This Thursday is the first class of my D&D afterschool program, so I wanted to get feedback on some of the materials I’ve developed for it.
First, though, some background. On the plane to Gen Con this year, my seatmate was Itamar of Hamis`hakia, The Hebrew Gaming Podcast.
Note 1: It’s awesome who you meet flying to from NYC Indianapolis on that particular day, for example people for whom this is the second leg of the flight from Israel!
Note 2: Itamar was telling me about a blog post he read about a D&D game at an art studio party, and I was like “hey, that was me!” Amazing that such a small world is nevertheless to be found all over the globe.
Anyway, I seized the opportunity to pick Itamar’s brain about gaming in Israel and particularly the afterschool RPG scene I’d heard about. For more information, he later pointed me other places he’s talked about it: this thread at Gamegrene, where he posts as zipdrive, and episodes 204 & 205 of the Fear the Boot podcast.
One of the things he said really struck in my mind: that although it was cool that the afterschool programs exposed lots of kids to RPGs, as a rule those kids didn’t continue to play as adults. Some of this was the usual “when I became a man, I put away childish things, fearing they would prevent me from getting laid.” Some was due to those kids going on to serve in the RPG-suspicious Israel Defense Forces, which made for an interesting digression. But the part that concerned me was that, by packaging the D&D experience into something that your parents signed you up for and you passively enjoyed at the feet of an adult dungeon master sitting on a giant dice, Itamar felt the afterschool programs stood in the way of kids learning to do it for themselves.
The sense I got was that it wasn’t in the program’s economic self-interests to teach kids that they didn’t need a class to have fun rolling dice and making stuff up. Also, since personnel is usually the biggest expense, the programs tend to have lots of kids per grown-up and it’s easiest to use the existing structure of the game to keep them all under control: wait until your turn in the initiative order comes up, then tell me who you’re attacking.
I like attacking things as much as the next guy, and I’m certainly approaching this afterschool class as an opportunity to get paid for the actual activity of roleplaying rather than for writing things that people don’t really need to do that activity. But I want to teach the kids how they can use the D&D structures, like turn-taking and cooperative problem-solving, for themselves – to help their gaming experiences when they don’t have adult supervision be less about social dominance struggles and a horrific degeneration into the worst moments of social breakdown.
I welcome input on how to approach that part of things. But this post is specifically about some tools I made to help kids get started creating their own super-awesome-let’s-pretend time.
Imagine each of these printed on a single piece of paper, laid out with bigger blanks and space for drawing:
Draw a map of your dungeon. Write a name for each room on the map.
This dungeon is called ______.
The dungeon looks _____ and _______.
Heroes might hear _____ from the _____ or smell ____ from the _____.
Heroes might go in here to _____ or in search of ___.
Which rooms are dangerous? ____ Why? ____
Where are the treasures? _____
A Strength roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
A Constitution roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
A Dexterity roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
An Intelligence roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
A Wisdom roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
A Charisma roll of ___ or better in the _____room will _______.
Easy = 8 or better; Medium = 11 or better; Hard = 14 or better.
The next is for monsters to populate dungeons with:
Draw a picture of your monster.
This monster is called ___.
It calls itself ___.
This monster is here to ___ the ___.
It is afraid of ___ and ___.
It loves ___ and ___.
How could this monster help the heroes? ___
How could this monster get the heroes into trouble? ___
Choose your monster’s scores by circling one in each row:
|Low: 6||Middle: 4||High: 2|
|Damage:||2 dice + 2||2 dice||2 dice +2|
|Range:||One hero in arm’s reach||One hero in sight||Every hero in sight|
To figure out a monster’s hit points, add the columns you chose. For example, a giant is so big that it’s easy to hit (low defense = 10) and clumsy (low attack, +1). It’s very strong (high damage, 2 dice +2) but its club can only hit a hero who’s right up close (low range). So it has 20 hit points: each low score adds 6, plus one high score adds 2.
Let me know what you think of these, esp. if you have kids at home to serve as a captive audience for playtesting!
EDIT 1: I should have thanked James for setting aside time to help run the first class! I am much more confident in the outcome knowing that he’ll have my back.
EDIT 2: Tony Dowler’s Microdungeons totally exemplify the scale and tone of the dungeon maps I’m thinking of for these mad libs; I’ll be handing them out to the kids like candy.