An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games
David Millians, Editor
Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
This month’s guest was Dr. Megan Connell. Dr. Connell is a board-certified psychologist in private practice who formerly served in the US Army. In her current work she utilizes tabletop role-playing games as a clinical intervention. In 2017 she co-founded the media company Geeks Like Us which focuses on geek and gaming culture. She is the author of the recently-released Tabletop Role-Playing Therapy. She is a board member for Geek Therapeutics a training platform that develops professional programs teaching the inclusion of games in clinical practices. Dr. Connell speaks nationally on the intersection of gaming and psychology and on geek culture. Dr. Connell’s book, Tabletop Role-Playing Therapy, is available for purchase at the publisher’s web site for 20% off with code TTRPT20. You can also purchase it at Amazon. You can watch our discussion on our YouTube Channel.
On that video I brought up two topics that I think are worth discussing in future sessions. The first is the question of a rating system for tabletop role-playing games. One of the reasons Wizards of the Coast gave for attempting to revoke the existing Open Game License (OGL) was a concern that third-party products might tarnish the Dungeons & Dragons brand by including “discriminatory or hateful content.” Unspoken in that statement was that customers might conflate products that were compatible with D&D as being approved by or part of the D&D brand itself.
This topic has come up before. The Book of Vile Darkness was the first WOTC-published D&D book that required a mature rating, but that was obscured by the release of The Book of Erotic Fantasy by The Valar Project, created by a former WOTC brand manager. It forced the industry to reckon with how it classified content for different ages, with significant changes to the licenses allowing third party content. Unfortunately, the controversy didn’t result in clearly defined rules on what content is appropriate for what audience.
The CAR-PGA is uniquely positioned to address and even endorse a voluntary rating system for role-playing games, similar to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) system. The parallels are apt. The first iteration of the MPAA’s rating system, known as the Hays Code, came about in part due to the perception that the industry itself could not self-regulate. In 1922, 37 different states introduced nearly 100 censorship bills, with the very real possibility of having to create multiple versions of a film to address them all. Instead, the industry chose self-regulation.
OneBookShelf has provided an “Adult” filter which will block that material from the view of any customers who do not opt-in for mature content. Publishers have the responsibility to mark their products as “Adult” when appropriate, using the check box near the bottom of the product entry/editing form…products are generally considered mature (and should use the Adult setting) if they include nudity, graphic sexual material, depictions of gore, or crude language. Obviously, this is an area in which publishers must use their judgment.
Notably, there is no child-appropriate rating, nor is there a proposed standard on what should or shouldn’t be listed for each product. Fat Goblin Games has one proposal and I know there are members of the CAR-PGA who have a specific interest in this topic. Let us know your thoughts by sharing them with David Millians in the newsletter or commenting on this topic on social media.
Next month we’ll discuss ethical guidelines in using Large Language Model Ais and what guidelines might be suggested for their use in game publishing.
Talk to you next month!
Formal Education, Therapy Techniques, and Role Playing Games
By David Millians
In addition to Dr. Megan Connell’s interview with CAR-PGa this month, several new, interesting articles and publications have recently appeared concerning the use of RPGs for therapy and socio-emotional development and instruction. These are topics near and dear to my heart, and I am a long-time advocate of exploring the possibilities.
That said, I try to know the limits of my own training and abilities. I am not a qualified therapist or counselor or anything of the like. I’ve worked with thousands of children and their social learning, but in a classroom of thirty children at a time, it’s composed of modeling and discussions in small and large groups, even individually, as opportunities and necessity allow. It is imprecise and only as targeted as circumstances allow. Much like the large conversations in our society around nutrition, I have a vested interested in what works and what doesn’t in regard to development of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, but I also need support from those more knowledgeable or excellent clear research or both to navigate the issues involved.
These are big, popular topics, and a recent book from Philip Viljoen and a research article by Caroline Pitt, et al., brought them to mind. I am not in a strong position to critique the quality of their work, but I have more general thoughts. I’ve attached these two texts to this newsletter, and the links to them directly are below, along with some others.
Pitt, Caroline, Katherine Chen, Jennifer Rubin, Dominic Gibson, and Samantha Bindman (2023 Jan) How Youth Can Build Social and Emotional Skills with Tabletop Role-Playing Games. https://www.foundry10.org/research/how-youth-can-build-social-and-emotional-skills-with-tabletop-role-playing-games. Direct link to online document.
Viljoen, Philip, Dungeons & Dragons as a Therapeutic and Learning Tool. BitBoard Games, 2023.
Cashman, Chris (2023 Mar 6) Washington researchers find that Dungeons and Dragons can help kids build social-emotional skills. https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/seattle-researchers-dungeons-and-dragons-social-emotional-skills/281-6b27222e-a982-470f-9ca6-7a6a5c9416a3. Work by Foundry10 researchers and Game to Grow hits mainstream media. More discussion at GeekWire.
Connell, Megan. Tabletop Role-Playing Therapy: A Guide for the Clinician Gam Master. W. W. Norton, 2023.
Demopoulos, Alaina (2023 Mar 21) Facing the demons: can Dungeons & Dragons therapy heal real-life trauma?. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/21/dungeons-dragons-therapy-psychologists-mental-health. Much possibility and the need for more research.
Hoberg, Beverly and Scott, Ryan. Existential Dragons: A guide for mental health therapists that would like to use Dungeons & Dragons or other role-playing games as a group therapy tool. Self-published, 2019.
Our own Hawke Robinson is an experienced therapist who applies games in his practice and has among his credits Role-Playing Game Professional Level 1 Training Workbook. The folks at Games to Grow, Kilmer, et al., have a new book coming out entitled Therapeutically Applied Role-Playing Games. The field is clearly burgeoning with ideas. My father, a child psychiatrist, presented some small case studies, featuring me and my friends, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, back in the late 70s and early 80s, and he would have found this new wave of research fascinating.
Anyone interested in these topics, and you probably have more expertise than I do, I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on how we evaluate the important work of others!
THAT D&D MOVIE
This month there have been lots of press releases, reviews, and discussion of the new big-screen interpretation of Dungeons and Dragons. A few are presented together here.
Black Girl Nerds (2023 Mar 20) The Cast of ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ on Telling the Real Story Behind the Game. https://blackgirlnerds.com/the-cast-of-dungeons-dragons-honor-among-thieves-on-telling-the-real-story-behind-the-game. Brief, upbeat video interviews.
Carter, Chase (2023 Mar 28) Honor Among Thieves Secret Lair gives Chris Pine and D&D movie’s stars their own Magic: The Gathering cards. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/trading-card-game/news/dnd-honor-among-thieves-cast-get-own-magic-the-gathering-cards. Crossover to other WotC lines.
brimmels (2023 Mar 23) Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Movie Review. https://www.enworld.org/threads/dungeons-dragons-honor-among-thieves-movie-review.696726. Very positive assessment.
Combs, Catalina (2023 Mar 28) Review: ‘Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is an Epic Quest with Lots of Laughter and Heart. https://blackgirlnerds.com/review-dungeons-and-dragons-honor-among-thieves-is-an-epic-quest-with-lots-of-laughter-and-heart. Fun and funny.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 28) D&D movie stars played the RPG together before filming Honor Among Thieves. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/news/dnd-honor-among-thieves-movie-stars-played-rpg-together. Fun and games and actor prep.
McNeal, Bria (2023 Mar 30) Why Chris Pine Thinks Kids Should Play Dungeons & Dragons at School. https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a43466336/chris-pine-dungeons-and-dragons-school. Imagination.
Meehan, Alex (2023 Mar 15) Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves review – D&D movie is a forgettable story in a fantastic, faithful world. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/review/dnd-movie-honor-among-thieves-review. Quite a ride through weak story and characters.
Morrissey, Russ (2023 Mar 12) The D&D Movie Reviews Are Coming In. https://www.enworld.org/threads/the-d-d-movie-reviews-are-coming-in.696479. Comments from early screenings.
Wieland, Rob (2023 Mar 31) Another Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review. https://www.enworld.org/threads/another-dungeons-dragons-honor-among-thieves-review.696810. Family-friendly action comedy with franchise dreams.
This is a compilation of articles and other resources that have come to the editor’s attention over the last month. Everyone is welcome to send bibliographic information about anything you discover that fits the mission of CAR-PGa and this newsletter.
Amthor, Peter (2023 Mar 27) DnD Toaster. http://trulyrural.blogspot.com/2023/03/dnd-toaster.html. Can RPG get more mainstream than that?
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 2) Review of d12go, a system for any adventure and any age. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/02/review-of-d12go-a-system-for-any-adventure-and-all-ages. Quick to learn and easy to play with wide range of applications.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 4) Educational TTRPG resources for SXSW EDU 2023 attendees. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/04/welcome-from-ttrpgkids-at-sxsw-edu-2023. Events, presenters, and more resource links.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 6) Educational tabletop RPGs for kids and teens. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/06/educational-tabletop-rpgs-for-kids-and-teens. Expansive and expanding source for games.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 12) TTRPGkids SXSW EDU 2023 recap. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/12/ttrpgkids-sxsw-edu-2023-recap. Panels, audio, and plans for the future.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 13) Interview with Garrett from Two25Games about TTRPGs in the classroom. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/13/interview-with-garrett-from-two25games-about-ttrpgs-in-the-classroom. World building and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 14) How I use TTRPGs and RPG elements in the classroom. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/14/how-i-use-ttrpgs-and-rpg-elements-in-the-classroom. Design, challenges, implementation, and benefits for Kindergarten and college students.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 16) Review of 16 Mice in a Mech: A Mighty Adventure for Many Mousey Accomplices. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/16/review-of-16-mice-in-a-mech-a-mighty-adventure-for-many-mousey-accomplices. Collaborative adventure with whimsical fun for up to 16 players.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 20) 7 spectacular camping and scouts themed tabletop RPGs. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/20/7-spectacular-camping-and-scouts-themed-tabletop-rpgs. Games and resources for playing in the great outdoors of the imagination.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 21) Game piece accessibility guide for players with visual impairments and low vision. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/21/game-piece-accessibility-guide-for-players-with-visual-impairment-and-low-vision. Co-authored with Richard Bennet of Knights of the Braille.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 23) TTRPGkids is at Gary Con Ethereal. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/23/ttrpgkids-is-at-virtual-garycon. Workshops, resources, and links.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 30) Review of Wyrmlings, a game of dragons, adventures, and friendship. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/30/review-of-wyrmlings-a-game-of-dragons-adventures-and-friendship. Sweet, collaborative tales of young dragons at school.
Campbell, Stephanie (2023 Mar 31) TTRPGkids at Gary Con Ethereal Recap. https://www.ttrpgkids.com/2023/03/31/ttrpgkids-at-gary-con-ethereal-recap. Panels, games, and publishing plans.
Carter, Chase (2023 Mar 22) Free RPG Day reschedules 2023 celebration to escape shadow of MTG’s Lord of the Rings set. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/news/free-rpg-day-2023-rescheduled-thanks-to-magic-the-gathering-tales-of-middle-earth. Moving to weekend of June 17, 2023.
Collins, Jason (2023 Mar 2) Critical Role’s ‘Vox Machina’ Introduces a Brand-New Audience to the Wonders of TTRPGs. https://blackgirlnerds.com/critical-roles-vox-machina-introduces-a-brand-new-audience-to-the-wonders-of-ttrpgs. Growing the hobby through Amazon Prime Video and more.
Collins, Jason (2023 Mar 10) From Cyberspace to Netrunners, Here is the Story of Mike Pondsmith, the True Mastermind Behind Cyberpunk. https://blackgirlnerds.com/from-cyberpsychos-to-netrunners-here-is-the-story-of-mike-pondsmith-the-true-mastermind-behind-cyberpunk. Bio-op on long-time creator and contributor to the hobby.
Croce, Diana (2023 Mar 21) 10 best RPGs for kids of any age. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/best-games/best-rpgs-for-kids. From toddlers to teens.
Exeunt Press (2023 Mar 21) Ten years of game jams. https://www.skeletoncodemachine.com/p/ten-years-of-game-jams. Analysis participation and productivity of a decade of activity on itch.io.
Ghorbanpour, Kamiab (2023 Mar 23) Jubensha: the mix of Cluedo, Werewolf and LARP that became a Chinese phenomenon. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/feature/jubensha-live-action-roleplaying-cluedo-werewolf-chinese-phenomenon. Mainstream, non-digital gaming in China may redefine LARP and RPGs. More discussion here.
The Holy Roller (2023 Mar 5) 10 Reasons Theatre of the Mind Reigns Supreme. https://theholyroller.substack.com/p/10-reasons-theatre-of-the-mind-reigns. And it’s free.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 21) Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest rules become free for anyone to make their own RPG with under [sic] new D&D OGL rival. https://www.dicebreaker.com/companies/chaosium/news/basic-roleplaying-open-rpg-creative-licence-call-of-cthulhu-runequest. Venerable generic system announced for ORC license.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 22) This D&D monster manual wants to help save real-life animals from extinction. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/news/book-of-extinction-kickstarter-dnd-5e. Adding extinct creatures and supporting endangered animals.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 28) You’ll be able to playtest D&D’s official virtual tabletop later this year. https://www.dicebreaker.com/series/dungeons-and-dragons/news/dnd-virtual-tabletop-playtest-2023. WotC’s digital play future unveiled.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 28) Minecraft Dungeons & Dragons DLC adds classes, dice rolls and Forgotten Realms locations in a 10-hour action-RPG campaign. https://www.dicebreaker.com/series/dungeons-and-dragons/news/minecraft-dungeons-and-dragons-dlc-reveal. More digital crossovers and links to immediate downloads for tabletop play, though the designs will not be made more widely available.
Jarvis, Matt (2023 Mar 30) This limited-edition RPG-inspired pencil is the fanciest way to fill out your D&D character sheet. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/news/limited-edition-rpg-pencil-blackwing-20. Blackwing’s 20 newest addition to their line of stationary products.
Meehan, Alex (2023 Mar 2) Pathfinder RPG publisher confirms stance on the use of AI artwork and writing. https://www.dicebreaker.com/companies/paizo/news/paizo-anti-ai-artwork. Ethical and legal circumstances surrounding AI programs remain murky and undefined.
Meehan, Alex (2023 Mar 7) Custom miniatures tool lets players create any D&D character they can dream of. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/news/titancraft-miniatures. Titancraft raises the bar on game figures.
Meehan, Alex (2023 Mar 9) D&D adventure collection nominated for best game writing alongside Elden Ring at 2023 Nebula Awards. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/news/dnd-radiant-citadel-nebula-award. Recognizing great writing.
Morrissey, Russ (2023 Mar 10) Cubicle 7 is #192 on the FT List of Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies. https://www.enworld.org/threads/cubicle-7-is-192-on-the-ft-1000-list-of-europes-fastest-growing-companies.696440. Publisher of Doctor Who and Warhammer RPGs.
Morrissey, Russ (2023 Mar 23) Top RPG Games for Fall 2022: D&D, Pathfinder, 5E OGL, Vampire, Transformers. https://www.enworld.org/threads/top-rpg-games-for-fall-2022-d-d-pathfinder-5e-ogl-vampire-transformers.696761. Hasbro is dominant.
Prager, Richard Heinz Patrick (2019) Exploring the Use of Role-playing Games in Education. Master of Teaching Research Journal, Issue 2. https://mtrj.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/mtrj/article/view/29606.
Tresca, Mike (2023 Mar 20) .The AI GM: Your Somewhat Unreliable Familiar https://www.enworld.org/threads/the-ai-gm-your-somewhat-unreliable-familiar.696658. Introduction to the potential and pitfalls of AI-generated work.
Tresca, Mike (2023 Mar 31) That Time an AI Played RPGs. https://www.enworld.org/threads/that-time-an-ai-played-rpgs.696673. AI Dungeon, pay quality, and issues small and large. A family experiments with ChatGPT as a GM.
Whitbrook, James (2023 Mar 7) Games Workshop Starts Trial to Recycle Warhammer Models and More. https://gizmodo.com/games-workshop-warhammer-recycling-program-details-1850197286. Miniatures go green.
© Copyright 2023 by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa), ISSN 1071 7129. The CAR-PGa Newsletter is a monthly publication. For more information contact David Millians, Editor, Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA, phone (404) 808-1070, fax (404) 377-3491, e-mail email@example.com. Back issues are available. Contributions of material from the membership are urged, and the byline is responsible for content. Deadline is the last weekday of the month, email preferred. Permission is granted to copy anything in the Newsletter, provided we get a credit line in the publication copying it, and it doesn’t have someone else’s copyright on it. Information, including details on joining CAR-PGa, can be obtained on the Internet at car-pga.org.