Tarpley te922 part time 2011 self presentationPresentation Transcript
Befriend the Dragon: Pedagogical Uses of Roleplaying Games Van Tarpley TE 922 February 17, 2011
A relatively new hobby (Dungeons & Dragons, 1974)
A combination of tabletop game, collaborative storytelling and guided theater
Generally, one person serves as Referee (inhabits minor roles, provides an overarching goal) and others play a character within the game
Fantasy is the only genre. It’s all a boring Tolkien retread.
It’s a fast-track to the occult.
One just rolls dice over and over again to hit opponents on the head. Why bother?
Genres include modern day, science fiction, historical, horror, detective, humor and many others.
Nope. Some games do have magical themes, as is the case with much popular culture.
Many games do use polyhedral dice (ranging from 4- to 20-sided) to resolve actions. But storytelling, group cooperation and character development tend to be more important.
Fair Concerns for the School Setting
Roleplaying Games glorify violence. Many genres do include cinematic violence as part of their idiom. The extent to which educators should encourage this is debatable.
The games are not female-friendly. There is a “chainmail bikini” problem in the art, but the writing, character design and art have all gotten more inclusive in the last twenty years. More players are still male than female, but numbers of women and girls in the hobby is growing.
Why Bother with RPGs in School?
They are collaborative. Players must work together to overcome obstacles and meet goals. All win through cooperation and creating a fun story. They are great tools for teaching teamwork and basic socialization.
They encourage the use of higher-order thinking. Mystery plots, problem-solving and strategic challenges encourage young people to analyze situations, hypothesize, test possible solutions, and exercise ingenuity and creativity.
They excel with a group schools are losing. Roleplaying games are often of most interest to middle-school boys. The subculture of gaming is a very benign one largely free of drugs, drinking or violence.
Sneaky Math Building
Some game systems, such as modified FUDGE, are virtually all talking and storytelling with little use of dice. However, many of the most popular systems are excellent for the internalization of basic mathematics skills. For instance, let’s say that in Dungeons & Dragons your cunning archer character shoots an arrow at a minotaur. The math might work like this (1d20 means “one twenty-sided die”):
“ First, you have a 20% chance of missing because of the billowing fog. Roll to see if you overcome it. Great! Now roll to hit. If 1d20+7=>22, your arrow strikes true. Determine damage: 3(1d8+3+1+1+2)-5.”
Over the course of a two-hour game session, a player might make such calculations 10-15 times.
Gaming in my Own Life
I have roleplayed off and on since the fifth grade. Note the geeky brother trio to the right (at a game convention).
I currently play personally about twice a month for 2-4 hours a session.
Favorite games include Dungeons & Dragons, d20 Modern, Star Frontiers, DC Heroes, and Savage Worlds.
I have the world’s most loving and patient non-gamer wife.
Roleplaying with a Purpose
I have in a number of non-school positions used roleplaying to help me work with and counsel young men lacking in social skills at both the high school and college level. This is an excellent tool for teaching the action-consequence cycle. For instance, one young man with anger issues would routinely, in a fantasy roleplay setting, have his character attack local law enforcement in the towns the group passed through. After the whole group had been tossed in prison several times, the young man realized that there were more fun ways of exercising the freedom of action the game allowed.
I led gaming sessions as a counselor at a homelessness-abatement program. This allowed players to mentally escape the circumstances that trapped them and reveal new facets of their personalities. A highlight was being able to help the player characters earn something in the game that I had no power to provide in the real world – a very cool house.
Ideas for School Use
Start a roleplaying club. A good friend who is a middle-school teacher runs an after-school club with 12-18 participants in which, after a year, students are leading games for each other.
Use historical roleplaying as PAT in the classroom . In social studies and English classes, games in which students take on roles of Chinese merchants or characters in Jane Austen novels could be very fun and pedagogically useful.