Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Game Day 2014

The first Sunday is New Game Day! This is a fun challenge to gamers and non-gamers alike. Check out the web site, as they are offering some ideas and even prizes.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fate Core

Earlier this year I supported Evil Hat Games' incredibly successful Kickstarter to produce a new edition of the Fate rule system. I have recently received four of their books, including Fate Core. While I used Fudge in my classroom for many years, I have been on the sidelines of Fate. I'm excited about the possibilities of this new, lean, flexible edition. While Heroquest is still, for now, my go-to system for running role paying games with kids, due to its foundational simplicity, Fate has many of the same qualities at hear, and with its clear mechanics and player empowerment, I think it does a better job of linking characters, plot, and setting into an interacting, coherent whole.

I will be testing Fate Core on my older players in the coming months, as I get a feel for it, and I will certainly try it with one of my kid games at some point too. Using Fate, it is certainly possible to begin quickly and simply and develop characters and connections as a game progresses. One issue that limits for me the power of Fate is that when I am running games with kids, I often have ten or more players, leaving little time for such exploration. Many kids want less yacking, more hacking, but I always have a few young people that want to dig into a game more, and Fate may be just the vehicle.

I have also recently received more than half a dozen kid-oriented games - like Camp Myth and Zorceror - and I'll be reading, testing, and reviewing these throughout 2014.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Teach Your Kids to Game

DriveThruRPG has created a page listing a large number of games they offer that are great for playing with young people. They are encouraging people to teach games to their children and play with their families. It's good for their bottom line, and it's also great for our hobby community. I think this page is a great idea, and they have many ideas, choices, and discounts. Since most of their titles are available in less expensive, digital formats, they're even cheaper and easier to manage.

I especially like Adventures in Oz, Argyle & Crew (sock puppet adventures!), Faery's Tale, Fate, Little Wizards, Mouse Guard, Teenagers from Outer Space, and YARR! Rules Light Pirate RPG, and they have many more titles I need to investigate. I'd love to know which of these games you've tried and how they worked with people, young and not-so-young.

Have fun!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Game Night 2013

Paideia School had its first elementary school game night this past week, organized and hosted by yours truly. I've run games in my classrooms for decades, but after attending a wonderful seminar at Gen Con Trade Day last year, I was inspired to do some more community building and game advocacy at my own school.

Several other teachers offered to lend a hand, so we had outdoor games, imaginary play in "Zombie Land," and domino games from Puerto Rico. I brought about a score options from my classroom's game library, including standards like Risk and Scrabble, as well as sets of dice and cards for all kinds of games. Several of my own students - fifth and sixth graders - came, and most of them brought or offered to teach a game or two.

We had no idea how many people would come out on a Friday night for games, and for the first thirty minutes, it was one bright-eyed six year old, her father, and four teachers playing dominoes. She cleaned our clocks! Soon after more and more families and kids arrived, and at the height of the evening we had around fifty people, all playing games. Some kids moved back and forth between Zombie Land and outdoor play, while other, older kids played a game for twenty to forty minutes and then switched to another. Everyone got to play. Lots. I required at least one adult for kids of any one family, and most of these joined the high-stakes Scrabble game.

One of my students, a long time role player, brought a tabletop fantasy adventure to run, but by the time he had gathered some interested kids, they realized they wouldn't have much time, so they played mah jong instead. I had an adventure ready as well, but I was occupied as the host most of the evening. I had fun, but next year I hope to coordinate better a few role playing games in the mix.

If you're a teacher or parent, I highly recommend organizing a game night at a local school. The game play was rich. I bought some snacks - candy, chips, fruit - for the evening, since food makes everything better, but the whole thing cost the school less than $50. It might be something a few parents could even donate to the community.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chronos: The Universal LARP System

I've just lent my support to a new Kickstarter project, Chronos: The Universal LARP System. While my favorite kind of game to advocate is RPG, what I run in my classroom is much more of a LARP. I have resolution systems that work for me, but I'm always exploring RPGs and LARPSs for ideas. I've shared some of them in this blog. I'm always looking for smoother methods and approaches to make my games of all kinds more accessible for my players. I always find that universal systems take some tweeking to make them work for a particular application, but it's worthwhile to explore them.

Chronos appears to have lots of playtesting and a team of developers with plenty of experience developing many kinds of games. The examples of play they provide are intriguingly quick and  flexible. I look forward to seeing that they develop and for the chance to test its elements in my own games.

Friday, October 4, 2013

RPG & Chinese!

Two of my big interests meet in an article by Olle Linge, "Role-Playing as a way to expand your Chinese." Though short, it brings up a bunch of fun ideas for use role playing as a way to teach/learn Chinese, or any language for that matter. In many discussion of games and education, social studies or math gets most of the attention, so I'm happy to run across an article that looks at language learning in this vein.

I'm sure we can come up with more scenarios for role playing with languages. Some, obviously, require more vocabulary or a better grasp of grammar and constructions, but these sorts of scenes would give many learners greater motivation to explore the language of study.

See my earlier review to learn how the new RPG, Magicians, uses foreign language study even more intensively.

Have a fun weekend!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dragon Con 2013 and a New School Year

A busy summer swirled to a finish and right into a new school year and within about a week Dragon Con 2013, here in Atlanta, Georgia. I ran a variety of Heroquest-based role playing games at my school's summer camp, ranging from simple fairy tales to mini-campaigns. I often use the fantasy world of Glorantha as the basis for my stories, but the richness and particulars of the setting remain underdeveloped when I only have an hour or so a day with children. A few kids ask questions and take themselves deeper into the shared, imagined realm, but most just play along, half in their own imaginings, and a few come to these activities and just listen to the unfolding story. All of these kinds of experiences are great for young, growing minds, and different people have different interests and intensities. Most fun for me, though, and best for developing gaming and imagination predilections and skills, I think, is when they delve as deeply as they can.

I have a great new class of thirty-one fifth and sixth graders. Our classroom theme for the whole year is China, and next week we'll start our yearlong simulation of politics in the early Tang Dynasty of China. As part of what is essentially a LARP, each student will portray a historical character from the period, as they all compete for power and resources. Their travails often follow the events and rhythms of actual history, and their activities also paint a version of what might have happened in those unknown, gray spaces that exist throughout the historical record. The conversations and explorations that follow are rich with all kinds of learning and the development of skills that will find application beyond the study of China. My students become much more motivated in our other, more traditional studies, since everything they can learn about China contributes to their ability to play the game. It's a wonderful feedback system and grows in strength throughout the year.

As I've wrapped up a summer of travel and little games and begun another great school year, Dragon Con comes along at the same time. This year, I had a mix of games and time to explore the rest of this vast gathering of fandom. My games were all Heroquest games, set in Glorantha. The first was set a traditional dungeon crawl with rogues, warriors, and a wizard or two. The second was a horror story based in an isolated martial arts temple, and the third was a tale of high magic and huge monsters. I had a great time and explore some corners of Heroquest, Glorantha, and game play that I can bring to my own games, of various sizes, with various groups.

The rest of con was as colorful as ever, fantastic costumes blending with music, panels, sprawling shopping areas, and more. The parade was exuberant, and the con brimmed with people of all ages and complexions, families and grognards. I love the tone of Dragon Con, which accepts every kind of non-harmful interest and eccentricity. I don't share even a handful of them, but I wish every day and everywhere were as accepting.

With these lessons in mind, I am beginning new games, exploring new games, and writing new games.

Have fun!