I just finished running an adventure for my daughter and she did remarkably well for her first time actually playing.
She played Azula, a "dark elf" (she doesn't like calling her drow) fighter/slayer out of the D&D Essentials Heroes of the Fallen Lands book. I started her out at first level to be sure that the numbers crunching wouldn't be too much for her and was surprised at how well she caught on.
Azula came upon a small village where the children had been disappearing at night. She offered to help the town's people out by looking for the kids, whom she discovered were being abducted by goblins. The goblins were hold up in an old mine just east of the village and upon discovering this Azula made a bee-line for the mine.
On her trip there she was confronted on two separate occasions by goblins that were out patrolling the area. After making quick work of these lowly goblin patrols she made her way to the mine, where she had to take out the goblin guards at the mouth of the mine.
Long story short, she fought her way through the mine and eventually took out the leader of this band of kidnappers and his second in command. Triumphant she returned every last one of the kids before the goblins were able to sell them to an evil dragon that was going to eat them.
OK I know this adventure won't win any awards for creativity, but I think it served its purpose. My intent was to make it something simple enough for a young, first time gamer, but with enough action to keep her interested. I fortunately succeeded on both accounts. Actually I think I may have over compensated and had too many goblins for her to fight because at one point she did comment on how many there were, but I took it easy on her and made sure she didn't lose her first character on her first run.
I have to say that she did much better and was far more creative than I thought she would be. During battles she would come up with these incredible maneuvers and relied heavily on her acrobatic and athletic skills. She got through the skills challenge in the mine with flying colors and had almost no trouble remembering which dice to use and for what. She even did a good job of keeping track of her special abilities, feats and powers, something I still have to remind my older players about.
Over all I think it went well, and she seemed disappointed when it was over. That is kind of my fault because I expected to spend a lot more time during the game explaining things to her, but she needed very little help. Since she had such a good handle on the mechanics, the whole thing only lasted about 2 1/2 hours, which I feel is a good first game. A few reminders about adding her attack bonus to rolls was all she required through the whole scenario as she mercilessly hacked her way through my goblins. Even though I am always proud of her, her skills as a gamer took that pride to a whole new level.
When we rolled up Azula last night she immediately began pushing me to come up with an adventure. I told her she would need to wait until Sunday because I still needed time to prepare. She was so proud of her PC, and since she just couldn't wait until Sunday, she actually took the time to come up with a fairly detailed back-story for Azula. She named her parents, sibling and her reason for being a fighter. Apparently her father was a great fighter and when he died she became a fighter in his honor. Of course I immediately wondered what Freud would have said about that one.
While the game was a hit, the oddest thing happened after we were done. She asked me why we didn't play normal D&D. I explained to her that this was D&D and asked her what she meant. Her reply was that it didn't "feel" like the normal D&D that she has watched me and mom play over the past decade. She then told me that she wanted to play "that D&D".
Of course I knew that she meant Pathfinder/3e because that is the game that we normally play. I honestly didn't think she would know the difference as far as the actual play experience went. I did my best to keep the game as close to what I normally run as possible and I didn't think it seemed that different. At least not from where I sat.
So afterwards she asked if she could convert Azula to Pathfinder and we did. Next time my group gets together it looks like Azula will be tagging along.
I'm not giving up on Essentials just yet. She's agreed to run another character in another 4e adventure, but she's itching to get her feet wet running with the big kids in Eberron. So, as successful as her first gaming experience was, she apparently has paid more attention to what has gone on during my games than I gave her credit for. I raised a 3rd edition player and didn't even know it.