Due to my schedule and a financial crunch, I shall not be able to attend Origins in Philadelphia. I'm disappointed, but I encourage any and all who do attend to try to get together to share their ideas and most recent discoveries. Then, please, share these with me so they can be included in the next newsletter.
I will be at Gen Con in August. My workshops will be at 10 a.m. Thursday is Games and Young People, an examination of developmental issues as they affect game groups, educational or otherwise. Friday is Games and Education, where we can explore the range of topics. Saturday is Games and Prejudice, which explores the social biases that we bring to or find within games and how this affects the players. I hope to see you there.
It appears that this newsletter will be going to a twice yearly publication schedule. This is based on costs and the volume of material available for publication. What do you think of this? We want to maintain an ongoing forum for ideas. Do you have something to share in these pages? If so, please send it it! We would very much like to hear from teachers about how they are using games in their classrooms. We would very much like to hear from publishers with their questions about classrooms and the education market. How can this newsletter best serve your needs?
Send in those game reviews!
O, yes, why the name change for the newsletter? It has to do with having nouns in parallel forms. Perhaps I've taught enough grammar for this school year. Have a wonderful summer!
In order to introduce the basic concepts of RPGs to the students, I brought in example games, dice, adventures, and literature based upon various games - trying to represent several genres. Since students in Taiwan have little experience with this kind of game - most of them only know of RPGs in relationship to their computer game background, I felt it useful to bring in several examples (as well as books, comic books, and computer games - particularly the AD&D games). As part of this orientation to the games, I gave my own version of what Pierre Savoie calls "The Talk" which he uses as a guide whenever he is teaching the basics to newcomers to his own gaming groups (this is a fifteen minute preparatory talk normally given just prior to an introductory D&D game). Any basic introduction to RPG concepts would be fine though. Most teachers would do well to adapt the introductory "What Is Roleplaying" section of their favorite game system to situations and examples from genres the students prefer (just asking them what their favorite films are usually gives enough to go from - I usually end up using Indiana Jones and City Hunter type examples). In a brief message on the Internet, Laird Popkin gave a very succinct summary of key points for the beginning RPGer to remember when just "Starting Up," in the hobby. Briefly, Popkin's main points are: (1) create a few sample characters and play sample combat first, (2) don't get overly elaborate for your first games, (3) don't worry about the rules (bending them if necessary), (4) keep an eye on pacing, (5) don't let dice rule the game, (6) there are many different styles of gaming and different people like different things, (7) make NPCs (non-player characters) interesting (even imitating cartoon characters if that helps), and (8) don't spend too much time preparing but be prepared to improvise.
Once my students were given a brief explanation of the fundamentals of the game, they played a sample game with the teacher as game master. Because there were too many students for the one game to be played well with everyone in the standard interactive style, the class was divided into two groups of eight students. Since the class meets for two hours each week, one group played the game in the first hour and the other group played during the second hour of one class day. This allowed the students to get a more realistic idea of how to play.
It is important that the teacher use a very basic introductory scenario - typically, a "save the princess from the dark tower" story might work. While an average RPG game among serious hobbyists may lasts four to six hours, and involves five to ten players and games may be played as frequently as several times a week, teachers usually cannot make those kinds of demands upon students - however, for my student hobby group, we usually play every other week and will play for an average of seven to ten hours. Most teachers will typically use the activity a few times in a semester, often only scheduling it for a few partial class-periods. Scenarios must be limited in complexity for them to be suitable for the time constraints of a classroom activity.
Once my class of sixteen was introduced to the concepts and mechanics of Role-Playing Games, the students were asked to created their own adventures for their classmates to play. Within the remainder of the semester, the RPG activity was scheduled four times. Each time, the activity took up one hour in the two-hour period. At each time, the students were divided into small groups of four, each with one student acting as GM and the remaining three playing PCs. Each time the activity was scheduled, the students were placed in different groups and new students became GM. In this way, each student in the class was able to "play" with each of the other students - and all of them had the opportunity to GM their own game. Under this system, the RPGs quickly became the students' game and not the teacher's. Michael Cheng, another NCCU teacher experimenting with RPGs in conversation classes prefers to run the games himself and to use short professional scenarios (we have found that some of the short first edition Chill adventures are perfect for play within the constraints of our classrooms, particularly the Evenings of Terror collection "hosted" by Elvira).
Despite its popularity among hobby gamers, AD&D proved too complicated a rules system for a university freshman class (despite it's rating of being for ages ten- to-adult). My students readily abandoned the complex rules and developed a free-form system, following the AD&D model. If I had known of the Dragon's Quest or had access to the Basic D&D books at the time, I probably would have used them - at the beginning of my project I only had access to the AD&D rules though. I will note here that my upper level student hobby group played AD&D and GURPS witha passion. Currently, for most of my lower level or literature classes that incorporate RPG- type exercises, I use a simplified version of GURPS and use standard GURPS rules for my upper level RPG class and for the student hobby group.
Once students have discovered the concept, the actual rules system used by the teacher is not particularly important. While I would strongly encourage teachers unfamiliar with RPGs to purchase at least one of the commercial systems, there are alternatives for classroom use.
For those students with Internet access, there are several systems which are public domain and freely available. These include ARM, Anarcha Australis, Brand X, Extexo, FUDGE, Mage to Mage, System One, URP, and others. While many of these systems are less complicated than many of the commercial systems, they are often more difficult for the beginner to start with as they do not provide role-play information.
Some teachers who have used RPGs in the EFL classroom have developed their own systems - or allowed the students to do so on their own (with proper guidance, this is an excellent option). Scott Orr's approach with his Czech students was of this type:
I let each of them name 4 or 5 skills he was good at, and then roll a d6 [six-sided die] todetermine just how good. Then I just used the die for skill checks . . . I kept it extremely simple - I don't think we ever had any combat - in order to stress the role-playing than the "reality". If you've got the time to prepare, you may want to do something a little more complex - maybe a few basic attributes (the four used in GURPS - strength, dexterity, intelligence, and health - are good . . . .). You also might want to make the skills a little more complex, although I think a simple system like mine should do just fine . . . let them be best in the skills they like best.
My own spin-off project has been to develop a Basic English Role-Playing System (BERPS) specifically intended for EFL students. Peter Adkison, president of Wizards of the Coast Game Company, tells me that he has begun work on development of RPGs for general educational purposes - which should still be useful to the EFL instructor. Also, Dave Nalle's TCT games have obvious educational uses as well as some of Greg Porter's BTRC systems.
Actually quite a few games are readily adaptable to the language classroom. Now that I've provided this overview, perhaps some others would like to share their own views.
Do you receive Tad Pierson's LARP newsletter for Barking Mad Productions? Recently, they had a piece on live gaming as it applies to teaching Emergency Rescue. Similarly, my mother is completing scenarios as part of her ER course in Alaska, which are similar to my own experiences in Lifesaving training. It is striking how role-playing and live role-playing is and has been an integral part of the course. Although this is primarily adult education, you may wish to obtain Tad's article for reprint in your newsletter, or alternately I could contact him and then write a piece combining his, mine, and my mother's experience with my own Red Cross training experience to write a more "Gaming and Education"-focused piece.
Dear Mr. Millians:
I'm part of Black Gate Publishing, a small Virginia RPG publisher. We publish LEGACY: War of Ages and the soon-to-be-released WARLOCK: Black Spiral, as well as supplements for both games. I think role-playing games can be a strong positive influence on young people: they were a good influence on me, and gaming continues to have a positive effect on my life.
I think using role-playing games in education is a great idea, and I was happy to learn about G&E. Our games stress characterization and character motivation, as well as placing current events in a historical context. Both creative writing and history would seem to be subjects where our games could be useful.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how to introduce our games into a school setting, or even how to approach local schools about it. I'm afraid, living as we do in thebackyard of the Christian Broadcasting Network, that local schools will not be open-minded about having Those Games anywhere near children. The lies and misinformation spread by BADD has, sadly, found fertile soil around here.
I would like to send you a couple of our books, so that perhaps you could pass them along people in the education field who could objectively evaluate whether they would be a useful addition to the classroom. Would this be appropriate? If so, please let me know, and where to send them.
If you have a listing of companies who give preferential rates to educators, please add us to that list. Any teacher or school (in the USA) that orders our books gets them at a 40% discount, and we pay postage. (We also donate copies to local libraries, should you keep a record of such things.)
Black Gate Publishing
Return-Path:Those of us at Board Enterprises have long believed that role-playing games were good for the development of young adults. Typically teaching math, problem solving, communication, and socialization skills, role-playing can often reach people that may otherwise miss out on some of these skills. We wish to encourage the next generation of gamers for the good of all of us.
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 1995 22:11:59 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Gaming & Education Newsletter
As a publisher of fantasy role-playing games, Board Enterprises often is forced to "scrap" books due to printer errors. Like most factory seconds, the problem is often negligible, but still prevents the book from going to retailers. Any SCHOOL group wishing to receive a "scrap" book FREE should send us $3.50 to cover postage. All we ask is a promise to teach as many young adults as you can. Write to us at: Board Enterprises, P.O.Box 239, Elmhurst, IL 60126.
Return-Path:Please print the letter I sent to you. I apologize for not being more specific. The main game that we publish is Legend Quest. We had assumed we would be sending copies of the rule book out to anyone who requested them. We currently have 12 supplements (6 city supplements and 6 adventures). If we happen to have any scraps of these, I will throw them in with the rule book. Unfortunately, I do not know of any specific examples of teachers that are using our system. We have many parents who come back to us every year at conventions looking for our newest products for their children, but I do not believe any of them are teachers.
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 12:46:45 -0500 To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Gaming & Education Newsle...
If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to talk with you.
Return-Path:About The EVPA
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 95 16:44:00 UTC To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: EVPA REsponse (At Last) X-Genie-Id: 6185141 X-Genie-From: EVPA
Playtest material (rough material still not ready for final production) includes RPGs, board games, playbymail. Test-drives (finished material) include many magazines and a few computer games. You can usually find a list of our current playtest and demo materials on our internet location email@example.com (http://Market.NET)
Educational Groups: With proof of active grades 4-12 teacher's certification and current employment for an EVPA applicant, the membership works exactly the same as usual except that we will provide more than one copy of the requested packet and will send additional player response sheets which must be completed by the students of the appropriate age group.
Send: Name, Address (Street, City, State & Zip), Birthdate, Gender, Phone (including area code), Internet address, List of gaming magazines you subscribe to, conventions you attend and where you first heard about the EVPA. For all but postal mailings, include credit card information (Visa or Mastercard #, Name of cardholder, and expiration date). If you are sending regular mail through the postal service, you may send check or money order.
Again, my heart-felt apology for the delay and a promise that you^?ll see things returning to normal shortly. Thank you for your patience. Hope to be hearing from you soon. Happy Gaming!
Administrative Coordinator, EVPA
If you have further inquires, contact me at:
P.O. Box 65077, Virginia Beach, VA 23464
(804) 479-1397 (For 24-hr fax and to leave a message)
firstname.lastname@example.org (http://Market.NET) or EVPA@GENIE.GEIS.COM
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 1995 00:22:37 -0500 To: Dragon@netcom.com Subject: Raven Star - 1000
Raven Star Game Designs.
Date: Mon, 2 Jan 95 06:54:00 UTC To: email@example.com Subject: Game Review X-Genie-Id: 6817495 X-Genie-From: J.WARD18
John Ward St. John's Academy 1-1-95 3127 So. Kittredge Way 930 Acoma St. 4th Grade Aurora, Co 80013 Denver, Co 80204 Instructor (303) 699-8812 (303) 893-3735 RoboRally Wizards of the Coast P.O. Box 707 Renton, Washington 98057-0707One of our favorite games at my Friday afterschool game days is RoboRally by Wizards of the Coast. You and your opponents play factory computers participating in an obstacle course race across the factory floor. You each have several "copies" (lives) of your racing robot in storage, in case one gets blown up. Among the obstacles are conveyor belts, pits, cutting lasers, and crushers. Along the way, you can find a repair station or even have options (extra gadgets) put on your robot.
To begin a turn, everyone is dealt nine cards. You pick the five cards you want your robot to follow and place them in a stack IN ORDER. A sample order might be: move forward 2, turn right, move backward 1, turn left, move forward 1. When everyone is ready, you all simultaneously flip your first card. The players move in descending order of an index value printed on the card. The speed index is more or less keyed to the move. (970 would be a move forward 3, 20 would be a U-turn.) After everyone has gone, the "board movement" includes moving conveyor belts and firing laser cutters. After five phases (moves) you re-deal. As a special bonus, anyone landing on a two-wrench icon on phase five can have a special fitted option (faster reverse speed, gyroscopic stabilizer, defense shield, more powerful laser).
A nice feature of this game is that damage doesn't ruin your robot, but it limits your choices. For each point of damage, you receive one less card. For example, with 2 points of damage to your robot, you receive only 7 cards to choose from.
I found this game was great for spatial imaging. The students have to plan the moves that their robot will take, often taking conveyor belts or being pushed by other players into account. Interestingly enough to me, strategy came from both extremes of the age set. The sixth-graders quickly figured out that following other people was good (the robots have front-firing lasers) for dealing out damage, and that pushing opponents into pits was sometimes more fun than racing for the first goalpost. On the other hand, a second-grader realized that by ending up on the "options" icon four or five turns in a row, he gained enough special options to make up for the time he had lost.
I recommend this game for students from third (late) to adult, and quick students at second grade can handle this easily.
Return-Path:Here is the article for your paper. It needs a lot of editing. :)
Date: Sun, 11 Dec 1994 09:05:28 -0800 (PST) Subject: Article To: firstname.lastname@example.org
For an important part of my grade in my Junior year mythology class I needed to make a presentation related to the King Arthur Legend. After hearing about the game Pendragon by Chaosium games, I was inspired to run a quick one class King Arthur Role Playing game. The game had no rules because I prefer to have a solid half hour of character interaction instead of fifteen minutes of rolling dice and fifteen minutes of actually playing. The presentation started off with some explanation about what Role Playing was all about, considering the fact that most of the people in the room had never heard about it. I explained what it was all about and they asked questions. Overall the class understood the concept of role playing as a group of people playing the characters in the form of developing a story.
I set the game up to have three deferent characters, while the rest of the class watched and participated when they thought of something to help along. The two known characters were Lancelot and Guenever, and the smaller character was a simple Squire who's sole responsibility was to inform Lancelot of anything that may go wrong. To the surprise of the playeers, something did go wrong. While Lancelot and Guenever sat up in their room, whispering sweet nothings in one another's ears, Arthur comes back to the castle unexpectedly. The Squire runs off to tell Lancelot and barely reaches them before Arthur shows up. From then on both the Squire and Guenever had to fast talk there way out of the situation. The whole class got into it and gave advice to the characters. In the end, Guenever sends Arthur away and Lancelot comes out of the closet where he was hiding. A small successful little skit.
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