A Grandmaster’s Guide to Good Guilding #4: It’s Good to Be Grandmaster

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Yet another article on my musings while being the adult “Grandmaster” of a successful middle-school Pathfinder RPG club (now 32 students strong!) that the kids and I affectionately call “The Guild.” These posts likely will interest others who are introducing tabletop RPGs to young people. Read, comment, and enjoy!

Not every post on my website need have a specific pedagogical aim. Today I will just report on the progress of the class so far.

This spring is the fourth semester of the “Tabletop RPG Club,” and we seem to be transitioning into a phase of Increased Awesomeness.

The size of the class has grown steadily every semester. While in my previous posts I reported that our group was 27 students strong, perhaps two-thirds (18) of that group honestly were consistently attending and playing. I can now report that of the 32 current students I now report, 31 are consistently attending and playing.

Most importantly, perhaps, there are about 10 kids I can count on to GM, and to GM well.

Who would have thought that a ragtag group of eleven- to thirteen-year-olds could attain the capacity to lead a group of their peers expeditiously and enthusiastically, a league of little leaders? I’m so proud of my Little Monsters.

I was told by the director of our Afterschool Program that the usual pattern goes like this: 6th-grade students enroll in the afterschool upon starting at King, to discover their interests and to make friends. By the spring semester, a number of them stop coming because they are involved in other extracurricular activities such as sports teams, or have found circles of friends.

That dropoff has been very slight in The Guild, however. Of the 12 or so sixth-graders who regularly attended last year, 9 of them are still attending regularly into their fourth semester. And we now have about 20 sixth-graders who are attending.

This semester, there actually has been a steady inflow of students — one or two per week — who are trying out The Guild for the first time. The vast majority have stayed. I am guessing that the word-of-mouth has increased as the group has gotten larger, and also after a profile (with photographs!) appeared in the middle-school newspaper a month ago.

In a great new development, we now have our first two girls. (Yes, all the previous attendees had been boys.) These two individuals are quite nonplussed by the preponderance of boys, and one of them is actually one of my students who is acting out the most behavior-wise (being physical with the other students in a horse-play kind of way). She fits right in!

One of the other new developments this spring is that, for the first time, I have integrated all the adventures into a distinct, explicit geographical place: we are creating our own campaign setting out of a mish-mash of adventures published by Paizo, the company behind Pathfinder RPG. On top of that, we are using the rules from Ultimate Campaign to create a government for our kingdom of “Gildhaven” — these students meet weekly (a meeting over which I preside while wearing a red Ruler’s robe) to enact policies, expand territory, impose taxes (much to the protest of the other Guild members!), and authorize new construction.

And so it’s good be a Grandmaster. The downside is that my workload has increased. I have thirty students who each have characters that need updating every week, and whom I am tutoring in the art of being game masters.

As you can probably guess, there are many tales to tell in our guild-slash-kingdom. Stay tuned and I will do my best to oblige.

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Stay tuned and follow my “Grandmaster’s Guide” articles! I will post on whatever inspires me, which will range from general topics (e.g., middle-school students vs. high-school students) to lessons I learned from specific experiences (such as that First Day!). It amuses me, reading my original postings on the Paizo thread that gave birth to this series of articles, that I had a VERY different idea of how the class would play out, from what eventually would evolve out of the unpredictable insanity that would follow.

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About ronaldsf

Grandmaster of the Pathfinders' Guild at Martin Luther King Middle School.
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