Saturday, September 27, 2008

RPG's And Tangential Learning

Ever since I got back to Cork I've been itching to run a new RPG, using the Spirit of the Century Fate 3.0 system. My last game was a huge success, of completely unexpected levels, filled with action, combat, danger (sorta), guest stars, a growing core cast, and generally a good time for all involved. It was the very first campaign I ran that lasted more than three sessions, and by the time we got to the wrap-up, we had put in 14 episodes, which is the Fox equivalent of a great first season!

With the upcoming release of Starblazer Adventures from Cubicle 7, Brian Caball putting me on to the 1990's setting Torg, my good friend Gar's Traveller available from Mongoose, the brand new Flash Gordon comics from Ardden Entertainment, and the recently started Monday Night Gaming here in Cork, I have tonnes of inspiration, adventure ideas, story arc seeds, characters and more to play with, all swimming around in my head, all battling for center stage.

In fact, I have so much stuff, I actually have three RPG's in various stages of development. I just like the setting of Torg, but haven't come up with much of a campaign concept yet. I really, really want to run an idea I have for a deep space Traveller/ Starblazers/ Spirit of the Far Future campaign but need to flesh out a few opening adventures before I'm happy with it yet, and finally, I have my most prized campaign seed, which, I have to unfortunately admit, Brian Caball inspired/ fully created!

This third one is the campaign I most want to run right now. It's also the one I have most ideas for already, and have started detailed research on. I like my games to be fast and easy, without the requirements of too much specialised knowledge on any areas, but at the same time, I like having hard facts upon which to hang my crazy adventure story.

So off to Wikipedia I went, and there I got lost. Thankfully, I was not alone in the depths of information overload; my wife* Claire was along for the adventure, clicking links on her laptop behind me, and passing back and forth interesting facts that caught our attention. If you have ever spent time on Wikipedia, you know this story already: you search for a subject, while reading that you click on an interesting link, repeat several times until you've forgotten where you started or you're reading an article on wet t-shirt competitions.

In our case, we started researching the origin of one of the English names for this chunk or rock we live on, Earth. From there, we got on to the etymology of the word Earth**, but not really being certain of the spelling of that term (I always pronounced eN-tim-ology, which is closer to a very different area of study), I wikied "origin of words", and discovered this interesting page as the third link! The list includes the obvious, such as banshee, as well as a few that surprised me, such as phoney, slob and Tory! And you'll be surprised where the word kibosh originates from!

I love tangential learning. Leaning things that you have an interest in is so much easier than being force to learning something that you might consider boring. I guess that's why I love to research facts for RPGs. It gives me the chance to learn about so many things that I otherwise might never have looked at. And, in a weeks time, in a months time, even in a years time, I'll still remember these facts. I'll still know who the various religions and cultures that worshipped Mars are, and the names they all gave it. I'll still know where the word galore comes from (it's obvious if you think about it as an Irish phrase).

Thankfully, I don't have to explain anything about the concept of tangential learning, or why it's valuable, not only in RPGs, but for books, comics and computer games. Daniel Floyd, with the assistance of James Portnow, has created a short video explaining the benefits of this method of learning. Click play below, and hopefully you'll learn something along the way.***

Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun; via Edge Online

*- I really need to actually add the post about all that to the blog at some point! If there is anyone out there reading this that hasn't heard that I'm now a married man, I'll try to post something soon!
**- Turns out, no-one knows!! Hah!
***- See what I did there? Yeah. I hate me too...

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