Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teaching the Rules

One thing I'm working on with the girls right now is a unit on the D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder RPG rules. We're covering the d20 system in depth, everything from character creation and combat rules to encounter creation and spell use. We're working off an activity sheet I created with 60 questions, some of which are fairly complicated (e.g., fill out a character record for a 3rd level half-orc rogue with the following feats and skills...). It's an open-book activity, so they learn not only what the rules are, but also how to find and interpret them.

Why am I doing this? I've noticed my girls have embraced the art of role playing without really paying too much attention to the rules. Sure, they pick up some of the rules as they go, but only enough that they can play with me as GM or co-GM. They still don't understand a lot of what I'm doing behind the GM screen, or how I adjudicate the rules. They still seem lost when looking for basic information on their character sheets. My oldest ran a game with me and her sisters, but it was obvious she had little understanding of the mechanics of the game. Now she has expressed an interest in running Pathfinder with a group of homeschoolers during weekly game days this winter. The group will consist almost exclusively of new gamers, so my kids will need to teach the new players. To teach the material, they must be conversant with it, hence this exercise.

This goes back to the complexity of 3.5/Pathfinder, and whether it's a reasonable expectation that children under the age of 12 can be expected to master this rule set. I think they can if they want it badly enough, and in our case they seem to. Despite there being simpler games out there (and even in my house) for them to play, they're insisting on using Pathfinder. More power to them, I say, but it's going to be a big challenge for them. I'd like to prepare them for that.

I'm not sure if anyone else has ever done this, making the rules part of the subject matter. It makes me just a bit uncomfortable, because I don't really want RPGs to be what the kids learn, I want them to be what the kids learn from. So I'm trying to view this as an investment in both time and effort that will ultimately free them to get more out of the games they play. As long as I don't overwhelm them with it, I should be able to avoid making it too much like work instead of fun. Hope I'm right!

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