Friday, February 3, 2012

Do RPGs Cater to Include Everyone?

I'm sitting here right now, finishing an assignment for my social sciences course and came across an interesting topic.  Learning modes and how they affect students in the classroom.

I don't know if you all know it, but everyone learns in different ways.  This has been the concern of the ministry of education in the province of Ontario for the last 20 years or so.  The ministry has been advocating the all-inclusive model for students in the classroom.  All students have the right to an education, but not everyone is comfortable with the magisterial way that teachers used to do things in class.

Teachers will try to vary their teaching methods to reach out to every student to keep them motivated in the classroom.

I was thinking that Dungeon & Dragons should strive to imitate same model.
Being a teacher and running a D&D Encounters table at my FLGS, I have had some student I have taught in the past drop in and play from time to time.  It is inevitable that I would meet up with them, living in a small town and all.  I noticed that my job as DM is not as straitforward as it seems.  My games are not only to come in, play the encounter and leave it until the following week.  Knowing most of the players I will have each week I cater to their leaning modes and have catered to and been patient with all of them.

Here are the four following modes of learning.

Concrete Experience

The first and most obvious of players are the ones who play by the seat of their pants.  This is called concrete experience.  These players play using instinct, feeling what they are going to do for their next move instead of necessarily think things through.  Details are not important to them. The way to prepare for these players is to let them play how they want, let them make mistakes and from these experiences, will learn quickly how to play the game.  For example, the player on their turn, may go directly to a statue and try disarming it even though it has posed no threat as of yet.  It just feels like the right thing to do.

Reflective Observation

The second mode of learning is the reflective observation mode.  The players who exhibit this mode of learning are the ones who tend to take their time every time it comes to them.  They sometimes need encouragement or suggestions from other players to make a move.  In order to pass a judgement they have to get the facts and then they will be able to make a move.  An example of this is a player who will hesitate if an NPC they are fighting asks for a surrender.  This particular player may make a few skill checks to see what their character may do. A character such as this may need you to be patient with them.

Abstract Conceptualization

The third mode of learning is the abstract conceptualization mode.  The players who exhibit this mode of learning are the ones who tend to analyze the encounter area and use calculated though to plan their next move.  This player will need details of the layout and incorporate this information into their planning. This player will probably do what is best for the party at that particular moment.  For example, the defender is holding off the "big guy" but is losing HP and is at risk of going down before he can get healing from the leader of the party or even use a healing surge himself.  This player would probably forego his own turn after calculating that if the defender goes down the encounter will be that much harder to win.  He will pull out the potion and feed it to the defender so the leader can take care of him his next turn.

Active Experimentation

The last mode of learning is the active experimentation mode.  The players who exhibit this mode of learning are the ones who tend to a just do.  They learn by doing things.  This player has to touch, feel, and move his character.  This player is willing to take risks to accomplish tasks, and desires to exert influences on others through action.  This player can sometimes be the player who likes to leave his teammates out to dry in order to try something the people would not be happy with.  Teammates need to be patient with this players.  He tends to be abrasive and want to rub the party the wrong way. For example, he would leave combat to try and find out what is in the chest on the other side of the room.

It is the job of the DM to make sure that every player has fun when they play the game.  Sometimes it is not easy to cater to every player, but everyone who wants to play the game has the right to do so, and it is up to we as DM to try to cater to their learning styles through good storytelling and many lessons learned. The players are the most important part or the game and if these players are not given a chance, then your gaming table will be bare indeed.

Do you agree with these thoughts?  Do any of you takes these modes into consideration when you DM games?  Do any of your DMs take your learning mode into consideration when they run a game?