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Created by WJWalton4831 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Tue 04 of Aug., 2015 21:42 PDT
(376 Posts | 1771882 Visits | Activity=2.00)

RPGs in schools: MJ Harnish

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Mon 07 of Sept., 2009 08:00 PDT
MJ Harnish at Gaming Brouhaha replied to my call for folks running RPGs in schools and libraries. I linked to a blog post of his a few days ago, but he gave me a few more details of his gaming plans:

I've run a gaming club at an international school for the past 6 years. The first few years we focused largely on miniatures gaming but over the past 4 years we've been gradually expanding the club's roleplaying activities.

Currently we have about 20 members, with 12 regular roleplayers, ranging in age from 12 to 18. Although we've run a variety of traditional RPGs in the past (e.g. Red Box D&D, 3E & 4E D&D, Savage Worlds), these days I tend to focus on games where the players have a lot of narrative control in order to encourage the students to participate more creatively in our games.

This year we've started off with several sessions of InSpectres, which they've all loved. Next up is either "A Penny for My Thoughts" or "Sign-in Stranger." I also have plans to run "Swashbucklers of the 7 skies", "Mouse Guard", "The Princes' Kingdom", and perhaps "Big Eyes, Small Mouth."

Right now I'm in the process of trying to train a GM or two because a single group of 12 doesn't allow the students enough individual screen time and tends to lead to very chaotic games.

MJ promises to post regular updates on Gaming Brouhaha, so if you're interested, be sure to subscribe to his feed!

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College 'LARPers' arrested for rough play

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Sat 05 of Sept., 2009 18:34 PDT
Seventeen University of Tennessee students and members of the Campus Crusade for Christ were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct on September 3rd during what appears to be some sort of "ultimate LARP championship."
Sharp (director of UT's chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ) said men, all members of the on-campus Christian group, were playing "Fugitive," an outdoor tag-like team game popular with many UT students, Sharp said. It was a social activity planned for male students following a regular Thursday night Bible study, he said.

But there seems to be some confusion about the name of the game.
But Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk contends the men told the officers they were playing Fuzion, a role-playing game involving combat, and said they were "fighting and running down Cumberland Avenue" around 10 p.m. when officers intervened and ordered them to sit on the ground.

Or maybe "a role-playing game involving combat" makes for more interesting news than "a bunch of guys horsing around and playing too roughly."

Just for the record: for those who may not know, there is a tabletop RPG called Fuzion - it's not a LARP, and doesn't involve running around and getting your fellow players into chokeholds. These guys weren't playing that.

Read the full article here: [article | archive]

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Tell Me About Your Character: Theodore Dudek

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 04 of Sept., 2009 08:44 PDT
Theodore Dudek of gives us the first Tell Me About Your Character interview in nearly a year. Read it here!

And when you're done - submit your own!

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RPGs in schools: the first responses

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 04 of Sept., 2009 07:20 PDT
Since school has (mostly) begun again here in the United States, I've been putting out the call on Twitter and here on the blog for information from anyone who is running (or planning to run) RPGs for kids at schools or libraries.

My plan (as always) is to gather stories, experiences, tips, and advice that others can use if they want to organize such a program - and to give a bit of a nudge to those who have been thinking about it and just need a little push to get it started.

I received the following email from Dan (who, for privacy reasons, has asked that I not name the school where he works):
I am the Network Administrator at a New England private high school. Last year, I ran a D&D game every other week. Almost all new players, a mix of freshmen and seniors. We played 4th edition, and started on Keep on the Shadowfell. We had about 6 regular players. The only issues we ran into were of a scheduling variety, as the underclassmen don't have a lot of unstructured time, and we don't quite get a 4 hour session, which leads me to the second problem. KotS was too long an adventure for an every other week 3 1/2-4 hr session game to fit comfortably in a school year.

If there is interest I intend on trying to make this a tradition, with a couple of changes.

1. Modules designed for 4-hours. Either delve format or more likely living forgotten realms.
2. One module/session
3. Entertaining the possibility of opening up the game to other genres/systems/games
4. Limiting participation to Juniors & Seniors (Grandfathering the sophomores from last year though)

Things that I learned:

1. D&D 4 is very accessible, to non tabletop gamers (the kids were geeks however)
2. Human Fighters aren't the 'safe' newbie class anymore
3. Explaining power sources and roles are very important to a new player matching up to a class that 'clicks' enough that they're easy to learn (related to #2, the human fighter's player had a really tough time being relevant. After a talk about what she wanted her character to do, she picked a cleric, and took to her really easily)
4. Was surprised that the players gender-ratio was practically 1:1, with a slight favoring of girls
5. There was a fair number of kids who wanted to kibitz. This caused some problems, as they were a distraction to an already too big group. In the future, I'll probably give them NPC's and monsters to run.

I also received an email a little while ago from Eric Basir, who ran the Marvel Super Heroes RPG for a small group of kids as an after-school role-playing club at a parochial school in Illinois. His description of it is too perfect not to share:
My attempt to work with children, teens (and youthful adults) to use their imaginations to interact with one another in a make-believe environment with the purpose of promoting good manners, spirituality and righteous competition.

He has collected the videos into two playlists - you can watch them here and here.

That's all of the response I've seen so far, and while those are two excellent testimonies, I want MORE! Are you running any RPGs at schools or libraries? Share your knowledge and experience with us!

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Nonsense Podcast gives a nod to The Escapist

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 03 of Sept., 2009 06:05 PDT
Nonsense Podcast is one of my favorite critical thinking podcasts, and they've just released episode 9, which features a short bit on the Utah hammer attack, and mentions a certain roleplaying advocacy site in the process.

Give it a listen - not because they plug the site, but because critical thinking is good for you! -

(Fun fact: Andrew, who reports on the story in this episode, starred as Pathos Feralwolf in my 25th anniversary tribute to the Dark Dungeons comic tract!)

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Where was your first game of D&D?

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 03 of Sept., 2009 05:32 PDT
Yesterday, the famous (and infamous) Ed Healy posted a picture of the house where he played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. I liked the idea so much, I decided to steal it, and maybe even tell some of the story behind it.

I love "how I started gaming" stories - so much so, that I included it as one of the questions for the Tell Me About Your Character interviews. I know I've told mine on the site more than once, but what's one more time? So here goes:

I didn't live in a very good neighborhood as a kid, so in the late 70s and early 80s I would spend part of my summers with my sister and her family in Newark, Delaware, about an hour's drive from my home in Dover.

It was a very good confidence-building experience for me, a kid from a bad neighborhood who was also having problems with getting acceptance at school. I met a lot of kids around my age who didn't have any preconceptions about me, and that helped me make a lot of new friends.

Two of those friends were twin boys, Joey and Smokey (and to this day I'm not sure if 'Smokey' was a nickname or actually on his birth certificate). One summer day in 1981, while talking with both of them, I found out that they played Dungeons & Dragons

Instantly, I started to nag them to teach me how to play. I had heard so many bad things about the game - and even been told by a teacher to avoid it at all costs, because it was so 'dangerous' - that I had to find out for myself what was so terrible about it.

Eventually, they gave in, and one of the twins DMed a game for me, his brother, and another friend of ours named Debbie, on the front steps of their house on Scottfield Drive.

The house is still there, and looks a lot like it did back in 1981:

(Yes, you heard me correctly - my first game of D&D was played in a group with a girl in it. And now that I think of it, almost all of my gaming groups have had at least one female in them. So much for stereotypes!)

Of course, I was hooked instantly. Later that summer, when I returned for another visit, I rode my bike to the nearby shopping center, went into the little hobby shop on the inside corner, and spent my lawnmowing money on a copy of the purple box, Erol Otus cover Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.

(The shopping center is still there, but the hobby store closed a long time ago, and I can't for the life of me remember the name of it.)

And that's how and where it happened, nearly thirty years ago.

So, what's your story? Where did you play your first game of D&D, or any other RPG? (Bonus points if you include a picture!)

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A Practical Guide to the Practical Guides

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Wed 02 of Sept., 2009 05:00 PDT
At the Young Person's Adventure League, Dr. Awkward has posted his review of a series of Mirrorstone lorebooks, along with some tips on using them in your adventures. He calls it A Practical Guide to the Practical Guides. Check it out!

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LARPing in Boulder

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Sun 30 of Aug., 2009 07:30 PDT
The Boulder Daily Camera just published a great piece on the Denver-Boulder International Fantasy Gaming Society, one of the longest-running LARP groups (if not the longest):
Boulder County's scene makes "Roles Models" look weak. The Denver-Boulder International Fantasy Gaming Society organizes live-action events as often as every other weekend May through September. The society began in 1981, as one of the first live-action groups in the world — if not the very first.

The local society boasts about 60 "very active" participants, plus an additional 100 to 200 people who have been involved over the past 30 years, according to Ray Appling, of Longmont, who serves on the international board of directors, among four other titles.

There's a fairly good description of how LARP works here, and a nice representation of the people who play:
In their other life — the realm beyond role-playing in the field — one of the participants is the VP for the Robinson Brick Company. Other players are grandparents, triathletes, doctors, lawyers, mortgage brokers, professors and business-owners, not to mention actors, video gamers and "Dungeons and Dragon"-ites.

Read the full article here: [article | archive]

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School's in!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 28 of Aug., 2009 20:48 PDT
It's that time of year again! Are you organizing any RPG clubs and/or running any RPGs at your school or library? If so, contact me! I'm always looking for tips, suggestions, reviews, play session reports, and even lesson plans for Reading Writing & Roleplaying and Terra Libris!+

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An anniversary of an urban legend

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Mon 24 of Aug., 2009 20:59 PDT
Thirty years ago this month, James Dallas Egbert III disappeared from his college campus at Michigan State University, and hid in the steam tunnels beneath the campus to end his troubled life. William Dear, a private investigator hired by Egbert's uncle, found Dungeons & Dragons materials in his room, along with a cryptic map that led him to the steam tunnels. Fearing that Egbert may have been a captive, and that any statement he made to the public could endanger the young man's life, Dear made a statement about Dungeons & Dragons instead.

And that's how an urban legend was born.

To avoid causing embarrassment and humiliation to the Egbert family over Dallas' lifestyle, Dear let his story stand for the next five years, long enough for it to do a lot of damage, before coming clean in his book The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III. In that time, a moral panic began to grow over Dungeons & Dragons - suicides, homicides, and other crimes were linked to the game whenever a perpetrator (or even a victim) was believed to be a roleplayer, schools and libraries banned it from the premises, and a group of concerned (and terribly misguided) parents formed an anti-D&D group that "educated" law enforcement about the dangers of the game and attempted to petition the Surgeon General to require suicide warning labels on the covers of the rulebooks.

And it all began with one white lie told to protect a family from public shame.

I had completely overlooked the anniversary until I saw this article at Geeksix, which gives a pretty good recap of the story that covers all of the major details. You can also read my comments on the story and a quote from The Dungeon Master here.

(Special thanks to the utterly awesome Jess Hartley for sharing the Geeksix article.)

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Back to school at Gaming Brouhaha

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Sun 23 of Aug., 2009 10:58 PDT
Over at Gaming Brouhaha, MJ Harnish is getting ready for a new school year, and considering what new games to run for the kids at their gaming club. I really like his choices (especially the fact that he mentions one RPG I've never heard of - The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries), and his discussion on leaning towards more character-driven RPGs when running games for kids.

He promises to post updates on how the club is going, including details of their first session of InSpectres. If you're involved in a school gaming club, or are considering starting one, don't miss it!

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New book on roleplayers - "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks"

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 21 of Aug., 2009 12:58 PDT
I just had a Google Alert hit my inbox about a new book on roleplaying culture - Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf. Here's a brief description:

In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, former role-player Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to California, New Zealand to France, Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. He asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands. He goes to fan conventions. He battles online goblins, trolls, and sorcerers. He camps with medieval reenactors. He becomes Ethor, Ethorian, and Ethor-An3. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening.

I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

The author is hosting a reading and booksigning at Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where attendees who dress as their favorite character get a special prize. Sounds like a lot of fun all around!

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Penny Arcade covers the Utah D&D hammer attack

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 21 of Aug., 2009 09:41 PDT
Can you think of any reason why your friend might have struck you repeatedly with a hammer?

(Be sure to read the 'News' for this strip, too.)

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Happy Birthday, H.P. Lovecraft!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 20 of Aug., 2009 11:49 PDT
Today is the 129th birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, a horror author from the pulp era whose classic stories include The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and At the Mountains of Madness. Most of his stories contained themes of bleak, helpless horror, inflicted by vast interstellar beings who viewed humanity as little more than insects, or even less.

Lovecraft lived long before the concept of role-playing games came along, but it's pretty likely that he would have enjoyed other people playing in his sandbox. After all, he did encourage a close following of aspiring writers who penned many stories based on his characters, locations, and slimy, squamous horrors.

Some time ago, I received a gift in the mail from the UK - a DVD-ROM entitled Lovecraftian Tales from the Table. It's a collection of files related to the Call of Cthulhu RPG, which is based on Lovecraft's works (and one of my personal favorites.) There are interviews with the game designers, a quickstart version of the game rules and character sheets in PDF, prop documents to print out and use for your game, and much more.

But the crowing piece of this collection are the "audio games," hours of MP3s of people playing two of the longest CoC campaigns ever published - Horror on the Orient Express and Masks of Nyarlathotep. I haven't had a chance to listen or enjoy any of the disc yet (my antique PC doesn't have a DVD drive), but I'm really looking forward to it, and I'd love to see other RPG fans do similar projects for the games that they love.

I can't help but wonder what ol' H.P. himself would think about what has become of his creation. Hopefully, he would approve.

Happy birthday, HPL!

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Shooter who blamed D&D group gets insanity plea

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 20 of Aug., 2009 06:18 PDT
A Georgia woman who shot a co-worker and blamed the act on "Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts" has been deemed mentally unfit for trial.

Carol Marie Clark also blames the death of her brother Verner on D&D gamers, but police have determined that it was a suicide.
An Emory University psychiatrist who interviewed Clark determined she exhibited symptoms of paranoia and schizophrenia. "She presents a substantial risk of imminent harm to others," one examiner wrote.

It's a sad story of someone who truly has lost touch with reality. Thankfully, her victim is expected to recover. Here's hoping that Clark can get the help that she needs.

Read the full story here: [article | archive]

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