It’s alive! Alive! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 19)

It's alive! Alive! (1)

There is no blog post today, and the reason is very simple – this weekend I have two sessions on IATEFL in Gdańsk, Poland, so I’m preparing my presentations, materials, looking for appropriate outfits… so much to do that I have to skip this week on my blog.

But I’m alive! And more than that – I even went live once, so what you can do today is actually watch my first workshop on RPG in teaching ever – it was recorded last year, on Zlot Nauczycieli Angielskiego. I talked about RPGs, showed some easy exercises and was terribly stressed!

It’s funny, watching myself only a year ago and seeing how much I’ve changed. What exactly changed? Well, you can see it if you come to my sessions, this weekend in Gdańsk.

Meanwhile – Role-Playing Teaching: Madness is Magic. Enjoy!

Dice rolling against teen angst! ( Role-Playing Teaching: Part 18)

Dice rolling against teen angst!

In my Role-Playing Teaching section I have already written about RPGs and their positive influence on children and adults – it’s high time to write about teenagers. This article may come as the last in the series, but for me they are a group that may benefit most from using RPGs in their educational process, or simply benefit from playing RPGs. Believe me – I was such a teen.

And weren’t I an angsty one…

Looking at the areas that RPGs address, it may be somewhat surprising that they are covering the areas known as 21st century skills – and yet, this is so. Playing RPGs in English may not only help teenagers progress in their English studies, but also help them develop other skills they will certainly use as adults.

Teamwork

We live in the age of individuals – sounds trivial, but that’s the truth. That’s why the importance of teamwork is even greater, and learning teamwork while having fun is the best way of learning one’s leadership skills, the ability to discuss things, ways to convince others to change their perspective. I can’t think of a better way to develop skills helpful in successful working with others than cooperating with friends trying to achieve common goal.

Creativity

In games, we can have a lot of adventures and challenges that don’t often happen in a real world, and unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. This calls for the power of creativity, and working on creative methods with a bunch of friends (who share the same goal) is like connecting a little power-plant to the brain. A good RPG session makes you feel happy, refreshed and ready for the next challenge!

Problem solving

Creativity results in many interesting solutions to problems arising throughout the adventure. This leads to many heated arguments and passionate discussions as players usually want to push their idea as it, obviously, is the best idea. This is a perfect lesson of negotiation, cooperation and responsibility – because if your plan, designed to be perfect, turns out to be a failure, you’ll have some explaining to do; which is great as it teaches you to think broader and listen more attentively.

Communication

Naturally, not all communication focuses on conflicts and problem solving. Usually players are a bunch of friends, but as the time in game runs faster than in real life and there are some objectives to be achieved, players need to communicate both in-game and out of it. It usually means either asking for advice – which turns out to be somewhat difficult for teenagers, but not as difficult as asking for help, and that’s something RPGs teach you as well.

And who knows, maybe this is the most powerful thing you learn…

Feedback

There are people who can skilfully give feedback, but for most of us it’s an art that is quite hard to master. Playing RPGs gives you great opportunities not only to listen to feedback of other players, but also share yours. The good thing is that you share feedback with people you like and who like you, you learn which expressions may be hurtful and how to speak criticism so that nobody gets hurt.

Friendship

Last but not least, friendship – which is magic, obviously. Fantasy fans create a sociocultural group called fandom. But within this huge group there are smaller ones – some encompass your favourite systems, some include people that share your sense of humour, and if you’re willing to open up a bit and travel to a nearby convention or two, you’ll find people that become your kin: people who are like your family – not always your best friends, but always there when you need them.

Like the girl who answered my phone at 2 a.m.
and let me spend the night at her place.

And this is something teenagers need, a sense of belonging somewhere, identifying with a group – and if you think about alternatives, kinship with a bunch of people who read books, play games and have fun with one another is not the worst option, is it?

As you can see, there are some areas RPGs may support and develop in our students. The only question is – which system would they pick as there are oh! so many.

Enjoy!

Are you… afraid of the dark? (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 17)

Are you... afraid of the dark_ (2)

Summer means adventure, woohoo! Some people travel around the world, others stay home and spend time with friends. Both options are brilliant, especially when you are able to to travel without leaving your room – simply engage your friends in a session of a Role Playing Game and travel around the world… and beyond. Sometimes, however, you’re stuck alone in a place you’re not really happy with – and then you may also enjoy an RPG session just by yourself.

Here I am, writing about the awesomeness of Role-Playing Games as a perfect tool for boosting communication and relationships in the classroom. However, today I want to tempt you with an adventure you take on your own. Alone.

Alone against the dark…

Alone Against The Dark is an adventure for one player, set in the autumn of 1931, in the Lovecraftian universe of the Cthulhu Mythos (although you won’t be meeting the Great Cthulhu Himself, as the greatest mystery of the Call of Cthulhu is the fact that you basically don’t meet Cthulhu). Your friend goes missing and your goal is to solve his disappearance and ultimately to save the world from the calamity. Your journey will take you from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica.

You will start your adventure as Louis Grunewald, a quiet linguistics professor from the Miskatonic University. You will fight the forces of darkness before time runs out — but in case Professor Grunewald is eliminated for some reason (in CoC it means a character either goes completely mad, or simply dies), you can successively assume an identity of a new investigator.

There are four ready-made investigators, enabling you to take on various roles as circumstances change in your search for the truth: Louis Grunewald, Lydia Lau, a story-seeking reporter for the New York Sun, Devon Wilson, a sailor on leave from the US Navy, and Ernest Holt, a wealthy industrialist.

I spent most of my 9-hour long train journey playing the game – I personalised the characters, prepared some sheets of paper and a pencil (making notes turns out to be crucial when trying to save the world!) and I must tell you that I think I need to follow the adventure again, only this time make different choices. My professor was lucky enough to survive for quite a long time, but well, there are things in this world elderly scholars may have troubles with… like falling down from an impressive height, physical assault or, well, supernatural creatures.

I find this adventure just brilliant for all of you who have already read about Role-Playing Games, but struggle with gathering the party before venturing forth. You can play the game in your own tempo and discover the magic of RPG by yourself. The universe of HPL and his Cthulhu Mythos are quite enjoyable for EFL teachers – imagine you wear a fashionable dress, switch on jazz music and with a cheeky smile face the unspeakable evil.

You can get the adventure in English here, only remember you might need a copy of a Keeper Rulebook (you may buy it here) to understand the rules. If you’re Polish, your life is easier, because you may get the adventure here in Polish, and instead of buying the whole rulebook, you can get a short starter.

You may think it’s a deal, but trust me, once you set on a trail of the Old Ones, you’ll spend your money on Keeper Rulebook and other adventures.

You should also buy a set of dice, but hey, you can download a free app like RPG Simple Dice.

Good luck, dear friend, and enjoy your adventure…

Costello, Matthew and Mason, Mike

Alone Against the Dark/ Samotnie przeciwko ciemności: zniweczenie triumfu lodu

Chaosium, 2018/ PL version Black Monk

ISBN: 978-156882-453-6

Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

Take your kids to Bumbleberry Forest! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 15)

Take your kids to Bumbleberry Forest!

It’s time for the next Role-Playing Teaching article! We’re done with theory. Today, I have a really nice post for all of you who want to try Role-Playing Games with their nearest and dearest. Bumbleberry Forest, a mini RPG game created by Kamila Zalewska-Firus, is a perfect start to the world of RPGs, designed to be family entertainment – starting from three year old children!

Imagine a relatively safe world of wood sprites or pixies (it’s not totally safe, there has to be some space for adventures, after all). Main characters are pixies, living in a small village deep in the heart of the woods, far from humans (they are huge and scary creatures!) and enjoying their everyday life. Helpful and friendly, they happily help one another by foraging for herbs (you need to be careful as there is a family of foxes nearby!), exploring the unknown (e.g. wreck of a car, maybe there is something pixies may find useful) or helping a baby bird get to its nest (and trees are really high for such a small folk as pixies).

The main idea is that the role of the Game Master is taken by an adult (parent or teacher) and the children are meant to assume the roles of pixies. Characters are created by rolling casual six-sided dice and when they’re ready, GM generates a quest for them, starting with simple ones and moving on to more dangerous adventures.

You can get the ebook here (it’s a pay what you want option, so you can get it even for 1$). You will find here detailed description of the Bumbleberry Forest and its inhabitants, character descriptions along with a nice character sheet, quest generators and a simple adventure.

I find Bumbleberry Forest simply adorable, not only for kids. If you ever experienced the feeling of homesickness thinking of the Tolkien’s Shire, it may be a good place for you to visit. It’s a simple and yet entertaining way to take your family on a nice adventure. Family… or students! At the cost of repeating myself I’ll say that Role-Playing Games are a great teaching tool.

Naturally, with toddlers (Bumbleberry Forest is designed for children aged 3+) you won’t be able to play the whole game in English. So, how can you incorporate EFL into the quests?

Who are you, stranger?

There’s someone new in a village! A strange pixie from another forest who speaks a foreign language. Maybe he’s trying to learn something about your village, maybe she’s lost – anyway, they cannot communicate in your native tongue. Our players’ pixies will need to  understand the stranger who will speak English, of course. Game Master will need to remember to use simple words and a lot of body language, but this kind of encounter may be really educational – maybe local pixies will ask a stranger to join their village for good?

The quest for magic words

You may organise all your quests as means to find magic words that will be simple words in English – just add a little magic to them! The first magic word may be *please* – it makes everyone you ask for help be more willing to comply. The next ones may include *thank you* (make others more appreciative), *sorry* (others don’t get angry at you), and so on. You will probably experience kids trying to use those magic words in everyday life to coax something, but that’s great, since that’s the main purpose of communication, right? You may create nice cards with the words children find on their quests, it will be really motivational!

If you want to pass the test…

…you need to roll the dice. But, if you want to incorporate English, you may add some linguistic challenges, like “you need to pass the test and tell me three colours in English” or “remember that if you want to talk to an animal (which is easy for pixies), you need to call it by its English name”. Such trivial ideas may be a source of repetition, fun and – first and foremost – creating positive background for vocabulary revision.

I will elaborate the topic of RPGs, EFL and kids soon, but for now I hope you’ll find my ideas helpful and get yourself a copy of the Bumbleberry Forest – take your kids on an adventure and you may discover a new world of fun, education and building positive relationships.

Enjoy!

How do you even play RPGs? (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 14)

How do you even play RPGs_

Recently I’ve finished a really interesting course (Teacher Trainer Academy) and I got really valuable feedback – coming from the teachers who were indeed interested in Role-Playing Games but simply didn’t know how to play. Now, during short workshops I struggle with presenting the indubitable merits of using them in the classroom and engaging people into short scenes – but how much can one share in half an hour?

I am currently planning my very first full-time workshops on RPGs with awesome materials, ideas and stuff, but before I start (and I’m a master procrastinator, I’m afraid) I want to share some places you may visit to see RPG sessions. Mind, those are just for fun, with no educational factor included (not intentionally, I mean). For those, we will have to wait for my workshops, I guess…

Below you will find five places you may take a look at to see what RPGs are about – the first sessions, how the adventure develops, the whole team-building experience, rolls, successes and fails – along with the most important factor: fun!

Critical Role (D&D)

Critical Role is a weekly livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons game. Each week, Matthew Mercer, the Dungeon Master, leads his friends (also fellow voice actors!) on epic adventures. You may want to start here, as Critical Role is one of the most popular and professional places to get familiar with RPGs.

Yogscasts High Rollers D&D Aerois Campaign (D&D)

The typical D&D campaign with elves, warlocks, paladins… and starships, because why not. You can watch the campaign live every Sunday, 5pm GMT/BST, on the Yogscast and HighRollersDnD Twitch channels since July 1, 2018, but you may just as well get familiar with their first sessions.

Dungeons & Dragons on Twitch

If you want to discover the magic of classical Dungeon & Dragons, you can visit their Twitch channel and watch a random session or two. Some of them are professional, others are adorably home-made, but if you browse through them, you will see why RPGs are so popular.

Geek and Sundry – Relics and Rarities (D&D)

D&D again (no wonder, it’s the most popular system over the pond), but this time this is probably the most professional recording ever. You can watch the first episode here, and subscribe to their Twitch channel to watch the sessions live. You may join the observers to follow a crew of bold players on a quest to stop an unholy prophecy from coming to fruition.

Baniak Baniaka – Warhammer (PL)

If you’re Polish, you might try Baniak Baniaka, a channel created by Michał Bańka, probably the most popular Game Master in Poland. Michał gamemasters various systems, but Warhammer is the oldest one. Personally, I played a session gamemastered by Michał (Warhammer of course) and it was pretty much fun – not educational, mind, but still fun. You may notice there aren’t many women playing there, but it doesn’t mean women don’t play RPGs!

Graj Kolektyw – various (PL)

A bunch of Polish RPG enthusiasts play games and promote various systems. You may visit their page here – again, it’s in Polish only to learn more about their ideas, but it’s nice to follow their adventures – they are enjoyable and pretty much show what RPGs are about.

To Ja Go Tnę – various (PL)

A channel on YouTube by fans for fans – various Game Masters and systems, always fun. If I were to recommend a particular session, it would be “Cienie Wolności” not only because it’s a Call of Cthulhu session… but mainly, aye 😉

I hope you’ll like the idea of an RPG session – mind I wouldn’t dream of encouraging you to watch whole campaigns… unless you feel like it, of course. Just take a peek and see how it rolls – a lot of talking, an occasional roll of the dice, some experience points to see the character growing… and on we go.

Until my workshops, at least 🙂