepping into a different character’s skin and viewpoints.

Things I’ve Learned: We don’t always have the time to complete this activity to the end, with the introductions, so I would recommend limiting the deep-dive to a few NPCs or having the group work in pairs. The workshop lead can then serve more as a guide, to ask probing questions about NPC beliefs and desires, to help the creative thinking flow.

String-Along Story

The third workshop focuses on basic improvisation and game mechanics before turning the group loose in the rotating DM/Scene-by-Scene adventure. This activity is a great way to practice the “Yes and” and “No, but” rule. The workshop lead begins by setting the scene and introducing a character or event. The story is then passed around the circle, with each person adding a bit more to the tale. The only rule is that the story has to keep progressing, and you can’t completely erase someone else’s input. They can instead use “Yes and” or “No but” to keep the plot progressing (or take it in a new direction entirely). This triggers the creative and critical thinking skill, while also respecting the inputs of others.

Things I’ve Learned: Establish the “Talking Stick” or “Microphone” rule in which only one storyteller is allowed to speak at a time, otherwise the activity could devolve into a chorus of different ideas being thrown out all at once. Also, the workshop lead should only begin the story, and leave the rest of the progression up to the group, stepping in only to ask questions, guide, or mediate as necessary.

These activities are fun for any experience level of player or DM, for a home-game group or for a school club! If you have the chance to try them out, I’d love to hear how you liked them in the comments below! Feel free to share other activity ideas too!

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