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Author Topic: Teenager Sorcery + Multiplication Tables = Educational Roleplaying  (Read 1243 times)
Nathan
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« on: April 29, 2010, 10:53:14 AM »

A couple of months ago, I found out that my niece, in 6th grade, was having trouble with her multiplication tables. She is an imaginative gal who loves the Twilight movies, horror stories, and fantasy books. We have even done some simple roleplaying before using something like Zak Arnston's Shadows.

I remembered that practicing multiplication tables can be pretty lame by yourself, so I decided to write a roleplaying game for her birthday (May 3) that will help her memorize and master her multiplication tables.

The game is called the Life & Times of a Teenage Sorcerer. Players create teenager sorcerers who have to put up with the joys of high school life - avoiding trouble, dealing with relationship drama, making friends, studying hard, and trying to have a good time. The setting is sort of Buffy-like - it's a high school with a strange past in an interesting town that has its own skeletons in the closet (including dark sorcerers). Sorcerers can use their magic to control time, alter physical things, create/destroy things, persuade other students, and empathize with those in need. However, they gain bonus dice from doing nice things for others, stuff that requires sacrifice, as they are not supposed to use their magic for selfish reasons.

The PDF plot ideas, different characters to interact with, and other background info.

The game system uses multiplication tables. A player can call Stop in the middle of an event or action that is unfolding, like when a bully decides to rough up her friend for lunch money. At that point, the player describes what magic the sorcerer is going to use in the situation, like tying his shoelaces together from a distance or using a soothing voice to calm the bully down and reduce him to tears. The Narrator comes up with the Level of Danger, a number that is higher or lower based on the difficulty of the spell, and the player has to plop down two dice from his dice pool that when multiplied together equal the Level of Danger.

In the example above, the Level of Danger might be 42, so the player would have to pull out a 7 and a 6 on the dice.

Dice pools are made up of D6s, D8s, and D10s, so the strategy is knowing when to use your larger dice since you have less of those.

And that's pretty much it, I guess.

I would appreciate comments, clarifying questions, and general feedback. I don't think I am going to sell this, but I will probably provide it for free with a donate button somewhere on my website. The book is nicely laid out in a fun style. It will need some play testing to narrow the focus a little, and there are some questions that I ignore (like the limits of magic and all). No, there really isn't a combat system. It's extremely simple and may have limited replay value. I'm not sure.

Check out the current draft here:
http://www.mysticages.com/TeenageSorcerer-Playtest.pdf
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2010, 04:53:32 PM »

Hi,

Is there a time limit on providing the right combination? And if you put down the dice, your saying the value for each die (that stays within the range of the die, ie a eight sider you can say 7, because that's within the 1-8 range)?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Nathan
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2010, 05:45:31 PM »

Hi,

Is there a time limit on providing the right combination? And if you put down the dice, your saying the value for each die (that stays within the range of the die, ie a eight sider you can say 7, because that's within the 1-8 range)?

No, I'm not thinking of a time limit. It's a thought to perhaps add a little spice, and in fact, I would probably allow the player to keep trying until they get the multiples right.

Yes, that's correct. I might need some more examples in the text to make that clear since it could be a little confusing.

And I would count a multiple of 1 if they used it - like a 1 on a D6 and a 7 on a D6.

Thanks!
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Mobius
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2010, 03:24:04 AM »

This is a great idea!  I agree with adding more examples.  Because the primary goal of the game is to teach multiplication while having fun lack of a time limit and multiple tries are good. 

You may want to consider adding a mechanic where the player can get some help coming up with a valid combination.  I suggest this because if they are just not "getting it" for a particular spell it could become very frustrating and you want her to keep having fun, playing, and learning. Smiley

For example may they could trade in their lowest die for a hint where the narrator would set one of the numbers for them.
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Mobius a.k.a Charles
Jim D.
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2010, 09:35:03 AM »

This is excellent, Nathan.  I love the idea; I also think that placing the action in a high school for a sixth-grader is an excellent choice, because what kid doesn't fantasize about getting older?

So if I'm reading the rules right, you have seven to nine spells per day, assuming full rest and no bonus dice?  Sounds pretty fair for a standard session.  Playing it fast and loose and giving the kid a generous number of chances for bonus dice in a "boss" scenario means you could have some pretty epic standoffs, too.

I like Mobius's idea of spending dice for hints; it could come back to bite you if overdone, and one small die generates just enough cost to be credible.
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Falc
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2010, 06:39:11 PM »

My first remark would be that you're not actually rolling the dice, correct? You just use the range of values. Maybe another 'prop' might be better suited? It would also free you from the artificial restraints that are the standard die sizes...

Now, about the whole idea behind it... It seems to me that the skill you'll be training using this system is factorization and not multiplication. Now, I like math. I'm pretty good at mental calculations. But I wouldn't be able to just blurt out that 42 is 7*6.

Imagine yourself in the place of someone who has trouble doing multiplications. You're given a spell of difficulty 18. You want to use the smallest dice possible. So you start by trying 2. 2 times how much is 18? 2 times 2 is 4, 2 times 2 is 6, all the way to 2 times 2 is 9. Yay, found one. But 9 is really high... So we start over by trying 3 times 2 is 6 up to 3 times 6 is 18. Okay, 3 and 6 are both on a d6 so you can't do better.

I don't see any other way for a kid to reach the 'right' answer unless it's by going over all the tables, one by one. And for 42, that could take some time. And that could ruin all their fun, defeating the purpose of the game, I think.
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Nathan
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2010, 05:21:19 PM »

Thanks for the great comments!

First, I love the idea of spending a die to get a "hint". Very cool.

Second, you do not roll the dice, so conceivably, the game could be played without dice. Dice are fun though, and my niece likes to have them around. Plus, it does add a little bit of a strategy element to have some limited resources to deal with.

And finally, Falc, you make an excellent point. I had not thought of that. In a way, yes, the main mechanic is more about factorization.

An alternate way might be for the Narrator to put down two dice, and the player needs to answer the math problem. So, if the Narrator puts down 5 on a D6 and a 6 on a D6, the player would have to list that number on two D10s (or write it down or whatever). This would completely change the game. If it is just up to the player being able to answer the question correctly, then what is the point of different kinds of magic and so on?

Although it could still work with the lesser dice. I will have to think about this. Is this what you mean?

Answering 30 would be impossible on anything but a D6/D8/D10 (showing a 3) for the first die and you would have to have a D10 (showing a 0) for the second die. This really would make things a little more complicated, since some lower numbers would require higher dice than some of the midrange stuff.
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Falc
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2010, 05:15:45 AM »

Quote
If it is just up to the player being able to answer the question correctly, then what is the point of different kinds of magic and so on?

The real question now would be if you're more interested in building a game or rather in building a learning tool. I don't believe they're mutually exclusive, but in this particular instance, if you really wish to help someone learn multiplication, then I believe you need to give them multiplication problems and not factorization or division.

For addition and subtraction, yes, going one way or the other is pretty much the same thing. But for multiplication, I personally feel that the inverse(s) require(s) very different thought processes.

So how could you create a fun challenge of multiplication? What you could do for that might be to have the player roll two dice and in order to succeed the spell, she needs to multiply those numbers together. Using easier magic (whether because you're betterat that magic or the spell is just simpler) means you're allowed to roll D4s, hardest spell would be D10s. You still have a chance of getting lucky (1 times 1 is 1) but you could end up with an 7and a 9...

Side note: extensions for adult players could include adding a third die and/or going to D20s, with a time limit. 17 times 14 in 30 seconds to burn that dragon to a crisp, GO!
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Nathan
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2010, 08:28:47 PM »

Just wanted to let you all know that there might be a happy ending to this whole story.

Newest playtest file is up - http://mysticages.com/TeenageSorcerer.pdf

I switched the system over to a pure multiplication focus. Narrator rolls a die based on the difficulty (d6 being low, d10 being hard). Player rolls a die based on either the magical skill or pulled from the dice pool. If you multiply the dice rolls together, the action is a success.

In a lot of ways, it's even simpler than the first, but I was able to leave just about everything else intact.

So, I really appreciate the help and ideas. The funny thing is, I will have two versions - one for multiplication practice and the other for factorization help. Funny.

I'll let you all know how it will go when I play it tomorrow night with my niece.
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Kanosint
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2010, 07:49:56 AM »

I just want to say that I really like this idea. It's both educational, fast, and it's quite fun, too... I really hope you'll continue with it, maybe with other mathematical stuff to add some difficult but rewarding things... Do you want to go for something easy? Or make it harder for a massive success? Yup, definitely see the potential ^^
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