Friday, November 20, 2015

Dungeon and Dragons: Why don't we have Dn'D clubs in school?

Disclaimer: It has been a long time (20+) years since I have played D&D and have just started my first campaign since then this past June (2015), relearning everything.  Please do not assume that I am extremely experienced.  The majority of my Dungeon and Dragons gaming experience is in computer based D&D and rpg games, as well as D&D and rpg board games.


The dungeon my party is currently exploring.
We have a lot to uncover.
I am loving my Dungeon and Dragon (D&D) group.  Every Monday (depending on availability) I met up with my sister, and brother-in-law at their house, while our friend in Kitchener Skypes in over the Xbox One.  We play for an hour to an hour and a half each time.  Long work days, and early mornings combined with all of us not getting any younger, has made our time together brief, but still a lot of fun.  We laugh at our misadventures, and bite our nails as we encounter beasts that bring us close to death.  My brother-in-law enjoys his role as dungeon master, planning our encoTunters with glee, as we build our character back stories and skills, adding details to our narratives and trying to be entertaining in our descriptions of our actions.

I have been trying to find what works best for me in tracking my character and the story.  So far I am balancing the use of a notebook and a couple of phone apps to keep track of my character stats, spells (I am a Bard) and the story thus far including drawing maps based on the DM's descriptions.  So far he (the DM) finds my maps laughable, but I am getting better.  I love my bag of dice, and am having a difficult time refraining from buying more dice every time I enter a game store.

So What?

When my teaching colleagues ask me what my plans are for the evening I proudly tell them I am meeting with my D&D group.  Which often leads to questions like: "What is D&D?" and "What do you do when you play D&D."  Depending on the level of interest I go into greater or lesser detail.   Since my colleagues are all teachers I try to use language familiar to the classroom. The one common explanations I give being that D&D is a storytelling game where one person (the Dungeon Master or DM) establishes the setting and problems (quests) and the other players develop characters and try to come up with solutions to the problems.  In my head I think of the dice as the agents of chaos that put obstacles in our way, but can also aid us in removing them.  They are tools that help us exercise our thinking and actions.

The more I try to explain D&D to other teachers, the more I see how it can engage students in play that is directly connected to the curriculum.

D&D as an extracurricular club it would be a great platform for practicing skills taught in class.  I have a feeling that playing D&D in class would take up a lot of time, be very difficult to assess, and possibly be a sensitive or controversial issue for some students; but imagine what students could consolidate, apply and practice if they chose to play on their own time?

Oral language skills:
  • describing what their character is doing or saying (Ont Lang gr. 6: 2.3 2.4)
  • speaking in role (Ont.Lang. gr. 6: 2.5, 2.4)
  • needing to attend (listen) to the story being created as it unfolds, and respond appropriately (Ont Lang gr. 6: 1.2 1.4 2.2)
Reading Skill:
  • researching character, and character skills and using that information to make choice for your character (Ont Lang gr. 6: 1.1, 1.2, 1.8, 2.2) 
  • reading about the rules and conventions that operate in your game. (Ont Lang gr. 6: 1.4, 1.6)
  • finding sources that will supplement gameplay (Ont Lang gr. 6: 1.1, 1.4)
Writing skills:
  • jot note important information and organize thinking in order to refer back to it for a purpose (Ont Lang gr.6: 1.4, 1.6)
  • writing inspired by the game (Ont Lang gr.6: O.E. 1 through 4)
Mathematics skills:
  • probability: weighing the probable outcome of an action depending on the type of dice associated with it eg. 10 sided verses 4 sided. (Ont Math gr 5: probability.  -I have also used my dice set to spice up my probability games)
  • spatial awareness: creating maps based on descriptions based on cardinal directions and measurement (Ont Math gr 5: Location and Movement)
  • computation skills: adding dice roll to positive and/or negative modifiers and subtracting these rolls from your character's/ enemies' hit points
Just to name a few skills that would be engaged.

Now What?

I think I do not want to ever see D&D in the class.  Even though I love it, I am afraid of what would happen to the spirit of the game when it is education-ified.  I am afraid of it being appropriated by publishers who would turn it into an easy watered down version of what D&D really is, thus turning students away from the creative and organic world of Dungeons and Dragons.  I don't want the fun to be leveraged out of it.

That being said I already know of a few D&D boardgames that are user friendly for younger players, but I would like to also be able to use the 'real thing' too.  I am interested in finding out is if there are any teachers who are already using D&D in their schools, what they have done to make it work, and what impact it has had.

Imagine the impact of a game that encourages creative thinking and problem solving while building a community.   Perhaps as I gain more experience (literally and figuratively) in my D&D group I will think of a viable way to begin a group in my next school (I am out of the classroom this year as a SWS Teacher).