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I work with students that have a lot of difficulty performing roles that benefit the group as a whole. Their mentality is that they all want to be the winner or at least play the most important part, and so they struggle with the fact that everyone is important and plays a role in success for the group. I am asking here because my knowledge of any kind of RPG where roles are assigned and must be performed is extremely limited. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I have 10 year-olds, usually 8-10 of them. Fantasy is fine, but probably need to stay away from demons and black magic. My initial thought that started this was an economy type rpg.

What I'm really looking for is a game where the students are required to perform a role that differs from everyone else's, and if they don't perform it well (as in trying to do someone elses "job") they fail as a group.

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Hi, and welcome to RPG.SE. A very interesting question, and I'm sure there will be some very good answers. A couple of things could help form those however. What ages are we talking about? And are you looking for any specific subject matter? i.e. is Fantasy going to be OK, or are you looking at real world environments? –  wraith808 Jun 20 '13 at 13:50
    
Oh, right, I forgot to put in the specifics. I have 10 year-olds, usually 8-10 of them. Fantasy is fine, but probably need to stay away from demons and black magic. My initial thought that started this was an economy type rpg. What I'm really looking for is a game where the students are required to perform a role that differs from everyone else's, and if they don't perform it well (as in trying to do someone elses "job") they fail as a group. –  TCRivers Jun 20 '13 at 13:51
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Yes, welcome! Please take a look at the help; it gives a good idea of the site's ethos, and some practical advice on how to design questions in order to get the kind of answers you're hoping for. When you've got 20+ rep, feel free to join us in the chat. –  BESW Jun 20 '13 at 13:56
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Welcome. Independently of the game you should consider split the class in groups, maybe recruiting some help to manage it. I don't have good experience playing with groups of 8+, so I imagine playing with 10 kids would be madness. Also, it will be difficult that every kid shines (which is part of your lesson) with so many characters. –  Flamma Jun 20 '13 at 18:31
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You might also look at cooperative boardgames, like Pandemic and Shadows over Camelot. boardgamegeek.com/boardgamemechanic/2023/co-operative-play –  gomad Jun 20 '13 at 19:48
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4 Answers

One problem you're going to run into with any traditional RPG is going to be size of your group. 8-10 players is usually pretty large for a cohesive RPG experience.

That said, I'd recommend three different systems. They all lack something of your requirements, but in both cases that shortcoming can be overcome with a bit of creativity.

My first recommendation would be Dungeon World. It is a D&D sort of game, where the group goes in search of adventure in a fantasy world. There are different classes, with each falling into a specific role based on their use of moves. These moves give the ability to attack a monster, heal a party member, or do other things that are somewhat specific to the needs of the party. You can act outside of the restrictions of these moves, but you will be penalized for it. The nice thing about this one is that it's pretty strictly narrative; the players narrate what the characters do, and if they have a move that would be triggered, that move just happens. It does lack specific strictures on what players can do, and with creativity they can get around limitations.

My second recommendation is Leverage. It is based on the television series of the same name, and each character takes a role in a group that pulls off heists. While it does satisfy your requirement of the characters working together, as each character is exceptional in his own area, but only mediocre in others, I hesitate on giving this a thumbs up for a few reasons. First, it's geared towards adults in themes. You could get around that with a bit of re-work however. Second, the system is a bit crunchy. It does work well with adults and is fast paced, but I think that will fall down with younger players. Third, while it is based on doing the right thing- the way that they are done isn't necessarily a good message for younger kids. Again, this can be overcome with work on your part, but the default scenario is one in which everyone is on the wrong side of the law doing good things.

My final recommendation would be Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. This is also the one I'd most recommend. While it does not have set classes or roles, it does emphasize helping each other through obstacles and everyone getting an equal turn to affect the story. It's also quite geared towards younger players and is very light hearted. Again, it is a narrative game, so it helps inter-person relationship skills.

One thing that all three have in common is that they are narrative games- they are based more around the story, playing the character, and crafting a narrative rather than merely rolling the dice. I think that no matter what you choose, this would be a good direction to take, as it helps them to talk through problems with the obstacle and each other.

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Do is good because it mechanically enforces everyone's right to contribute equally, and gives each character a "signature" method of solving (and causing) problems. That gives lots of support to both "you're important" and "you all work together". There's no "or else" for working together, you just do. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 20 '13 at 16:31
    
I +1'd this for Leverage. I played Do a few times and think the kids as described would probably consider it too young for them, which could easily backfire. –  gomad Jun 20 '13 at 19:45
    
Realistically, the kids that I work with would probably feel right at home with a game that would normally be "too young" for them. I'll look into it. –  TCRivers Jun 21 '13 at 14:02
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I don't think you need a big published game for this. Keep it really basic and focused on a story with clearly defined successes and failures. Here is what I would do:

Setting: Mystery

It is pretty easy to build a simple mystery or steal one from a TV show or book. Try to include elements that require different skills to uncover clues. Computer knowledge to find this piece of info, knowledge of insects to uncover this info and so on. Keep it really simple and log all the knowledge types needed to solve the mystery.

Setup

Each student can pick from a selection of knowledge. They each get to pick 2 or 3 of these and each one can be picked only twice. No two students are allowed to have the same exact selection of knowledge.

Playing

The students are presented with the situation and get to take on the role of a single detective. Each with a segment of knowledge that the detective has. They are her brain.

Go around the room letting them ask questions to the different characters and let them, in turn, decide when to move on to other locations.

When a student with the "computer" knowledge sees a thumb drive in the hand to the victim, they can say on their turn "Oh, I want to look at what is on the thumb drive" but if a student doesn't have that knowledge, they can't do that.

Make sure you clearly label, probably on the board, all the different details the kids spot and what skills are needed to look into them more.

Conclusion

The kids will have to work together to solve the mystery. They get to pick out what details are important, but only certain kids can have you uncover the clues themselves. At the end, the kids will have revealed the plot and fingered the killer.

The mystery can be as simple or complex as you like. It can have red herrings and unrelated clues. It can even have sub-plots that reveal other goings-on. They'll have fun without the demand being so great on them being actors and without any fiddly rolls or math.

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One place to go for getting close to this are the Phoenix Wright series of games. They deal with uncovering clues in a similar way to how you'll be having your kids do with the above method. –  DampeS8N Jun 20 '13 at 17:14
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I would recommend the Champions system from Hero Games. It uses a point system rather than dice rolls to create the characters, and the kids will get to choose their own awesome superhero powers and be the hero that they most admire/want to be, which encourages buy-in to the concept.

It also encourages interactive game play, as evidenced by the Avengers in the recent movie adaptation. They {the heroes} all have different egos, purposes and powers, yet they have to find a way to work together to defeat the enemy.

It stays away from the straight hack and slash, doesn't introduce any elements other than "Something bad must be defeated", and absolutely encourages cooperation, as they will have different powers that can be highlighted, so that everyone gets a turn being the starring hero.

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I can foresee quite a few problems with that. First, the maths. Hero System is rather... heavy. Even some adults are discouraged by it. Second, getting the kids to accept that not all of them are going to be Iron Man :D. Finally, I don't think Champion actually enforces the concept of roles in a team. –  Nigralbus Jun 20 '13 at 15:20
    
Yeah, Champions is not exactly the kind of game I would foist upon kids. Hero is probably about as crunchy a system as exists. –  NotVonKaiser Jun 20 '13 at 15:43
    
Hrm, I hadn't remembered it as being that math heavy, but it's been a few years since I played it. Should I let it stand, or delete the answer? I'm ok with either. –  JohnP Jun 20 '13 at 16:19
    
If it was up to me, let it stand. I like all the suggestions and am trying out several different ones, thanks for the input. –  TCRivers Jun 21 '13 at 14:03
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One good, rules-light game is Fate Core, or, if you want to get even lighter, is FAE. There are some mechanics-related issues (like Aspects) which you'll need to explain during the game but "character creation" can be as simple as "pick a concept, name your highest skill, and name your character".

You also might want to take a look at the Mouse Guard RPG, which is based on the comic book series of the same name and which, mechanically, is based on a scaled-down version of Burning Wheel. One thing I like about the BW system in general is that while it can be crunchy (especially the core game, MG not so much), you can also make it relatively simple, just a matter of rolling dice against obstacles, invoking FORKs and helping out, that kind of thing.

Between those two, there are a couple of points where creativity can spawn advantages for characters and/or the party. I think the BW/MG system is more conducive to straight-up teamwork whereas the Fate system encourages roleplaying.

  • In Fate, you have aspects, which are quick little blurbs about your character like "Nerdier than a college professor" or "Dumb luck", which you can invoke by spending a fate point (which you get by other means; probably too complex to explain here) and by making up a reason why your aspect would help you out in this situation (for instance, a player might be able to invoke "nerdier than a college professor" when in a situation where he is stuck in a library and has to find an answer to something). You can use as many invokes to help you out as you can, including other players' aspects, although you have to come up with a good reason as to why you can invoke someone else's aspect.

  • In BW/Mouse Guard, you actually still have something called Fate points to help you out in times of need, but the biggest way to add dice to your roll attempt (and increase the chance it succeeds) is by invoking what are called FoRKs (Fields of Related Knowledge) and by other people helping out. If you're trying to use your Navigate skill to get a boat through some shark-infested waters which are also brimming with pirates, you might be able to invoke your own Pirate-wise skill to add an extra die to your roll. On top of that, another member of the party might be able to use their Shark-wise skill to add an extra die as well (BW has that user actually roll that die so you can more easily narrate how their help worked).

Edit: As to how these games allow characters with disparate skills to interact with each other and play as a team, I think that's more in how you design the adventure/campaign than in the RPG itself. There are specific mechanical ways as stated above that BW/MG encourages team play and creativity; however, if all you do is fight cats all game long, it's not going to be all that teamworky, and probably not a lot of fun for those players who didn't optimize their characters for combat. So, instead of advising for a specific system here, I'll add a couple of system-agnostic notes:

  • Present your party with a wide variety of obstacles. Think of this as the RPG equivalent of writing to all five senses. Some of these senses are easy to write to (combat always seems to be a "thing" in RPGs, for instance), some of them are a bit tougher (checking knowledge-based skills, for instance). However, if you make a point to give your characters a lot of different things to worry about - investigations, chases, social gatherings, opportunities to persuade others, etc. - it should be a lot more conducive to what you're looking for than the old fashioned dungeon slog.

  • Make every character shine, if only for a moment. This can go hand in hand with my first point; get a hold of the character sheets, note what everyone is good at, and try and make a point where at least one time per session you give every character to roll against a skill they are really good at. It doesn't have to be the same skill every session, but you do want to make sure you give your players that opportunity to demonstrate that they are kind of awesome. One potential pitfall, especially with a group as large as yours, is that you can have overlapping issues. One way to combat that is...

  • To prevent the party from loading up on one kind of character, you might want to pregen the characters yourself. This is the best way to keep all the boys from playing soldiers too, or at least keep them playing different kinds of soldiers if that's what your game wants to do. It also means you don't have to take so long on character creation, at least in-house. It also could make it easier for you to create an opening adventure, at least, that conforms to my second idea. I might recommend letting the players choose a few cosmetic things about their character like the name and maybe a skill point or two.

  • Do everything you can to involve everyone in every scene. Especially with 8-10 characters, it's not going to be possible to "make everyone shine" in every single scene, but you do want to make a point to get everyone involved. Back in the day I ran a Vampire session (DO NOT ASK IT WAS THE 90S OKAY) with me and 7 other players, and one huge reason why it didn't work was that I wasn't diligent enough in asking around to each and every player what it was that they wanted to do. Even if they confirm that they want to do what the party is doing, that's necessary, I think.

    With kids and with a large group like this, this is especially important. Some kids are going to be more extroverted than others. That's the nature of the game. Just try not to let them take over the game or else it's not going to be a fun time for the introverted ones.

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How do these games address the question's requirement for separate important roles? As is this seems like a good "Games for kids" answer, but we already have a question for that. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 20 '13 at 16:21
    
I will append my response with that... –  NotVonKaiser Jun 20 '13 at 16:24
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