Running Pathfinder at my school (I'm a teacher)


Advice

Sczarni

Hey Paizo Community!
I would like your input on implementing Pathfinder gameplay at the school I work at.
I ran a forensic camp this summer and wound up talking to a student who would be entering my school in 7th grade...my school is 7-12th. He told me that his previous school had a CLASS for D&D (awesome!) and that his older brother (who I know) had helped teach it this year.
This obviously has gotten me thinking. I would like to start a Pathfinder group for the kids at my school. Initially I will GM, but eventually, I hope that is picked up by other kids.
Should I try to do this PFS legal...run a module or something? Or just run super fun scenarios and stop them wherever we need to?
Also, should I separate middle school and high school? Or keep them together at first?
Any suggestions are welcome. I want to create a really positive pathfinder experience fo these kids.

Thanks for your feedback.:)


Lamontia wrote:

Hey Paizo Community!

I would like your input on implementing Pathfinder gameplay at the school I work at.
I ran a forensic camp this summer and wound up talking to a student who would be entering my school in 7th grade...my school is 7-12th. He told me that his previous school had a CLASS for D&D (awesome!) and that his older brother (who I know) had helped teach it this year.
This obviously has gotten me thinking. I would like to start a Pathfinder group for the kids at my school. Initially I will GM, but eventually, I hope that is picked up by other kids.
Should I try to do this PFS legal...run a module or something? Or just run super fun scenarios and stop them wherever we need to?
Also, should I separate middle school and high school? Or keep them together at first?
Any suggestions are welcome. I want to create a really positive pathfinder experience fo these kids.

Thanks for your feedback.:)

First off, good luck to you. I consider passing on the tradition a duty and an honor.

I would not begin with PFS unless the students want that. PFS aims to be as 100% RAW as is possible, and it is my belief that when beginning to play RPGs it is better to encourage imagination before rules mastery. Rules can also be a barrier to new players.

Begin with scenarios that last a session or two, and expand from there. This will make it easier for some players to get involved.

I would only separate the students by age if the club is large enough. The younger kids can learn from the older.

Make sure everyone has fun, and you're bound to produce a few life-long gamers out of it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Repeat after me: Interdisciplinary program.

These are the magic words for getting approval. With tabletop games, you are able to have students deal with literature and drama (obviously), creative problem solving, debate, leadership and teamwork, as well as statistics (should I even power attack? It drops my bonus to hit down low enough it might hurt my DPR.).

You might also be able to various academic perspectives that might make good buzzwords. I always felt that Pathfinder's lizardfolk made an excellent introduction into postcolonialism. See if you can coordinate it with the ELA classes to pair it at the same time with Native American or African literature.

Also, hearing the horror stories as a student in a MAT program for secondary education, I advise you to try to shy away from "inappropriate" subject. Ogres, orcs, and Lamashtu might be avoided for....obvious reasons. Yes, the standards are a bit weird when just about everyone is fine with you chopping heads off. You might want to prepare a defense before hand for both the group and maybe a few AP's. Be prepared for bizarre objections. Also, make a permission slip mandatory for joining.


How about using the Beginner Box? Check out this blog post and this thread about the Beginner Box


I definitely encourage you not to run it PFS-legal. You need to ease the newer players into understanding the rules before you saddle them with all of them. I've also noticed that around 85% of the players I've introduced to Pathfinder and tabletop gaming preferred just straight up punching things for their first half year or so of gaming. So be prepared to go story-lite for awhile if necessary.

Hopefully you'll find a few gems early on, so you can start making the non-combat aspects of the game more prevalent sooner - but you'll still probably always have that one kid groaning in the corner because his 18 STR barbarian isn't stabbing something right now.

I can't really comment or give any advice on whether or not you should separate the children by age - it depends on what each demographic takes interest in, and how well they behave in a group.

Also, if you find a kid who wants to GM? Cherish and support them. I would cry golden tears if one of the fifteen or so people I've introduced to tabletop gaming these last few years came up to me and told me they wanted to break into GMing. I haven't had a chance to play as anything other than a cohort (or for longer than like, one session) in almost two years.

Just things you've got to prepare for.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I vote for the Beginner Box as well.

Sczarni

Vote for the Beginner's Box also.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Perhaps start with the beginner box, but as soon as possible switch to normal rules. The earler the better, because normal rules bring more abilities and stuff and that´s easier to learn from level 1 on.

How can Pathfinder RPG be good at a school?
-People learn to familiarize themselves with laws and rules, always good.
-It can act as a form of violence prevention class, just talk about the feelings and consequences of violence in some words.
-By playing other races and perhaps even genders, people learn about tolerance, equality and racism firsthand. Slowly stress roleplaying to learn empathy, letting them really play and feel their characters, not just hack and slay on paper. Going deeper into Golarion lore can help this. Of course you can compare it to real world history and Lore.
-Tactical thinking and resource management.
-Readability. Let them read and learn all rules and show them how to speedread. Their learning scores will explode. Combine with the hint that wizardry and magic are math and physics and chemistry in real life.
-Group play and cooperation education. Can even be good for kids who have some problems getting along.

Of course this gives you some challenge as a teacher too^^
But in the end i think it should be really rewarding!

Not sure how this is in the U.S., but here in europe some if not most topics are cool in school. The key there is talking about it and reflecting the stuff in a right and pedagogic way. Guess if you are in some U.S. Taliban state you have lost though. Still can modify the games and Ap´s, either avoiding or using bluff (secret message) certain topics.


Having nothing constructive to add, I just want to say that I approve of Pathfinder as a team-building exercise ;)

Shadow Lodge

Beginner box definitely and you may want to look at what paizo has done for the gencon kids track, though that might be younger than your group.

Don't do pfs for all the reasons mentioned, as well as pfs modules allow very little room to breathe as they are designed to be run in a very set time (and thus gloss over a lot of time to explore or rp)

You could also tie this to creative writing assignment or art with the reward not being a grade but a free reroll.

Grand Lodge

You might want to create a handout designed to educate the parents as to what you are doing and how it benefits their children. I still occasionally find parents from my generation whose only knowledge of D&D comes from what they heard during the Satanic Panic of the 80s.


I had success in my school club by starting with the beginner box and going on to PFS scenarios.

Liberty's Edge

I run the Role-Playing Game club at the high school where I work. We have used "sort-of-PFS" style - generally PFS rules, including chronicles and PFS rules for access to magic items, but not PFS-legal. We have also used a campaign that I designed. Both approaches worked well.

This year, one of the students is starting his own campaign with custom races he designed using the ARG.

The school library even bought a copy of the CRB at a student's request.

EDIT: I neglected to mention how students may benefit from playing such games. One year, we had a student on the autistic spectrum in the group. Empathy is something with which autistic students struggle, so playing the role of a different person and trying to see the world through his character's eyes was very good for him. Students need to do a fair amount of "mental math", adding, subtracting and multiplying in their heads. Students also have a practical introduction to the laws of probability. And for a few students, it is an opportunity to socialize.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

While many don´t recommend PFS, i would recommend PFS style at least.
In PFS, most or all evil races and classes and archetypes are from the table, which can save you a lot of discussions.

Liberty's Edge

Hayato Ken wrote:

While many don´t recommend PFS, i would recommend PFS style at least.

In PFS, most or all evil races and classes and archetypes are from the table, which can save you a lot of discussions.

Hayato Ken makes an excellent point. Keep evil characters out of play. I would also recommend limiting choice to core races, perhaps with a few additions if the race is comparable in power to the core races. You might also want to exclude the Master Summoner, Broodmaster Summoner and Packmaster Druid archetypes to limit the number of PCs and PC-controlled monsters at the table.


Whenever introducing new players to RPG's, I try to initially keep things fast & loose rules-wise, introducing new rules and concepts gradually so they don't feel overwhelmed & get frustrated (if your concept of "tabletop gaming" is Monopoly & Trivial Pursuit, the average RPG can have a fairly steep learning curve by comparison). I'd also recommend keeping the actual play groups to a reasonable size (4-6 players) if at all possible; the more players you have at the table, the more things get bogged down & individual players lose interest waiting for their turn to come up. Evil characters & really exotic races should be off the table, at least until everyone has some play experience under their belts. Regarding things like gods, that's an individual judgement call based on your players & the local community; some players (or in the case of students, their parents) are uncomfortable even playing make-believe with fictional deities outside their own real-world religion, so you'll want to take that into consideration as well.


I've organized and GMed several gaming groups at various local libraries for high school aged kids. When we played, they seemed to struggle with the math - especially when it came to making characters.

I recommend providing pre-gens in addition to a unique handout that provides suggestions on how to role-play that character. From my experience, the teens were interested in the game, but the concept of roleplaying was completely foreign to them. The handout will also get them more involved with the game beyond rolling dice and killing stuff.

I also wrote my own adventures because I didn't want the task of censoring a pre-published adventure. If the group went off the deep end with an evil act, I could steer them to a different path. Mostly, the kids I GMed hovered between CG and CN acts.

I would also recommend a PFS style of one-shots rather than focus on a continuous plot or AP. That way, everyone can play and be involved and you do not need to worry about plot gaps if one kid misses the meeting and their character is integral to the next session. An episodic campaign will save you a lot of headaches.

When I GMed, none of the parents made any negative comments about the "satanic" stuff back in the 80s, but, doing a permission slip or letter to the parents would be smart, I think - especially if your club is at a public school.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Chewing everything for them has no learning effect.
Especially for people who have math problems, making it more attractive by packing it into something they enjoy and are interested at is a great help and motivation.


Speaking from the pedagogical perspective (high school teacher but no experience actually running RPGs with high schoolers*):

- I think "critical thinking" and "non-linear problem-solving" should be your watchwords. I would have the club be more focused on GMing than on playing, students taking turns setting up challenges that are keyed to a particular skill set. The student GM must actually plan out what the challenge is, what skills/items/attributes are being tested (both the PCs' AND their players'), and how they will be able to learn to overcome the challenge. If they create a puzzle for the other players, then they need to think about how they give clues to that puzzle. If it's a combat encounter with special rules (like unknown DR), then the student GM should allow the PCs time and resources to overcome it. I imagine this like a math class where you are given addition and subtraction, and have to use them to create multiplication on the fly. You could even have the campaign be based on an academy, like a Wizards' School, or a Taldoran Army training ground.

- I would play the "interpersonal education" angle as a distant second. It's a challenge to ask high schoolers to get involved in the kind of deep empathy that some great roleplaying sessions can inspire, and it's a lot to ask students to do things like create races and scenarios to reflect historical/sociopolitical/ethnic dynamics. (_Maybe_ it could be a way for troubled kids to play out alternate reactions to real life conflicts?) If it happens, though, it's a huge bonus.

- I am super excited to hear how this goes.

*I DID have a great class with my 12th graders last year where we played a level of "SPEC OPS: The Line" and compared it to the ironic self-reflection of Marlow in HEART OF DARKNESS.


Keeping things out (keep it as few as possible) might encourage them to start their own after school games. And we know thats where the (good) trouble begins!


As a fair warning, it would be a very wise move to make sure other teachers are on board with the idea, especially if students want to start their own campaigns/groups and you're worried about keeping tabs on them. I went to a public high school, a few students there during my stay started a Pathfinder group (with teacher administration and sponsorship) only for it to get shut down within a week for "religious persecution"--simply because one PC chose a cleric as his class. Not sure if you're in the public sector or not, but this is something to be considered (perhaps moreso if it's a private school with Catho-Christian backing).

Otherwise, I can't add too much to the conversation, other than my well-wishes and luck.


I advise the Computer and Game Club at my high school. We play card games, paper and pencil RPGs, board games, video games and computer games. It varies from year to year depending on the interests of the students. I'd suggest casting your net wider than just one type of game (paper and pencil RPG) and one specific game (Pathfinder). I use a permission slip for the club requiring parents names and contact information (and I give mine to them). Nothing will fold your club faster than a screaming parent who thinks games (of whatever type) are the Devil's tool. Sucks for the unlucky kid, but it's the price of having the club.

Kids are growing up and their interests will change in the years you have them. Multiple game types / games accommodates that. This way you expose them to a variety and they often develop an interest in different types of games. Choose a meeting time which gives enough time to play without intruding on dinner / home time. I have mine on Fridays after school for a couple of hours.

Make sure your administration is on board with the idea. Pitch it to them as mentioned below. I have a standing invitation to faculty, administration and parents to visit. Once they see what is happening they tend to be happy. It's socialization for the kids, team building, healthy competition and it takes some kids from a solitary hobby to one with a group. I have between 20 and 50 members a year playing a variety of games. The Special Ed department, school psychologist, counselors etc. love it. I've run the club for about 15 years now without incident in a very conservative area. Let me know if you have any questions about it.

Good luck and post how it goes.

Shadow Lodge

JKalts wrote:
...a few students there during my stay started a Pathfinder group (with teacher administration and sponsorship) only for it to get shut down within a week for "religious persecution"--simply because one PC chose a cleric as his class.

what the?

Project Manager

Definitely ping Mike Brock -- some of our kids track materials might be helpful, and he may have other resources that can be useful for you. :-)


Avatar-1 wrote:


JKalts wrote:


...a few students there during my stay started a Pathfinder group (with teacher administration and sponsorship) only for it to get shut down within a week for "religious persecution"--simply because one PC chose a cleric as his class.

what the?

Not too sure, but it sounds like they failed to get parent approval from club members and the student had very religious parents who disapproved. As I mentioned above, one angry parent is all it takes to do your club in. Most school administrations have the spines of jellyfish when it comes to whining parents. I've navigated these waters for a decade and a half in a very conservative / religious area.

*edit* Oh, and divorces can be rough for the kids. Make sure both parents approve (if custodial) or the custodial parent does. They tend to look for battlegrounds and oppose what the other parent approves. I've been lucky over the years on this.


R_Chance wrote:
Avatar-1 wrote:


JKalts wrote:


...a few students there during my stay started a Pathfinder group (with teacher administration and sponsorship) only for it to get shut down within a week for "religious persecution"--simply because one PC chose a cleric as his class.

what the?

Not too sure, but it sounds like they failed to get parent approval from club members and the student had very religious parents who disapproved. As I mentioned above, one angry parent is all it takes to do your club in. Most school administrations have the spines of jellyfish when it comes to whining parents. I've navigated these waters for a decade and a half in a very conservative / religious area.

*edit* Oh, and divorces can be rough for the kids. Make sure both parents approve (if custodial) or the custodial parent does. They tend to look for battlegrounds and oppose what the other parent approves. I've been lucky over the years on this.

Both of these points are depressing and accurate. There's no reason an RPG game should get shut down in a public school for something like that. It either boils down to administration not having the spine to back up their teachers (as you said) or people not actually understanding what the 1st Amendment actually means. Or, (often) both.

As for divorces, yeah. Adults can be some of the most childish people I know.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

For those of you who have HS Clubs (as members or sponsors), how often and for how long does your group play/meet?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lamontia wrote:

Hey Paizo Community!

I would like your input on implementing Pathfinder gameplay at the school I work at.
I ran a forensic camp this summer and wound up talking to a student who would be entering my school in 7th grade...my school is 7-12th. He told me that his previous school had a CLASS for D&D (awesome!) and that his older brother (who I know) had helped teach it this year.
This obviously has gotten me thinking. I would like to start a Pathfinder group for the kids at my school. Initially I will GM, but eventually, I hope that is picked up by other kids.
Should I try to do this PFS legal...run a module or something? Or just run super fun scenarios and stop them wherever we need to?
Also, should I separate middle school and high school? Or keep them together at first?
Any suggestions are welcome. I want to create a really positive pathfinder experience fo these kids.

Thanks for your feedback.:)

I would strongly advise AGAINST complicating your venture with PFS Society play. Just keep it as homeplay. Schoolwork should be done in a context that keeps it totally self contained as schoolwork. Also functioning as a PFS judge in such a venue can raise conflict of interest issues.

Now if you want to help get PFS started as an afterschool event, you should have the judging being done by the students, not yourself for the reasons listed above. In other words you should not be using a school activity to build your own PFS standing. That's where the conflict of interest issue would come up.

Liberty's Edge

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Don't do it. Keep your job. Seriously.

To many crazy parents, not worth the risk.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ciretose is right.

The most you should do is sponsor an afterschool club if students want to organise their own activity. Keep your PFS activity completely out of it.

And quite frankly, I'd have serious questions to ask as a parent if actual class time activity was being spent on this. American children have precious little school time as it is compared to those in other nations. They should not be spending it on games.

Shadow Lodge

ciretose wrote:

Don't do it. Keep your job. Seriously.

To many crazy parents, not worth the risk.

As a former teacher, I fully and 100% agree.

If a parent or two object, it won't be the school shutting down the game. It will be the school shutting down the game and firing you.

In fact, it could end up that way based on one of the kids not liking a ruling you made.

Just don't do it.

Shadow Lodge

Guys it's a pretty big call to say don't do it or else your job is at risk. Nobody has even asked what Lamontia's environment is like, and it could swing either towards being as welcoming as the post sounds or as awful as you're potentially saying it could be.

To say don't even risk it without knowing anything is a huge over-cautious leap.

Shadow Lodge

Avatar-1 wrote:

Guys it's a pretty big call to say don't do it or else your job is at risk. Nobody has even asked what Lamontia's environment is like, and it could swing either towards being as welcoming as the post sounds or as awful as you're potentially saying it could be.

To say don't even risk it without knowing anything is a huge over-cautious leap.

Have you ever worked for a school district, Avatar-1?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Avatar-1 wrote:

Guys it's a pretty big call to say don't do it or else your job is at risk. Nobody has even asked what Lamontia's environment is like, and it could swing either towards being as welcoming as the post sounds or as awful as you're potentially saying it could be.

To say don't even risk it without knowing anything is a huge over-cautious leap.

Here's the problem I have. the OP is very likely a member of PFS with an interest of raising his own standing in Network Play.

Which makes him not a disinterested party if he starts GMing PFS events as part of a school activity. That's a conflict of interest. I've stated what I believe should be the boundaries and suggested venue of such an activity, as well as an appropriate boundary on when it should be done.

I'm a PFS player and judge. But if I find out that a teacher at my niece's school is using CLASS TIME to run Pathfinder games, I'm going to have some pointed questions to ask that teacher and the schoolboard if the teacher's answers aren't to my satisfaction.


NorthernOkie wrote:


For those of you who have HS Clubs (as members or sponsors), how often and for how long does your group play/meet?

Fridays for my clubs. Runs about 2 hours (sometimes a bit more or less).

*edit* Afterschool on Fridays, that is.


ciretose wrote:


Don't do it. Keep your job. Seriously.

To many crazy parents, not worth the risk.

First you go to your administration. If they are on board then you set up clear guidelines. It's a school activity. It requires parent permission for membership. My club has the same guidelines for participation that sports / other activities do. Some parents (or the admin) may have restrictions in mind for their child -- live with them. Better a club with limits than no club. In my case the parents may suspend a club member (for grades etc.) and coaches / teachers / counselors use it as a resource as well. You point out it involves reading, cooperation, imagination and is a supervised school activity with all the school rules on behavior etc.. You make it known that administrators, parents and staff are welcome to drop in and check out club activities. You advise and supervise. Don't run your own game, mine for example is too adult, provide resources and if they need you to run a game make sure it's PG and coach students to start their own.

Fundraising is often a necessity. Good luck with that, it's a pain :)

Common sense and the ability to deal appropriately with teenagers is pretty much required.


LazarX wrote:
Here's the problem I have. the OP is very likely a member of PFS with an interest of raising his own standing in Network Play.

and upon what do you base this assumption? It is possible for people to act without ulterior motives driving them......

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