Next post: house-rules (see? it's THAT good).
In a word, Dagger is Superb! GET DAGGER if you have kids or even if you enjoy rules-light gaming as an adult. It uses any OSR game as a base, so you can use Descending or Ascending AC, whichever you like better. But even if you don't have your "big" books with you, You can play Dagger on the fly, so it may serve as a good, cheap, on the go pick up game or a simple game to introduce new players or to take camping. But to introduce kids to tabletop RPGs, it's perfect.
I think I'm becoming minimalist in my gaming preferences because Dagger has no Attributes and I find that liberating! That's right, no STR, DEX, CON etc... how is this possible? You know what? it totally works!
Dagger is designed to distill OSR/D&D down to the minimum to make it accessible for kids as young as 5. I dare say it does this flawlessly. This Sunday, I 'ran a combat' with my 5 year old daughter, and she basically got it on the first try. She just turned 5 in January and it was a hoot. I can totally see this working for kids 5-10. I can see how using figures would totally help with younger kids.
The spell list captures the iconic spells of the game, and the rule book states it's a suggested list. With only 4 spells of each level (levels 1-5) you may want to add more, and it's super easy to do (which was the bulk of my house rules). You can basically just plop in spells from from S&W, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, C&C, D&D Oe, 1e... not hard to fudge it on the fly even. That said, since this is for 5 to 10 year olds, keeping a tight focus (that is, short spell list) is wise. Also, with no Ability stats, spells like (Bull's) Strength and Haste simply won't work.
The characters are simple but effective at capturing the essence of each class, and here, as you may expect, Dwarf and Elf are classes. You can of course, call the Knight an Amazon or Warrior Princess or the Wizard a Fairy Princess or whatever any player wants, really. They can be a Gorn or zombie, even, and the rules support this on the fly make-believe fun; as they should!
So in brief, Dagger does what it sets out to do, and it does it well. It's great as an introduction to gaming for the young or for older kids or even grown ups who are afraid of dealing with a ton of rules.
Recap of playing with my five year old daughter (no story play, just a combat):
"Blue Knight" aka "Sir Mikey" and "Red Knight" aka "Fight-Fight" (we have the real figures but I thought the photos from the net were better) took on Nightmare Moon (a villain From My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (which it must be said, doesn't suck)) with the help of a benevolent giant beaver (I know, WTF?).
So I statted each fighter as a 1st level knight, the beaver as a halfling, and gave the evil Pegasus/Unicorn 3 HD... All damage was d6, and I set a d6 with the 6 facing up for the knight's hit points.
The dice started rolling, then my wife's eyes...
It was close; Fight-Fight was reduced to 2 hp and the beaver took a hit too, but the knights prevailed, "knocked out" the monster, took the treasure (which was the dice) and marched home singing. Naturally, the knights then shared the treasure with the community of nice beavers because they catch fish for the knights. :-)
Aside: isn't the imagination of a five-year-old AWESOME?! This was approaching Axe Cop territory. What a joy to be able to approach the unbridled wildness of a child's imagination once again!
My point is, never having played with dice this way, my daughter could grasp the concepts, and learn about taking turns, sequencing, counting and subtraction and addition... this wouldn't take the place of home-schooling, but it really confirms what we already know: RPG people are just smarter, and RPGs make people smarter. :-)
My Five Year Plan is to make Dagger games happen a lot this year, then in 2-3 years segue into S&W White Box and X-plorers (my modules should publish by years end), and eventually into Castles & Crusades. WOOT. I'll save Crypts & Things and Paranoia for College.