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Author Topic: IAWA - roleplaying at school.  (Read 18626 times)
Marianne
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Posts: 5


« on: November 13, 2008, 11:55:04 AM »

As an infant children I have the enviable position of being able to use drama as part of my job.  In the past I have used hotseating and improv as a way of engaging and motivating the kids in follow up activites that fit with learning objectives that I am covering, as well improving their speaking and listening and storytelling skills.  Also it's buckets of fun. Recently I decided to see if I could involve the children more in planning and running the roleplays and, being a big fan of IAWA, set upon trying to use it as a basis for roleplay in school.  This is the result of that experiment.

Player group: 27, 6 and 7 yr olds.
GM: Me

System: Character/World generation straight off IAWA, using a specially written children’s oracle partially cribbed from abulafia and partially written by me.

Oracle options:

   1.      A lucky spirit feeding on the luck of others.
   2.      A strange pet, free now that it’s master has vanished.
   3.      A spirit of flame, mercurial in nature, brother to the lost.
   4.      A cask of rare liquid, stolen from its owner.
   5.      An external threat, forcing co-operation between 2 rival factions.
   6.      A speaker for ancestors carrying secrets and warnings.
   7.      A masked ball where a great quest is planned.
   8.      Storm winds blowing in from the sea, with fire crackling in the clouds.
   9.      A village filled with strong-willed subjects of a cruel queen.
  10.     A gathering of heroes and villains from around the world.
  11.     Wizards of flame whose feuding has lasted centuries and consumed whole kingdoms.
  12.     The human servant of a mighty power.
  13.     A celebration full of fun, frivolity and fireworks.

The children pulled out an ace, 6, and 9, at this point we stopped drawing as it seemed enough for them to be getting along with. They decided that they were going to play the villagers and quickly set about deciding on jobs and characters. This was followed by their creating the NPCs, in this case; the queen, the spirit and the captain of the queen’s guard. Items of contention and particular strengths were worked out in the same way as usual but using the villagers as 1 character for this purpose.

They decided upon 2 items of contention:
    *      Taxes due to the queen by the village.
    *      A lucky charm held by the speaker for ancestors, at this point one of the children decided to be the speaker for ancestors and brought a charm in the next day.

Now tabletop in its traditional sense isn’t an option for 27 infants and so we had a lot more moving around. Luck has it that my classroom used to be the drama room and so I have access to wonderful lights of different colours to help set the scene, coupled with sound effects on a powerpoint gathered from soundsnap.com we were able to help the children’s imagination along a little.

The game ran over 5 short sessions (attention span of average 6 yr old only being about half an hour), with time in between sessions for all the teaching malarkey that flowed naturally from the session. E.g. describing words for the lucky spirit, plans of the land, letters trying to persuade the queen to waive the taxes this year etc.

The story played out as follows:
    *      A day in the village and the arrival of the head of the queen’s guard demanding taxes (played by one of the girls).
    *      A raucous town meeting overseen by a fantastic town mayor (admirably played by one of the lads) that followed when they realized that they didn’t have enough money to pay the taxes.
    *      A journey through the forest (huzzah for camo netting) and the shelter they sought in the gloomy cave behind the waterfall.
    *      A wonderfully scary meeting with the spirit when he returned from hunting.
    *      The use of the lucky charm to protect the villagers and keep the spirit in line.
    *      A series of negotiations in which it was decided that the villagers would lead the lucky spirit to the queen so that he could suck out her luck rather than their luck.
    *      A ride across the plains to the palace.
    *      A widget of power (a short hazel shillelagh) brought in by another child, was added to the roleplay as the item which the villagers would need to draw out the queen’s luck for the spirit.

The showdown:

The villagers got into the throne room and tried to persuade the queen to cut the taxes by half so that they could afford to pay it.  The queen refused and one plucky girl grabbed the shilleagh and used it to drain the queen of power.  This is the one part of the roleplay that we veered furthest from IAWA as rolling dice for conflict resolution doesn't work with a class full of infants.  Whilst holding the queens luck hostage, the villagers struck a deal.  Half the luck back for halving the taxes, the queen reluctantly agreed and the villagers returned triumphantly.  They decided to stick to the deal with the spirit and gave him the luck they had stolen from the queen and, as the saying goes, they all lived happily ever after.

The highs:
The squeals of nervous excitment upon the return of the spirit from his hunt.
The lad who played the mayor shouting "If you take her, you take the lot of us!"
The 2 children who sidled up to the spirit and offered to exchange their friend with the charm for a big bag of gold.
And of course the one shy girl completely getting into role and standing up to the cruel queen (jutting chin and trembling hands included).

Conclusion:
Using this system with children throughly rocked as, because they were fully involved with the world/character generation aspect, they were far more involved in the story than in any other drama they have done.  Although I love the conflict resolution system and the we owe list, its simply not doable with a class of children but even without it this system worked fabulously.  Finally even after you take away all the wonderful fun we had this roleplay resulted in some great work from the kids and some really well thought out stories.  This morning the little girl who hade played the speaker with the lucky charm announced that they were going to be playing "drama" in the playground, her bad guy was "a psychotic reindeer" the good guys were huskies, and the items of contention were some magic bridles that could grow or shrink the huskies.  This from an average 6 yr old...who'd have thunk it..?

So where do I go from here?  More of the same?  Can anyone suggest any improvements or more oracle ideas?  I'm thinking perhaps sci-fi, wild west, or something else?  Should I make more of particular strengths? Even though player conflicts are part of what makes IAWA great, the one thing I can't see working with 6 yr olds is potential player conflicts. I don't think I need them.  Do you disagree?  If so can you suggest a way to make them doable?  Perhaps 2 factions?

All ideas greatly welcomed!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2008, 08:22:45 PM »

Hi Marianne,

If I'm not mistaken, the reason there've been no replies is that all of us are staring, slack-jawed. That is amazing.

I don't know if it will work with so many kids, but in smaller groups, multi-person representation of a given character works well when enjoying a good resolution system. Perhaps ... OK, here's my idea.

Bring five players forward for each "side" of a given fictional conflict. Their jobs would be to come up with what this character is driving for the hardest. Everyone else can be brought into a kind of gladiatorial semi-circle around these two "inner" groups.

It might be useful to change out the membership of the groups and even have people who were against a given character earlier be on their side later in some other conflict.

Best, Ron

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Christoph Boeckle
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Yverdon, Switzerland


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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2008, 02:03:28 AM »

Hi Marianne

For what it's worth, Ron is right. I read your account and thought it was fantastic, then was at a complete loss as to what to say (I've no experience playing with kids, let alone a class of kids). I will be following this and potential future threads though.

Cheers
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Regards,
Christoph
lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2008, 06:30:38 AM »

Slack-jawed it is. This is amazing.

I don't think you need player conflicts with 6-yos either, I think you're right about that.

If you're feeling a lack of dice - if you're feeling like resolution is settling entirely on your shoulders, with no game-rules support for how to do it - I have some thoughts and recommendations. Are you?

-Vincent
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Marianne
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2008, 04:56:13 AM »

Heh, thanks chaps! :D

Quote from: Ron
If I'm not mistaken, the reason there've been no replies is that all of us are staring, slack-jawed. That is amazing.

I don't know if it will work with so many kids, but in smaller groups, multi-person representation of a given character works well when enjoying a good resolution system. Perhaps ... OK, here's my idea.

Bring five players forward for each "side" of a given fictional conflict. Their jobs would be to come up with what this character is driving for the hardest. Everyone else can be brought into a kind of gladiatorial semi-circle around these two "inner" groups.

It might be useful to change out the membership of the groups and even have people who were against a given character earlier be on their side later in some other conflict.

Hey that's not a bad idea at all!  Rather than using it as a standard I think it'd fit in nicely with exploring characters that we do in literacy.  I'll have a think about it as I reckon it's something that would work well with a smaller group of more able children (say 10 or so kids).  I'll plan it in with the next story and let you know how it goes:)

Slack-jawed it is. This is amazing.

I don't think you need player conflicts with 6-yos either, I think you're right about that.

If you're feeling a lack of dice - if you're feeling like resolution is settling entirely on your shoulders, with no game-rules support for how to do it - I have some thoughts and recommendations. Are you?

-Vincent

I'd definitely be interested, I think the concept of dice as a resolution system may be a bit difficult for some of the children at this age, but then again as adults we're always underestimating what children are capable of, so it might be worth some kind of simplified version. Also I'd like to give the children the impression that it is collaborative rather than "teacher says" as this always gives them more of a sense that they are as important in creating an exciting story as I am.

Thanks for the replies:o)

Marianne
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2008, 10:15:00 AM »

Are you familiar with Zak Arntson's game Shadows? In it, the player says what's the good outcome, and what's the bad outcome, and you roll dice to see which comes true.

Something like that could work pretty well, using dice as a hinge for events, if you see what I mean, instead of as an arbiter of bad consequences as IaWA does. De-emphasize the "good" and "bad," maybe. Get the kids to shout out what different things they think might happen, edit them yourself down into 2 or 3 interesting directions the game could go, and roll to find out which way it does go.

-Vincent
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Meguey
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Posts: 250

Meguey


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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2008, 04:31:03 PM »

This is awesome! I do agree that we tend to underestimate the imagination, creativity, and capacity of children.

Have you seen The Big Night? It has some pretty solidly good conflict-resolution stuff for playing with kids. Basically, it's that a child who has a roll go bad gets to say how it goes bad. I'll find it and write it out for you if you like.
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Luke
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2008, 09:33:07 PM »

Get the kids to shout out what different things they think might happen, edit them yourself down into 2 or 3 interesting directions the game could go, and roll to find out which way it does go.

You don't even need dice. Flip coins (heads one way, tails the other) or draw cards (highest draw takes the direction they want). You can be the resolver -- you can flip the coin and let the kid call it or you can draw a card and a kid-nominated representative can draw against you. This way, you have a full process -- situation plus options plus resolution to new situation.

-L
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Ry
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2008, 09:34:02 AM »

Wow.  Slack-jawed amazement over here.
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Marianne
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2008, 02:11:43 PM »

Get the kids to shout out what different things they think might happen, edit them yourself down into 2 or 3 interesting directions the game could go, and roll to find out which way it does go.

You don't even need dice. Flip coins (heads one way, tails the other) or draw cards (highest draw takes the direction they want). You can be the resolver -- you can flip the coin and let the kid call it or you can draw a card and a kid-nominated representative can draw against you. This way, you have a full process -- situation plus options plus resolution to new situation.

-L

Fab ideas! I like the idea of drawing cards to decide what happens in a situation.  I've got one of those giant pack of cards that the children use to draw on the oracles so it's no extra equipment so that will keep the flow.  This drawing mechanism should hopefully engage the children more in shaping the game world as they are playing in it as well as during the creation phase.  Super ideas thanks guys!
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Marianne
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2008, 02:12:42 PM »

This is awesome! I do agree that we tend to underestimate the imagination, creativity, and capacity of children.

Have you seen The Big Night? It has some pretty solidly good conflict-resolution stuff for playing with kids. Basically, it's that a child who has a roll go bad gets to say how it goes bad. I'll find it and write it out for you if you like.

I definitely be interested, new ideas are what keeps things interesting:o)
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Meguey
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2008, 08:52:05 PM »

Ok, I'll go digging!
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Marianne
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2009, 03:54:04 AM »

Rightho so we did a second IAWA story with the kids.  It went great but didn't uncover anything super new to report on.

However our 3rd foray into using IAWA with hyper 6 and 7 yr olds is taking some interesting twists and turns.  Firstly the children decided that they wanted to write elements for their children's oracle.  This turned out to be amazing, I was so surprised by the way the children phrased some of their ideas.. (and it was really good for teaching literacy ;) ) 

The elements (all written by the children) that were pulled out were:
A witches tower, full of traps and ghosts
The skeleton of a dragon, hiding it's real form by magic
A band of brave heroes, on another adventure.
Some silly journalists, in trouble as always.

So we brainstormed, drew pictures, wrote descriptions etc.  The children have decided that it is definitely them that are the heroes and that they have been begged by the one jouranlist who has escaped the tower to go and rescue her friends. 

They have got the idea of best interests and how all the best stories have characters with interests that clash. 

The witches best interest is to keep the journalists captive and rescue her cat from the heroes. 
The heroes best interests are to rescue the journalists and trap the witch in her own castle.
The dragon's best interest is "to swallow the heroes and trap them in another dimension which is full of it's own species" (spot the more able child there!)
The Journalists best interest is to get a great story all about the dragon and escape the witch.

Session 2 this afternoon...wish me luck :D
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Ouroboros
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Posts: 9


« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2009, 05:48:51 AM »

Good luck! I want to hear all about it. I have a session coming up this weekend too! It'll be educational to see how it compares to what the little ones have come up with.
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