Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Classroom Activity: Design a Monster

If I cover all the ground I hope to with my middle school games class, not only will each student get to play in an RPG a few times, get to evaluate and design a location-based game setting, and get to GM an RPG scenario for a session or two, but by the time we reach our final unit I'd like them to start thinking about game design and the best way to tell the stories that they have inside of them ...


Unit Four: Game Design

Key Objective: Students will identify a setting or genre that interests them and will develop their own unique narrative structure and rules framework for managing storytelling games within that setting.

To get the ball rolling creatively, I'd like them to design their own creature ...

Activity 1: Create a New Creature 

Technique:
  • Read existing catalogs of game creatures. Discuss: 
  • "What makes them compelling, surprising, or predictable?"
  • "What kind of story can you see this creature initiating?  
  • "What might it do that causes drama or conflict?"
  • "Identify more than one way that characters in a game could successfully deal with the conflict posed by the creature."
  • Talk about real-world ecology and contrast to fantasy ecology and place-in-story. Discuss the narrative appeal of each.
  • Talk about creature power-level, how to evaluate, and how to represent it in game mechanics


Assessment: by rubric

A rating of "3" would look like this:

3 = My creature and its ecology are described in clear, unique, and vivid terms.  My reader gains a clear understanding of how my creature fits into its environment. My ecology includes one or more story hooks or suggestions for how characters can interact with the creature. My description includes a list of the creature’s attributes.
From here, some kids may want to write short scenarios to showcase their critters, others may want to dive into expanding their creature's ecology, some may want to take time to illustrate their new creation artistically, and still others will be ready to move ahead and start looking at our rules set critically -- what does it simulate in a way they like?  Where does it fall flat?