Though I will not be attending any of the big summer conventions other than Dragon Con in my hometown, I have several role playing games I've been exploring for use in classroom, and I will have more to share about these in the coming weeks.
For now, though school has ended for the moment, I am already working on my games for the coming term. While my role playing style these days, both with adults and children, tends to be light on mechanics and heavy on story and what works, sometimes it's necessary to pop the hood and dig into the engine under the game to make it work better. Such is the case for the big classroom game I'll be running this year. Zhongguo is a simulation of life at the court of Empress Wu, the only woman every to rule China directly as a full emperor. She reigned in the seventh century, during the early years of the Tang Dynasty, and while she was derided and sensationalized by later historians, her time on the throne provides a wonderful array of issues and conflicts: roles for woman, the growth of Buddhism in China and the attendant crises in Confucianism and Daoism, international exchanges of all kinds, corruption and reform, and much more.
This simulation has been a mainstay of my students study of China all school year, but when I last ran it I realized that the economic mechanics were too vague, making this aspect of the game confusing for my students and more work for me. As it is now, each provincial governor gets cards representing the wealth of that province, and that's it. Once they spent them, they were gone. Most years, this has stymied economic activity and experimentation, and I've always ended up having to inject some more cards into the game, which is never satisfying, though sometimes necessary.
I am going to change this part of the system. Rather than starting with all of their wealth pre-alloted, each governor will roll on a table unique to that province once each game year. Higher rolls will generate more diverse and more plentiful resources. Investing certain wealth cards into the province ahead of time will provide a bonus on the roll later. Game events - like fires, disease, raids, war, and so forth - will reduce the roll.
So, for the governor of Shannan Province, I now have the table below. This will create more variability and excitement than the old system, and it should keep the economy more liquid. I am sure I will tinker with these tables during the school year and for future iterations of the game, but it already has a better feel.
Shannan Province Wealth Table
Roll a six-sided die and consult the table below.
For each combination of ten (10) of any of the following Resource cards, add one (+1) to the first die roll.
Certain events – including but not limited to fires, disease, earthquake, raids, war – will subtract from the die roll.
1 1d6 Iron
2 1d6 Slaves
3 2d6 Iron
4 2d6 Slaves
5 Roll twice.
6 Roll three times.