Magic Missile!

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a casual pencil-and-paper RPG fan. I think the emphasis there should be on the word casual, which admittedly describes my relationship with most things geeky: I enjoy them, sure, but I’m not a big fan of dressing up in costume and running around crazy at a convention. While I like (and even love with a passion) many geek things, I have always been…well, not a closet geek, exactly, but not someone who feels he has to shout about it.

I’ve only played actual Dungeons & Dragons twice in my life: once in high school, and once in college. It didn’t particularly grab me either time, but that could’ve been because of the game masters I had (they weren’t all that inventive). But in graduate school, a very good friend of mine (still one of the smartest, geekiest people I know) created his own game system and ran an inventive, clever, ribald game with a few friends that was absolutely fantastic. The gameplay was simple, the emphasis was on characterization and character interaction, and I got to be the son of the avatar of humanity and shove a flaming phallic symbol down a rampaging tiger monster’s throat. It was, y’know, awesome.

Over the past few years, I’ve been running a series of games using an old Star Wars RPG manual from the early ’80s. It’s a simple D6 system, but it allows you to do a whole heckuva lot of fun stuff with it. The students I’ve run the games with have all loved it (possibly because of the Star Wars connection), and it’s a perennial favorite with our Friday afternoon clubs each year.

But a few years ago, I had an idea: why not create a very new-user friendly, streamlined game system that anyone could play (and, possibly more importantly, anyone could run). To add an extra wrinkle, I wanted to create a game that could be used to teach pro-social skills to students with learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum disorders (the sort of students I work with every day in my capacity as a special education teacher). I started putting together a system, with character classes, a world, class-specific skills, and gameplay instructions. I also started working up several simple scenarios for players to do, trying to focus on the pro-social skills I mentioned earlier.

It’s been a slog at times, trying to come up with all the stuff for this. I’ve been playtesting the game with my students this summer, trying to figure out how to make the game accessible to first-time players but versatile enough that the whole game isn’t always “main characters beat up/kill bad guys.” I’ve included character classes like Diplomats and Merchants, neither of which can really fight, but that can do all sorts of great support actions to help out their teammates.

I’m hoping to eventually get it polished enough to try to sell to an educational game company. Anyone who has any experience of creating games like these or any words of advice, they’d be very welcome at this point.

Sketch a Day, Day 40

Giant nerdiness ahead!

A few years ago, a coworker and I ran a Star Wars RPG club after school. The two of us split the eight or nine students into two groups and ran a parallel campaign, planning things out so that eventually everyone met back up at the end of the school year for the Epic Showdown with the Big Bad Guys. It was a lot of fun, though I’ve always enjoyed being a player in games rather than running them. To that end, I created a character of my own who joined the party and fought alongside our Jedi heroes.

Because this was an extended universe RPG, we took some liberties with things like Jedi powers and the races that were available. I ended up choosing a race called the Miraluka for my character. The Miraluka are a species that is born with no eyes, but senses things naturally through the Force. This seemed like a perfect species for a Force-sensitive martial arts character, which is exactly what I created. Over the course of a couple of years’ worth of games, my character became a Jedi Knight (eventually even Master), took control of an ancient clan of Force-sensitive ninjas, and basically gained the ability to wrap the Force around his hand and punch people hard enough that they exploded. It was, as you might well imagine, kind of awesome.

Anyway, I was feeling a bit of nostalgia for that today, so I decided to draw my old character. The session of Star Wars RPG I ran last year featured new characters (who were also chaotic neutral at best, demonic evil at worst), so he didn’t get to do more than make a quick cameo appearance in the game. This year, there hasn’t been a demand for the game, so we haven’t had a chance to play. I’m kind of hoping some students get the urge to play again, ’cause I wouldn’t mind dusting off the character and having him punch holes in things again.

His name is Lobsang, which is actually the name I've given every character in every tabletop RPG I've ever played. All three of them.