Monday, December 15, 2014

Rebooting Adventure Games Class

I haven't mentioned my school-day embedded Adventure Games Class much in recent posts and the truth is that I've had to go back to the drawing board with it a few times since the end of October.
image here
Starting in November most of my highly-Risk-trained-but-nascent-RPGers group moved on to other 9-week-long classes (many landing in a science exploration course) and I took on a new batch of 31 students.

Notably, only a smattering of these had requested to be enrolled with me, but rather were just shuffled my way as other classes filled and we worked to find placement for each student (a heroic effort, but far from perfect).  Frustrated by the fact that my first term group barely began to work through some RPG basics before moving on, I was determined to start this new group off right in the thick of things and began by having them interact with my bare-bones 20-page version of 5th edition D&D rules right off the bat.

As we struggled to read the text and interact with it together, I watched interest begin to flag.
I accelerated the pace and pushed ahead into character creation, but that didn't feel like a solid hit either and I found that rather than directing exuberance I was having to start managing behavior -- ugh.  It was time to scrap the plans and try something else ...

My solution was to get the students rolling some dice ASAP.  Soon 20-siders were ricocheting around the room as I plowed through a "funnel" that tossed a series of challenges at the players (quicksand, tropical disease, hostile natives) to get them used to dice resolution.  By the end of that session, however, it was clear that due to the mix of students I wasn't getting anywhere near the level of engagement that I wanted ... or rather ... they were finding things to engage with, just not what I had in mind.

I changed gears again and peeled back the curtain to talk about things from the GM / scenario design side.  We talked about basic types of conflict, adventure settings, and I got the guys (27 of my 31 students are male) drawing some maps.  This all met with a bit more success, but when it came to stocking those designs, sufficient focus to actually write words on paper just weren't there in many cases.  I could pull it out of them, sure, but the will wasn't there and disruptive behaviors were continuing to pop.

Time to change tacts again -- I gathered a core group of guys, put my GM hat on, and we started exploring the vast cavern / multi-dungeon cluster of Sheberoth.

Meanwhile a pair of vets from my prior term ran small dungeons at other tables, supported by material pillaged from the One Page Dungeon Contest while other groups worked with chess, Risk variants, or Catan.

I'm not sure about sustainability, but for the moment things are working.  Hopefully I can help a player or two at my table build enough skills and confidence to break off and start another group before chess and Risk get too stale, but odds are that I'll be chasing my tail by mid-January and needing to rethink things again.

Please bear in mind with all of this that I still number myself among the most fortunate 1% of gamers on the planet: those who actually get paid to game!

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