the Fairgame Archive

2008-10-16: Storming the Wizard's Tower times 10!
by Meguey

I'm running a game for 10 6th graders. Except I'm not. I'm teaching 10 6th graders how to run their own game.

Ok, start at the beginning. Our oldest son is in 6th grade, and the middle school has 45 minutes a day for extra-curricular classes, many run by community members. I'd had in mind that sooner or later Vincent or I would wind up running some sort of gaming club at Seb's school. A few weeks back, Seb met other kids interested in role-playing. Apparently now is the time.

I have 45 minutes, three times a week, and 10 kids who are all 11 or 12 years old. Could be insanity on my part. Could be chaos. Could be zero fun. At first, i thought about running D&D 4e, because that's what Seb and his 4 friends are playing at recess. I bought the book, got about 20 pages in, and said 'no way am I running this, especially for 10 kids, especially especially in 45 minute chunks that are more realistically 30 minute chunks. Now what?'

Now what indeed. What is quick to set up, runs smooth, delivers solid fun, and is good for kids? Storming the Wizard's Tower, of course. Designed in part for those specs, even. Except what if they start with an indie game that's not even technically out yet, will that set them up poorly for finding games later? No, I don't think so. Plus, playing a game none of them know levels the field for the kids who have never played an RPG before.

What's my goal with this, anyway? I'm gaming plenty right now, so it's not for me. It's kinda for Seb, to give him time and space to play with his friends. And oh hey, it creates a group of kids who know how to play this game!

And then the real Good Idea(tm): I have 6 weeks for this. That's 18 sessions of 45 minutes. Less for half days and other weirdness. So call it 14 sessions. That's not enough time at all for me to run a game for a group that big. Right. So, teach them to run, so when I'm not here, they have a community of 10 kids who know how to play and how to run for each other. That's the new plan; teach them to play, teach them to run, give them a playable book at the end of the program. Now my goals are clear.

We did character creation on Tuesday. 10 kids, from all sides of the social culture of 6th grade, including two girls. About half have role-playing experience, another three or so have some theater experience, two have never done anything like this but it sounded fun. (They got to pick their top three classes. I'm got the list - this was the top pick for all but one of them). The character creation worked like a charm, even with a little muddling on my part at the beginning. Today I'm going to break them into three groups and each group will make a monster. On Tuesday, we fight monsters. I'll keep you posted.

2008-10-16 15:44:23 Jmstar

That's awesome, Meg.  Especially the "teach them to fish" part.

2008-10-18 00:31:28 Meguey

Making monsters didn't go as well. Lots of me running from group to group trying to explain things, plus another girl joining so catching her up to speed. There's one more boy who wants to join, but that would be 12 kids, and reaaaaally pushing my limits of crowd control. I'm thinking I might do-overs on Tuesday, using an over-head projector to walk everyone through the process, then have the kids fight that monster in groups of three.

We've got 3 warriors, 4 scholars, 1 ranger and 1 treasure hunter. I'm going to have to make decent mixes of characters while keeping the player dynamics in mind - crazy.

One of the girls is a tiny little thing but tough-as-nails and wants everyone to know it. She also cheated her initial roles to get straight sixes. Being strong and powerful matters very much to her. I caught her on the last roll, Strength, and said "Keep the 3, Dani." I let her know I know she cheated, that's not really cool, or even really relevant in this game, because everyone has strengths. I also let it slide - I remember being 11 and wanting to be powerful, and I'm willing to bargain with her for that. She was so sad at the prospect of not being a warrior, I let her re-roll the Strength if she would re-roll another stat as well. She rolled a 5 for Strength and took the 2 in something else, and I think she got the point.

2008-10-23 19:34:38 Emily

This is so great, Meg. I think Eero has done a similar thing with kids in Finnland? (Am I making that up Eero?) Teaching them to play things like My Life with Master, and so on. The overhead projector sounds like a great idea.

2008-10-24 19:14:03 Meguey

It worked great! We ran all the kids through battle demos, to learn the mechanics. Some of them got it right away, some were figuring it out by the end of Day Two of fighting monsters. I've got one of the shyest 6th grades and one of the most borderline out-of-control social/talkative kids as well. I'm really enjoying it. The monsters they made were fairly solid, and there were some good fights, but three PCs against one monster is a recipe for the monster eventually going down.

2008-10-30 09:37:35 anon.

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2008-11-01 12:54:24 Meguey

Huh. Wonder how that got past the spambot checker. I hate to think it's someone's job to go around jumping through spambot checkers to post on random blogs.

2008-11-04 14:56:06 Matthijs

Well, I also think your blog is so amazing and wonderful.

Sounds like a great project. I'd never have thought of teaching the kids to run their own game - but it is, of course, a brilliant idea!

2008-11-06 01:06:38 Meguey

Yesterday they got to spend their experience points to buy stuff. Some of them are saving up, some blew through their whole stash. Tomorrow I think we're making towns. I've got 4 weeks left.

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