Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod is a new type of D&D (4th edition nominally, but it is so stripped down it could be from any edition of D&D) adventure designed for younger kids. They say ages 6 and up.
The adventure is free, http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dnd/monsterslayers and all you need to play is some people (kids), dice and some pencils. There are character cards, monster cards, tokens and a map that can be printed out. Any printer is fine, color or b/w. You can use a d20 and d6. If you are so new to D&D that you don't have a d20 then you can still do this with 3d6 (that would be 3 six-sided dice).
There is no real threat since characters can be healed by an NPC (have YOU ever killed the character of a 6 year old? Well until you do you can't complain about this being too easy.)
The game time is 30 minutes and it is for one DM and 5 players.
Players need to work together to get through this, but there are no guidelines telling you how they need to do this.
What do I think? Well I can attack this from three fronts, as a parent, as a curriculum design specialist and as a D&D player. Here we go.
Tim the Parent
I love what they are trying to do here. D&D looks fun to little guys (and girls!), but the rules (and lets be fair here, especially 4e) can be daunting. Character sheets, even when everything is explained require a lot of reading and higher level comprehension. Something the 12+ crowd can do, but maybe not the ones still playing Pokemon. This adventure solves that problem easy.
IF I had one suggestion on this it would be to make it so you can subdue the monsters. Think of the new movie "How to Train your Dragon" basically this is the same thing. But the little red dragon here is so cute that I know my boys will want it as a pet. Yeah a pet Bullette or Beholder is a bit of a stretch. This is not coming out of any attempt of being PC; I like to kill monsters as much as the next guy and anyone that thinks kids don't have never been around kids. It would be more of a challenge in some ways. Plus years of Pokemon have taught me 2 things. 1. Kids like to collect the monsters they "kill". 2. You can say "knocked out" or "benched" all you like, my kids still tell me how they "killed" my Haunter or Ghastly (I like psychic Pokemon).
Tim the Curriculum Specialist
There are the simple things like math, rolling the dice, comparing numbers and addition and subtraction. Let's not over do it by talking probabilities here yet, but we can do fractions.
What is missing here though is a page on how the teacher-as-DM can do all of these things and meet some stated outcomes or goals. It don't fault the authors in not including this. That was not part of their design goal. Maybe I can come up with something.
Let's see. Quickly this can be used to teach role-playing (something that is used in all levels up to MBAs), basic probability (what is the chance you will hit the monster?), computation skills (basic, you rolled a 3 and 2 and a 4, how much is that? does it hit?) team work (who has the most hitpoints? Who can last in a fight better, who can hit the monster from far away? How can you work together to bring down a bigger foe?), narrative storetelling (why is your wizard fighting the monsters? You tell me what you think he/she is thinking), and even simple cause and effect. Wrap it all up in a nice Deweyian setting and get the kids to learn by doing. I do it now with my kids and it has worked out really nice.
If something like this can get the kids to read the new Monster Slayer books from Wizards, then its a win-win. Wizards gets another sale and kids read. My son already loves his A Practical Guide to Monsters and A Practical Guide to Dragons so much we bought the Dragon Codex books. If the adventures are aimed at the 6+ crowd then I hope the books are not too much above that.
Tim the 30+ Year D&D Player
Oh yeah. Killing monsters is great. Putting them in a room and telling me to have at them, that is even better.
Sure these rules are not going to challenge me, or even hold my attention for too long. They were never supposed too. They do however do one thing really, really well. They play just like D&D. The only thing missing are some orcs and some treasure.
If you have a little guy or girl and they want to learn how to play, then this is a great starting place.
Call the characters "-1 level", after this they have worked their way up to 0 or maybe even 1st level of the D&D of your choice.
I like what Wizards is doing here and they should be applauded. The fact they let it out for free is even cooler. I would like to see more of these.
There are some discussions about this on Facebook, ENWorld and RPG.net.