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I teach special education. And sometimes, I use Dungeons and Dragons. Why not? It's a great multifaceted tool and addresses a variety of core standards and diagnostic purposes. 1. You HAVE to read and write in order to play. In particular, if you HAVE a thing, but it is NOT WRITTEN DOWN? You don't have it. I don't care if Odin himself showed up and handed you a zillion gold pieces and the Spear of Destiny, if it isn't written on your sheet? Didn't happen. And if I can't read your handwriting? Didn't happen. Be happy I don't make you put it down in complete sentences. There, see? Now you have a plus-three spear that comes back to your hand! Oh, and the wizard handed you a scroll! Here, here's the play aid. What? I dunno what it says, YOU'RE the one holding the scrap of paper I gave you! Better read it CAREFULLY, it might be important... 2. Mental math. You want to know if your roll of 12 plus your +3 for strength can hit AC 16? Figure it out yourself. Afraid you'll get it wrong? Don't worry, I'll let you know... Hell, at some point, I mean to snakehip the James Bond Roleplaying Game to a more kid-friendly version; it uses a multiplication table to resolve skill checks, and it runs on percentile dice! 3. Rewards. Did everyone get their day's work done? Did everyone earn all their points? How many of us had behavior incidents this week? What? We're all lookin' good? Well, who wants to play a game...? It helps that it's a game that requires teamwork, and it's a game EVERYONE CAN THEORETICALLY WIN, which means that one kid who always tantrums if he loses doesn't necessarily have something to go off about. 4. Diagnostics. Roleplaying is nothing new to psychiatric work, but D&D is uniquely suited to creating immersive imaginary scenarios and seeing what a child will do in reaction. Example: "I slay the Orc! Does he have any treasure?" isn't uncommon. "I talk to the Orc, and tell him if he stands aside, we won't bother him!" is actually pretty healthy. "I slay the Orc! And then I keep stabbing him! And I laugh! And I stick an arrow up his nose!" may be indicative of some anger management issues. "I slay the Orc! And then I look for more orcs to kill! I don't care about treasure! Is there any more killing?" may be indicative of feelings of powerlessness or resentment towards someone. "I slay the Orc! And then I yank his pants down and saw off his..." may be indicative of issues I'll need to mention to the social workers. 5. Interpersonal/social relationships. Y'know what? It's a helluva lot safer and easier to manage when two kids' characters get into a ruckus than when the two actual children start pummeling each other. Furthermore, I find that immersive roleplaying is a HELLACIOUS teambuilding exercise, and tends to reflexively teach problem solving and managing interpersonal issues. Sure, you get "If you don't give me your potion of healing, my next character will kill YOUR character!", but compared to some of the scrambles one encounters in elementary school, this is a walk in the park. 6. Narrative Structure. There are children who just want to go find a monster that it's okay to maltreat. That's fine. Every generation has had its version of cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, whatever. But these kids are learning about genre, setting, characters, STOCK characters, protagonists, antagonists, and everything they'll need to know when it's TAUGHT to them... without even realizing it. So, yeah, D&D is a useful thing, the kids eat it up, and it gives us all something to look forward to at the end of the week. And I told you that story so I could tell you this one. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************ The Knight, the Warrior, the Ninja, the Cavalier, and the Wizard* have been wandering in the woods for three days. They have gotten good and lost by their own efforts and lack of forethought, and they are now beginning to regret the decisions that led them there. They defeated their enemies in the Red Caverns, but chose to force their way out a new exit rather than backtrack to the way they knew, and are now not even sure which side of the mountains they are on, or how to get back to the Red Caverns. The Cavalier is fairly sure that the town is east, but none of them have any idea how to determine which way IS east. The Ranger would be a handy addition to the party right now -- as a sixth grader, he's the eldest, and knows how to track and find his way -- but since he blew off his math homework all week, he's busy catching up instead of enjoying Friday Fun. The group went hunting three days ago, and brought down a wild boar**, but since none of them have any idea how to preserve meat, the rations they didn't cook have gone a bit high. They have enough bacon and ham to feed the party for ONE more night... and after that, they will begin to find themselves a bit hungry. The party are all Minecraft veterans. They know quite well what happens when your character starts getting... hungry. And so they're on the lookout for food. The lack of the Ranger is keenly felt. Precisely what constitutes wild food? The group has been checking the trees of the forest; none seem to be fruit bearing trees. No apples or pears. Vegetable trees seem short as well; not a single potato tree, carrot bush, or Twizzler flower can be found. The Cavalier seems certain that some varieties of tree can be eaten, but so far, all they've found are the regular wooden kind. Still, hope runs high, although a low level argument is simmering about whether strawberries are plants or animals. Abruptly, the DM begins rolling dice. The Knight warns everyone to stop cold; he is aware that this means SOMETHING, although the DM has refused to explain what. Low numbers on the D6 seem to indicate animals or monsters, and the DM has rolled a one. Then he rolled a D20, twice. "You are not surprised," the DM said. "Meat!" giggles the Knight. "I get an arrow ready. Is it a deer? Or a turkey?" "I hide in shadows," says the Ninja, rolling a stealth check. Successful. "Is there such a thing as a wild cow?" asks the Cavalier. "Cows could mean we're near a town," says the Warrior. "Or is it a buffalo?" "If I throw burning oil on it, will the meat cook itself?" asks the Wizard. "Ew! That would make it taste horrible," said the Ninja. "Just use Burning Hands spell." "You are not surprised," continues the DM, "but neither is HE." He puts a miniature on the table. It is a hideous, warty green humanoid, easily three times the size of any of the players. It is a cruel, monstrous looking horror, all claws and fangs and warts, and it fairly sweats malevolence. The group, uncharacteristically, falls DEAD silent. What IS that thing? They've encountered ogres before, but they weren't this big... or this green. *beat of horrified silence* And then, the Ninja speaks in a small, solemn, eight year old voice: "We are NOT eating THAT." And the game had to stop for a minute because the DM fell out of the chair laughing. *Three Fighters, a Rogue, and a Magic-user, highest level is fourth. Mentzner BECMI system. **It was only after finding out what they were eating that three of the group realized that "boar" is in fact "pig, aka pork." One of the group seemed to think that most breakfast foods came from pigs, and was disappointed that the boar did not also provide toast. The conversion of "dead pig" into "edible foods" was not covered in detail, although the entire group seemed to understand that smacking it with a sword did not simply result in a pork chop floating in midair, like in Minecraft. Education continues.