Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Square Peg, Round Hole

As I suspect any teacher will tell you, the first couple weeks on either side of the arrival of students back to school are positively nuts.  This year, however, I was ready -- I was on campus two weeks early setting things up and in very good shape ... and then I was approved to teach a gaming class ... outstanding news!
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... Now I just need to write the curriculum ...

I decided that I want a baseline fantasy role-playing game to use as a leaping-off point for my Adventure Games enrichment class.  I want the following features:

  • Simple enough for kids of various reading proficiencies to understand with some guidance
  • Cheap or free (each student needs some materials in his or her hands)
  • Short enough that it won't intimidate a reluctant reader
  • Sophisticated enough to provide on-grade-level reading content and practice reading instructional text
  • Compatible with the gaming DNA of D&D 5th ed. and Pathfinder
  • Accessible to kids who've never seen a d20 let alone role-played before
  • Detailed enough to allow a modest level of character customization
  • Uses d6 and d20 only (that's a cost thing)
  • Can be played entirely theater of the mind style (sans minis) ... again, cost
  • Brand-neutral to side-step residuals from B.A.D.D. the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s
  • Minimal length to keep print costs down
  • Able to compliment the established Olde School Wizardry setting (Bawal Bayan, etc)
image accessed at projectation.com
Can you see where I'm going with this?

That's right ... to my knowledge the product I just described doesn't really exist.  A number of things come close but, like the proverbial square peg, nothing quite fits.
The solution?  Write it myself of course!

So that's what I've been up to this last week or so.  Starting with D&D 5th ed, I've been chopping and digesting the rules down to something compatible but much more basic, creating seven world-specific character classes, and boiling the systems down to a d6-and-d20 minimum that still resemble the original enough that if my students try to join a game outside of school they won't be thrown by the term "saving throw".
That's me with the funny hat.
With editorial help from my lovely wife (who is an amazing proof reader) and my kids (imagine my pride when my ten-year-old quipped, "I noticed that the ability modifiers are different in this version" ... yes, the nerdery is strong with this one!) I've completed a 20-page Adventure Games draft that hits all of the requirements.  I'll send it out to the district print shop later today.

Once the dust has settled from that project, I can go back to designing actual lessons for the new class ... ideas that I'll be sharing right here of course!