Dungeons & Dragons is a pen-and-paper (PNP) role-playing game, where players create persona's or characters using rules, dice and some imagination. custom d&d miniatures Similarly the game is played this way - there is a game master that is in charge of organizing and running a game or campaign and controlling the monsters or NPC's (non-player-characters) and the players that are in charge of their own PC's or Player Characters.
The name 'Dungeons & Dragons' (D&D) is a specific set of rules for a role playing game (RPG). There are other PNP RPG's for all kinds of settings, including sci-fi, modern world and more. Some games are fairly simple, having minimal rules, minimal detail, while others can be extremely complex. D&D is in-between, it can be played using only basic rules, but is also able to scale up and you can utilize the many available books for additional rules, game features and detail.
Once the rules are understood, it can be an enjoyable experience for years to come. It is something that I thoroughly enjoy, and most kids enjoy dragons, monsters, heroes, castles and so on. They especially enjoy using their imagination to make up stories and 'play'. However, children under the age of 12, or in my case age 7, do not have the patience to learn and follow even the basic rules for a game such as this.
This type of play is valuable as it is very powerful in developing intelligence and imagination if done properly. It also helps build better parent-child or child-child relationships. It can help bring a family closer together - it is so simple yet effective - imagine mom, dad and the kids all sitting in a circle playing a fun 'save the princess' game, imagining and describing beautiful or exciting scenes and actions.
To play these imagination role playing games, you will need at a minimum two people. That's it! You may optionally add some additional game components such as pencil and paper, dice, figurines and written rules.
The most basic form of play is to simply let someone start by describing a scene. For example, dad imagines and describes a deep dark forest. He explains what it looks like, focuses on details that might be interesting. It is important to keep things moving, and not get too caught up in detail that may make the game become less interesting to the child.
Then dad can either present some options for the child to choose to do, or let the child choose anything he/she can imagine. Of course you will want to be sure the descriptions are appropriate - it may not be a good idea to allow your child to imagine walking in to a cave and becoming seriously injured. It might be more appropriate to have your child solve a puzzle, such as how to get out of the cave, and if they are not able, a fairy princess magically appears and saves them.
Beyond this style, you can begin to incorporate some new game mechanics and tools. You can start by introducing the concept of playing a character. For example, your child can be 'Thor' the mighty warrior with huge muscles and very tall. Later you can add pencil and paper and write down 'Thor' and his height, weight, and some very basic information. Next you might add dice to determine if something succeeds in the game - for example, Thor tries to move the rock blocking the cave entrance. Roll a 6 sided die (1d6) and if a 4 or greater is rolled, it moves. If the task is more difficult, maybe roll a 5 or better.
At any point you can consider using props or figurines. These can be as simple as doll houses, boxes, pieces of paper, or you can use actual role playing game figurines. It is even possible to paint and decorate these, another quality time project to do with your kids.
By slowly introducing new components, it helps add structure to the game, and eventually you can start to introduce written rules - at first you may want to pick a very simple game, or write down your own rules based on how you have been playing. Eventually when this style of play is mastered and the rules become more complex, you will be able to move on to using official rule sets such as the Dungeons & Dragons series. You can start with the D&D Basic set, which has relatively simple rules. Then later go on to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books.