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Feb 13, 2020

D&D for Kids: Basic Rules & Choosing a Race

I recently joined a Facebook group called "Dads and Dragons," for dads like me who love roleplaying games and playing them with their kids. I've seen a few resources out there for adapting D&D 5e to kids, but none of them were good enough to be standalone publications. Below I've compiled a collection of rule adaptations to simplify D&D 5e for kids 6 and up, rather than 12 and up. I'm leaning on the side of opening the game for fun story opportunities and making kids feel satisfied, like making successes more likely and promoting "fun" abilities rather than decidedly "balanced" ones, but all feedback is appreciated!

Once I've gotten all the rules fleshed out and playtested, I'll release these rules on a PDF. More to come later!

How to Play

Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, is a roleplaying game where you and your friends can star as heroes of a fantasy story in your imagination. You might fight dragons, rescue people in need of your help, explore dark dungeons or beautiful fairy forests, or even become a king or queen. Because the only limit is your imagination, anything can happen in D&D!

In order to play, you choose what type of character you want to pretend to be, the Dungeon Master (or DM) tells you the story, and you choose what you want to do. If you or the DM isn't sure if something is going to work or not, you roll a six-sided die to find out what happens. When you need to determine something that happens by chance, you or the DM makes a "check" by rolling the die. Depending on your race and class, you might get bonuses to the check. Below are the results of a d6:
  1. Terrible Failure. The check went horribly wrong! You failed at what you tried to do, and maybe even created bigger problems. But don't worry—you won't be unlucky forever. Your next check gets a +1 bonus.
  2. Failure. You tried to do something, but failed. Better luck next time!
  3. Near Miss. You almost succeeded, but something is preventing you from succeeding. What is it? Tell your DM why you almost succeeded, and then roll again. If you roll a 3 or higher, then you turn your Near Miss into a Narrow Success instead!
  4. Narrow Success. Despite the odds, you barely succeeded on your check. That was a close one!
  5. Success. You did it! Your check was successful.
  6. Awesome Success. Wow, not only did your check succeed, but you were lucky enough to do something awesome while succeeding! Your situation may now be easier than it seemed to be.
Checks are used for everything from checking if your character can climb a slippery rock wall to attacking monsters, and more about specific cases will be explained in later chapters. First, it's time to decide what character you want to play in your own D&D story.

Choose a Race

In D&D, "race" means the type of creature you were born as, like an elf, a human, or a dwarf. Each race is born with a special trait that sets it apart from other races in the world. Below are the races you can choose to be in this D&D story. Pick a race, and then choose one of the abilities beneath it as your Racial Trait.


Humans are just like humans in real life. They have lots of different skin, eye, and hair colors, and they're all good at a lot of different things. Most of the people in the world are humans, but they only live to be about 100 years old. Humans love to work on goals and projects. If you want to be a human, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Determination. After you make a check, you can choose to add a +2 bonus to the result. After you do this, you have to rest before you can do it again.
  • Hard Worker. You know how to use a type of tool or play a kind of instrument. You get a +1 bonus to all checks that use your specialized tool or instrument.
  • Adaptable. You can speak every language, and you can learn new things through studying and training much faster.


Elves are beautiful and graceful—slimmer and shorter than humans, with pointy ears. Their hair, eyes, and skin are often the same colors as humans, but they can also have green or blue hair, or gold or silver eyes. Elves never have beards or hair on their bodies, and they can live up to 750 years old! Elves love to appreciate the beautiful things in life, such as music and art. If you want to be an elf, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Wise. You always have a +1 bonus to checks involving searching, interacting with animals, hunting, and camping.
  • Keen Senses. You can move fast, see in the dark, and you don’t need to sleep at night.
  • Fairy Magic. You always have a +1 bonus to checks for resisting spells cast on you, and you know one Level 1 magic spell that you can cast once per day. (see "Magic and Spellcasting" to choose)


Even grown-up dwarves are shorter than humans, but they're very strong! Female dwarves like to have long hair done up in buns and braids, and male dwarves all have big beards. Most dwarves have light brown skin with black, gray, or brown hair, but some dwarves are pale with red hair. Dwarves can live for up to 400 years! Dwarves love to work hard and make things. If you want to be a dwarf, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Tough. When an enemy hits you with an attack when rolling a 6, it counts as a 5 instead (see “Combat).
  • Healthy. You never get sick, even when you're bitten by a poisonous animal or eat rotten food.
  • Handy. You can fix things that are broken, and you can make armor and weapons if you find metal to make it out of.


Halflings are even shorter than dwarves—they're so small, they can fit in tight places and hide where no one can see them. Halflings have brown eyes and brown curly hair, and male halflings don't grow beards or mustaches, but they can grow sideburns. Halflings can live for about 200 years. Halflings love to be comfortable and to spend time with their families, and they are very curious about the world. If you want to be a halfling, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Nimble. You always have a +1 bonus to checks involving sneaking, stealing things, hiding, or dodging danger.
  • Lucky. If you roll a 1 on a check, you can roll one more time and take the second result instead.
  • Brave. You aren’t scared of anything.


Gnomes are about 3 feet tall, or about the same as halflings. They have pointy ears, big noses, tan skin, and fair hair. Gnomes live in burrows in the ground, and they can live to be 350 to 500 years old! Gnomes love to enjoy life, laugh, try new things, and take risks. If you want to be a gnome, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Intelligent. You always have a +1 bonus to checks involving knowledge of history or facts, figuring out puzzles, and learning new things.
  • Tricky. You have the ability to turn invisible or create a fake illusion or sound of something to fool others. After you do this, you have to rest before you can do it again.
  • Industrious. You can fix machines. Also, you own a little mechanical device that you invented. It can be a toy like a noisemaker or a tiny robotic animal, a tool like a lighter or a weather detector, or something else, and you can spend some time to change it into something else.
  • Nature’s Friend. You can speak to and understand little animals like birds, chipmunks, and squirrels.


Sometimes, an elf and a human fall in love and have a baby. The baby is a half-elf—a person with some traits from both elves and humans. Like elves, they are slender, beautiful, and have slightly pointed ears. Like humans, they are strong, and males can grow beards. It’s often hard for half-elves to fit in with their community, because they grow up faster than elves and slower than humans. Their lives can span more than 180 years. Half-elves love to wander and explore and to be alone. If you want to be a half-elf, choose one of the Racial Traits of a human or an elf above.


When an orc and a human have a baby, the child is a half-orc. Half-orcs look mostly like humans, but with orcish features. They have grayish skin, small tusks, and coarse black hair. Half-orcs are very big, strong, and heavy, and many people are scared of them. They grow up fast, so that they’re already adults by age 14, but they only live about 75 years. Half-orcs have strong emotions, so it’s easy for them to get sad, happy, or mad very quickly. If you want to be a half-orc, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Strong. You always have a +1 bonus to checks involving lifting heavy things, doing athletic things, wrestling, and fighting.
  • Relentless. If you get knocked out in battle, you get healed back up to an Injured state instead. After you avoid getting knocked out like this, you have to rest before you can do it again.
  • Menacing. You always have a +2 bonus to scaring monsters away or intimidating other people.


Dragonborn are a race that look like dragons, but they walk on two legs instead of having wings or tails. They have dragonlike snouts, sharp teeth, scaly hides, and claws. Their hides are normally brownish, but sometimes they are a different color from a draconic ancestor. Their lives are normally around 80 years. Dragonborn love to be heroes, learn skills, and get stronger. If you want to be a dragonborn, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Strong. You always have a +1 bonus to checks involving lifting heavy things, doing athletic things, wrestling, and fighting.
  • Dragonbreath. You can breathe fire, ice, lightning, or poisonous gas, or spit acid. You can attack with your dragonbreath to automatically roll a 6 on an attack. After you do this, you have to rest before you can do it again.
  • Resistance. Choose a type of energy: acid, fire, ice, lightning, or poison. The type of energy you choose can’t hurt you.


Tieflings are a race of people born from humans touched with dark magic. They look mostly like humans, but they have horns, tails, pupil-less eyes, and sharp canine teeth. Their skin and hair can look like that of a human, or they may have reddish skin or blue, dark red, or purple hair. Their pupil-less eyes can be black, red, white, silver, or gold. Since they look like devils, many people are suspicious or prejudice against tieflings, but not all tieflings are evil. If you want to be a tiefling, choose one of the Racial Traits below:
  • Charming. You always have a +1 bonus to persuading others, lying, playing music, and acting.
  • Devil Skin. Fire can’t hurt you, and you never get too hot.
  • Dark Magic. You can see in the dark, and you know one Level 1 magic spell that you can cast once per day. (see "Magic and Spellcasting" to choose)