Where do I start??

#1
Hey everybody! Let me get right to it. I'm an Elementary School Counselor in Fayetteville, NC, who works directly with grades 2-5. My classroom lessons generally cover the "soft" skills, or social skills, as well as things like self-confidence, diversity, integrity, bullying, etc. I have absolutely reached my end with the usual class lessons, and when I'm bored, the kids are bored. I'm fully prepared this year to do something totally off the beaten path, and am seriously considering using RPGs to help teach these skills in the classroom. A blog I read by another teacher who is already doing this, recommended Emberwind, among others, to help teach the skills I focus on.

But here's the problem: I've never really played this type of RPG, and I have NO idea how I'm going to adapt this to a classroom of 18 - 28 kids. One idea I had was to break kids up into groups and assign each group of 3-4, a character for which the group is responsible. Either way, I feel like the nature of these games is something that could carry me through an entire quarter of classroom lessons without putting kids to sleep in the process. Anything you guys could recommend or suggest would be REALLY appreciated. And my kids would appreciate it too. Thanks on advance!
 

[NOM] Derek

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Hey there! I'm so glad you've taken an interest in EMBERWIND, and even more, to take it into a school classroom.

EMBERWIND is built to facilitate the education regarding the impact of one's choices on the people and world around them and to take responsibility for it. We've designed EMBERWIND to eschew standard alignment systems, where instead, we've created a world that evolves based on the decisions you make while playing the game. As such, the environment and cast of characters that you meet in Axia are diverse, rich, and have their own goals and motivations, resulting in a world that feels "real" and alive. Equally then, players are faced with difficult moral dilemmas during their gameplay sessions, where there often isn't an objectively "right" answer. Through this, we create a unique RPG experience where not only success but "failure" can be experienced in multi-faceted ways and can play as an integral part of character growth.

The easiest method to get into and enjoy EMBERWIND is to simply pick up one of our campaign books, such as The Skies of Axia, that plays like a cross between a choosable-path adventure book and a turn-based board game. The Skies of Axia is designed to be played with as few as 1 player and as many as 6.

However, I would like to mention a few notes you may want to consider.
  • While The Skies of Axia is incredibly easy to run, it does deal with some difficult and mature subject matter that may not be suited for extremely young audiences. I may recommend using it as a model for custom content that you design yourself that may be better suited to the age and subject matter that your students would enjoy. (At the very least, I would consider having you read ahead in the story to know what to censor.)
  • Given that The Skies of Axia is a choosable-path adventure book, you can have multiple groups playing the same story, where once complete, they can compare their decisions and conclusions together in a debriefing session. In my experience playing EMBERWIND with children, I've found the debriefing session to be immensely helpful in educating children on how there can be many sides to a story, that another person may have had "good reasons" you were not aware of, and much, much more.
  • I prefer organizing kids into groups no smaller than 3, and no larger than 4, since that group size tends to provide the greatest immersive and interactive experience.
  • Once a group of players have had a chance to play through The Skies of Axia once, a great way to teach those players "responsibility" is to have them act as a dedicated narrator for another group of students who are playing through the game for the first time.
  • EMBERWIND can be played either online or offline. If you're having a difficult time procuring multiple copies of the gamebook to play with, my recommendation is to print off the PDF several times (or just simply use tablets). Similarly, all of the additional tools required to play the game (such as character sheets and maps) are all available on the website for download and printing. If your students are "tech-savvy", you can look to our asset packs for Roll20 instead, where you can run and facilitate the game over the internet to educate children about the importance of protecting the environment as well :).

If you need any more information, you're welcome to reach out to me at any point for a conversation. I'm available on our Discord server, over e-mail (derek@nomnivoregames.com), and of course, here, if you'd like further advice.
 
#3
Derek, thank you so much for your response. You've got some great recommendations, and I appreciate the heads-up on some of the mature themes.

Since I'm planning to use this in grades 2 - 5, I'm really most focused on making it work at the 2nd grade level. Because if I can make it work in a 2nd grade classroom, the other grades will be a breeze. I like the idea of letting them do a read through in their own groups, but how much prep time would be required for that? I have each of the 23 classes once a week for 40 mins. I fully expect each game to run over multiple class meetings, which brings me to the question of bookkeeping. Would there be a lot of it, aside from just making notes about where we left off? I plan on giving this a run online to get a better feel for it, and that may actually be the better option for the classroom, but editing content could prove problematic. I realize I've got a thousand questions and concerns, most of which can probably be resolved by trying the game myself, but I really do thank you for your time and input. I'm just really excited about getting the kids engaged this year. Thanks again!
 

[NOM] Derek

Administrator
Staff member
#4
First of all, I would like to express my thanks to you. There's little that has a greater impact on a child's learning than the passion of a dedicated and excited educator, and I'll do everything in my power to support your passion and goal.

Preparation (Story): Prep time is virtually non-existent for the narrative sections of the game. We have what's known as a "crossroad" system, where the story is chunked into small, easily digestible pieces. If a section introduces a new gameplay mechanic (such as voting), it will provide a quick tutorial right then and there for the players on just that mechanic. Furthermore, "crossroads" are organized in a manner where each new encounter builds upon the last, scaffolding mechanics from what the players have already learned. In other words, it will teach one new method to interact with the game/other players while providing an environment and scenario that reinforces what they've already learned prior through use in a practical setting.

Preparation (Combat): The combat portions of EMBERWIND requires a bit more time to learn (and master), especially with young children. The combat system is frontloaded with information heavily and requires the use of quite a bit of math. That said, I've had 7-8-year-olds master the system almost immediately, but the mechanics have to be taught slowly. My recommendation is to learn how to play yourself, first, then figure out how to break the mechanics down into pieces to teach one at a time (e.g. CAP Checks, Defending, Action Effects, etc.), and to use very concrete examples (and markers to keep track of things) to reduce the cognitive load required for abstraction. Another recommendation I have is to make sure there's at least one child who's "good at math" in each group to help facilitate faster Combat (and of course, one child who can read very well too for the story bits). Children at the age of 12 and up tend to pick up the Combat system in 5-10 minutes. My experience with younger children has found that they usually fall closer to the 20-minute mark. There are ways to simplify the combat system as well. If you'd like more information on simplification, please let me know.

Duration of the Game: I find the narrative portions flow extremely smoothly once players have had a chance to master the different mechanics through Act 1. Combats vary in time, where the "better" (and not older) the player is at the combat system, the faster it runs. The reason for that is due to how EMBERWIND's combat system is designed to encourage teamwork and teamplay by utilizing a "rider" system, where each Action is either "tagged" and/or utilizes those "tag(s)" for performing their Effect(s). For example, the Ardent's Chains of Calamity deals damage to a Foe each time that Foe is targeted by a Spell. Actions that are tagged as Spell fulfill the "rider" on Chains of Calamity, and encourage all players to use Spell Actions together. As such, combats can run as quickly as 10 minutes or as slow as an hour, depending on the skill level of the players in the group. In conclusion, then, my best guess would be that introducing EMBERWIND to the students and teaching the Combat system would require 1 class (of 40 minutes) each. The narrative section of Act 1, another class, and then the Combat in Act 1, another class. Act 2 will likely take 2-3 classes, and Act 3 will take 3 classes, to a total of 10 classes approximately. (Bonus: As a fun little addition, EMBERWIND releases new content that expands Axia every 2 weeks. This could make for some fun, easy homework for your students, as they can be assigned to visit our site to read Lore Archive entries regarding their character, each other's characters, or even the NPCs that they meet in the story. Doing so fleshes out a much greater amount of detail regarding each person's motivations, and can help illustrate the nuance of what people are like in the real world as well.)

Bookkeeping: Bookkeeping is rather limited in EMBERWIND. All each group would need to do is track their decision at each crossroad (e.g. "The Hacksaw Bridge, Path B") on a sheet of paper. The statistics (such as health) of Foes in Combat is tracked on the Party Tracker Card included in the free, downloadable support package.

Editing Content: There aren't too many sections in the Skies of Axia that I would say you would absolutely have to edit content for. The sections you would need to read ahead and perhaps change the text for is as follows:
  • There is a single mention of "pleasure workers" during the prologue that is only used to express how downtrodden the people of Gelspar are that can be cut from the script and still have the same emotional impact.
  • To increase the weight of decision-making, we decided to "show" and not "tell" players how to feel by writing rather visceral death scenes. This was done to help players understand how their choices can have serious consequences. This doesn't appear too often, and only appears in one of the paths for "The Hacksaw Bridge, part 2" and Game Over sections.
  • There are mentions/uses of alcohol and drug-like substances (e.g. The Hacksaw Bridge, part 1; Ambush!) that may need to be censored as well. The drug-like substance resembles cocaine in effect but isn't so much mind-altering as it is something else that is very important to the overall story. I'm pretty sure you could get away with leaving the drug-like substance unaltered, as most children will simply assume it's "some kind of magical thingy" that's simply a part of the fictitious world they're playing in. The alcohol scene can be removed by simply avoiding the "Detour" during The Hacksaw Bridge, part 1, and not affect the story in any way.
 
#5
Hey Derek! Thanks so much for your support. I sincerely value your feedback and suggestions,

I appreciate your detailed breakdown, and it really gives me a better understanding of what I'm going to be working with. If it's no trouble, I would like to see the simplified combat system. That might be a better place to start with the younger kids, and work up to the full-system.

I really like that this can be broken up into several weeks worth of adventure. That will really keep the kids wanting more, and the fact that they can research the characters and lore on their own would really help that immersive factor.

I'm still not real sure how I'm going to run the game in the class yet, but I suppose all I can do is jump in and overcome the obstacles as we go. That's what it's about after all! I'm also eyeballing games like "Pilgrims of the Flying Temple", "Hero Kids", and "No Thank You Evil" as a more basic intro. Because honestly, the kids and I are going to be learning together.. Lol! But that's the fun.

Thanks again, Derek. Your support means a lot. Looking forward to hearing back
 

[NOM] Derek

Administrator
Staff member
#6
Hey again,

There are several simplifications that can be added to the combat engine. In no particular order, consider putting any or all of these modifications into your game:
  • Consider simplifying Toughness and Resistance calculations to a single "Damage Reduction" value by averaging them together. This reduces the number of variables that the players have to keep track of by 1.
  • Flattening damage values. If your students have a difficult time with adding numbers together, you can consider flattening damage into two values. Critical Hits deal maximum Damage, and non-critical hits deal 1/2 of the Action's Damage. That value can be further rounded to the nearest 5.
  • Convert "Penetration" Values from % chance to ignore Barrier Values to additive values to damage (e.g. 5 P equals to +5 Damage).
  • Play without using Local Field Effects.
  • Play with fewer Foes.
 
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