Dungeons & Dragons in the Classroom

Taebaek Gangwon South Korea city life
Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea 2013.

Being a Student in South Korea

Wake up at 7 a.m., walk to school, sit through your morning lectures, attend your after-school classes, run around the neighborhood with your friends, walk home, eat a quick dinner, rally yourself for your second round of education with private tutors, and finally settle down at 10 p.m. for a relaxing round of your day’s homework. A slice of your typical South Korean student’s work week can seem more crowded than some adults’.

I liked talking to my students during lunch periods, where we were outside of the classroom but still a teacher and a student. They get to practice their English in a pressure-free environment, and I get to learn more about them. Funny enough, they were always a little more well-behaved when they weren’t sitting at their desks. When I heard about how long their days were, I wasn’t surprised the presenters back at orientation encouraged us aspiring educators to make their English lessons fun.

They tell you to write what you know, and if this GET knows about anything, it’s Dungeons & Dragons. Two of my lessons that stand out in my memory are the wargame and the hexcrawl.

Dungeons and Dragons in the Classroom wargame lesson plan paper miniatures
I had to explain what an ‘orc’ was.

Wargaming with the Kids

I used this lesson in an after-school session with the younger elementary school students, but with added rules complexity I can see the middle and high schoolers enjoying it. The main idea was to practice numbers. On their turn, a student could move their miniature three inches in any direction (I also printed out 3-inch rulers for every player). If their figure was touching bases with any of the orc minis, they could try to make an attack. They rolled a twenty-sided die and stated the number it landed on. If the number was less than ten, or they didn’t know how to say the number in English, they didn’t hit and the orc menace lived on. Otherwise, they killed the orc and gained another point for goodness and humanity. The orcs got a turn, too, and if a player was hit three times, they were out.

If a GET is allowed one good idea while teaching in Korea, this would be mine. If my students were anything, they were competitive. I loved the look on their faces and how they would congratulate each other when one of them downed a monster. To mix up the pace or to add another layer of excitement, I would improvise rules as the game progressed. Maybe these orcs want to try demolishing your houses. Maybe these bigger orcs need three hits until they die. Oh no, that one has a magic staff and he can hit anyone on the table! The tangibility of the game pieces really helped bring the action to life for the kids, and we revisited this game often.

Dave Graffam Models on DriveThruRPG offers pay-what-you-want paper building models on their storefront, so this lesson can be as costly as you want it to be. Constructing the buildings can be time consuming, though. For the player and enemy pieces, I found these easy-to-make figures by Dario Corallo, originally made for Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip. My more esoteric readers might point out this lesson is actually closer to a skirmish game, in which case, thanks for the granularity. Something else to keep in mind is these are still children we are talking about, and you’re introducing them to a game made out of paper with many moving parts. It’s still your classroom, so stand by your rules.

Dungeons and Dragons in the Classroom exploration lesson plan hex map
That bridge icon should actually be oriented vertically and I’m very disappointed with my past self right now.

Going on a Google Slides Hexcrawl

This game provided me with enough material for four days’ worth of after-school classes for the older students at my elementary school. We played this at the end of the year, and it served as a light review for simpler words, sentences, plurals, and how sentences change when plurals are involved. Vocabulary included the names of mythical creatures from cultures around the world, and place names like ‘plains’ or ‘swamp’.

The students were given a character sheet and asked to choose between boxer, archer, and magician. Boxers had a ton of health, but did low damage. Magicians had low health, but did a ton of damage. Archers are for the students who wanted to be somewhere in the middle. I presented them with the map you see above, and they generated the place names above by randomly selecting Korean syllables from a chart. If you try this, make sure you have a translator handy in case a dirty word pops up. (If they start giggling, that’s a dead giveaway.) They took turns choosing an area to explore individually, but dealt with whatever was there as a group. A point of interest might be home to monsters they had to defeat, a puzzle they had to solve, or even a friendly character that gave one of them a gift. After the island is completely explored, the player with the most money comes out the winner.

My students enjoyed the mystery aspect of playing the game. They had no way of guessing what was going to be in any given location, but that didn’t stop them from arguing with each other to try to rationalize their way through the map. (“There is dead in desert, so monster!”) I abused the use of the dramatic pause for this reason alone. They were also jazzed by the concept of having to work together to survive the monsters and the puzzles, but wanting to come in first place in the game. (“So, the ghost says that she can give everyone 1 gold coin, or she can just give you 5 gold coins.”)

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