I am an experienced GM and EFL/ESOL* teacher. I've mostly played pre-3e D&D but also later D&D, Exalted and OWoD, Savage Worlds, more recently D&D Next Playtest / 5e and Fate.
The players are mixed-ability learners of English, in classes ranging in size from 12 to 20 students, with no specific knowledge or experience of pen-and-paper rpgs.
- some classes are homogenous in terms of their low level of English (Elementary or Pre-Intermediate; CEFR A1 or A2)
- some classes are mixed-ability, including higher level learners (Elementary - Upper-Intermediate; CEFR A1-B2)
- of the 100 or so students in total, only one has even heard of Dungeons & Dragons in particular or pen-and-paper rpgs in general, and none have played before.
- that said, most of the students are familiar with many fantasy / swords-and-sorcery tropes from mass media (see below), and about half from computer games.
I plan to play with each class separately with an identical (though flexible) self-contained GM-written adventure, like a convention game.
The game recommendation
I plan to use a simple rpg both as a way of getting students to use English in an entertaining way, and also test the waters for people interested in joining a university rpg club, which I intend to found.
The requirements for this rpg are:
- Rules light. The rules must be easy to convey to students in the minimum of time, so as to spend as much time possible actually playing the game.
- Chargen must be very quick or instant, for similar reasons.
- The genre should be something which can be linked to the students' mass-media knowledge and interest in fantasy. An informal survey of the students revealed that the majority of students love the Harry Potter films, with Hobbit/LoTR films and the Twilight series coming in joint second.
- It should be possible to explain the game, generate characters, and play a short (GM-written) adventure in 3-4 hours, so as to fit into students' timetables.
- The number of special vocabulary items needed to play the game should be minimal. As a negative example, even the relatively short list of D&D 5e skills would be overwhelming for some learners.
- Due to the lack of rpg experience and in some cases English language, the game should be GM led.
- The game should be a tabletop rpg, not a larp as I have no experience with larp, and am planning to found a tabletop rpg club.
- Clearly the number of people in each class is an issue, as traditional rpgs can usually only cope with about 2-8 players, but some sort of splitting the classes into smaller groups is possible.
Ideal requirements (OK if not possible)
- Ideally the game should use polyhedral dice, as my experience showed that students love these anyway, not being available in their country, and that could add to student engagement in the game. I have enough sets of polyhedral dice to make this practical.
- It should be available legally as a pdf, either paying or free, to avoid postage expenses and problems.
Remember, game-recommendation answers have to be from experience
The appropriate broadness/narrowness of this question was discussed on meta and I recommend anyone look at the discussion there before attempting an answer.
To be relevant to my situation, but not so narrow that only I can answer, I would like to see answers where people can describe their or others' experience of using games fitting the 'essential' criteria above:
- in an educational context
- where the students are new to roleplaying
- in classes which exceed the normal number a tabletop rpg can cope with (12+)
- with students of mixed English ability
I am aware of the following online resources relating to using roleplaying games with learners of English, but they don't answer my questions for the reasons given:
- This paper is too technical - I'm looking for more practical advice.
- This paper is more practical, but dated, being based on AD&D 2, a system I love but which is also far too complicated for my purposes.
- This blog entry is interesting as it offers an actual adventure map, but it doesn't address the problem of a rules light system - the teacher/DM used D&D which he admitted to be overly complicated.
*English as a Foreign Language / English to Speakers of Other Languages