Advice on introducing rpgs for a Middle School class


First a bit of background. I teach grade 8 in a middle school (so ages 13/14). We offer our students 3 hours a week of ‘explorations’ class. Traditionally this has been a variety of classes like: Art, Woodworking, Foods, Drama, ‘Fit and Rec’, Outdoor Ed, etc… So basically non academic subjects. Due to Covid-19 policies in my school district, we can’t offer those same types of classes this year. Instead, I, as a Math/Science teacher will be expected to offer a variety of ‘Expo’ (exploration) topics to a class, 3 hours a week, for the school year.

As an avid gamer myself, I’ve considered trying to implement a chunk of time (perhaps a few weeks, so 9-15 hours total) as some ‘gaming’ exploration. Now, keep in mind it will be a class of 25+ youth who likely have no experience with RPGs. I won’t be able to GM for them, they will have never played before, and topics must be ‘school appropriate’. Some of them may be fairly disinterested, at least to start.

I may add a section at the end of the ‘course’ asking students to design/hack their own game or version.

What RPGs do you suggest I explore for use? Do you have any thoughts or advice on implementing this?

Edit/Update: Thanks for the replies so far! To clarify, my thought is that I would put students in small groups of 4-5 and set them up to play on their own, with me in an overall supervisory role.


PS. I’m new to the forums, but I’ve been listening to the podcasts for a while now. I hope to get into some online games with y’all at some point.


Hello Dochockin,

Venture and Dungeon or Girl Underground are easy first games in the fantasy genre.

I suggest:

  • Groups of up to five.
  • Give an option not to play.
  • Use a CATS-style intro to each game.

Hey, welcome!
I did something simiilar for a middle school advisory/excursion activity. Drama teacher here so, of course, right?
I didn’t have as many students, about 15. I grouped them in 3 to 4 around a A4 printout of different characters from Each had a some traits already (using Tiny Dungeon 2e as a system, in a very Adventure Time kind of world) and the group had to come up with one additional trait (“give me an adjective” kind of thing, not from a list) and a name. They were all playing as kids from the same village.
When it was their “turn” they could quickly discuss (sometimes with a timer) so they controled the character as a group, essentially. But I also suggested “roles” for each of them, with lots of blank paper and pencils. Someone was the speaker, who would have the final word to declare their action, and the others were writer (or chronicler or something) who would write down notes/actions, and the other the artist who could draw things or doodle, or anyone could be a listener who can be asked to repeat or clarify things they hear. I have giant plush dice that they would roll for actions, which is a huge hit. I was also thinking of displaying a dice rolling app on the projector, but this was more fun. I was very heavy handed in the beginning, riffing on the setting and asking pointed questions, more like a choose your own adventure, until they got used to more open ended “what do you do”, and you often have to break things down into discreet steps/actions
The idea was to model something that they could then break out and do on their own as groups later, if they wanted, but I really didn’t get that far as we went virtual pretty soon.
Something to keep in mind is what kind of game you want to do. Doing something more tactical like a traditional dungeon crawl is actually not too hard, since it’s essentially a more free form theater of the mind boardgame, but to do something with story elements even minimal ones is more difficult in large groups, especially with newcomers

Edited to add: For game systems, I wonder if Quest might work? I don’t have experience with it, though, and am curious myself. For someone who has run it, would you recommend for something like this?


I recommend, as always, Dungeons & Bananas, which works as a creative challenge and takes about 2 hours to play. Has some tactical elements to it, as well.

I suggest nanogames for the light cognitive load.
Also, this site.
Be aware that some creators have tagged their games “all ages” when they really are 13+, while others have made a better informed assessment. You’ll find my own game, Paws, which works fine in 10 minutes bursts. Feel free to grab a Shared copy.

There’s been some discussion of related endeavour on the Gauntlet Slack so this thread has been linked there to encourage the discussion.

Cheers! I don’t have access to the slack, afaik. Are you hoping folks there come back here to this post?

1 Like

I do hope so. @Robbie was actually looking for a less ephemeral place than Slack to exchange ideas about rpgs in education (as Slack deletes posts after some time).


I know some resources regarding playing with kids, but they’re in french.
This french game was created for playing in junior high

Yes - hopefully one of the people who have been having the similar conversation will pop in, here. :crossed_fingers::crossed_fingers: