One of the things that have set me on the quest of finding Holy Grail of the RPG in TEFL is the tedious environment of the coursebook-oriented curriculum. After years of using the same scheme of lessons, of omnipresent PPP model (slowly trying to include elements of TBT) occasionally interrupted by games, role-plays and authentic materials, I’ve started to dream of a course where changes would be part of its curriculum. Hence my idea of joining RPGs with TEFL – a match made in R’lyeh and blessed by Cthulhu’s tentacles.
What gives RPGs such allure is certainly its variety – declaring actions (as acting out is not really a necessity), following the plot and building a story is similar everywhere, differences are in the worlds – and those are aplenty.
Today I want to share some examples of the environments and systems you may enjoy with your students. You may take your students to the adventure in the Wild West followed by a crime story a’la film noir in an urban fantasy setting… So, the environments I can recommend to each and every teacher are:
Probably the first thing that springs to your mind after you hear “Role Playing Games” – thanks to the most popular RPG in the world, namely Dungeons and Dragons. Fantasy worlds full of magic, adventures and heroes. If you’re into ever-popular Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you may choose The One Ring. If you prefer a grim world of perilous adventure – here’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Do you love Terry Pratchett? choose Discworld RPG, and have fun! I would recommend these settings for those who actually are familiar with the concept of RPG, as one of possible problems may be convincing people that they are not only having fun, but also learning.
Science-fiction & the future
The logical step from fantasy – sci-fi. Now, there are many RPGs that happen in the future, but not all of them are true sci-fi, as there isn’t enough science in them to be called so. Eclipse Phase, Traveller and my favourite Blue Planet RPG have a truly sci-fi approach and may be awesome solutions for yet another environmentally-oriented classes on higher levels. If you’re teaching soldiers, go for CthulhuTech (future, mechs and Cthulhu, awesome!), if you prefer matrix-like world, go for Cyberpunk, or choose post-apocalyptic world as Neuroshima (Polish only, though you can play in English).
If you think fantasy or sci-fi is just too much for your students, you may try some historically accurate systems. As teachers of EFL, you may probably enjoy Pendragon, a system where you play a chivalrous knight in the arthurian realia. Aces & Eights may be a great solution of you’re into life in the alternative version of the Wild West. If you’re Polish who enjoys the history of their country, choose Dzikie Pola and enjoy the atmosphere of the Poland of old.
Well, this may come as a surprise, but playing non-human characters may be a lot of fun! For more mature students I could recommend the World of Darkness universum, where you can play a vampire, a mage, a werewolf or a fae. Sounds too creepy? Think about something else – why not play an agile feline in Cats? Or maybe a heroic mouse in Mouse Guard? And we can’t forget of the game that at the moment is extremely popular among fellow gamer-parents who introduce their offspring to the world of role-playing games: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria!
The last, but not the least – urban fantasy systems, the ones I would pick for everyone who hasn’t tried RPGs before. It’s close to our own world, but you can – can, not must! – add a bit of the unreal. Think of the X-files: you can live the adventures in Delta Green, even when you leave Cthulhu mythology out of the equatio (can’t think of a reason why, though). Speaking of Lovecraftian Mythos, you may pick Call of Cthulhu and choose any period of time you wish – from roaring twenties to modern times. If you’re not into Cthulhu – choose Dresden Files or Monster of the Week – I’m sure you’ll have fun.
I myself believe urban fantasy is the best start to show the potential of using RPGs in teaching EFL, as you can introduce regular situations people experience in the real world – business conversations, small talks, negotiations etc. with no element of fantasy or supernatural. Try to think of it as a prolonged role-play exercise where each student having the same character, only facing different situations.
I hope you’re getting the general idea of what RPGs are – next time I’ll show you how to create Players’ Characters and why it may be an English lesson itself.