Tabletop roleplaying games: Activities for grade schoolers

By Hal, Rainbow Services Librarian

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!

Join us for Tabletop Adventurer Training

We welcome students in grades 3-5 to join us on Saturday, October 29, and Saturday, November 19, for Tabletop Adventurer Training. These programs are especially for new and first-time tabletop roleplayers. In October and November, we will focus on foundational skills and core mechanics for Dungeons & Dragons. Register now »

Watch a how-to video

Follow along as Hal, Shelley, and Jenny prepare to set off on an adventure! In this video tutorial, you’ll learn how to get started playing Wanderhome, including building characters.

Check out a Discovery Kit

  • Tabletop Roleplaying Discovery Kit: Unleash your magic and imagination! This kit has everything you need to play Spell: the RPG, including a book of pre-written adventures.
  • Wanderhome Tabletop Roleplaying Discovery Kit: Embark on a journey in the land of Haeth, a world full of animal folk and wonder. This kit has everything you need to play Wanderhome, including a guide for solo adventures.

Explore more resources

  • Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules: The basic rules you need to get started playing D&D are available for free.
  • 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.
  • DnD Beyond: With a free account, you can access the Lost Mine of Phandelver, which is designed for first-time players. The Basic Rules for 5e are also available for free.
  • Donjon: Has tons of useful tools for anyone who wants to run a D&D game. You can use Donjon to generate maps, encounters, treasure, and more. Their quick reference page is a great resource to have at the table for new players.
  • Fantasy & Tabletop Gaming Reading List: Download the list to find titles all about tabletop roleplaying.
  • 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.
  • Owlbear Rodeo: A free virtual tabletop. You do not need to make an account to use it.
  • Quest: Another fantasy tabletop roleplaying game like D&D. There are fewer rules, so it’s a great game to play with beginners. You can download the digital edition of the game book and core deck for free.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Read these articles for more background

Rainbow Services Librarian Hal

About Hal

Hal 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.