Sean is 26 years old, and he runs a game of D&D for people in their 70’s – who just started playing. Read their story below.
(With a bonus interview with the players themselves at the end of the article.)
From left to right: Maureen the Human Fighter, Margiella the High Elf Wizard, Darrak the Dwarven Cleric, Kangaroo the Human Fighter, and Jeffro the Halfling Rogue
Tabletop Terrors: So Sean – your players seem to be a bit more “seasoned” than most—what’s the median age of your players not including you?
Sean: Well it’s a good thing I’m not included here because I would certainly bring down the age a bit, being 26. My grandma is 72, my grandpa is 71, and I’m not exactly sure how old their neighbors are (and I feel like I might lose a couple players if I ask!) but they are in their early-to-mid 60s. We also picked up my mom once she heard about the fun everyone else was having. She’s 51 so that puts our median age at about 63.
It seems like you’re having an absolute blast – what made you decide to try to get these wonderful folks to play D&D?
Honestly they were the ones that pushed for it. I was down at my grandparent’s shore house a few weeks ago relaxing and drawing some maps for another group’s campaign. My grandma asked about what I was doing, and I explained that it was for D&D. She said, “Oh we’d like to play, we love games!”
I actually tried to talk her out of it at first, thinking it would be a waste of time because there was no way that my grandparents would ever be interested in playing D&D. But they pushed the issue and invited me over for dinner, telling me to bring everything I would need for them to play.
I think if I was the one that pushed it on them rather than having them be the driving force behind playing, they never would have gotten into it.
What rules system are you using?
We’re playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition with a little homebrew here and there (mostly because when I don’t know a rule I just try to make something up that sounds fair and then stick with it rather than spend 10 minutes searching through the rulebook).
Are you running pre-made adventures, or making up your own stories? Similarly, are you using pre-generated characters, or did everyone roll their own up?
I’m running them through the 5e starter set campaign, Lost Mines of Phandelver. I may throw in some of my own sidequests here and there if I think of anything they may be interested, but for the most part we’ll probably just stick with LMoP. They’re using the pre-gen characters that come with the starter set, but only for the stats and abilities. I had them decide what their characters’ personalities were like, what drives them to go off and adventure, and what flaws their characters may have that could be problematic. I think they did a great job coming up with their backstories and I also think that by letting them decide on their backgrounds, it helped to get them more invested in the story.
Is everyone using your books and dice, or have any of the players made the leap into buying their own adventuring gear?
For now everyone is using my books and dice. I have enough dice for everyone to have their own set while we play, and I give them the starter set rulebook to use so they can look up their own spells or check on rules that they have questions about. Meanwhile I have the Player’s Handbook on my side of the screen. The plan is for us to play pretty consistently, at least for the next few months. I personally don’t mind them using my stuff for as long as they want, but I could see them wanting to get their own gear as they get more into it.
What has surprised you the most about this endeavor?
I would say I’m most surprised by my grandpa and how he has taken to the game. Out of everyone that’s playing, he is the one that I least expected to get really into his character. He’s a tough guy who has certainly done his share of manual labor, but he’s playing a sneaky, Halfling rogue named Jeffro. He’s really dived in headfirst and has even texted me to talk about his character’s backstory in between sessions.
What has been the most challenging thing that you’ve come up against while trying to play with this group? How did you overcome them?
I think at the end of the day, this group provides a lot of the same challenges that any group of first time players would provide. It’s a balance of simplifying the game in a way that they can learn the rules as they go while still not losing the depth that makes D&D so great.
Right now I think the biggest challenge I’m dealing with is just going to be getting them all on the same page. They are thinking of themselves as individuals – all of them are the heroes of their own story – and that’s not totally a bad thing because it’s helped them get into character. At some point though, they’re going to need to really work together to overcome some tougher challenges. I think they will, though. They’re all smart people, and part of learning the game is learning how your character can synergize with the rest of the group (in terms of decision-making and also in the use of abilities in combat).
The other challenge is going to be finding ways to motivate them in ways other than gold. So far their first question to NPCs asking for favors has been, “how much will you pay us?” Gold is a great motivator, especially for new players, but my hope is that the intrigue of the story starts to cause them to make decisions based off of a desire for information more than for coin. That’s not totally on them though; if I do a good job as DM, that change should happen naturally.
What has been the most rewarding thing?
The most rewarding thing for me as a DM is always just to see my players have fun. That’s true of any group, and even moreso with a group that I didn’t expect to really get into the game the way my grandparents did. I am fortunate to have a really good relationship with them, and being able to share something with them that brings me as much joy as D&D does is awesome.
In general, it’s just really cool being able to play D&D with them. Most people my age who spend time with their grandparents probably have to compromise a bit when it comes to activities. Mine have fortunately always been cooler than the stereotype of what people think of when it comes to older relatives, but this definitely makes Tuesday dinners at their house a lot more interesting.
Here’s the DM himself, Sean
*** BONUS: WE INTERVIEW THE PLAYERS. ***
We were able to ask a few of the players their thoughts on D&D. We posed the same three questions to all of them:
1.) What surprised you the most about playing D&D?
2.) What did you find the most challenging?
3.) What is your favorite thing about D&D?
Maureen the Human Fighter’s Answers
1. What surprised me most was even though the names are unusual, I found it easy to follow.
2. The most challenging thing was following my team when I wanted to take a different path.
3. My favorite thing is how everyone embraces their characters and fits into their roles.
Margiella the High Elf Wizard’s Answers
1. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the adventure. I was not sure when we first started but it challenges your thought process and makes your brain think of strategies to win.
2. The most challenging thing is deciding how to fight the enemy and what is the best weapon to use.
3. My most favorite thing about D & D is that you can play with others as a team and work together to make decisions. We played last night and had a lot of laughs on the adventure. It was obvious that some of our decisions went badly, but we all still laughed about it. This is a game that can bring together people of all ages to have a great time. My grandson is the host and in his twenties, so it is especially enjoyable for me to be able to have that time with him at this point in our lives. I can’t wait for our next game.
Jeffro the Halfling Rogue’s Answers
1. The biggest surprise to me was the intricacy of how the game plays out and how your
choices help to move the game along.
2. The most challenging thing is as a new player it’s getting familiar with my character and what he is capable of doing.
3. The thing I enjoy most the molding of my character to what I feel he is supposed to be like.
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