So I gifted my two oldest step-children the D&D Starter Set on Saturday. My wife was going to be out all day, and the two younger children were with their grandparents til Sunday, so it wound up being a perfect day for D&D with the kids.
"A" is 11 and "K" is 9. K just recently beat The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which is pretty impressive, I think, which was one of the reasons I went ahead and got them the set. They made up their characters, and we all stuck to Essentials builds. K is a human mage named "Mike" and A is an elf slayer named "Ice". I made a human warpriest named "Padre" who is along for muscle and healing. Good thing, too.
The Red Box is an interesting product. I'm not really impressed with the choose-your-own-adventure method of chargen in the player booklet, but the DM booklet is actually pretty solid. I opted to just use the online character builder, to save time, and it worked just fine. Because of this, all the cards that come in the red box were kind of useless, except for the treasure cards. Oh well. The cardboard creature tokens are pretty useless when you already have a box of minis, but at least we got a new set of dice, an adventure, and a poster battlemap out of it.
I went ahead and ran them through the adventure straight out of the DM booklet. I always cut published monster hitpoints in half, and did that here, and things have moved along decently. We got through the crossroads encounter, although that got a little hairy for a minute, as our slayer missed her first few attacks and the wolves proved to be kind of durable.
We made it into the dungeon, fought the goblins in the first room. The hex thrower ran away into the next room. At the time of this writing (they are taking an extended rest at the moment), they had followed the hexer, fought more goblins and dire rats, ran into the fledgling white dragon, managed to insult it, ran away, fell in the pit trap, and then got stuck on the chess puzzle. After the rook thwomped the mage pretty good, we high-tailed it out of there for an extended rest.
After the rest, we went back in, and the elf sweet-talked our way past the dragon. We fought more goblins and the bugbear, and then the undead and the necromancer. That last fight would have been ugly except for a couple of very well timed critical hits on daily powers, which completely turned the tide of battle our way. All in all, the kids really enjoyed it, and can't wait to play again. The dungeon module itself was actually pretty good. If we had a full complement of 5 players, it would have been good with the monsters at full hit points, too. It offers options for actual role-playing (possible conversation with the dragon) and a clever puzzle situation with the chess room (which, I'm sure, experienced players would solve with ease, but my 10-year-olds found quite vexing). Using actual chess pieces helped in that spot, but they didn't go back to try to solve it. I thought I did a pretty good job of giving them just enough information to solve it from the start, and then later gave them more information than they deserved, but they weren't quite there. Oh well, maybe next time!
My oldest daughter had a blast, but was not a fan of the Essentials slayer build. She wanted to know where her Daily powers were, like the cleric and mage had. So, since we got just enough XP to level up, we'll change Ice to a traditional Players Handbook fighter when we level everyone up.