On the official Dungeons & Dragons website, there’s part four of an ongoing "tutorial" series about teaching kids how to play D&D. This one’s called "D&D Kids: Punishment."
In it, the author — who is apparently a professional "teacher of RPGs" in Israel — talks about how to punish and humiliate children between the ages of 7 and 11 who don’t fit his idea of what a roleplaying game should be.
Suggested "verdicts" for these "crimes" (the terms are his, not mine) include public humiliation, loss of experience points, character death, and ostracization from the gaming group (called "exile" by the author).
He accomplishes this by applying labels to children, such as "The Astronaut" (for a child who is unable to quickly grasp the complex rules of D&D), "The Crybaby," "The Cheater," "The Serial Character Changer" (a kid who dares to "care more about experiencing different classes and races than about character development"), "The Hyperactive" (with a note to make sure that you can tell who is not just an "attention grabber" but "genuinely hyperactive" — do people even use these words about kids in this day and age? — who might "go bananas"), "The Joker" (who gets compared to Batman’s sociopathic foe for being silly at the game table), "The Chaotic-Stupid" (who deserves character death and return at lower level), and "The Antagonist" (who should just be banished for being a threat to the DM’s authority).
Now, there’s a long history of categorizing gamer types, not always in the most attractive way — I remember the old "Real Men / Roleplayers / Loonie / Munchkin" stuff that I first saw on USEnet in the 80s. Most of this stuff consists of stereotypes and insults coupled with "old school" "hardcore" "grognard"-style gaming advice. (You know, where Gary Gygax tells you that you must punish players who, I dunno, don’t recognize his initials in the map or something.)
Modern gaming has gotten away from the more destructive uses of these categories, and recent advice — such as that found in the 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 — focuses not so much on judging and condemning players, but recognizing that different play styles and play goals exist. The best advice sections give hints and tips on how to keep everyone happy within a campaign by understanding what your players are hoping to achieve and realizing that their desires are valid and reasonable.
This "D&D Kids: Punishment" article doesn’t do that. In a move that would be out of place in gaming if applied to adults — let alone children! — the author suggests stripping characters of experience points, levels, and characters for not playing Dungeons & Dragons as seriously as he thinks they should be playing it.
Rather than giving advice on what’s going on in a kid’s head when he or she engages in potentially disruptive behavior — and suggesting ways to work with whatever desires the child is expressing — the article focuses almost entirely on the idea that it’s the role of the adult Dungeon Master to inflict punishment on the children.
The first subheading of the article is "The Cracking of the Whip" — and the staff at the WotC website decided it was appropriate to illustrate this article — about kids! — with an angry demon wielding a flaming whip and a sword.
I object to this guy’s namecalling categorization of young children this way; I’m offended by multiple things throughout this very problematic article. I’m frankly shocked that Wizards of the Coast decided this was worth publishing, since it goes against their current DMing philosophies for playing with adults, let alone with children.
I know for certain that I would not want the author ever attempting to teach my nephews how to play Dungeons & Dragons.
Oh, and don’t think I didn’t notice that he only refers — throughout the four parts of this "tutorial series" — to boy players and never girls. He talks in one part about when it’s appropriate or not to give slaves to childrens’ characters as loot/alternate rewards ("slavery is a touchy subject best avoided with younger gamers"), but he never addresses in any place how to deal with a group of mixed genders of children.
If, like me, you need to cleanse your palate after slogging through "D&D Kids: Punishment," check out this recent BoingBoing post by Enrique "NewbieDM" Bertran, "I turned my 4-year-old daughter into a Dungeons & Dragons geek." That’s the kind of introduction I hope more children have to this hobby.