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Created by WJWalton4763 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Mon 15 of Dec., 2014 04:09 PST
(372 Posts | 1456260 Visits | Activity=2.00)


Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Thu 23 of June, 2011 07:00 PDT
Through an unexpected series of events, it looks like I will be able to attend Origins.

I'm bringing a modest amount of RPG stuff so that I can run some totally off-the-cuff games with whoever happens to be walking by. So if you're going to be there, look me up! The best way to get in touch is through the Escapist Twitter account.

Hope to see you there!

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Teaching Gifted Students with D&D

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Fri 17 of June, 2011 09:47 PDT
The Austin Daily Herald brings us this story on the third annual Gifted and Talented Symposium in Austin, Texas, where Educational Psychology professor Bonnie Cramond discussed her methods of using Dungeons & Dragons to teach mythology to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders:
Cramond brought the fantasy game presentation to the symposium, ready to explain how in the early ‘80s she used a barebones version of Dungeons and Dragons to get middle school students to work together and absorb the material in a different way.

Cramond split the students into groups, introduced the game and got them started on an adventure based on the 12 labors of Hercules. She didn’t make students read about Hercules beforehand, however. She simply set the textbooks on a shelf, which students eventually discovered. To Cramond’s delight, the students read the myths in order to gain an advantage in the game, figuring out what they needed to do to pass.

“They thought they were tricking me,” she said with a smile.

Sadly, most of these sorts of creative learning programs were shut out during the Satanic Panic era of the 1980s, when many parents were filled with the fear that anything related to role-playing games was evil and dangerous.

Thankfully however, we are past that era, and most people have a fair to good understanding about what RPGs really are. Now it's just a matter of spreading the word of how beneficial RPGs can be to the learning process, and trying to put programs like this one back into place in schools everywhere.

You can read the full story here: [ article | archive ]

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Free RPG Day is this Saturday!

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Fri 17 of June, 2011 09:41 PDT
The title pretty much says it all - this Saturday, June 18th, is Free RPG Day, when RPG publishers offer great freebies to Friendly Local Game Stores, who in turn offer them to their customers free of charge.

Here are two things to remember when you head out to your FLGS for some gratis gaming goodies:

- Many stores have rules regarding how many free items you can take. This is to ensure that there is enough to go around for everyone. Please respect these rules, they are there to make Free RPG Day better for everyone.

- Someone (sorry, I don't remember who) suggested a $5 pledge - that is, if you go to a store to get some Free RPG Day swag, spend at least five dollars there, just to help out the good folks who bring you all of these wonderful games. Get some new dice or a dice bag, some minis, a magazine, or whatever catches your eye. If everyone who stopped in a store for some freebies spent five dollars while they were there, it would give our game stores a much-needed shot in the arm.

Speaking of special events designed to promote the RPG hobby - the next Read an RPG Book in Public Week is coming up in a little over a month! What better way to get some early practice than to read some of your shiny new free RPG books in public?

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Two positive roleplaying articles: one for tabletop, one for LARP

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Mon 13 of June, 2011 08:56 PDT
Two positive stories on the hobby hit my inbox recently:

First, Roll Play: Knoxville's Adult Board Gamers examines a group of gamers at a popular game store in Knoxville, TN:
It provides practice in personal interactions. “It helps you learn to deal with people, being diplomatic, speaking in public.” He adds, “Before Dungeons & Dragons, I would never have talked to a reporter. I’d be saying, ‘Please don’t talk to me!’”

Some gamers are frank about the stereotypes, some of which may be accurate. “For a lot of socially awkward teenagers like myself, D&D was a formative experience,” says proprietor Hardy. “It’s a structured social activity. If you go to a bar, there’s no rules, no guidelines. That’s awkward for some people. This is a structured way to socialize with people in a non-confrontational setting.” Hardy calls it “cooperative storytelling.”

Read the full article here: [ article | archive]

Next, published a positive story on live-action roleplayers, titled N.J. role-playing enthusiasts gather to act out games, stories [ article | archive] ... then, in a followup piece, gave LARPers the opportunity to respond to the myths and stereotypes that surround them:
It might be a bit weird - but at least these folks are out there enjoying the outdoors, using their imaginations, etc. Certainly no weirder than people who spend their weekends hitting balls into little cups with expensive sticks or casting hooks into water to catch fish you have no intention of eating!
[ article | archive] also has a great photo album to go with the article - you can view it here.

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Tools of the Mind

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Wed 08 of June, 2011 10:10 PDT
Ben at the Kids Dungeon Adventure blog made a post recently about Tools of the Mind, a teaching method that utilizes roleplaying and has been shown to reduce aggression, increase self-regulation, and promote vocabulary and spelling.

We knew all about this already, but it’s always good to have experts on our side, isn't it? Read more here!

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Wizards & Warriors needs you!

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Mon 06 of June, 2011 10:13 PDT
My friend Adam Rogers, who is the executive director of camps for Guard Up!, has a pressing dilemma. His fantasy LARP camp in Massachusetts, Wizards & Warriors, has a bunch of scholarships to give away - but time is running out before camp starts!

If you have some young adventurers in your tribe (boys and girls ages 10-15), and are near (or can get to) the Westford, MA area, apply for a scholarship today! For more info on the Wizards and Warriors camp, visit, or call 781-270-4800

(For even more info, see my 2009 interview with Meghan Gardner from Wizards & Warriors right here.)

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Vampires at UofD, LARPing in the sports section, The Blind GM, and more!

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Fri 03 of June, 2011 10:46 PDT
I've got a bunch of articles and items that deserve mention on the blog, but too little time to give each one it's own post. So here are some quick reviews:

'Vampire' clans battle in Purnell Hall - This one is over a month old, and slipped by me somehow, even though it's from my own home state of Delaware. College papers are usually good to the roleplaying hobby, giving an accurate portrayal of the game and players, and this article is no exception. Mention is made of how LARP can help build confidence and social skills in players who need help in one or both.

Live Action Role Play: no blood, all glory - Another college paper covers LARP, this time the Seattle University Spectator covering boffer-style LARPing - in the Sports section, no less!

The Blind GM - I discovered The Blind GM when he followed me on Twitter, and clicked over to his blog to check it out. In it, he discusses the challenges of being a blind roleplayer, including finding PDFs that are accessible to the visually impaired. It's still a new blog (only two posts so far), but I'm hoping it will stick around for a while and enlighten us all even further.

Homeschool RPG Club - Update (from the Kids-RPG discussion group). Bruce Anderson organized an RPG club for homeschooled kids, and ran Savage Worlds sessions for four different groups. This post is a summary of the groups and the sessions he ran for each, and it is overflowing with awesomeness.

Fantasy lives in real-world games - As I was typing all of this up, another great story hit my inbox, this one from the Columbian in Washington, about gamers meeting at the Washougal Community Library to play RPGs and other games.

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Roleplaying games as writing inspiration

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Wed 01 of June, 2011 10:12 PDT
My friend Bob Mueller sent me a post from the Write Anything blog on the benefits that RPGs can provide to writers who are looking for inspiration.

It's actually the second in a trilogy of posts on using RPGs as inspiration for your writing. I'm not sure if they will bring much enlightenment to experienced gamers - we're already very aware of these benefits by now - but they're really geared for non-roleplayer writers who are looking for new paths to inspiration.

The first, I Am Dungeon Master, is all about the perils of world-building, and trusting your world to a group of potentially destructive characters. The second, Player of Games, discusses the great level of detail that roleplayers put into their characters, which effectively start out as a bunch of numbers on a sheet of paper.

The third installment is still pending, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be about!

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Yes, Girls Play D&D

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Fri 27 of May, 2011 07:17 PDT
Jeff Woodall pointed me in the direction of these two videos about a Dungeon Master named David and his all-female group of players. The original, "Yes, Girls Play D&D" was made for a school project, and was aimed at people who know very little about the hobby. The second, "Yes, Girls (Still) Play D&D," is sort of an update on the group, how they have developed as players, and how they are dealing with the challenge of balancing game time and real life.

It's always great to see any group of roleplayers having a good time at a session - but even better when it's a stereotype-buster, like this group is. (And I love the idea of a party of musicians named after classical composers, and will totally be stealing it for a future campaign.)

The sound on both of these videos is a bit low, so you may want to dig out your headphones. (Be forewarned that there is a little bit of salty language in both of these videos, so please watch with discretion around younger gamers.)

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Remnants of Satanic Panic

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Wed 18 of May, 2011 09:05 PDT
Lately, I've been doing some research for the next Escapist video, "How Roleplaying Games Got a Bad Reputation," and going through some old anti-gaming books and videos. My oldest daughter Aylish caught me doing this, and told me how frustrated it made her to see people trying to feed others their own paranoid ignorance.

I gave her the good news - that for the most part, you don't see these sorts of things happening as often these days, and when someone does write a book or get on television trying to warn everyone away from the imagined evils of RPGs, they're usually dismissed as raving kooks.

Then, just yesterday, I received an email from an Escapist reader who sent me a link to a post on the roleplaying forum RPGnet, with a story that could have easily come from the mid eighties:

So my mom took away my D&D books today because of Heroes of Shadow.

I'd bought both Heroes of Shadow and Paizo's Inner Sea Guide and had both of them on my desk (well I was flipping through the ISG) and my mom came in and asked how my day went. I told her it went great I finally got the two books I'd been waiting for.

So she starts flipping through my Heroes of Shadow and suddenly sees stuff like Soul Sacrifice and Shadow Sponsorship and things like that in big scary letters and she just freaks out. She starts yelling at me about how D&D is satanic and that I've been lying to her all along about it.

She took all of my d&d books and put them in a cardboard box out front for anyone to take =( It was gone this morning. That was over a 1000 dollars gone. I know WotC has no interest in turning our souls over to Satan (afterall they wouldn't see any profit in it, so why bother?) but couldn't they have hidden the darker themes of the book deeper inside it or something? I'm sorry. I know it's not WotC's fault. I'm just mad and looking for a target.

It's just another reminder of why this site and the CAR-PGa are here. Sadly, this is one of those situations that is hard to reconcile. I used to get emails about it so frequently that I addressed it in the Basic Gaming FAQ, with the best advice I could possibly offer in cases like these. In a nutshell: respect the wishes of your parents, arm yourself with the facts, try to explain your case as rationally and calmly as possible, and accept their decision no matter what it is.

It feels sort of strange to still be handing out this advice, because it's so hard to imagine too many remnants of the Satanic Panic era still lingering around 30 years later. But that's not the only reason it feels strange. As I write this, I'm preparing a Vampire: The Masquerade session for Aylish and her friends Miranda and Jerry, and looking forward to spending some quality time with intelligent, creative kids, telling stories and exercising our imaginations.

It's strange to think of that as something that I should be so afraid of.

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The RPG Fact Checker

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Thu 05 of May, 2011 10:46 PDT
One of the projects I have been working on for the site for a very long time is a short PDF document aimed at anyone who is writing on the subject of tabletop roleplaying games without much prior knowledge of what they are and how they are played - something I call "The RPG Fact Checker." I'm hoping that such a thing would be a handy tool for any writer who has an honest desire to accurately write about the hobby, with some basic facts, refutations of common misconceptions, and links to more information.

The reason it has taken so long to complete it is that I've spent so much time debating what should go into it, and how long it should be. At present, I have a pretty good amount of information compacted into three pages, and I'm fairly happy with the way it is organized.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions. Before I go public with it, I'd like some other people to have a look and tell me what they think. A link to the PDF is below. If you think I've missed something that really should be included, email me at Thanks!

The RPG Fact Checker (PDF)

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Castles and Cauldrons

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Tue 19 of April, 2011 10:51 PDT
Hooper from the Quilt City O.G.R.E.S. left a message on The Escapist's Facebook page yesterday to let me know about an unusual occurrence. Someone on the Focus on the Family forums expressed a concern about their children getting involved in role-playing games, and another forum user replied with a link to the O.G.R.E.S.' RPG Myths page, a page made from various 'clippings' from The Escapist.

What makes this unusual is that Focus on the Family isn't what you would call a RPG-friendly organization. In fact, on August 4th and 11th, 1990, they aired a two-part episode of their radio drama series "Adventures in Odyssey" about the imagined dangers of RPGs.

I was reminded of this when Hooper left his message yesterday, and I did a search to see if I could find recordings of the episodes somewhere. As it turns out, FotF sells individual episodes on their website, and the Castles & Cauldrons episodes can be had for just a couple bucks each. I considered purchasing them to review them on the site, but I have a hard time giving even a few dollars to an organization like Focus on the Family.

The good news is that a pretty good synopsis of the episodes can be found on the site:

The Barclays have a visitor for the summer: Len, George's nephew. Jimmy is excited to have his cousin stay with them, especially when Len shows Jimmy a new game called Castles & Cauldrons-- it's even better than Zapazoids. Castles & Cauldrons (C & C) is a fantasy role-playing game. The players become medieval characters who use battle skills and other means to conquer their enemies. Len is "Luthor the Magician," and he names Jimmy "Jondel the Apprentice." Jimmy thinks the game is harmless-until Len takes it a step further, and imagination starts becoming reality. Plastic swords ring with the sound of steel; epic battles are fought against the forces of darkness and won. Jimmy is amazed by these things, but Len wants him to go further still, into incantations, spells, and conjuring-which sounds suspiciously like black magic. What's worse, Len swears Jimmy to silence. He's not to tell anybody about the game, especially his parents or Whit, because "they won't understand."

Whit suspects something is wrong with Jimmy after he and Len visit Whit's End acting strangely. One night, Donna's doll is mysteriously ripped apart, and she blames Jimmy and Len. Whit questions her about the boys' activities. Then George tells Jimmy that Len didn't come to Odyssey just to visit them. His parents thought it would be healthy for Len to get away from a "questionable group of friends." That night, Jimmy and Len go camping out in the forest. Len decides to include Jimmy in the ultimate C & C initiation: a ritual to summon Shalman, the most powerful magician of all. Len starts the ritual. Jimmy resists, but Len gets so caught up in it, he begins forcing Jimmy to participate. Just before things get ugly, Whit and George show up to put a stop to the ritual-and to Castles & Cauldrons. Whit destroys the game. Len gets some professional help. The Barclay family retuns back to normal, and everyone realizes that even Odyssey isn't immune from Satan's wiles.

In another description of the episode, it is mentioned that a cat possessed by some sort of evil spirit is the one who ripped Donna's doll apart, Whit becomes filled with an inexplicable feeling of dread, and a roast in the oven begins to smoke - all clear signs that something sinister is afoot at Whit's End.

(You heard right - Whit's End. I would be remiss if I didn't point out the irony that this and every other episode of Adventures in Odyssey take place in a town seemingly named for the state of mind that most of its citizens must be in, due to the weekly barrage of evil that assaults them in every episode.)

The bad news is, according to the listings on the site, FotF is still airing these 20 year old episodes - the most recent airing happened on January 4th and 5th of this year. So even though someone lurking in the FotF forums seems to have a level head when it comes to RPGs, the organization itself is still promoting ideas like:

- RPGs make imagination become reality
- RPGs involve real magic that the players - not the characters - participate in
- RPGs involve "initiations"
- RPG players have to keep their games secret from parents and other authority figures
- gaming groups are "questionable" people
- playing an RPG can make all sorts of strange supernatural things happen around you
- it's perfectly okay to take someone else's belongings and destroy them if you suspect that those belongings might be evil
- people who play RPGs act strangely and need professional help

Discussion questions are included on the site for parents, educators, and anyone else who is using these episodes for lessons, but they don't seem to be intended for any sort of open and objective discussion - one of them is "Why is it a bad idea to play games like Castles & Cauldrons?"

Here's a discussion question I would like to suggest: Actors and actresses play roles all of the time, in movies, television, and even on the radio. If it is wrong to play a role in a fantasy RPG, why is it okay to play a role in a radio drama of a character that is playing a role in a fantasy RPG?

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Texas school board claims D&D club promotes "death and violence"

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Tue 12 of April, 2011 13:45 PDT
The school board of Taylor High School in Taylor, Texas made a proposition to end the schools Dungeons & Dragons club because they feel it is unwholesome - but the club's sponsor, Mr. Gray, has risen to the game's defense by pointing out the game's benefits:

Let’s be real. In the realm of sports and clubs that one could participate in, the Dungeons and Dragons club isn’t exactly the “hippest” option. It’s a fantasy game based on created characters and imaginary quests, and although apparently addicting, it’s relatively harmless. However, late last week, the School Board made a proposition to end the D&D club based on the belief that it “promotes death and violence”.

Those who play the game maintain that it has no such effect. D&D sponsor Mr. Gray said, “They are ignoring all the good things that it promotes like team building and critical problem solving. Plus, a lot of the kids playing lack social skills and it provides a safe setting for them to feel accepted.”

Thankfully, the issue is under review, and it looks like the situation is going to be handled in a mature and responsible manner - some members of the board are planning to sit in on a game before making their decisions.

Read the full article here: School Board Proposes to End the Dungeons and Dragons Club

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D&D helped accused murderer curb his violent impulses... or did it?

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Thu 07 of April, 2011 10:00 PDT
As I've mentioned many times before, I use Google Alerts to pick up stories in the media about D&D and other roleplaying games. Last week, something strange happened with my alerts. On March 23rd, it sent me an alert about Christopher Gribble, a participant in a horrible home invasion/murder incident that happened in October of 2009. The article from the New Hampshire Union Leader seemed to suggest that Gribble's involvement in Dungeons & Dragons was one of the things that kept his homicidal impulses at bay:

This could have been a first. I mean, we've seen an impressive decline in articles that attempt to connect D&D with criminal behavior, but this could be one of the first times a news story has directly suggested that playing the game could have the opposite effect for someone with extreme violent impulses..

When I clicked the link, however, I discovered that the article didn't contain any of the text found in the alert. I did a search for the text on Google, and found a link to the same article:

I had no luck with the Google cache, either, and an email to the reporter has yet to be answered. I'm guessing that the article had a quick revision of some sort before I got to view it. This isn't anything new - the same thing happened at SFGate during the coverage of the Columbine massacre, and I'm sure that's not the only time an article has gotten a substantial revision.

If anyone happened to see a copy of the original article, or knows how I can see it for myself, please contact me. Thanks!

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Rescues and Role-playing

Posted by WJWalton4763 points  on Thu 07 of April, 2011 09:40 PDT
A little while ago, an Escapist reader named Jeff Woodall contacted me and asked if I would be interested in a piece on using role-playing to teach and reinforce lifeguarding skills. Naturally, I accepted, and here it is. Enjoy!

Rescues and Role-playing
By Jeff Woodall

Imagine this: a group of mothers decide to take their children to the swimming pool on a hot summer day. The mothers begin to talk while the older kids go to the deeper area to play. While the moms are talking when one of the younger kids about 3-4 years old decides he wants to join the bigger kids because they seem to be having a lot of fun. Looking up he sees his mother in deep conversation with the other moms. He begins walking towards the deeper area when suddenly he is in water over his head. He struggles for few seconds; unable to call for help and within moments goes under. He will struggle underwater for a few more seconds and then go unconscious sinking to the bottom to be carried by the slight current to deeper water. Meanwhile the moms, having been in deep conversation for about ten minutes, are unaware that the child has drowned. This unfortunately happens far more often than most people think.

And who do we rely on to prevent this tragedy? Perhaps a well trained Paramedic or firefighter? Nope, we rely primarily on high school kids working for close to minimum wage.

Keeping these teenagers interested in the training and getting them to understand the importance of what they are doing can be a challenge. Additionally when a real situation arises the lifeguard will be faced with a highly stressful situation that most kids their age are not used to. More often than not they will have bystanders watching, a freaked out parent, and little help. If they fail to take care of this situation not only they will end up with a tragedy in their hands but the possibility of lawsuit.

The initial training of lifeguards is similar to any classroom situation they are used to. Basically reading from a book, watching a video and then practicing the skills. They come out of the class knowing the information but after a month or two their skills deteriorate as they forget parts of the training. Ideally the organization they work for is supposed to provide training for them about once month, usually called in-service.

A couple years ago I accepted a position where I would be responsible for a group of about 100 lifeguards. Prior to my arrival they had been receiving training in order to practice and review their skills every month. Unfortunately the training was along the same lines- read, watch a video then a couple of the kids practice on a manikin while the rest who are supposed to be watching talk about other subjects, text or play with various electronic gizmos. Dull, boring and unmemorable. To make matters worse after testing some of them out I realized they were not prepared for a real life emergency. Things had to change.

I had come across the concept of using role-playing in training of lifeguards before and had used it with some success. Usually these were just limited to a few scenarios that were done over and over in the same way. What I wanted to do, however, was to take the role playing game experience and apply it to their training to make it more exciting and fun, to get them all involved and most importantly remember what they did and saw. Each scenario would be different in some way and not become routine. Now obviously I’m not wanting them to sit around a table and roll dice to see if they are successful at an action. There are however elements in all RPGs that can be utilized.

In all RPGs we have player-characters, non-player characters and a setting. For instance your typical fantasy game might include a band of adventurers (PCs), a group of goblins led by an ogre (NPCs), in a dungeon complex (setting). As the adventurers gain power and experience the NPCs become more varied and the settings will evolve as well. Different games and genres will use different trappings but those three elements are always found.

To make the scenario for training I would divide the guards up into groups. One group will be playing the part of the rescuers, the other guards will take on the parts of NPCs, victim or victims in some cases, freaked out parents are often a presence, bystanders of all sorts some making snide remarks on the guards performance or trying to interfere with the rescue. The setting can simply be the pool or any other part of the building. We can also add various props (empty jug of acid, extension cord) in the setting or other circumstances (electricity went out, there’s a fire) that may change how the guards handle the rescue. Instead of my telling them to start rescue breathing or do thirty compression and they perform the action I just give them the cues like a game master would to his players and have them respond.

A typical training scenario will be along the lines of this:
Prompter “You have just pulled a ten year old child of the deep end what do you do?”
Primary rescuer “I check for breathing-one, two, three, four…”
NPC freaked out mom “Oh my god my son!”

The other guards hold her back. One attempts to calm her down while the guard continues checking for breathing.

I have even used some Lovecraft at times:
Guards are performing rescue on an unconscious victim.
NPC approaches “Hello my name is Doctor Herbert West I can take over”

The expressions on their faces are priceless when I tell them that they have just given up the victim to someone claiming to be a fictional mad scientist.

If during their scenario they make a gross error, I let them know, as the victim will “die” or some other horrible incident will occur. This last part is especially useful, as I find many of the kids are used to guaranteed success at their other endeavors. They suddenly realize the importance of the situation.

Much like a rogue character who forgets to check for traps before unlocking the door you face the consequences of your mistake.

Afterward, we do a follow up go over what went well and what didn’t.

With these techniques I have been able to bring in different scenarios some of which are rarely thought of or practiced at similar organizations.

Everyone has a part to play in these scenarios, no one gets bored and they remember it. They have become accustomed to performing the rescues under stressful conditions, work together as a team, retain the information, think outside the box and are able to interact with actual people not just a manikin. They also learn empathy for the victim and bystanders by playing those parts and have a good time while doing it. You know, all those things that us gamers say RPGs do.

One thing that has been a surprise for the guards is when I tell them where I get my ideas. It makes them see role-playing games in a different light even the ones who are already gamers. Many people can readily see how history or reading can be used in games and vice versa. This is one example of how what we learn from games can help learning in other areas and how we as gamers can show people that maybe those games can be of more use than just a hobby.

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