View Full Version : English as Second Language Beginner Role Play

04-21-2014, 01:14 AM
I am teaching some Japanese families English.

For the adult learners, I made a simple board game with a little RPG element. They have little experience of fantasy or board games- they didn't know monopoly. I teach them twice a month. My material expense -fortunately I have a lot of books and other materials from Australia.

Basically I found this http://670.wikispaces.com/RPG-ESL-Game-DesignDocument
where they didn't complete the game and I used the map shown. I just had the students move their token around the map. Using cards, they can solve, using unique descriptive words, challenges such pass by a large "mouse trap" trap, a checkpoint, a spider, a chest. Also solve one word jumbles. And finally at the individual destinations- aerie, mountain, cave, shipwreck- they need to verbally describe how to get to point.

Now I thinking that I will make a role-playing game with descriptive solutions to problems. My first thought is a linear game where they fall into a underground maze with a pack that is Dungeoneering Kit (Pathfinder) plus a fisherman hook and they have to solve problems like get over a pit, climb a cliff, use pulleys to raise a slippery sharp tree. More ideas wanted please? Is there an adventure with all descriptive solutions to little situations or a way to be not so linear?

I am trying to avoid fantasy words (unless it used commonly too) as it enough effort teaching all the words to that will need before it. I'd like to use game with the children that I teach (one family I meet twice a month and the other is generally once a week) but who will need even more support.

04-21-2014, 08:01 PM
have you looked up any of the japanese TRPGs? a couple of them are being translated into english.

Ryuutama is probably the best one out there, it is of a genre that doesn't exist in english RPGs but quite easy to learn and play. and there is a kickstarter translating it to english out there which may or may not have finished already. check it out! having a copy in both english and japanese might help.

04-21-2014, 08:21 PM
What do you mean by "all descriptive solutions" or a "way to be not so linear"? I mean I can understand you mean you don't want it to be railroady, but teaching people a language through the medium of gaming has different rules (in my opinion) because like math is a universal language, so too is is physics and the law of cause-and-effect, inertia and sequence.

You WANT situations and solutions to be linear to a great extent, I would think, so they can associate what they know as the phrases and concepts and words in their language for some actions, to be easily understood and readily identifiable by their analogues in the language being taught, so they'll know that the "cut the rope" action in English has the same effect on the suspended weight to open the door, that they would intuitively know as the phrase and action for their language.

You want to firmly establish similarity and counterparts to give them a definite grounding in the basics that will make them feel confident and excited to try to come up with and discover and learn new things and concepts and ideas, language-wise - advanced phrasing to escalate their progress, so they can be proud to know they've moved from "stand on log" to reach a shelf to "fill bottle with rocks" to get water, deepening the complexity of actions and relations of objects and situations, and easing into things naturally.

I'd recommend looking into the concepts of "token parsing" used now in many games but most notably in early text adventure games like Zork, that delved into the idea of verb-object examination and conjugation, with one example coming to mind, "The phrase 'put on fur coat' means something entirely different than 'put fur on coat', which we'd rather not guess at". There were some really good magazine articles of the times, and a "How to write computer adventure games" book (metal spiral bound) that insightfully considered varying complexity from the simple "verb object" (take sword) to "tell Joe to get the gun and follow me" and how to program the game to interpret that natural language structure that Westerners would intuitively type.

There are "skill challenges" as I understand it, for D&D and Pathfinder that relate to specific skills or abilities that are needed to be used to overcome obstacles, that could help slowly expand understanding of new terms or references, within a limited scope that you as the instructor choose, mostly puzzle-solving but with set criteria, like the group must generate 5 successes in 10 turns before the stone guardian arrives - somewhere in the RPG books, the rules and such for these are buried but I don't play d20 so I'm afraid I can't be more specific.

Simple one or two-scene scenarios, like very short role-playing game sessions, could also work, probably a single main challenge that all the players/students could contribute to, and then a few other smaller ones that individuals or smaller groups could break up into, to solve. Relating to a very simple exercise in imagination which might also be useful in your purposes, I wrote an article for Strolen's Citadel about a creative visualization exercise that probably a lot of gamers have never done:


My 7th grade science teacher did an exercise for the whole class to just close their eyes and imagine they were an animal and a storm was rolling in, and imagine what they would do, where they would go, and then she asked a few people to name the animal and describe its size and movements, which seems like would be a really good exercise in working on the familiar basics your students are learning, in an imaginative way.

Lastly there is a free game called Wushu Open (also a commercial version) by Dan Bayn that you might be able to modify for your uses, that relies on success rolls in the game being informed by how many details/embellishments a player adds to their actions, so "I hit the guy" or "I jump the pit" gives you one die to roll, but "I run forward and leap at the guy, spinning in mid-air with a kick to his chest" or "I take a few steps back and sprint forward, yelling as I spring over the chasm" gives you maybe 4 dice to roll.


04-22-2014, 03:22 AM
Thanks for your replies.

"Descriptive"- They can describe it doing using equipment that they have (or only using normal human abilities) then their character can do it. I was planning basically a non-system game- no distraction from applying the useful vocabulary (that I teach before the game or they can use any other words that they know). The only system I thought was give them points for nearly unprompted expressions that they can use. Those points can be used to buy a prompt from me if they get stuck.
So combat light as there are not so many descriptive solutions for combat.
It all about a very, very simple not fantastic story not system.

"Not so linear"- their character have some real choices other than go forward or their character dies (which is basically the overall game is going at the moment- die by fire or starvation)- left/right or we can do this or that.

I doubt the adult Japanese have any RPG genre awareness even in Japanese. They are keen to try what I offer. I only meet them twice a month and I like it to possible reuse to teach the children of the families with card aids (if their parents are fine with it or they like it) that I teach too. So even if the adults had some genre background then its not going to be the same as the children. I don't get reimbursed for materials so buying it is out. Someone suggested Choose your own adventure and there probably a lot that are free but a suggested title would help.

04-22-2014, 05:14 AM
I still lean toward suggesting you at least looking at Wushu (linked above), if for no other reason than to get some ideas of how it approaches play - it is a free, very simple (for them, but really for the GM too) system with just a few main traits the players can create themselves and no worry about any other skills or items or anything. It's all focused on the players' descriptions, and using the Principle of Narrative Truth, whatever the players narrate actually happens - it's not "I try to leap the pit", it's intead "I leap across the pit". You only roll the dice to determine HOW successful an action is, not IF it is successful - that is entirely up to the players so if you DO need a system, it seems like this one would come the closest to fitting the bill for what you want to do, with the players own narration being what drives the game.

Choose Your Own Adventures would probably be a good simple example for your needs, though they are, by their nature, structured around 2 or 3 pre-written choices like "Take the left path fork", which is pretty linear and don't really require a whole lot of input from the players for these main decisions. Now that I think about it though, it does give you as the "GM" or leader of the collaborative exercise, a very simply structured "adventure" to present to your players, and leaves any details they might come up with up to you to improvise during play, so your students would be able to participate at the level of complexity they want. If you find websites or PDFs, you could even have them on your mobile device (phone/tablet etc) so you don't have to print something out.

I'm not terribly familiar with CYOA's on the net now (used to read them when I was younger), but here are two sites that seem like you could probably use for your needs (though they're original content CYOA, not published material), with just a little research on your part to make sure they're family-friendly and appropriate: I don't know offhand any specific original CYOA that stands out above any other - all the original CYOA were for kids and teens, so pretty much any of them are likely to be suitable for teaching kids and adults.

http://editthis.info/create_your_own_adventure/Main_Page (toward bottom of page)

In the CYOA collections, there were hundreds, and I liked most. The Time Machine books, if you can find digital (or even print) versions of those, were time-traveling CYOA spinoff versions that were also educational, teaching kids about different historical periods while also entertaining. If I had to recommend CYOA books of some type, that were more historically grounded, i would definitely recommend the Time Machine books (though I understand there are new CYOA type books being written specifically for education).


Not directly on the topic of CYOA but here is a site I came across might also be useful resources for your teaching:

04-22-2014, 08:42 AM
Here is my initial story.
I get them to narrate parts with picture prompts in "" for points which I told the words that they needed first.

You and your friends are walking in forest and suddenly you are falling. You land safe but you look up to see that there is fire. "You had a lit torch. It fell and it set a forest fire and that fire is burning down the wall towards you. The underground is lit and hot from the fire." You look forward and see an underground tunnel. "You look in your backpacks and see a fisherman's rod, rope, torches, tinderbox."
(You describe yourselves)
You go down the tunnel and see "a locked metal gate and beyond it a massive spiky log that bars your way and a platform in front of it."

The tunnel splits to the left and you see a pit with water at its bottom and then a steep incline. At the top is a key, a pivot and

04-22-2014, 11:35 AM
Your comment just abruptly cuts off but that's a good sample of what you're doing. I'd agree, unless you wanted to add in something to introduce randomness, maybe just for an event that happens, simple choices are probably the best and that looks like a good start. You'd want to plan out your general structure for the "adventure" with mostly simple word-related challenges as I'm sure you know, like "swing across the stream", "climb the rocks", "tie the rope to the tree" and possibly, if you're going to introduce interaction, "talk to the scientist" who could give fetch quests like "dig a hole with the shovel" and "look for gold ore" as criteria for him to help the (player(s)) get out of the cave and find a phone to report the forest fire or something along those lines, maybe escaping through a hole in the top of the cavern or an alternate exit in an unexplored chamber of the cave with a sleeping bear or something.

So what you're actually asking is for people to help suggest parts of a very simple, slightly branching "tour" style interactive/collaborative narration "adventure", not really a roleplaying game setup in any basic way, other than in the sense that RPGs use adventures/scenarios.

One other idea, that's sort of two, is to come up with and print out a selection of simple words and have them for use sort of like playing cards, to help give constant visual examples connected to the words, like 20 or 50 pieces of paper with things like "jump" and "look" (or search) and "listen" and "go west" or "climb", with either a little stick figure representation of the objects or actions, or the Japanese translation in smaller print maybe upside down or on the back or something, for a reminder.

My other idea also involved cards but was its own game similar to that, with cards for the problem or challenge encountered, then the player would have to play cards in their hand that made up the solution, like "Joe has lost his toy", "find" and articles like "a" or "the" and "race car" or whatever would match the type of challenge (toy). I wish I could help you more on the adventure itself but that is unfortunately something specifically I struggle with, is not being creative enough to come up with adventure ideas and structuring them well. =( I wish you the best of luck, you're obviously interested in really trying to teach people and are willing to go about taking some fun and interesting approaches to engage the students, and that is awesome!

04-22-2014, 07:59 PM
Sorry about that I accidentally cleared the Reply area and used the recover text not realising that it wasn't as good as gmail's continuous word recovery. Thanks for those basic ideas- I certainly intend to do the straight out word offering if absolutely necessary- hopefully with teaching just before and visual hints they won't need to directed that strongly.
Continuing on.
"At the top is a pivot, key, a stand and a block" (block and tackle). (One player then needs to describe how they get across the pit and the other player then described how to get up the hill).
They go back to the gate" ("open the gate with a key." One person needs "to set the block on the stand and then thread the rope around it and put the rope around the tree. The other person "sets the pivot and uses the fisherman's rod to help lever up the log. Finally placing the stand to keep the log up." (I give them feedback as how other solutions they suggest (which still give them points) don't work))

My comment:I thought I would continue the scenario rather than solve too soon.

They come to a gatekeeper who tells them he set the trap- There is an underground community. We need new people. New people with equipment who know how to use that equipment- the reason for the gate. Don't worry about the forest fire- I know about it and the above ground people have noticed it and are putting it out. I choose to stay underground in my new life. Everyone came from above. You would never have been in danger- I could get you out at any time but if you stay we have some excellent equipment for you to get. See the shopkeeper for the details. He doesn't share- he only does trade. You need to put out the underground fire for some money.

Comment: Another quest is find out why the insects (which we eat as meat- this not too extreme for Japanese- poor people eat crickets) are disappearing and go collect some insects. Its some chameleons so they need to use dust to notice "invisible camouflaged" creatures.