Posted in extra credit

Pen-and-Paper Role Playing Games in the Digital Age

By Pete R.

There are many useful things that traditional pen-and-paper role playing games can teach children and teens: problem solving skills, collaboration, empathy, statistics, storytelling, general interpersonal skills, and countless more. Artistically minded players might draw their characters or major events in their games; narratively minded players might create elaborate backstories, or take on the role of game master and tell their own stories.

However, kids and teens today are also deeply embedded in technology. Not that people aren’t willing to put aside computers, phones, and tablets and pick up a pencil and paper. But some people are more interested when technology can be implemented. Luckily, there are a plethora of options for this. Wizards of the Coast, which published Dungeons and Dragons, has D&D Beyond, which allows players to create their characters online. Many games that use the d20 system have a system reference doc (SRD) website or wiki, which allows quick lookup of spells and other rules. Such resources are useful for both players and game masters––if you game with a laptop, it’s much quicker just google search the name of a spell than flip through a rulebook.

One of the best resources is Roll20. This website allows players to create characters from a variety of systems, and lets game masters develop everything they might need. While it can be used for high tech in person games, it is ideal for playing with far-flung friends. I myself have led a game of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons with a group that lives literally across the United States. For teens, this can be an invaluable resource if friends move away but want to keep gaming. It can also help teens who live in more isolated, rural settings find a group that they might not be able to meet with in person.

Finally, technology can make gaming more accessible from the sheer price level. There are countless online dice rollers and plenty of free resources for players and game masters. It’s possible to roll up characters and play a game with nothing more than a smart phone and a wifi connection. It’s not the best option, but it means that cash-strapped students don’t need to shell out any money in order to play.

I’m sure there are many more resources that I haven’t touched on here. The important thing is that distance, isolation, or financial limitations are no longer limitations for teens looking to let their imagination run wild and roll some (possibly digital) dice. And for those who love technology, they can incorporate a whole suite of interesting technological flourishes to their games. And of course, there’s still the opportunity for people to crack a physical book and take out some pencils and paper and play like people have been playing since 1974.

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