The Scarlet Letter: Microscope in the Classroom

Keenan is killing it bringing story games to the classroom. His latest post is about using Microscope scene structure to explore the Scarlet Letter. The kids’ feedback is stunning, once again.

Scarlet Letter: Microscope Scene Building and Reflections

Other educators are starting to share their experiences on the new “games in the classroom” G+ community, like this post about adapting Mars Colony to large groups. These first-hand reports are so informative. If you’re bringing games to the classroom, or gaming with kids in other capacities, jump in and share your experiences!

Ben Robbins | December 19th, 2016 | microscope kids

Lord of the Flies: Kingdom in the Classroom

Over the past few years, I’ve heard from a lot of different educators who have experimented with Microscope, Kingdom and similar games in the classroom. They were each trying different approaches, but didn’t have a common forum to share what they’d learned.

So when Keenan Kibrick contacted me and we talked about creating a new G+ community for story games in the classroom, I was all for it. He just posted the results of using Kingdom to have students explore Lord of the Flies. Kids role-playing Lord of the Flies? That is about as daring as it gets.

Kingdom: Lord of the Flies in the Classroom Reflection and Quick Start

How’d it go? Read the feedback the kids gave. It is spot-on.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the cross-pollination of ideas we can get going between educators. There’s a lot of exciting and unexplored potential for story games in the classroom.

Ben Robbins | December 12th, 2016 | kingdom

Follow Early Access

If you backed Follow, today is your lucky day, because the early access release is ready for you to download and play it.

My original plan was to just do some minor cleanup on the latest playtest draft so that backers could start tackling quests as soon as possible, but once I started digging into the text the design-fire overcame me. I did a lot of cleaning, streamlining and clarification to make everything flow even better.

There are twelve quests, including three brand new ones: the Siege, the Show and the Raid. I’m working on a bunch more, but I didn’t want to hold up play while I finished them, so they’ll drop later. Quests also got a major format revision, and sample wants and needs are now included in every quest to make it easier to quickly come up characters that fit the setting.

I’m very pleased with how it turned out and I’m looking forward to people taking it for a spin and playing some games.

As a side note, it turns out I was also grossly understating the number of playtesters: when I said over a 100 people, I really should have said over 200 people. Over 200 awesome playtesters, putting Follow through its paces and making it the game it is… Thanks everybody!

Ben Robbins | December 5th, 2016 | follow

Follow Races to the Finish

The Follow Kickstarter is closing as we speak! I dug into a lot more detail about how the game works in the updates, so here they are in case you missed them:

If you want even more, check out the interview I did with Brie Sheldon. It covers Follow, comparisons to Microscope and Kingdom, and even digs into the X né the Veil at Story Games Seattle.

Three hours to go! Thanks to everyone who has supported Follow, and an extra special thanks to all the playtesters who have helped make it be the game it is.

I’m looking forward to getting the early access version to backers so you can all start tackling quests!

Ben Robbins | November 16th, 2016 | follow | 2 comments

Heartbreak at Suicide Ridge

I already talked about the Follow Rebellion where we (luckily) failed to awaken the elder god Kanaguk and destroy the world.

I played another Rebellion at Story Games Seattle just a few days later with a totally different group, half of whom had never played Follow before. Playing two Rebellions in a row was chance, not planning. They picked it through the classic process of elimination – including a finger-vote after we’d gotten down to the last two choices – then we brainstormed a setting.

Our choice? A Mad Max-style struggle to overthrow the warlords of Suicide Ridge, one of the few communities fortified enough to hold fast against the roving bands of waste-raiders.

How’d it go? We won the quest! On paper anyway. But we lost, well, just about everyone in the fellowship. After our most idealistic characters went down going mano a mano with the warlord, the community was left in the hands of a scheming defector from the warlord’s council (uh, my character) and a religious fanatic who had knowingly sacrificed mobs of the faithful in a classic suicide attack diversion. Only the terrible people in our fellowship were left to take over. So: the new Suicide Ridge, maybe not so much better than the old one.

But even in the midst of all our dirt and treachery, we had a great romance subplot. Kyron, thug-enforcer for the warlords (and secret rebel) was smitten with Helcat, a wild gang-runner in the wastes. The waste-gangs naturally raided Suicide Ridge – and just about anybody else – any chance they got, but we were trying to get some of the gangs on our side to help muscle out the warlords.

Their would-be romance reflected the tenuous but potentially game-changing alliance. Could the raiders be trusted? Was it true love, or was she just using him? When the quest was over, would they run off together to start a new life far, far away from here, or would she give him a shiv in the ribs?

Spoiler alert: it was a shiv in the ribs.

He forgot that true love has no soil to grow in the barren wastes. And that’s how you find heartbreak at Suicide Ridge.

Ben Robbins | November 6th, 2016 | follow

Murder of Crows, Pride of Lions

I’ve been playing it for years, so I’m glad Eden is now up on Kickstarter and approaching release! That story about bears getting framed for murder? Yeah that was the first time I played.

eden_cover

There’s a fun and very interesting thing that happens when you play Eden that I really haven’t seen in other games. In most role-playing games, each of us is playing our own character. We don’t play the same people, except in rare cases like Downfall, where we rotate characters, or sometimes in Microscope if we bring the same characters back in multiple scenes.

In Eden, we each have our own character, and each character has a particular species of animal that is their special friend. Those are the animals that you go to when you need advice, which means you’re often getting terrible relationship advice from a pack of squirrels, which is hi-larious.

The interesting thing is what happens when we role-play those “talking to animals” scenes. Usually one person is playing their character, and the rest of us are all playing animals of their favorite species: we’re all raccoons, or giraffes, or panthers. So that’s one person talking to three raccoons, and so on.

Normally when you role-play, each person at the table is playing someone different, so we’re all trying to be different, to highlight the nature of our character. It’s basically the job. But in Eden, when a bunch of us are playing raccoons, we start trying to play exactly the same. Someone talks a certain way, or shows a particular attitude, and the other players embrace and imitate it. We’re all trying to synchronize how raccoons act.

There’s nothing in the rules that says to do this, and there’s no discussion at the table. It just happens organically, which is fascinating.

I’ve seen it over and over again with a whole host of different animals. Species that everyone groks and that are easy to stereotype are the best. Bunnies or wolves are a cakewalk. Turtles? Sharks? Ants? Perfect. It’s harder when we play more exotic animals or those with fewer obvious stereotypes. We all know what armadillos are, but we might not be on the same page about how armadillo’s talk or what they think.

It’s amazing how rapidly and fluidly it happens. And it’s a unique zone of role-playing fun. We’re basically imitating each other, getting more and more in-sync until we are the perfect homogenous mob of bunnies, simply hopping with good advice…

That’s Eden: check it out.

Ben Robbins | October 31st, 2016 | kudos