How We Rolled
I took the leap. I risked classroom disaster and turned the role of GM over to five of my students as we played Brave Halfling Publishing's rules lite Dagger for Kids. I equipped them with annotated maps, super-simple stat blocks, and a few dice and then I took the hardest step of all ... I turned my back and settled in to work with a few kids off to the side.
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I was there in the room, but without managing individual tables how could I know if the kids were giving the neophyte GMs enough respect to run a game? Were people struggling with rules, getting bogged down in details, or becoming comfortable improvising? Were they managing the pace to stave off boredom? Were they evoking a sense of place with descriptions, however simple or fumbling?
I let them know that they could bring me questions if they got stuck, and then I waited ... and waited ... 30 minutes went by and nobody came over to ask even the first question. I excused myself from the students I was helping and did a quick walk of the room, catching snatches of conversation as I went,
"... okay, you hit the gremlin, but you don't kill it ... "
" ... I roll a search check, what do I find? ..."
" ... there's another one of the zombie-things there and it tries to grab you ... "
Everybody was role-playing ... an entire room full of middle school kids was checking for secret doors, navigating pits, and slaying monsters down in the dungeon!
As class wrapped up I gave them a 10 minute warning and encouraged them to make this their last encounter (or "scene"). They kept right on playing. Watching the clock, I repeated the instruction, but by then I could see that I'd need to pull the plug in order to get materials put away and the room rearranged before classes changed.
With scant minutes to spare I had the students do some writing to recount what had happened in their games. Here are some excerpts from what they wrote:
-- Group A
"I went a different way than the others, then I fought off some gremlins. I ran into some snake skin and was very cautious, then I went searching and found some treasure ... the others died. The best part for me was searching and finding treasure. I also learned how to survive by myself."
"I went north into a room with stains and moaning. I fought and defeated some plant zombies with [Student] and gained some xp. We then came across the dead body of a dwarf but continued onward ... I learned that in order to survive you have to be cautious and wary of your surroundings."
"In the middle of the game [student] ending up dying by a bullywug ... I learned that knights have a better chance of surviving over wizards."
-- Group B
"We didn't find much except for a few zombies, a spear, and a dagger. However, I opened a door and found a gorilla, so I slammed it shut and ran for my life. So while [student], [other student], gremlins and a gorilla fought each other, I got locked out, snuck around, and stole all the loot!"
-- Group C
"I died twice and I learned how to play a new game and we found monsters in the rooms and we searched them and I tried to kill them but I died but then blocked some hits and then kept finding nothing. The game was fun to play and we laughed a lot."
-- Group D
"In the game we had to fight zombies, cross a bridge, and fight gremlins. I almost died when we had to fight a gorilla. I learned that to survive you should make allies ... the best part in Dagger was when we destroyed the gorilla."
-- Group E
"We entered three rooms and discovered two apes. We fought them and lost a man. We moved on to a room with a pool in it. Frogs shot another person, but I lived through so far ... if you live [through battle] it makes you feel like you accomplished something."
So with about a class period and a half to spare, I think I've struck gold here. In future posts I'll give another report on actual play and do some reflection on some of the bigger questions about what this experiment means within the context of my classroom.