The youngest I am raising, he is 11, and sometimes acts much younger. He has extreme difficulty with social skills — often at war with his brother, more so than siblings should be. His brother is ADHD — which presents a whole new set of problems, everyone in the household can be impatient with his brother, for him at times it is intolerable. The youngest has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol.
I play Dungeons and Dragons with the boys, every Sunday night. The boys adore my version of dungeons and dragons, the rules are a little more relaxed, combat is just my D20 (20 sided die), against theirs, and they roll percentile dice to see if they can accomplish feats. Most times they accomplish things. As we continue to play, the boys want the monsters to be their friends. They end up in positive relationships with creatures that if we played by game rules would be mortal enemies. But I bend the rules, and make stories for them.
The 11 year old adores dungeons and dragons. I think the biggest part that works for the game is my imagination, interesting things happen, and they have relationships within the game with other characters. Like I have created “Oak” a giant talking tree that you might be familiar with from Tolkien. In my version of the game, when things seem hopeless and our heroes are say locked in a dungeon or about to be overpowered, the giant talking tree comes to their rescue.
A couple of years ago the boys, being boys played with fire in the nearby park. So their friend the talking tree is deathly afraid of fire. Every time he leaves the boys he makes them promise to be careful with fire, and they agree. He is just one of many lesson teaching monsters they have met.
My partner, who has adopted these boys, she is their grandmother. She has had them since they were infants, I didn’t come onto the scene until they were 3 and 4 years old. She thinks I should create this game, so other parents could play and teach their children at the same time. Or maybe I should write out my magical stories and sell them as children’s books. Between reading a great deal in my youth, and playing games like Oblivion and Skyrim more recently I have enough ideas for events and campaigns. I try to include little lessons, in each one of the games.
At one point my youngest was using the “N” word, and in my in game lesson, he ended up in a town that was racist against elves. His character was put in a cell on a wagon and being scheduled for execution, he was spat on and called ELF as a taunt. He was belligerent to the townspeople and actually surprised when one of them kicked him unconscious. I took it the far in the game, just to show him how people treat people because of their race. I don’t know how much of the events in the game that night where an eye opener for him. But we haven’t had trouble with the “N” word again.
A great deal of game time is spent in snacking and joking around together. Sometimes the boys get impatient with cooperating with each other. On one evening I had them actually hold a special pencil if they wanted to speak. If you weren’t holding the pencil it was not your turn to speak. And yes I literally stole this idea from the conch in Lord of the Flies. However there is a certain amount of cooperation I force on them, they need each other to do well. Often too, the boys themselves decide to split up, and then I will switch back and forth between the two of them. Often leaving them at a cliff hanging moment, and switching over to the other players timeline like a good novel would.
Most evenings the boys beg for more time, in a moment that was a little heart wrenching for me, my eldest told me he would rather play dungeons and dragons than video games. I was so touched that he said this — you can imagine how important video games are to a 12 year old boy.
Dungeons and Dragons has become an integral part of our routine, it has given all three of us a chance to bond, and it keeps me in a creative mindset. I know playing just about any game together with the kids would be a good thing, but I think the mixture of fun and life lessons is a perfect fit for the children I”m helping to raise.
The starter kit was all we needed, and since we have purchased some books, which incites the boys who don’t normally like to read to do so.
I see our Sundays sessions not just as game play, but a learning experience for all three of us.