Amazing Tales in the Class Room

A little while ago my friend Baz Stevens of the excellent Smart Party podcast let me know that he was going to be running a game of Amazing Tales for his class of 31 nine year olds. Now “would this work in a classroom?” is a question I’ve been asked pretty frequently since Amazing Tales was released, but, not being a teacher I haven’t had a great answer.

Baz has the answer – and here it is… (I added the links)

“So it went astonishingly (amazingly?) well. We had already genned up characters as a whole class. Some wanted to ‘multi class’ straight away. Most were fine to run with their ideas. Abilities ran the gamut from almost mundane (“I can be nice to people”) through powers (“I can fly”) to bonkers (“laser parkour”).

AMONG THE STARS

I chose the five best written ones to be run by tiny committees. Each hero had an artist to record scenes, a writer to do same (all done in real time on a poster in the middle of the table), a caller to speak on behalf of the group and advisors to actually make the decisions. You can’t take the D&D out of me completely…

Each group had a table. And off we went.

I have the luxury of a smart tv as a teaching aid. It runs interactive wipe board software and a visualiser which I use to display work, or model writing etc. I’d loaded it up with imagery intending to improvise and bring up pics as and when. Essentially I built a Pinterest board instead of writing an adventure. I used the works of Jean “Mobius” Giraud. Check him out.

I sent the heroes into the starting situation: kid ambassadors for their respective planets attending a field trip on Station Alpha X (see Valerian. It’s good)

Question: how do you get there?

Each group got chatting, then shouting. Loads of excitement and debate. I went to each caller for their heroes action. Can’t decide? Too long. Move on. They soon got the hang of teamwork and leadership.

I saw an opportunity to roll dice. One hero travelled by alien horse. Another by hover board. Sounded like a race to me. I asked them for abilities, and it threw them all. They hadn’t looked to those. They were used to writing fiction where you can be anything as the story demands. Spot rule: no ability means you need 4+. Done. I rolled real dice under the visualiser, and the kids lost their minds! Brilliant.

Next question: it’s a party reception. What do you eat, drink and what’s a problem that happens? Cue furious engagement.

I slapped on a plastic crown and made up an NPC. Brian Blessed as host. I asked them all what they enjoyed from my table and got great answers. The artists and writers went overtime.

Then the problems. I picked two. Bombs placed under the guests beds, and the arrival of the Red Knight, a nemesis of one of the heroes.

Dice and carnage ensue. The Red Knight is defeated.

The dust settles and I display a picture of a warrior on a pink alien unicorn.

“This bursts through a window and lands among you. The woman on the creature stands up in her stirrups and announces “I am She Ra, Princess of Power, and you kids just killed my brother””

The room erupts. In real life.

Bell goes. The kids will not leave. I insist they have their lunch, they eventually leave buzzing with the stories yet to tell.

More to come…”

If there are any other teachers out there who have tried Amazing Tales in a classroom, or are thinking about it – let me know. Once Baz has a bit of down time he’s offered to share his lesson plans – so watch this space.

Table psychology

While searching the internet for resources on role-playing games and young children I found this great series of videos by Megan Connel of Geeks Like Us.

In her words the videos deal with

“how you as a dungeon master can be more supportive of your players to make your table a more inclusive place for everybody”

To which I would add one, big, caveat. When I run games I don’t want to feel I’m taking on responsibility for the players’ mental well being. But, when I’m part of a group, I want to feel that I’m doing my bit to make it a supportive and inclusive place. So when I watched these videos I mentally replaced ‘dungeon master’ with group member, and then it was all awesome.

I haven’t watched them all yet, but the videos on dealing with players who have problems with math or reading, depression or anxiety all seemed smart and useful, and include the important advice that sometimes it’s time to get a professional involved.

While it may not seem obvious that these issues will apply to the four and five year old players of Amazing Tales, they might. Anxiety is definitely something small kids can get when faced with something new (like a role-playing game, or a dragon), and as soon as you have two kids you have group dynamics.

Plus as kids get older they’ll probably want to play other games. I imagine my future will involve running games for groups of pre-teens and teenagers, and these videos look like useful advice to me.

So, a collection of useful videos on issues that affect lots of people. What’s not to like?

Five ways to make your child’s first role-playing game amazing

How old does a child have to be to play a role-playing game? I know of children who’ve started role-playing at the ripe old age of three and a half. My rule of thumb is that if a child can read numbers up to ten, and follow a bedtime story that lasts 20 minutes, then they’re ready.

Compound Image

But making that first game a success is still a challenge. Here are five ways to make sure that first game is memorable for both of you.

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Experience, don’t show

Traditional communications advice is ‘show, don’t tell’. That’s because we’re much more likely to believe things we’ve seen than things we’re just told about. In role-playing games we can go a step further. Our players can experience the things we want to communicate. And that insight can help us create better adventures.

Magical Fight

In Amazing Tales I describe a ‘play to find out what happens’ approach to storytelling. But if you have got specific goals for a story that might need adjusting. These goals could be educational – ‘Learn that the vikings were great sailors and explorers and the first Europeans to reach Canada’; or they could be about introducing part of your game world – ‘learn that the land beyond the mountains is populated by ogres’; or it could be about moving a big piece of plot forward, ‘Learn that the Temple of Solitude is governed by the same cult that also controls the king’.

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Drawing Amazing Tales

I love the Amazing Tales artwork, and I hear that other people do too. Getting the artwork right was a big part of the process of creating the book. This post describes the process we went through to do that, and shows how it evolved over time.

Step zero: Find an illustrator

Iris and I had worked together before she was an illustrator. And I knew that since going her own way to pursue a freelance career with Irisistible Design she’d done the illustrations for the wonderful book ‘The Mooncandy Rebellion‘. So before going to the trouble of checking portfolios, assembling shortlists and the like I asked Iris if she’d be interested. And she was. Which I think was probably one of the most important moments in the history of Amazing Tales.

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Villainous villains for kids adventures

Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, the Three Musketeers without Count Richelieu or the Hobbit without Smaug. That’s right. Without a good villain an adventure struggles. Here are some tips on creating great villains quickly.

The two word villain

Remember the article on creating memorable characters with one word? Since our villain is going to be the most important character in the story after the hero we’ll go big. We’ll create them with two whole words. Today’s villain will be an evil space captain, so let’s start making her more interesting by choosing some adjectives.

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Campaigns for kids

Running a campaign for four, five and six year olds requires a very different mindset to running a campaign for adults. Here are the key things you need to adjust:

Keep it short

Campaigns for young kids should be short. Three or four sessions is plenty. Six is definitely enough. That’s not to say you can’t play more sessions with the same characters, just that you probably want to give them something else to do. Don’t overestimate kids’ attention spans.

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Three puzzles for great games

I find adding puzzles to games for adults one of the hardest things about writing games. My players just know far too much. But when I’m gaming with kids it’s suddenly a lot easier, setting them in game challenges that really make them think is just a matter of realising what they haven’t learned yet.

Here are three simple tools to add puzzles to role-playing games for your kids

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