Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Magicians - The Korean Language Learning RPG

I'm really excited about Magicians, a new role playing game from the pen of Kyle Simons. Drawing on the rich folk tales and legends of Korea, he has created a setting with all kinds of storytelling possibilities. Player characters begin as novice spell casters in a school with distinctive Asian qualities but also more than a nod to Hogwarts and modern Manga and Anime. Players create stories collaboratively through a pre-game brainstorming process and off they go. It is, of course, possible to run Magicians as a more traditional tabletop RPG as well.

The best part of the game, though, the part that really excites me, is the way that language learning is built into the core of the system. In order to cast spells, players must use the Korean language. At the most basic level, the Prodigy Magic System, the correct pronunciation of various important syllabic sounds creates the magic. The next step, the Apprentice System, players need to work with nouns and verbs to cast more complex and efficacious spells. The full magic system for the game, the Master System, adds the other parts of speech and the vibrancy of more complex grammatical constructions. It's awesome! My daughter, who is bilingual in Korea, pronounced the game, "credible."

I am so impressed by Simons' creation. His game makes language learning integral to a game, a chance to tell stories to practice your Korean language skills. It scales to different levels of experience and competence. Magicians makes targeted learning an intrinsic part of the game, with built-in rewards, as well as any role playing game I've ever seen.

Simons produced Magicians through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, which included many achieved stretch goals, among them expansions for Japanese and Chinese. As an avid student of the latter, I can't wait to see what his team does with that! Whether you're interested in teaching a foreign language or want to explore the story possibilities of this setting, Magicians is well worth your time to explore.

Have fun!

P.S. Part of my enthusiasm for Magicians at this moment may come from having just watched the delightful 2005 Korean film Welcome to Dongmakgol, which I also very much recommend.

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