We are off to a great start in my classroom this year. We are studying the US Civil War, and I have been experimenting heavily with live-action roleplaying techniques. The kids have loved it. We have played a simulation since September called Crossroads. My students were the adults in a small, north Georgia community, and we began play in the spring of 1861. They arrived for the first round with detailed character descriptions, costumes, props, lots of goals, and high energy. By the concluding turn, set in the summer of 1865, half the village had been burnt to the ground, four local men had died at war, half a dozen babies had been born, new barns had been built, and there were many other adventures and encounters.
I am seeking a format that maximizes student involvement and immersion. I want it to be as easy as possible for me. Most games can be as detailed as you want, if you give them all of your time, and any game can rapidly balloon on student enthusiasm. It comes down to finding the best methods for teaching a particular subject to a particular group of students.
In January we are shifting our focus to the Old West. There will be another game. I will describe my discoveries in more detail in our summer issue.
I am making plans to present a series of workshops at Gen Con this August. They will range in focus from children and games generally through educational applications and social issues surrounding gaming. I hope I can see many of you there.
I wish you the best for the new year.
Chaosium offers a 20% discount on any purchase of five or more books. You can mix and match as you see fit.
Mayfair Games will send FREE train games to classrooms. Simply request this on school letterhead.
Raven Star Game Design offers a 50% discount when purchase requests are written on school letterhead.
If you know of other discounts or opportunities for educators, please let us know.
The CAR-PGa Newsletter is published by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games. Originally founded to address attacks on gamers, gaming, and the hobby, it has evolved into a more general support organization, promoting a variety of projects, including our own. You can reach Paul Cardwell, Jr., the chairman of the group, at 1127 Cedar, Bonham, TX 75418. Membership in the group is free (though supporting work is expected), and subscriptions to the newsletter are $7.50 ($12.00 overseas).
Inter*action is a new publication out of Britain. It explores gaming as a serious pursuit, while remaining aware of its inherently playful nature. Articles in the first issue attempt to define different types of games and styles of gaming, seek links with other forms of entertainment and study, organize the short but rich history of published games, and imagines the games of the future. It is fascinating reading at many levels and accessible to anyone. Subscriptions (quarterly) are $40 or =A320 and can be sought at 29a Abbeville Road, London SW4 9LA, Great Britain.
Pallas Podium is an APA (Amateur Press Association) published by Clarissa =46owler and White Rose. It is a forum for discussing issues about and facin= g women and girls in gaming. It is open to all. Contact Clarissa at P.O. Box 933, Amherst, MA 01004-0933.
Simulation & Gaming is a professional publication of the Association of Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL), the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA), the Japanese Association of Simulation and Gaming (JASAG), and the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA). It is scholarly and rarefied but can be very interesting. It is aimed primarily at academics and business or military simulators. If interested ($50), contact Sage Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320.
If you know of other interesting titles, please let us know!
Convention day was broken into five sessions of fifty minutes. My presentation was in the second. There were ten minutes between sessions, so I was very busy unpacking. I put the books on the tray of the chalkboard, pinned magazines to the bulletin board, and spread models on the table next to the overhead projector. As I did this, it gradually dawned on me that the room was filling. There were over thirty people. So much for Fletcher Pratt and Plan A. Was there a Plan B?
Not really, but there was my outline on the handout, and it did serve as a basis for a lecture. I asked hobby gamers to raise their hands, and only two hands went up, so i did a basic introduction to gaming. I used the overhead to project the silhouettes of my plastic Romans, Athenian triremes, USS Monitor, and CSS Virginia. I tried to weave in stories of teaching with games so they fit the outline. Time flew, and with twenty minutes left, the lecture was over. Now what?
As a sort of afterthought, I had packed my Singapore game. It is a little role play or free kriegpspiel of the British navy defending Singapore in 1941. I put the transparency on the screen and sketched a map on the chalkboard. The group discussed the problem asking a number of skeptical questions. I gave them a very factual briefing. I gave them time to discuss among themselves, then asked their decision. Most of them chose to steam the Prince of Wales and Repulse out to meet the Japanese invasion fleet just as the original commander had. A few days later they were sunk by Japanese aircraft. It was fun to discuss the significance of this event with a group of sophisticated adults. As they filed out of the room, I realized I had not even shown them my World War I ships.
"In this course I propose to examine the questions and controversies associated with commercial, recreational roleplaying games (hereafter RPGs) such as Dungeons and Dragons. At times these games are condemned by religious leaders, educators, and members of the legal, justice, and mental health communities as leading to insanity, Satanism, murder, and suicide; at other times, equally qualified professionals of these communities promote these games as harmless entertainment at worst, possibly promoting such valuable traits as imagination and creativity. The recent popularization of Joseph Campbell's theories on mythology and spirituality, plus a general popular interest in such matters, suggests that new avenues for exploring this phenomenon are opening up.
"This course would be something of a general survey and discussion. =46irst, the class would examine and discuss some of the wide variety of newspaper and popular magazine articles available to get a feel for the current debates and controversies. I would draw attention to the ways different perspectives lead to different interpretations of the events; in that endeavor, some class roleplaying of the various personae typically involved (player, police officer, teacher, parent, and so forth) might be appropriate. Next the class would examine more in depth arguments in favor of the position that such games are "Satanic" (with the probable need to more closely define the term), as well as efforts to debunk this charge. Later topics could include several discussions of issues and theories in psychology that are relevant to the practice of playing RPGs, such as basic personality theory and possibly group dynamics. The purpose of this would be twofold: first, to develop some theories concerning what players are actually doing and what is going on in these games, and second, to consider what scientific evidence exists concerning dangers or benefits of RPGs exists. For this the class would read selected journal articles as well as books or excerpts of books which I have found intriguing in relation to RPGs. The core of this exercise would be discussion of the theories of Joseph Campbell, as these are presented in a series of interviews he did with Bill Moyers for the program "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth." Campbell saw mythology as an essential part of the healthy human life and strove to present links between ancient symbolism and modern spirituality. In this discussion, his mythological analysis of the Star Wars trilogy is particularly relevant to this course."
I have found a wide variety of materials to examine in such a course. Searches on various psychology, education, and newspaper databases using "Dungeons and Dragons" and similar search terms have turned up accounts of lurid sex murders, impassioned defense of the hobby, and scientific, clinical research papers, though sadly only a few dozen of the latter, which seems a shame given the flood of ink and sweat poured out in the popular and religious presses on such subjects. In addition to this wide survey of articles, I can draw on writings and videotape from Joseph Campbell; writings of Jung, Erikson, and other psychologists; and even philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, who can be said to be the first to debate catharsis versus desensitization in the entertainment media.
In offering such a course, I would hope to given undergraduates some experience in critically exploring a social phenomenon. They would be introduced to applied psychology of religion, philosophy, and theology and the general task of bringing order and logic to a debate often dominated by irrational and partly unconscious agendas. I also hope to encourage future research by some of them in these areas, so that they may find educational and therapeutic uses for games, as well as separating fact from myth regarding possible hazards of roleplaying games. I also hope to give those students who already play RPGs the opportunity for some self-reflection and critical attention to their own behavior.
So far I have relied on my own interests to guide me, but I would like to know what topics others would like to see in a course on RPGs. The two basic areas for discussion that I see are motivations (why do players play?) and effects (what happens to them when they do?). While I have a variety of hypotheses on what sorts of personality types I would expect to play, what players gains from RPGs, and even what they might lose, I have little field research to back me up. What's worse, I don't know whether my questions are anyone else's. I would be interested in hearing from anyone out there interested in this sort of project and what sorts of questions they would like to see addressed. Readers can respond to this newsletter or write to me at 106 SW 3rd Street, Gainesville, FL 32601.
I LOVED this book and the game that developed from it. The book itself was a refreshingly different look at the ancient Mediterranean world - carefully researched, very informative, and FUN! I loved the dove-tailing of the mythical and historical worlds. Much of it was accessible to my students, though they disliked the drawings of the female characters - they were too sex-pottish. I agree. How about some realistic looking heroines? Many of the other graphics I copied and used for newsletters and so forth.
Each player moves his own men, and the referee tells a player when his attempted move is impossible. When a players completes a legal move, the referee announces, "Black (or White) has moved." When a player tries an illegal move, the referee waves his hand to prevent it but does not let the opponent know.
When a move results in a capture, the referee announces, "Black (or White) captures on (the rank, file, long or short diagonal)," and removes the captured piece from the board of the player.
A player may ask, "Any?" and be told if he has a possible capture with a pawn, but that is the only question he is permitted. Having asked it, he must try at least one pawn capture before making a different move.
I would like to find out any information on the use of the game Kriegspiel in or out of the classroom. I find it to be useful in teaching group planning and building thinking skills.
I would also like any information on historical games relating to the Spanish Armada or games played by Captains of the Spanish Armada.
M. Hawkins, PhD
3569 Lorna Road
Birmingham, AL 35216
The only class role-play I have done has been live action with the 10-11 age range as part of a topic on=20space. I'm a devoted Trekkie, and as the nearest thing to real space, I developed a whole day experience where the children became Star Fleet cadets on a training ship. They each had a "job" (e.g. medical officer, biologist, specialist in alien culture), and they had problem solving tasks linked to this job which filled up their time between events and writing their personal logs. They also each had character backgrounds, motivation, and in many cases secrets, e.g. being an alien, space sickness, personal agendas. The fun was finding out who really was what!
During the day they had to maintain role, carry out their tasks, and respond to events such as visits from other Star Fleet officials, away teams to be chosen and subsequently report back, and, of course, more exciting things like searching for a bomb or skirmishes with Romulan ships. Some of the creative writing they did as a result was superb. It reads like they were really there because they were really there.
I find it absurd that I find myself creating robbery scenarios or credit card frauds to explain hard to understand concepts in math. The books make no sense to many of the prisoners, but when I can relate a concept in terms they relate to... even stressing the need to know value, I get instant comprehension. I don't want you to misconstrue this as a "school for crime." Rather, that I have witnessed and utilized the valuable tool of role playing as an instructional tool with great result.
John L. Fryman
Games can provide players with opportunities:
Dear Mr. Millians,
There are a number of aspects of Legion of Steel (LOS) which I wanted to make you aware of. LOS has been compared to chess as the tactics are similar. It also develops many of the same skills such as goal planning, organization, and pattern recognition. To your typical teenager, however, an Assault Fiend is much cooler than a rook or queen. While the game is essentially a competitive game for two players, the background literature attempts to convey a message of cooperation among humans. We feel that this theme has particular significance in today's troubled world. In addition to the fiction and the game itself, the whole hobby of painting and collecting metal figures is another dimension of LOS.
I spent eight years in the armed forces, the last two of which I served as an instructor. The candidates whom I taught were mostly 17 to 19 year old privates, so I can fully appreciate your position as an educator.
For those educators who are interested in using Legions of Steel, we are making the following offer available. Teachers can mail order our products directly from us at a 50% discount from suggested retail if the order is typed on school letterhead. Add $5 to the invoice to cover shipping and handling.
Good luck in you endeavors.
136 Geary Avenue #215A
Toronto, Ontario M6h 4H1 Canada
Dear Mr. Millians,
After reading your articles in Interactive Fantasy 2, I felt compelled to write. I found your work both interesting and though provoking and would like to hear more about GAMA and classroom roleplaying.
Though at present I am only studying A Levels, I am intending to read history with the intention of teaching eleven to sixteen year olds. However, I have had little experience with using roleplaying games in a semi-educational manner, when a school chess team I was coaching suddenly became distracted by the reinvention of Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Your second article did remind me of my chess team roleplaying group. Where your players seem to have evolved academically, mine grew socially and perhaps philosophically.
I've also been involved in community youth work as a senior youth leader. Though this experience didn't directly relate to roleplaying, it did give me a better insight into the social activities of my peer group.
Admittedly I'm fairly new to the intellectual field of roleplaying, which means I am not familiar with either GAMA or your previous work, but I hope to see more of it in print soon.
Andrew P. Malcolm
Dear Sir or Madam,
I read about roleplays and education in Interactive Fantasy issue two and was impressed. This was an area of activity I had never known about. I had always thought that "serious" roleplaying hinged on accurate simulation and historical accuracy. I was particularly fascinated by the description of children gamers. I got into the activity as an adult, but my GM started when he was eight!
At the moment I am busy writing (designing would be the wrong word, for being a historian I am far more fascinated by background than mechanics, which I am keeping to a minimum) a roleplay set in Isolationist Japan. It is not a very legendary Japan. There is very little heroics (though the 47 Ronin took place in this era, it was very quiet), and the government is busy suppressing all rebellious activities and also contact with the outside world. What can our Cambawa PCs (and players!) do? It is all about freedom of expression and conversely harsh and archaic conduct.
Japan was not my first choice, though I considered Tibet and also Korea, but getting sources on either is hard. Japan is well covered in many aspects (yes, even the occult, which means I will be the first person to accurately represent Japanese magic in a roleplay). It is also very popular and famous and very misconceived, but the Japanese have very often spread these misconceptions themselves.
I have been doing a bit of thinking and can see that roleplaying may be used as a means towards cultural understanding, but how can I promote it as such?
P.S. One of my biggest hurdles is how do you explain what a roleplay is to a person who has never heard of them?
Dear Dr. Millians,
I spotted your newsletter on one of the internet newsgroups and was intrigued. Avalanche Press publishes military history simulations (Wargames), and we have long wanted to see our games used in an educational setting.
We currently have four games in print. Avalanche: The Invasion of Italy covers the Salerno landings of September 1943; MacArthur's Return covers the American invasion of the Japanese-occupied Phillipines in 1944; Red Parachutes covers the Soviet airborne assault across the Dnepr River in September 1943; and Blood on the Snow is based on the Battle of Suomussalmi between the Finns and the Soviets in 1939.
Of the four, Blood on the Snow is probably the best suited for classroom use. It has one 17 by 22-inch map, 140 counters and 8 pages of rules (about1/3 of the rules are devoted to setting up the five scenarios). It plays quickly enough to resolve in one to two hours, and teaches not only history but such things as logical thinking, the importance of planning ahead and practical use of some basic mathematical skills. I would not recommend it for students younger that junior high school (expect perhaps for gifted programs).
Blood on the Snow retails for $21, but we would be willing to let your readers purchase it for $16 (postage included) to try it out. If they wish to use it in their classroom, we'd be willing to sell it at half price if they put their order on school letterhead and order a dozen or more copies. We do accept Visa and MasterCard.
Avalanche Press, Ltd.
PO Box 4775
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
1 (804) 481-3655
Some topics from Friday:
This led to the introduction of examples and how easy it is to change the rules even to the point of reversing them altogether to gain meaningful insights into gaming and the concept of fun. This included examples and various ways of changing classic games from playing chess and checkers on altered boards and trying to lose as many pieces as possible to games such as Battleships in a classroom environment. This game developed into a situation where a class could be divided into 2 teams playing three different boards simultaneously, one depicting sea craft, another land craft and installations and the third the sky. The vessels etc would be allowed to move a number of squares per turn relative to size and speed of the craft they depicted. A battleship might require only three out of a possible four hits to be sunk but an MTB only one out of a possible two. The students could be divided into doing specialized tasks to succeed as a group, such as admirals, generals, score keepers or chart keepers. Of course the teacher in charge (referee) could call good or bad luck elements into play, such as severe weather that could stop all aircraft attacks for several rounds of play in certain areas of the board or good weather at other positions that would allow any craft in those areas to move faster than normal for several turns.
We discussed some of the merits of the top three games in the US - Monopoly, Scrabble and Parcheesi - and the similarities and progression from Snakes and Ladders to Parchisi, Backgammon and PARDON? The similarities of games like Othello and Go and how we could play these games on boards of other shapes such as circular or star shaped like in Chinese checkers. We did not spend much time considering modern fantasy role playing games because of their lengthy instructions and their elaborate plots. It was mentioned that by changing the scoring rules of games such as basket ball to reduce fouls by rewarding penalty shots with much higher points than normal was very successful.
We tried to identify common elements to making successful games. The right game at the right time. You cannot expect all 6 year olds to like chess, but most will already be aspiring to some form of role playing, think of Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles and Barbie dolls and her assortment of accessories. Good games are comprised of some or all of the following: