Tickler: RPG – choosing the scenario

Having decided to run a TTRPG using the Call of the Cthulhu system, more questions arise:

  • Which edition of the system? Does it matter?
  • How many students will potentially play?
  • What is their English level?
  • How will materials need to be modified to fit their level?
  • How long do we have to play? Can it be done in one session or will two (or more) sessions be needed?
  • What materials/technology will I need to run the game.

Regarding which edition of the system, as this is an introductory game focusing more on the discussion aspect rather than detailed game mechanics, the only consideration for which edition to use is how already prepared materials rely on a particular mechanic. At its core, CoC is about investigating clues, mysterious groups, occult happenings, incredibly powerful beings, and the very real potential to lose your mind. These themes are present across all editions, so I will be using the 6th Edition of CoC, as that is what I have on hand.

Ideally, the game would have 4-5 students, perhaps with another teacher assisting their group or herding them if they get a bit stuck. If there is no extra teacher, I can potentially run a non-player character (NPC) that the characters of the players happen to know. In TTRPGs, there are two styles of characters. The first are Player Characters (PCs), ie, the roles that the people in the room take on. The second are, unsurprisingly Non-Player Characters (NPCs), who are usually controlled by the person running the game. These NPCs can be benevolent, ambivalent, or downright dangerous.

Initially the game will be advertised to 3rd and 4th year students, with an option for higher level 2nd year students. The goal is certainly not to exclude players who want to play, but a certain level of English will be needed, even with Japanese students being able to support each other.

CoC games very often utilise a lot of physical material. Players are often given items such as printed newspaper clippings, diary entries, memos etc. In addition, it’s possible to use media such as audio clips. While often a plethora of material has been made by users on the internet, they are naturally intended for native speakers. As such, the English will often need massaging to help move the game along more smoothly.

That is not to say the materials should be “dumbed down”, but a careful eye should be run over them to identify areas of potential confusion. Regardless, it is very likely that students will come across words that they have not encountered before, and apart from identifying any such words or concepts before playing, I will be looking at a system for students and I to quickly check any vocabulary they don’t know and make a note for later follow-up.

Given that most one-shot games can take several hours even for native speakers, I imagine that the game will take at least two sessions of 2-2.5 hours. I will need to planning for parts of the story that can form a naturally cliff-hanger for the players, making them want to return for the finale.

In terms of materials, students will only need to provide a pen, paper, and their iPads (for checking vocabulary, looking up photos of items and places they don’t know etc). In an effort to keep the game streamlined, I will be making simplified versions of the standard player character sheets, with some Japanese translations provided. The standard character sheets are quite information dense and confusing, so simplified versions will hopefully be less off-putting. I will also be using atmospheric music, sounds effects and hopefully lighting!


ChatGPT: Threat or Opportunity?

ChatGPT. Even the most techno-illiterate teacher has at least heard of it and the evils this dastardly software is set to unleash upon our classrooms.

After some dabbling, it seems to be the real deal. My initial reaction is ChatGPT will be unlikely to provide much of an avenue for cheating at my current institution because, frankly, the responses are just too natural. So, if I am not immediately concerned with “cheating”, the question then is: “How can I as a teacher embrace the technology and guide my students to use it effectively?” Using technology is one thing. Using it effectively is another.

My first thought was that ChatGPT would be an amazing tool for creative storytelling.

  • Groupwork: Play a “choose your own adventure game” – the teacher gives a prompt; students work together to ask ChatGPT what they should do in response to the prompt. Write a short story or manga about their adventure referencing their ChatGPT logs.
  • Idea generator: Ask ChatGPT for five story hooks about characters, locations and MacGuffins provided by the teacher. Come up with a short story outline in your group.

Looking at the somewhat controversial idea of “digital natives” put forward by Prensky (2001), whether you agree with it or not, we are now entering a generation where this level of AI interaction will be normalized. Much like fears of student use of the internet and smartphones, they need to be guided in how to harness the obvious power of ChatGPT to produce meaningful and useful results.

Prensky, M. (2001a) Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5): pp. 1–6.
Available at:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf


Thought Tickler TTRPG Project – Which TTRPG?

So, we have looked at what RPGs are in general, and a short history of the most popular RPG in the West, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). However, does this make D&D the “best” or most appropriate RPG to use in a learning context. Here, I believe we need to consider an important factor:

Is a western fantasy game going to translate to a Japanese environment, and if not, why not and what are better options.

The main problem I see with attempting to introduce a western fantasy RPG is that there is a significant amount of both assumed knowledge, and genre specific vocabulary that is ONLY used in relation to fantasy tropes. While Western audiences and players are now likely familiar with the stereotypes of fantasy races such as elves and dwarves (tall, graceful, live in forests vs short, gruff, live under mountains) thanks to blockbuster franchises such as The Lord of  The Rings, it can’t be taken for granted that people from non-Western pop culture backgrounds will automatically know these.

To that end, a not insignificant question needs to be asked: are fantasy RPGs such as D&D popular or even known in Japan. It turns out that while D&D certainly does have a presence, the most popular RPG in Japan is actual “Call of Cthulhu”, based loosely on the works of science fiction/horror writer, HP Lovecraft. The Cthulhu mythos is based in the roaring 20s, usually the UK or the USA, but by no means limited to those countries, and usually revolves around solving some kind of mystery inevitably involving a dread being from another dimension. The general format of the adventures is more like a co-operative mystery investigation, with the players discovering clues that reveal more of the story.

So, the Call of Cthulhu universe immediately knocks on the head (for the most part), the two issues raised above: it doesn’t particularly need any prior knowledge or meta understanding of the world the players are in. It is our world, just 100 years ago. Similarly, while their certainly might be some specific vocabulary related to pan-dimensional beings of horror, the adventure is firmly rooted in reality. The vocabulary needed to play the game is every day vocabulary that students have encountered, or potentially will encounter, rather than esoteric fantasy-focused vocabulary.

As another potential general benefit, using a system that students may have at least heard of is likely to be one less barrier to them joining the group.




Thought tickler – TTRPG project, thoughts on tech and privacy

  • want to be able to at the very least audio record the sessions for two reasons:
  • 1. As a record for the students to enjoy by listening to their adventure again.
  • 2. To document not just language used, but emotions experienced.

Would need to get student approval.

Would need to make a point of people ONLY referring to their character names. Would need to check recordings careful to see if a student’s name is accidentally used.


Microsoft Teams Reading – What not to do

<<placeholder text>>

Things that I have learned from my first run in with Teams reading:

You reading must be CLEAN. That is, if you wish to take advantage of the automatic checking, extraneous material or formatting WILL cause it to lose the plot.

Don’t use conversations. See above. The formatting means you are taking away a lot of the (supposed) benefits of the app.

You don’t have to trust the app if you are getting a lot of false positives. I was having to manually correct the same things again and again. Just turn off Preview and do it yourself. Of course this takes away a significant benefit of the app.



The app is clunky. Clunky. Cluuuuuuunky. The interface for making corrections is painfully unintuitive and doesn’t allow for any kind of flow whatsover.

The export functionality didn’t export a bunch of metadata including the students names.