I ran a little DMing workshop for my fifth graders earlier this month and the result was interesting. First, I asked the kids what exactly they enjoyed in roleplaying. These were the replies I got (translated from Hebrew):
Add people to the party
Meet new characters
Play different characters
Visit new places
Treasure! (this one was shouted in unison)
These we distilled into the following categories:
At this point I challenged the kids to create a location that will cover all these bases. In essence, I asked them to design a campaign in under 90 minutes.
This is what they came up with:
The Snake-Shaped Island!
Frozen wastes with volcanoes that spew pixie dust that erases memory.
A desert so hot that trees hide underground during the day and then spring out in the evening. Sometimes horses are created from the heat and assault travelers.
A withered field that causes transformations (1 - snakes, 2- a maze*, 3- owl, 4 - strong priest, 5 - dragonborn, 6- a giant maw, 7 - an angry pixie, 8 - candy seller, 9 - giant spider, 10 - an elf) * One of the PCs actually turns into a dungeon the others can raid
Sharp cliffs covered in flowers
A safe and normal country where the clouds rain flowers… with teeth (we seem to have some disagreement as to what exactly constitutes “safe and normal”...)
In the center of the island there’s a region that changes into one of the above at random intervals. It’s controlled by the Dragon of the Seasons (see below).
It rains knives. (ouch!)
A fog that causes inanimate objects to come to life. They aren’t always hostile.
A golden cave where whoever touches the gold is transformed into a golden statue, whoever touches the statue also turns into gold. (brutal!)
Acid puddles that look refreshing.
A field with illusions of fire. If you touch one of the flames it follows you around and talks and talks and talks… (what a nudnik!).
Pits that open and close abruptly.
Illusion of dancing princesses. (Oddly enough, these are harmless).
A statue of a cockroach that if you touch it, you become a cockroach for one hour. (actually has some benefits…)
A tribe of elves that breed giant spiders. The elves can trade, provide hospitality, give information about the island or be enemies. They live in the sharp cliffs (4). Some of the elves are:
Dando: leader of the tribe, the most agile elf.
Zon: a wizard, the smartest elf.
Zargoster: a druid, the most cunning elf, son of Hermes (apparently, we’re doing Greek mythology. Good to know!)
Roked: his feet are always dancing, he’s very tired. He really needs help!
A kingdom of red dragonborn who lived in protected cities in the frozen wastes (1). They are amazing hosts because they know how hard life is. Some of the dragonborn are:
Adron: a village elder, a magician who likes to hunt with traps.
“The Global Madman”: retarded and insane, always hangs out outside in the pixie dust.
Golden: a young barbarian looking for someone to go on an adventure with him.
Dragon of the Seasons: He can change his color because he’s made from all parts of the island. He’s very evil and very smart and has five huge diamonds. He lives in the center of the island but his lair is hidden.
Bandits who include ogres, orcs, and an evil titan. They are led by Daddy, a white dragonborn, who can freeze or boil you with the power of thought. The bandits roam the island and attack everyone.
Titans who look scary but are really very sensitive and cowardly. The chief has a big treasure but he’s easily distracted and forgot that he has it.
Jerry, the beverage seller, a halfling who sells refreshing drinks. He roams the island and isn’t afraid of anything. (I suspect Jerry is much more than a mere beverage seller…)
Two sphinxes, a brother and a sister. They are really very nice and don’t know any difficult riddles.
The bandits took a trident from some mermaids. Since the mermaids can’t go on land, they need the PCs to return the trident to them. They will pay with pearls and a magic sword.
The spider elves are preparing for war and will buy any weapon offered to them.
The dragonborn Kingdom needs someone to catch and cure the Global Madman.
The Global Madman: Help him make everyone as crazy as he is.
There are hints everywhere of an ancient city that has disappeared underground. (It’s unclear if this city actually exists…)