[✐Stationery✐] I’m beginning to see a pattern here (and a mini site update)

As an educator, there’s never a more satisfying moment than when I see progress from my students. This comes in many forms, but one of the most visible ones is when we deal with narratives, and they think out of the box by questioning the plot devices used. Thinking about it, there appears to be a very strong correlation between gaming time (RPGs) versus this ability to see beyond traditional cliches.

The last game I ran was Barebones Fantasy with a homebrewed adventure. One of the encounters was in the catacombs of Firhaven. The player characters (PCs) accidentally unsealed the lid of a “sarcophagus” — turns out it wasn’t a sarcophagus at all, but rather a vertical chamber leading into the pits of hell. Dark undead figures began to crawl out in the hundreds. It looked like a TPK waiting to happen.

The PCs closed the lid by passing their Strength tests, but the undead still continued to pound against the lid. Just when it seemed they were going to break through, the spellcaster decided to blast the ceiling to create a cave-in, thus sealing the coffin. This was based on what they’d learned from the previous fight, when the ceilings and walls had partially collapsed from the force of their weapons and spells.

With the “sarcophagus” sealed, there was a mini-victory, and the spellcaster was cheered on for her quick thinking. In fact, I was just really proud of everyone for working together, and for being able to see things from a bigger picture.

From Creation To Progression

Compared to our previous sessions, this one was a lot more interesting because of the way the players had solved challenging encounters. In fact, I was seeing a remarkable, progressive change in their perspectives.

I believe the reason is simple; in fact it often comes up in articles pertaining to education: play encourages creativity. Not all play allows for this. Video/digital games, for instance, have more constraints than tabletop games. This is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the angle you’re looking from. It’s just that if we want our kids to grow in creativity, we need to start exposing them to more imaginative forms of play. The imagination has the potential to be more consistent and powerful than a screen of moving imagery and sound effects.

To add on to the above, Ethan Gilsdorf did a great TEDx talk several months ago on why Dungeons & Dragons is good for you. One of the points he had made that really stuck with me was the possibilities when it came to dealing with trapped puzzles. You could simply disarm the trap, try to solve the puzzle, or even push a wandering hobgoblin on to it.

Gaming in this form allows us to create tangential lines of thought that branch off from the norm. It challenges existing views, and that’s important for the logical and questioning thinker, not just for developing new narratives. If we want to produce students who can think for themselves, turning to more traditional forms of gaming is a fantastic way to go about it. It doesn’t even have to be as complex as RPGs; something as simple as setting up make-believe landscapes could help to bring that creative energy to the fore.

These are some of the few ideas I had this week. I hope they’ll be helpful to educators out there. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them below, or let me know via Facebook/Twitter. Happy gaming!

Update on Swords & Stationery’s schedule

For those who follow Swords & Stationery, I’ve decided to add tags to articles to make it easier to keep track of what goes where.

[⚔Swords⚔]: As mentioned in a previous post, articles tagged with this tend almost exclusively towards the gaming side…

[✐Stationery✐]: …while articles tagged with this tend towards the education side of things rather than gaming alone

Product Report: Product reports and reviews will be tagged with this.

Session Report: Session reports will be tagged with this.

Resource: I’m going to start putting up some of my own gaming resources, for example hacks and charts for certain games.

I’m also going to align with a more consistent schedule on the publishing of articles. [⚔Swords⚔] and [✐Stationery✐] articles will be put up on alternate Sundays, but this may change to be more frequent once I get more free time next year. Product Reports, Session Reports and Resource will likely come under [⚔Swords⚔]; these will be rather irregular until I can start putting out articles on a more regular basis i.e. weekly.

Thanks again for following S&S!

-Jim

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