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Created by WJWalton4776 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Fri 06 of Feb., 2015 16:40 PST
(373 Posts | 1530768 Visits | Activity=2.00)

Rescues and Role-playing

Posted by WJWalton4776 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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The Dungeon Adventure - a great intro to RPGs for the little ones

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Wed 06 of April, 2011 10:13 PDT
Wired GeekDad brought this great little game to my attention - The Dungeon Adventure, a simple dungeon crawling game created by Ben Garvey, and available for $5.99 at

The Dungeon Adventure is a set of guidelines for simple dungeon crawl games. Adults build a dungeon floorplan out of building blocks and stock it with monster and treasure cards, and the young adventurers choose their favorite toys to send into the dungeon to complete the quest. Combat is very simple - there are no attack rolls, players and monsters just roll 1d6 for damage. When a monster runs out of hit points, it's dead, and you can help yourself to the treasure it was guarding.

The PDF set includes a 6-page rulebook, a sheet for tracking heroes and monsters hit points, and a set of monster cards. The monster cards are one of my favorite parts - rather than illustrations, the cards feature colorful pictures of toys (spiders, snakes, dragons, etc.) that kids will love.

My only issue with the game is that, as written, characters can die. This could be troublesome for some young children if they become attached to their heroes. It is easily remedied by allowing the players to drag any mortally wounded heroes back to the "hotel" and heal them there (possibly for a substantial fee).

It's a great little PDF package that can be used as a starting point for many grand adventures, and a good base to build a simple role-playing game on. What happens when the heroes venture into the wilderness? Can they use their accumulated treasure to build a stronghold? What if the monsters surrender and want to join the side of the good guys? The answers to these questions aren't found in The Dungeon Adventure, because the real fun is coming up with them on your own.

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Escapist mailbag: Brandon in Oklahoma

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Thu 03 of March, 2011 11:14 PST
It's been a little while since I've posted one of the great emails I get from Escapist readers, so here's one from Oklahoma, in which Brandon tells us about his experience with convincing his parents that RPGs aren't evil and dangerous, and how he currently spreads the word about roleplaying:


My name is Brandon and I have been a big fan of your site ever since I started playing Role Playing Games after high school. My very first Role Playing Game was Dungeons and Dragons 3.5e. I was raised in an Evangelical Christian home that forbid me playing these games and I didn't get a chance to play them until I moved out of my parent's home. Nowadays my parents thankfully are more accepting of my hobby and I have shared many games and ideas with my mom.

I've been playing since 3.5e and currently am playing White Wolf's World of Darkness Hunter the Vigil line of games with some friends every other Saturday. I have a very interesting conversation starter for people unfamiliar with role playing games. I work at Wal Mart and I always wear a d20 dice as a necklace.

People have actually asked me about the necklace when they come through my line and ask me what it means. I tell them I play role playing games and have a brief conversation with them while I am tallying up their groceries. So far all of my conversations have been pleasant and some people actually applaud me for playing such games instead of being in front of the TV or a computer all day.

I think nowadays in the 21st Century, people are growing tired of technology and it's a breath of fresh air for them to hear from someone who spends time with friends playing a game that isn't electronic.

Of course there will always be people like my mom and dad once were and people like Mr Rimer. However I think people are tired of electronics and are more open to the idea of playing a game with their family that keeps the TV and computers off. That's how I model role playing games to be and I think that it is a pretty good advocacy tool in our digital age.

That has been my experience in advocating for role playing games. Thought I would share that with you. I will also point people to your website if they want general information and have questions.

Edmond, OK

A roleplayer finding themselves in conflict with their parents over the hobby that they enjoy is nothing new - in fact, I mention this situation in the main FAQ page - but it looks to me like Brandon handled himself in a mature and respectful manner. That was likely the biggest factor in convincing his parents that his roleplaying wasn't going to hurt anyone.

As for publicly displaying his geekhood with a d20 necklace and testifying to people in his checkout line at Wal-Mart, I say more power to him. Sure, it's not the kind of thing that will win a lot of new gamers, but it's the effort of making the hobby more public that really counts. (As long as it doesn't get him into any hot water with his supervisors, of course.)

I also appreciate his approach of explaining RPGs to others, as a creative and social alternative to electronic entertainment. It's a positive point for tabletop roleplaying in this era of diminishing human contact and face-to-face interaction.

Keep up the good work, Brandon!

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Read an RPG Book in Public Week 2011 Starts on Sunday!

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 25 of Feb., 2011 10:29 PST

Don't forget - the first Read an RPG Book in Public Week of 2011 starts this Sunday!*

What is Read an RPG Book in Public Week, you may ask? It's a thrice-yearly event, held during the weeks surrounding March 4th, July 27th, and October 1st, where roleplayers are encouraged to take their favorite roleplaying rulebooks, modules, supplements, and splatbooks with them when they leave the house and read them in public. The purpose is to make the hobby more visibile, promote inquiry and conversation about the hobby, and maybe even attract some new players or bring back some of the lapsed ones.

To find out more about Read an RPG Book in Public Week, visit the official page at

I'm going to be particularly busy this upcoming week - I am involved in two different plays at my local theatre - but I will be checking in as often as I can to see your updates and pictures, so please keep them coming!

  • or on Monday, if you prefer that your weeks start with that day.

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Help New Zealand with DriveThruRPG

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 25 of Feb., 2011 10:15 PST
DriveThruRPG has once again organized a humanitarian effort for people in great need, this time for the victims of the New Zealand earthquake. For a donation of $20, which will go directly to the Red Cross relief efforts in New Zealand, DTRPG is offering over $330 worth of great RPG PDFs, including Al Shir-Ma, Book of Knights, Ingenium, and Cthulhu Tech. If you would like to donate, visit DriveThruRPG's New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief page - or to donate directly to the Red Cross, visit their New Zealand Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal page.

This isn't the first time DTRPG has used this method to raise funds for a worthy cause. In early 2010, the site organized a similar package to benefit the victims of the Haiti earthquake, and also implemented a donation matching program. Together, these programs raised over $175,000 for Doctors Without Borders!

I mentioned this back then, and I seem to bring it up every time that any group of roleplayers are involved in such activity, but it really bears repeating - To William Schnoebelen and anyone else who asks things like "where are the rescue missions ... started by D&D gamers?", here is yet another example for you. Feel free to ignore it, as you must if you want to uphold your illusion of gamers as twisted, violent, and dangerous, but the fact remains that gamers are just as kind, thoughtful, and generous as any other group of people - not because they are gamers, but because they are human beings.

(Thanks to Michael Tresca for the info!)

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Come on down!

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Wed 16 of Feb., 2011 10:30 PST
I mentioned this on the Twitter feed for the site, and I've had a few doubtful responses, but I kid you not - on today's episode of The Price is Right, one of the final showcases included a trip to GenCon, along with a gaming laptop, some PC games, and a new car!

And the bidding contestant won it, too!

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"I attack them, using my... additional notes!"

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 04 of Feb., 2011 07:14 PST
Last night's D&D-themed episode of Community was excellent, in your humble host's opinion. It doesn't quite beat out the final episode of Freaks and Geeks for best gaming-themed episode ever, but I would call it a close second.

In it, students at a community college team up to help get one of their group out of his emotional funk by playing a game of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with him. There are a few jabs at the geekiness of the game, but nothing unfair or out of line, and everyone in the group ends up getting into their roles and generally enjoying themselves. A lot of the humor was based around inexperienced players trying to get a grip on the rules of the game (such as the title of this post, uttered by one of them as he tried to find something on his character sheet to defend himself from a horde of goblins).

Sure, there were inaccuracies. For some reason, only the DM was allowed to use the dice, and unless my bad eyes were deceiving me, he rolled the d12 for most everything. Likewise, there was a "seduction scene" when the party had to convince an elven princess to let them borrow her pegasus (for some reason, non-gamers always want to inject the other type of popular "role-playing" into the hobby). But other than these, the episode gave a pretty clear picture of how the game is played, showed a diverse group of people enjoying themselves with it, and even used it as a vehicle to help one of their friends with a problem.

Not unlike the aforementioned Freaks and Geeks episode, this one ends with the suggestion that they play again someday, which is the best way to wrap it up, I say.

Did you miss it, or want to see it again? Watch it here on!

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D&D represents “a threat to prison security”

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Thu 27 of Jan., 2011 15:56 PST
You may remember a story I reported on about a year ago, in which a prison inmate named Kevin Singer claimed that his first amendment rights were violated when prison security confiscated his Dungeons & Dragons books. Prison officials claimed that the game was a threat to prison security because the format of the game, with a Dungeon Master and a group of players, was an analogue of gang leadership. Misconceptions about how the game is played - that the DM gives the players orders that they must carry out, and that players see the DM as an authority in disputes outside of the game - seemed to be the basis for their concerns.

On January 25th, the seventh circuit of the United States Court of Appeals handed down the decision recently, "concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons ("D&D") represented a threat to prison security…" Prison security confiscated 21 books, 14 magazines, and handwritten notes from prisoners. So, it’s official - Dungeons & Dragons is too dangerous for prisons in Wisconsin.

It’s easy to dismiss this story by saying "They’re inmates, and don’t deserve to play any games at all." Many who commented on the earlier story did exactly that, in fact. But that isn’t the issue of concern here. Whether or not inmates deserve to play games is one issue - but singling out a game as a threat to prison security based on bad evidence, and ignoring all evidence to the contrary, is a real problem. This is a decision that can be used as leverage in other places as well. If a paranoid parent wants to see a D&D group removed from a school or library in the future, you can guarantee that this decision will come up.

Read the full court ruling here: (PDF). Geeks are Sexy has a lot more on the decision, and the story even got a bit of coverage on the Fox News website.

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Rimer rides again

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Mon 17 of Jan., 2011 12:04 PST
Retired police officer and “international expert on occult crime” Don Rimer is at it again, hosting another seminar on occult crime for over 100 people, most of them active police officers. This time, he seems to be empowered by the popularity of the Twilight films and the HBO series True Blood, both of which involve vampires – but he hasn’t given up on connecting role-playing games with terrible crimes.

The real problem here is that ritual crimes really do exist, and police investigators could benefit from some real-world advice on how to solve them. But Rimer isn’t the one to give that advice - not when he makes claims like this one:
"Fantasy role-playing like Dungeons and Dragons … and vampire gaming are alive and well," said Rimer. "There are people who take gaming to another level, one that results in deaths and suicides. In the world of gaming, there is evil."

Vampire gaming, in particular, will often lure people, then send them out on a quest that involves blood or sex, sometimes with deadly consequences, said Rimer.

These sorts of claims come straight from the satanic panic of the 1980s, and have no place in the 21st century. Anyone claiming to be an “international expert” on any kind of investigation should have a clear concept of the difference between causation and correlation, something that Rimer sorely lacks. Sadly, as long as Rimer can find a paying audience, he will continue to spread this misinformation in situations where he could be doing some actual help.

If you live in Virginia (especially the Newport News area), you may wish to consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, or even contacting your local police department and asking if they are planning to host one of Rimer’s seminars.

Read the full article here: [article | archive]

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"Community" cast plays D&D

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 14 of Jan., 2011 10:30 PST
According to Entertainment Weekly, an upcoming episode of NBC's "Community" will feature the cast playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons. I'm not familiar with the show at all, but I'll give this episode a chance, at least.

Here's a link: (external link)

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D&D minis scream in the fire!

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 14 of Jan., 2011 09:05 PST
Escapist reader Gabe found this great video that might be the origin of the myth that D&D miniatures scream when thrown into a fire. It’s a segment from a 1984 video entitled “Deception of a Generation,” with Phil Phillips (author of “Turmoil in the Toybox”) and host Gary Greenwald discussing the dangers of all sorts of entertainment aimed at children, from Scooby Doo to Barbie to the biggest turmoil in anyone’s toybox, Dungeons & Dragons:
“Now, there are sixes involved in the pieces of the game, but they take the pieces of the game, they would throw them in the incinerator or the fireplace and screams would come out, because there seem to be some kind of spiritual forces inhabiting those pieces…”

Due to the way that the video has been cropped into segments, the above comment occurs at 6:06! (Oh, the delicious irony…):

Considering that this video was released at a time when the majority of roleplaying miniatures were made from lead and covered in many layers of paint, I would be willing to suggest that anyone who threw a handful of Ral Parthas into their fireplace and then heard screaming should probably have avoided breathing in the resulting fumes.

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D&D, Pacifism, and Pizza

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Fri 07 of Jan., 2011 13:45 PST
Two great articles showed up in my email recently:

First, Sierra at the Strollerderby blog writes about kids and violent entertainment - and how a mom can enjoy being a pacifist and slaying dragons at the same time:
Last week I cut a dragon’s head off with my flaming sword. I am not even joking. It felt great.

After the game, I put away my character sheet and dice and went home, where I was not at all tempted to cut off my husband’s head with a flaming sword. Even though he was acting like a grumpy dragon.

Full article is here - War Play Doesn't Lead to War

Second comes a great piece from the food column of the Toronto Star, in which Corey Mintz picks up the dice again for the first time in years, in a game that includes game designer Robin Laws, and brings some scrumptious pizzas to the table - but not before explaining the game and its bad reputation to his readers.
“Initially the guys who came up with D&D in the first place were kind of doctrinaire perfectionists,” says Robin D. Laws... “They didn’t realize that they’d created a story form,” explains Laws of the game’s origins in the early 1970s.

That’s all it is — another storytelling medium. It will not lead to Satanism. Despite what happens to Tom Hanks in the 1982 TV movie Mazes and Monsters, it will not lead to insanity. It may prolong virginity though.

Sadly, Mintz doesn't seem interested in staying involved in the hobby after giving it another go. But at least he had a good time.

Read the full story here - D&D is just nerdy storytelling

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Please read: an important message from Escapist founder WJ Walton.

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Mon 03 of Jan., 2011 14:26 PST
I'll get right to the point - the web expenses for the site are coming due, and your friend and webmaster is in a tight financial situation. If I want to keep the site up an running in the future, I'm going to need some quick cash to pay the bills.

I'm not looking for donations or handouts, however. I want to give you something in return - advertising space on the site. I'm willing to put up banner and/or button ads in some prime locations on the page - the index, FAQ, and blog pages - for six months (through mid-July 2011), for $50. If you have a roleplaying product or anything else gaming-related that you would like to promote, this is a great way to get the word out. My site and blog reach hundreds of roleplayers across the United States and all over the world. In addition, I would even be willing to put a sponsor notice on the Facebook pages for the site, extending that reach even further.

Alternately, if you are looking for some writing or artwork for your RPG product, I can provide those as well. You can read samples of my writing here, or see samples of my artwork here.

All I require is payment up front, through PayPal - and I only ask this because the bills are due very soon. If you are interested in helping, contact me ASAP -

Thanks for your time and help, and Happy New Year to all!

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The Escapist is 15!

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Wed 15 of Dec., 2010 08:22 PST
Today marks the "unofficial" 15th birthday of my little ol' roleplaying advocacy website.

(I'm not entirely sure when I put up the first incarnation of "The Gaming Advocacy Website" (as it was called for the first few months), but it was sometime in December, so I figure the 15th is as good as any other day to mark the occasion.)

It's been a lot of fun debunking myths, talking to gamers from around the world, and having adventures for the last 15 years, and I'm hoping to continue all of it for many years to come.

Thanks for reading and participating!

(You can see the press release for the anniversary here.)

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Wikileak "hacktivist" states his alignment

Posted by WJWalton4776 points  on Mon 13 of Dec., 2010 11:13 PST
Sometimes it's easy to forget how much D&D has affected popular culture. "Operation Payback" is a team of hacktivists who have been showing their support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by hacking sites for Mastercard and PayPal, and TIME Techland writer Ishaan Tharoor notes that "Coldblood," one of the prominent members of this group, revealed his alignment in a recent interview:

The UK's Guardian interviewed one who claimed to be a spokesman, a 22-year-old "who wished to known only as 'Coldblood'" and said his ambition was to be "a force for 'chaotic good.'"
Now, as many Techland readers will know, "chaotic good" isn't just some silly phrase made up by a rogue tween techie. It's a long-standing alignment in role-playing games, invented first and foremost for the Dungeons & Dragons franchise.

Even better, Tharoor takes a moment to show his own true geek colors when he mentions his D&D preferences:

In truth, "chaotic good" was always the alignment your humble scribe chose for his characters (who, if you must know, always ended up being dashing, ambidextrous half-elven swordmasters).

Read the full article here.

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