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Background

I've recently started an rpg club at the foreign university I work at. I sold this to my bosses by saying it would be a way for students to practice their English and develop the following 'competencies':

  • creativity & imagination
  • teamwork
  • problem solving

Things are going well - a dedicated group are meeting to play D&D 5e with me as DM. But my bosses still don't really understand what it is we do and I think the best way is to show them by running a one-shot adventure. Two of the four or five people I have in mind have already expressed an interest in coming to the club and playing, but I think that would be too awkward for the student members and too difficult to get the bosses up to speed without derailing the game and/or confusing them too much.

Game recommendation

My bosses are are a mixture of career academics and business professionals with excellent English, though we could decide to play in another language (Russian is the most likely). In any case, no-one doubts that the club is good English practice, so I don't have to prove that to anyone.

My overall aim is to introduce them to the idea of tabletop roleplaying games as an activity (play a PC, interact with the game world, make decisions, roll dice to determine outcomes). My criteria for the scenario are:

  • GM led tabletop rpg
  • modern (1950s - present) setting (super ideally set in a university or office)
  • no magic / supernatural elements
  • serious tone
  • a written scenario which showcases the above 'competencies'.
  • 3-5 pregenerated PCs
  • possible to play in 90 minutes (I know this is tough, but this amount of time will already be a big ask)
  • available in English, Russian or German, ideally as a legal (paying or free) pdf

As for the nature of the rules I'm flexible and happy to learn, but the mechanics shouldn't be so heavy (or difficult to pare down) as to dominate the already limited play time, nor so light or innovative as to confuse people who have no idea about what an rpg is about. For example Savage Worlds or NWoD would be fine as base rulesets, but The Pool or Fate too confusing for the players.

In some ways this question is the evil twin of this one but the serious tone is the big difference.

I've also Googled what I can, but found it hard to get the combination of setting, tone, play time and being GM-led.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That sure beats basic foreign language textbooks. \$\endgroup\$ – PRX Mar 17 '15 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Before putting lots of energy into this, have you checked that your bosses actually have time and desire to sit down and play for even 90 minutes? People who are academics and administrators are not known for their copious free time. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 17 '15 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Even if it's never run, having a kit ready in case they decide to call in an evaluation is a good idea. Offering might also be appreciated, even if actually doing the one-shot might not be feasible. In any case whether or not this is a good idea is a question for the OP or Academia, not here. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 17 '15 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of game do the students play? Is it also a modern setting? Are you sure it's a good idea to demonstrate a different system than the one you are actually using? \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Mar 17 '15 at 21:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon it's a good point, but I suppose I want to just remove any factor which might be confusing, whilst still showing the general idea of how a roleplaying game works. \$\endgroup\$ – harlandski Mar 18 '15 at 1:00
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You want to focus on practicing another language as the emphasis, right?

Take a modern situation - the players are traveling in an English speaking country, their rental car has broken down and they need it fixed.

At the closest mechanic's shop, the head mechanic is away on errands, while their younger brother is there. The players, of course, don't know this unless they can speak English. They will have to figure this out, go find the head mechanic and tell him to come right away. The mechanic needs a part from another person, who the players will have to talk to and go pick up as well.

Have a map of a small town with a few locations written in English. So they can practice reading as well.

Obviously, the people at your school might have way better English skills than the students, so you might just be best off doing a 90 minute example with the students and recording it - and then showing part of it off to them. Takes them less time and highlights what you're doing.

If you want to justify D&D at a later point, it might be worth noting how well Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are popular and if it gets folks learning English better to sell it with things they enjoy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for numerous good ideas. Recording some samples from actual student games seems like an idea the asker should at least consider. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Mar 17 '15 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bankuei I don't think my bosses doubt the English value of the club, which is possibly why as I've just said in another comment two of them actually asked if they could play. Your answer is good as it covers the 'competencies' I mention. Are you suggesting they basically play as themselves (PC = player), and that we do it diceless, ie more like a sort of management training roleplay? \$\endgroup\$ – harlandski Mar 18 '15 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ That would be my suggestion. It's more immediate and less "Wait, the students have to learn armor class? What?" kind of confusing. I've worked admin at a school before and all you need is one person to hyperfocus on some trivial part and then it becomes a mess about nothing. "Bikeshedding" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_law_of_triviality . Easier to give them the more direct example so they can let it continue. \$\endgroup\$ – user9935 Mar 18 '15 at 2:29
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Rather than creating a whole new campaign and making a one-shot, have you considered creating characters in your bosses images and having them in as guest-PCs/NPCs? Explain that while they're there they'd be 'acting' and 'controlling' the characters, but since they're part of the environment, you'll be taking care of any complicated rules for them.

Explain that you designed these characters specially just for them since you thought they might enjoy joining every so often and their (insert positive personality trait and/or other flattery) made for a great character that fit a role you were having trouble filling.

I'm thinking that having them do the occasional dice roll might actually get them interested and into it (it adds a tactile element and makes them feel like they're actually doing something). Being an NPC, you can weave it in so they're 'part of the story' which might make them a little more invested in the idea (and gives them the appearance of being able to drop in to play any time, whether they do so or not). This also allows them to play for as long or short a time as they like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a good idea, and I tend to agree about the dice rolling. Can you specify which system you are suggesting I use? \$\endgroup\$ – harlandski Apr 16 '15 at 2:09

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