Archive for May 26th, 2010


Starting a Dungeons & Dragons Afterschool Program

Following on the successful auction of my D&D kids’ birthday party, which will hopefully this weekend become a successful actual play experience, I just submitted an course to my son’s after-school program:

Dungeons & Dragons with Tavis Allison

Grades 3-6

Come explore this imaginative role-playing game of group cooperation and problem-solving with professional D&D writer Tavis Allison! Students will learn to play or acquire new skills if they’re already experienced players, including making maps, designing adventures, and handling group dynamics.

Putting the instructor’s name in the title and mentioning it again in the body is standard procedure for the other course listings, not rank egotism on my part.

I am following in the footsteps of:

Becky Thomas’s Abantey Roleplay Workshop, the longest-running and most successful I know about.  Becky told me once that she thinks she’s been able to have more positive impact on kids’ lives, especially the emotionally and behaviorally disturbed kids she integrates into the workshop, than she ever did as a teacher. Because she’s been doing this for 19 years, and it’s been her full-time job for many of them, I suspect she has logged more hours playing roleplaying games than anyone in history.


The first thing we'll do is give kids one of those awesome '80s haircuts.


Shippenberg College D&D Camp, pictured above, is a famous example from the ’80s, but there were many more that weren’t as well documented. Whether or not Frank Mentzer also visited those other ones is yet to be determined.

Todd Academy in Indianapolis currently offers D&D Camp Beginner, Advanced, and Dungeon Masters. I don’t know anything more about it than that link, but will try to check it out when I’m out that way for Gen Con.

Some things I haven’t figured out yet:

  • Do I use Moldvay Red Box (dear to my heart), Mentzer (even clearer for teaching purposes), or 4E (which some of the students I know will sign up are already invested in)? Getting the requisite number of sets of either could be a pain, unless I solicit donations. Another option would be to use Labyrinth Lord, and have students draw a new cover for it to avoid “You said D&D, what’s this L&L business?”
  • How much do I try to steer clear of killing sentients and looting their corpses? When I was thinking of doing an afterschool RPG program before, the project foundered on this issue (and the related idea of designing a new system accordingly). I thought of using Mouse Guard to de-centralize the more antisocial D&D tropes, but wound up deciding that buy-in to D&D is too strong to pass up. Besides, the group dynamics of D&D make it inherently pro-social IMO even if you’re roleplaying a gang of insanely greedy, stupid, merciless cowards.
  • Can I find someone to co-teach the class? If not, then there are probably more kids wanting to play than the six I could conceivably wrangle by myself.
  • Will we just spend the hour-or-so playing, or should I try to work in other activities like designing an adventure or making a map – maybe by having a co-teacher lead one group in doing that while another games?

Past Adventures of the Mule

May 2010

RPG Bloggers Network

RPG Bloggers Network

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog & get email notification of updates.

Join 1,054 other followers