We were asked about using tabletop RPG’s as an educational tool while integrating real life history and geography.
It’s a massive question and I could write an entire book about it, but here’s what I answered:
This is the Eric half of JenEric, I write the RPG stuff and most of the stories. My wife is the one who did the homeschooling but she felt this was a bit beyond her.
Thank you so much for that question. That is a great question and will depend a lot on your kids and your preferred style of play.
First I’d (selfishly) recommend using Oneshot – The Simplest RPG. It’s just the rules, they are very simple and you’ll be able to use them for almost any scenario.
As for the educational part, I’d recommend you make a list of things you want the kids to learn about and build around those goals. If you’re planning on different historical locations, you should break them down. I find it helps to break down each location/time and then list the characters, places, important events, and reason for the characters to be there.
If you’re jumping around in history and geography, you need to either make a series of small adventures or try maybe make it time travel related. With the time travel, the kids can get attached to a character that they’ll see grow and experience,
Another good way to keep it fun and keep them interested is to have a fun villain. I’m a big fan of cartoonish villains for kids, but you know your kids best.
Hook them into a story and they won’t even notice they’re learning.
As much fun as movies, tv, and books are; be careful not to use them too much as research. A good place to start is WIkipedia, each article has sources and those sources usually have a lot more information and further reading.
I hope this helps, Eric Desmarais
Anyone have further advice for gaming with children in an educational manner?
The players are toys that wake up in an abandoned Santa’s workshop. It’s up to them to save Santa and the holiday season.
Starting – The shop
The Group starts in an old-fashioned woodworking workshop.
There’s paint, tools, wood, and lots of cobwebs.
There’s also a large design table with a fresh pad of paper.
There are two doors. One leads to the outside and the other leads to a small bachelor’s apartment.
Anything they draw on the piece of paper becomes real.
There’s also a large filing cabinet that has letters from
every child in the world along with a list.
There are tunnels that lead to all three buildings. Search of 8 to find them.
This is a spartan apartment with cot against the wall and a small kitchen. The kitchen has a large pantry cabinet, a counter, and a wood stove. There are some pots and pans in the cabinet. There’s one set of plates and utensils.
Search 4: They find a hidden panel in the wall with a diary.
The diary says: “We think we’ve figured it out. The clock is the key.” Followed
by either gibberish or code. (Mind 9 to figure out it’s instructions for
winding the clocktower.)
Outside the small building is a land of snow and ice bathed
in complete darkness. The only light being the dim reflections of the Aurora on
There are two other buildings. A large Clocktower, and a
Stable. There’s also a lake.
When the characters leave a building there’s a chance they are seen by a hungry polar bear. Unless they are actively sneaking, flip a coin to decide.
These stables are both well kept and well built. There are eight
pens with 7 reindeer. They are well fed, clean, and very friendly. There’s also
a large red sled that seems equally as well taken care of.
The empty pen shows signs of a struggle. Scratch marks and
The feral reindeer is hiding in a dark corner takes a flip
of 5 to see them.
If they don’t see them, the reindeer attacks as they leave.
The frozen lake has one lonely but devoted gardian. The
Kraken is there to protect the pole and stop the toys from escaping.
It is quite gentle with them but firm.
The clocktower radiates power. It has an ornate brass door with clocks and time imagery carved into it. The words, “You must stop to go” are carved in wood over the door.
The clock face seems to glow from the outside. It chimes
every 15 minutes.
Inside there’s just a staircase going up nearly 100 metres or
just over 300 feet.
At the top there is a room filled with gears but with a
small platform. The platform has a couch and two large levers.
One lever Stops the clock and one will make it go forward or
backward. (This actually stops time or moves it.)
The entire area was built by Saint Nick an ancient wizard. It’s self sustaining. Before he could use it, however, he was attacked by Anti-Clause and his last action was to cast a spell that would animate a group of toys to finish his mission.
This summer, I was lucky enough to take part in an all-writer Dungeons & Dragons campaign, alongside some amazing authors. Brandon Crilly was our DM, Marie Bilodeau was our fast-talking, shanty-singing aasimar bard, Evan May played a hysterical bugbear monk of few words (and even less grammar), Kevin Hearne played a grumpy human former-soldier turned ranger, and I rounded out the group with my perceptive—but really honest and trusting—half-elf cleric of the sea goddess. In the middle of a tense scene, where we were pretty sure we were up against a particularly bad foe who was skeptical of our arrival not being a hostile invasion (it was totally a hostile invasion, but we were hoping to convince him to leave without a fight), my wee half-elf tried an untrained deception check.
It went poorly. Or at least, he ended up
having to blast the villain with the wrath of his sea-goddess, so it didn’t go
as planned. But that’s D&D. You make a plan, the plan falls apart, you
throw lightning and thunder around. Repeat.
Over the same time period, I was also
working on a holiday-set, fake relationship trope romance novella, and our
D&D sessions turned out to help coalesce some facets I was struggling with
when it came to my protagonist, Silas. The set-up for Faux Ho Ho is
pretty simple: Silas’s family isn’t particularly supportive of him, but they’re
in the public eye as a political family, so they take pains to make things look
better than they are. He lives in Ottawa, they live in Alberta, allowing him to
keep his distance when he can, but at the start of the story, they’re trying to
wrangle him back home for Thanksgiving, partly so they can have him included in
an event for his eldest brother, a Member of Parliament, keeping the optics of
“we support our queer kid” if not the actions. Silas can’t think of a single thing
to get out of it, and then his roommate—who his parents don’t know
exists—pretends to be his boyfriend, claiming they have plans already with his
family for Thanksgiving. This sets into motion a series of further fibs that
send Silas and his roommate on a path to a happy-ever-after, albeit one with
quite a few hiccoughs on the way.
Now, Silas is an introverted sort, a coder
geek and a gaming nerd, and while this is by no means outside of my wheelhouse
(I mean, I don’t really code, but otherwise) I was struggling to find the right
way to present Silas to the reader. His voice, in early drafts, wasn’t landing
Then we had the D&D session with my half-elf’s
botched deception check and it struck me. While Silas is staring down his
parents on the Skype call, his “boyfriend” behind him, Silas has to lie
outright to them if he wants out of the Thanksgiving visit. I slipped into his
point of view and wrote:
Okay. He could do this. He’d never put
any points into deception in his entire life, but natural twenties happened,
And there he was. From that moment on,
Silas took shape in my head, and everything started to flow just-so. Before I
knew it, writing Silas’s dialog, his reactions, and his thoughts wasn’t just
easier, it was fun, and I realized it was the first time I’d written a D&D
playing adult as the protagonist of a romance, and I couldn’t for the life of
me figure out why I’d waited so long. I write queer characters in romance
specifically because I want to see people like me with happy endings, but I
hadn’t gone that extra step to add this particular flavor of nerdy gamer into
Dungeons & Dragons became one of the geeky
lenses through which Silas viewed the world, and it was a joy to put those
references in there. Luckily, my editor also has a history with the game, so I
didn’t have to explain too much (and, in fact, some of the editing notes that
came back included D&D references in return). Silas and his gaming group even
get to play a session in Faux Ho Ho. Silas also dresses up in a Dungeons
& Dragons cartoon cosplay outfit at one point (spoiler: he’s Presto).
In short, if it wasn’t for those gaming
sessions this summer, and my writer friends who always have my back, I’m not
even sure Faux Ho Ho would have made it out of the gate.
As for Silas’s ongoing deception checks to
maintain the illusion of him and his “boyfriend” at his sister’s Christmas
wedding, and how it all works out with his family and his roommate? Well, if
you want to know how that particular campaign turns out, the answer is in Faux
Ho Ho. But since Faux Ho Ho is a romance, it’s not a spoiler to say that
even though it absolutely doesn’t go to plan, it definitely ends happily.
Silas Waite doesn’t want his big-C Conservative Alberta family to know he’s barely making rent. They’d see it as yet another sign that he’s not living up to the Waite family potential and muscle in on his life. When Silas unexpectedly needs a new roommate, he ends up with the gregarious—and gorgeous—personal trainer Constantino “Dino” Papadimitriou.
Silas’s parents try to browbeat him into visiting for Thanksgiving, where they’ll put him on display as an example of how they’re so tolerant for Silas’s brother’s political campaign, but Dino pretends to be his boyfriend to get him out of it, citing a prior commitment. The ruse works—until they receive an invitation to Silas’s sister’s last-minute wedding.
Silas loves his sister, Dino wouldn’t mind a chalet Christmas, and together, they could turn a family obligation into something fun. But after nine months of being roommates, then friends, and now “boyfriends,” Silas finds being with Dino way too easy, and being the son that his parents barely tolerate too hard. Something has to give, but luckily, it’s the season for giving. And maybe what Silas has to give is worth the biggest risk of all.
You can pre-order Faux Ho Ho at the
Bold Strokes Books webstore in all e-formats; it will also be available
December 10th, 2019, wherever quality LGBT e-books are sold.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published, including his first collection Of Echoes Born. Even though short fiction is his favorite, ‘Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul are available now from Bold Strokes Books, as well as his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks. More novels, novellas, as well as works of short fiction are always under way.
The world is being invaded by aliens. They’ve used their
U.F.O (Universal Freezing Organics) Ray to stop all living creatures from
moving. As toys you are not affected and must find a way to save the world
before the effects of the ray become permanent.
The group starts in a large cylindrical white room. There’s
a large hatch and a note written in crayon.
I think you’ll do better. Good luck – Sally
There’s a panel next to the door and a small air grate near
Getting out of the room should be easy. Either ask the panel
to get out, hotwire it, crawl through the vent or break down the door.
Either way it should all lead to the main control room.
Inside the control room there are a lot of people and
Just outside the door to the chamber is a little girl holding three heavily armed drones. She seems frozen in place.
There are several adults frozen in a run towards her. They
The computer screens seem to indicate that they were experimenting
to make sentient drones.
There’s a TV on and it looks like it’s paused but the clock is working normally. If they rewind or look online they’ll see that aliens were spotted entering the solar system a week ago. After several days of trying to contact them, the three motherships took positions around the earth and started their Freeze Ray. It look less than a day for the ray to freeze everyone on the planet. The Phlebotinum Institute accelerated their efforts to make drones sentient barely activating the device before being frozen.
Outside the Lab
The game will require the players to figure out where they are and what they want to do. The overall goal should be to turn off the ray, scare off the aliens, or just stop the invasion.
This can be done in a multitude of ways. Let your players be
creative. If they need help here are a few options that you can hint at:
Gain access to the ships and shut off the ray in
hopes humans can fight the aliens off.
Find a way to launch nuclear/secret/etc weapons
against the aliens.
Negotiate with the aliens.
Upload virus / trick / etc
No matter what they choose there should be 3 phases to the
adventure: Plan, execute plan, and final boss.
In this section they are getting what they need to do their
plan. It could be communication equipment, missile codes, etc.
In most cases the Aliens are the villains and anything they
plan should include a fight with a few of the aliens. They are small, green,
and ride around in flying saucers.
If they need to get into a human facility or negotiate with the aliens, the rogue drones become the main villain. They don’t want to let humans come back. They should only fight 1 or 2 of these.
Execute the plan
In this section they have their equipment and must apply the
plan. This should be a series of challenges and fights.
Try to throw skills challenges that have an average
difficulty of 4 or 5
The General or Generals (Adjust depending on strength and amount of characters.) and their army want to prevent the characters from succeeding. In this section they must fight their way to the final phase of their plan.
Back in 2013 I went to an event and at that event I offered to run a One-Shot Party SRPG session. I had no rules and no ideas. They chose to play Cards Against Humanity instead and I spent the event dreaming up what I would call The Simplest Role Playing System.
It was okay and I used it for a few years before altering it and renaming it CoasteRPG I had grand plans to sell it as a coaster. The concept was cool but didn’t really work out. Apparently putting your drink on something you write on and then flipping the coaster didn’t work very well. I still plan on finding a way to sell this but I’m not sure how yet.
So here we are and I’ve modified the rules a little for balance. It still uses coasters, although you could use coins or even/odd dice rolls.
One-Shot Party: The Simplest RPG
Simple Rules: Each player chooses Body, Mind, or Luck as their character’s specialty. They have 4 in that ability. (Ex. Fighters choose Body.) Their Health and Defence each equal 4.
Complex Rules: Each person has 4 points to place in Body, Mind, and Luck. No negatives. Their Health equals their Body plus 2. Their Defence equals Mind or Luck plus 2.
Resolution Mechanism: When a character needs to do something, the Storyteller decides if it’s easy (1), hard (2), ridiculous (4), or inconceivable (6). The character then subtracts their attribute from the difficulty.
If the attribute is higher than the difficulty they succeed. If not, they have to flip a coaster, coin, or die, 3 times and call it (if it’s a die have them call even or odd). Add every right guess to their attribute.
If the player gets 3 successes in a row they continue to flip until they fail.
Combat: Each character does 1 point of damage (unless specified in their abilities) if they hit something and takes the same if they are hit. Death occurs at 0 health.
Opposed rolls between characters are calculated by the most successes. (Eg. Player one needs to bluff. They have 3 Luck and fliped successfully twice for a total of 5 successes. Player 2 has a mind of 4 and flipped successufully twice for a total of 6. Player two sees through the bluff.)
Special Abilities: Choose 2 of; Hit (1 damage +1 flip), Heal (1 healing + 1 flip), Help (+1 success to any other characters test) Or choose a +1 to body, Mind, or Luck (this can only be picked once.)
Yesterday I read an Tumblr post that made me deeply uncomfortable. Go read the article but be warned it’s disturbing.
Ok if you don’t want to read it it’s an account of how abhorrently women are treated in the gaming community; specifically tabletop, Pen & Paper, and miniatures/strategy. Not just heckling or general sexism but multiple forms of assault.
It made me sick to my stomach and a little part of me was glad I’d never experienced it. (In case you’re just tuning in; I’m a thirty-something, white, cis, male.) As I sat there thinking how it might turn me off gaming completely, and how sad that would be, I remembered a game I ran once.
It was the mid-2000s and Lost was every geek’s favourite show. Narnia had burst onto the big screen and I was running a game for three other guys. They were my first gaming group and they had a strict no girls policy.
The game was set on an Island (of course) and had Halflings that rode polar bears into battle (what game doesn’t). The overall theme of the game was racism, I’d based the story vaguely on the real life story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. (I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time.) Only he was a Halfling Colosseum fighter.
The group was ridiculously cautious. They’d spend 20-40 minutes per decision trying to plan for every contingency. (Probably my fault, a polar bear had killed their character in the jungle when they’d foolishly run ahead alone.)
After several sessions of them literally doing nothing and then getting pissed that I wasn’t moving the story along fast enough I introduced a new character; an impulsive human female Ninja, with shady motives. The idea was to have a character that could move the plot forward without a player fearing for their characters’ lives.
I’d done it early with an, “enemy of my enemy” style bad guy and they’d followed him straight into a trap. They still liked him afterwards.
They hated the Ninja from the start. At first I thought it was the impulsiveness (ten years later I think it was the gender). It wasn’t too bad at the beginning but when I started having her assert opinions like, “You’ve been arguing about going through this door for 30 minutes, I’m sure they’ve heard you.” Or “Shut up and stab something.” They started to verbally abuse her both in game and out of game and she was renamed, “The Bitch”.
At one point, in the middle of a puzzle, I tried to give them a hint through the Ninja. One of the players told her to shut up and let them work. I snapped and asked through the character, “What the hell is your problem? I’ve saved your life, fought monsters beside you but you still treat me like shit.”
The answer was, “You’re an NPC.” (Non-Player Character) Which I would believe if they hadn’t had the epic bromance with the last NPC. Then the player added, “Plus I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”
The rest of the group burst into laughter as if it was the cleverest joke they’d ever heard.
If it sounds familiar, it’s a quote from South Park that specifically makes fun of a character for being sexist.
The game fizzled out shortly afterwards. It had made me deeply uncomfortable. At the time I thought it was because I was doing something wrong in running the game. I thought the hate and vehemence was aimed at me.
I’m sure some of it was aimed at me but most was aimed at the character who dared to be female and not be a love interest, damsel, or incompetent.
It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the sexism women deal with every day and it sucked. It’s nothing like the stories in the article but my experience does illustrate how deep seeded the sexism in gaming is, that a fictional character played by a man was treated poorly just because I wrote down F instead of M on the character sheet.
Since then I’ve played with dozens of people and have had great experiences. I’ve built up my own community of players that aren’t jackasses and I’ll re-post what I said on my facebook yesterday:
Let me be completely clear: Books End, FADDS, and any game I run is a safe space. If you EVER feel uncomfortable you let me know and it will be dealt with.
This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, deplorable, and will result in being permanantly banned. I also have no qualms with calling the police if things are bad enough.
Gaming is about having fun and imagining other worlds. It’s not exclusive to one gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, language, etc… It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone.
The morning heat rushed to embrace me as I left the house. Its touch was warm and soothing to start but quickly it started to suffocate me. As I walked the short walk to the bus the heat threw a blanket of humidity over everything and made the world feel and look like it was under water, without the soothing liquid.
That’s not the start of a story, it’s just my morning commute… blarg. I hate heat. Fall is my favourite season. Give me 5-15 degrees Celsius and I’m happy. I realize it’s only been a few days of 30 degree weather but I’m not a fan.
Other than the heat my weeks are busy with multiple big projects at work, tweaking FADDS from player feedback, and trying to get some writing done. With the constant urgencies at work I’m starting to feel like I’m falling behind on my writing. I think it may be time to start writing at night again. (Yeah I know I was spoiled.)
FADDS is coming around really well. My two major blocks were Magical items and Villains. Last week in the shower I figured out magic items cost and creation.
Villains, Monsters, Fiends, Challenges, opponents, adversaries, bad guys, etc. whatever you want to call them they’re essential to role playing games. My biggest issue with most games is their lack of instructions for making a villain that isn’t a player class. Sometimes I like to have an insanely awesome rat fight my high level characters. Without making it really big or giving it class levels.
On the flip side as a game master I really don’t want to spend 1 hour or more making a monster that my players will ignore or kill in under 30 seconds.
So the challenge I have is creating a two tiered system, one for genuine big-bads and one for the challenging but quick monsters. All without players knowing the difference.
Building a game system is difficult but really exciting. I’ve spent so many hours in front of a screen that I can say with authority, get yourself computer glasses. I love the feeling I get when everyone is having fun and the game is moving forward. It’s great.
Every once in a while I’ll find a webcomic that devastates my productivity. It’s been a few months since this happened. The other day I was reading Weregeek and the guest artist had their own comic called NPC. The first joke I read was a D&D joke and I was hooked from then on.
It’s a gag a day comic with mini-storylines and it’s extremely entertaining.
A cooperative game is any game that you play cooperatively with others instead of opposed to other players. Massive Online Roleplaying games, some tabletop games, Pen and Paper Roleplaying games, and certain video games all fit into this category.
All of them require that you play well with others, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.
**Disclaimer: This is my opinion and I have almost no experience playing MMO-RPGs.**
Last week I wrote ahead to make sure I had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off from writing. I thought that was enough. I totally forgot about the fact that Monday was a vacation and that I should have worked ahead. Past Eric messing with present Eric again.
Of course it’s a short week and the workload can be described as “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” so I’m not getting as much done as I’d like.
For all those reasons I’m starting a new tradition: Recommendation Wednesday. Where it’s Wednesday and I recommend something.
It’s the most balanced gaming/slice of life comic I’ve read. The characters are fun and believable and the gaming is exciting and makes me want to try new things. Plus there’s a healthy sprinkling of puns.
Alina Pete has a great sense of humour and a great feel for characters. Go give it a read if you’re into gaming and like webcomics.