Teaching Social Skills through Dungeons & Dragons at Roll Play Lead

Roll Play Lead explores social skill development and anxiety management through Dungeons & Dragons.

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Find Roll Play Lead online at Rollplaylead.org or at gamewithpurpose.org

Making a Difference through D&D

Lucas: [00:00:43] Hello and welcome to Making a Monster, the bite-sized podcast where usually, game designers show us their favorite monster and we discover how it works, why it works and what it means but today, I’m bringing back the “bonus episode” format to introduce you to someone using Dungeons and Dragons to interact with kids and make a difference in their lives directly.

There’s a hole in Making a Monster. Up until now it’s just been pure entertainment or kind of a curiosity where I’m going to bring you a story you may not have heard and tell you more about it than you probably thought there was to know.

I guess you could say I’ve hit my third level and taken my Paladin Oath Folklore.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:01:21] Okay.

Lucas: [00:01:22] What I’m hoping to do, is  to inject another piece into this conversation where instead of just being a story that reflects an understanding of the world that was before and is no longer, this episode I’m hoping will show people that, monsters are still useful in coming to understand the world, especially the one that we live in today

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:01:43] Yeah,

Lucas: [00:01:44] That’s Jamie Flecknoe, also known as Rosey Games, on Twitter and Twitch. I heard her give a TEDx Talk on how she’s using Dungeons & Dragons to develop social skills, and I’d like you to meet her and hear more about what she’s doing at an organization she founded called Roll Play Lead.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:02:01] Roll Play Lead is, right now we’re based just a little bit south of Denver and Colorado, and I work with teens and preteens usually like 11 ish to 17 ish. And we basically explore social skill development and anxiety management through the game, primarily at the game Dungeons and Dragons.

Lucas: [00:02:22] How did you find out that this was a viable path to doing those things?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:02:29] Trial and error. No,  um, I had just gotten into Dungeons and Dragons myself only maybe eight or so months prior to really starting Roll Play Lead. So I have a background in leadership development and with this background,  I started to realize that there was this cool overlap, right?

So you’re getting to play this character. You get to try new things, you get to experience life differently, right? Because you’re playing a character who probably is, you know, I mean a, in a fantasy world, so different than your own. And B probably has a story that’s different than yours, right? And so, as I was playing as my first Dungeons and Dragons character, I started to realize that it was helping me.

And a lot of these leadership theories that I had studied in grad school, started to feel relevant. Like, you know, people taking things out on you, like projection, what role are you fulfilling for the greater audience and whatever that looks like in Dungeons and Dragons.

And I started to realize that there’s so much opportunity to practice stuff, quote, unquote, safely, that I started to think what if I was really specific with this? What if I targeted  teenagers and what if I created situations where they specifically had to address some of these social skill areas, like communication, problem solving, critical thinking, et cetera, through this. And I actually found out that there are other organizations, also small like  Roll Play Lead across the country who are doing this kind of work.

And I thought, oh, Hey, I’m not the first, but I am the first in this area. That’s doing not therapy. So like, I don’t, you know, have kids sit down, I’m not licensed in therapy, you know, any therapeutic practices like that, but there is this social skill piece to it. So we’re not working through parents divorces.

We’re not managing depression, but we’re working on, how do you just communicate an idea a little bit better? How do you problem solve a little bit stronger? How do you speak up when you’re feeling like your voice isn’t being heard? So it’s, it’s a lot different than what a lot of the organizations are doing, but also similar, if that makes sense.

Playing D&D During a Pandemic

Lucas: [00:04:43] What did it look like for you prior to about a year ago to  create, a space for people to learn and explore social skills through Dungeons and Dragons? And what does it look like now?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:04:54] Yeah. it’s a little bit of a challenge. I mean, now is different, but it was even a challenge then. Because I don’t bring in enough money to rent my own place near where my kid like where my students are, it’s expensive down there. So we worked through the rec center, which was always a fun, little challenge, but,  you know, ideally you get a quiet space tables set up and chairs, and I like to start every group.

So my sessions run for four weeks and I have either three hour. Groups for kids, for students and kids who have a longer attention span and also want a more in-depth story. And then I do hour and a half sessions as well, either for kids who, whose attention spans are a little bit limited, or they don’t prefer like an in-depth like backstory kind of experience.

But each of my four week sessions, if they, especially, if our students change out, we create community guidelines, which is like,  character versus player. So knowing that sometimes our characters might say or do things that are challenging, but that doesn’t always have to reflect on the player. Things like have fun, be respectful, raise your, you know, like, you know, all of these kinds of things.

Depending on the group and the age of the group and the comfort level, sometimes it is me mostly suggesting things. But my goal is to always have everybody give a suggestion. Prior to the pandemic, no screens were a part of our thing, no phones out, this is a screen-free space, except for when we take our break, you can pull your screen out if you need to.

So that was respectful. Like you don’t have your phone out at the table, you’re not flipping through internets while we’re playing. So that’s part of it.

And then part of it is of course, making the space fun. So we have – again, pre pandemic – snacks, we celebrate birthdays. If your birthday happens while we’re here, like we have cookies. I do Christmas cookies every year with, that’s just a part of my tradition. So like holiday times I am bringing in like buckets of cookies and milk, just, you know, you want it to be fun as well.

Right? So, I mean, obviously D&D in and of itself is fun, but it also can be stressful. Like those first couple of sessions where you’re learning your character, even we start with level one characters, especially newbies it’s still stressful, right? So just kind of being like, yeah, this is stressful, but also like here’s a stress ball, just squeeze it.

And that’s the other thing we do is as long as you pay attention and know when your turn is, I have I used to. You know, paper, what sort of looking for clothes pins with Popsicle sticks and your characters names on them. So like you turn order is displayed on my DM screen.

So if you need to get up, if you need to get up and dance, because you’re nervous or that’s just how you process your energy or whatever, get up and dance. If you need to bring a stress ball with you or, you know, like a fidget spinner or something like that, fine. Bring it with you. My biggest rules are, you know, when your turn is because it is literally displayed in front of you.

If you are not ready on your turn, you know, as we start to learn our characters that we move on. But like I love when the kids get up and dance, I had one kid who’s doing like Fortnite dances the whole time in turns. It was great. But yeah. so like making, making the space comfortable for everybody. So whether you sit there like stoic and still between turns or whether you have to get up and Fortnite dance it like whatever’s best for

Lucas: [00:08:08] it sounds like you’ve been doing this for a couple of years now.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:08:10] Uh, Actually. I guess this will be two years. So April will be two years since we started.

Making Online Play Safe and Engaging

Lucas: [00:08:17] . And when did you have to make the switch to online play?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:08:20] we switched. Right. right. I guess it was March very early March. We switched because spring break classes took where my first classes that took place online. I canceled, I ended up again because a lot of it was through the rec center, which makes, know, they. Parents have to pay the rec center versus paying me. So I just canceled the March classes and then we started online. So I had to like figure out registration online and how to keep track of all of that. You know, the rec center was keeping track of all that. For me, I had used rule 20 a little bit because when I first started playing, I played. So I’m an I used to be a huge fan of the Sims. I used to play that video game heck a lot, and I made friends in the community. So my first like DM-ing experience was actually with people who played the Sims, like across the world. So I use year. Oh Yeah.

It was fun. A little bit for that, but I had to really figure, of course you need to figure out a whole heck of a lot more when you’re doing social skills.

And then we already had a discord. I already had a Roll Play Lead Discord server in place. So it was just kind of, Advancing that a little bit. So we’re, you know, making it a little bit more detailed and like creating spaces for online play. And role-playing in between sessions. I have some groups who play, who do that and some that don’t.

I think the transition was bigger for the kids than it was for me.  For anyone who’s ever played online, you know, it’s changes it. Like, I had to get okay with them typing side conversations, but my rule was you can’t private type them because we had some issues with that.

Any side conversations had to be either in like the zoom chat or the discord chat that I could see because people were like, oh, well, in this side conversation, so-and-so did this. And I’m like, well, I can’t see it. So I don’t know what you want me to do. Like you have to, you know, part of me monitoring, I mean, I did stuff, but like part of it was like, if you want me to monitor it and make sure that I know what’s going on, you know, the rule is it has to be in PR in public chat for everyone.

those little things changed a little, but, you know, I had to say, you know, You know, one of the best parts of D and D are the side conversations you have in between, and we weren’t able to do that. So I was like, all right, if you type, that’s fine, please, you know, screen, you know, if you want to turn your camera on grades, if you don’t want to also great dealing with internet capacity was also interesting.

You know, kids computer just crash in the middle of it because I pay for high internet because my partner and I are huge gamers. So we want to be able to game and like stream stuff. But I understand that not everyone has those needs. So, you know, that was another huge thing to overcome. But I think we got there the last year.

Lucas: [00:10:58] You have to figure it, then you’re going to get there eventually. Right? There’s a lot more to dig in and I think we’re this a different podcast we could spend the entire time on the difference between in-person and online play and honestly I would like to, but I do want to ask though just because I want to understand like the literature in the space that we’re working in, there particular principles of leadership development or particular authors whose work you tend to use in, in role-play lead?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:11:26] Um, yes and no. One of the most in my time in grad school, we, we did a lot studied a lot of different ones, but the most influential were authors called hive, Heifetz and Linsky. And they, offered a lot of information that felt modern. It didn’t feel like it was, it was older, outdated, and their biggest focus was on scapegoating learning to get a, they called it like the balcony versus the dance floor. So like, oftentimes we get stuck on the dance floor, right. Something happens and all you can see are the things just around you. And the goal is to get yourself to the balcony so that you can see the big picture and like more fully what’s going on around you.

And so a lot of that stuff kind of guides how I, how I’m work with work with the kids is getting them to that point as well. But for the most part, a lot of what I do is very much just based on my own struggles and how I learned social skills or how I didn’t learn them. And you know, in a lot of leadership developments, I mean, there are a ton of theories of, one of the big ones is like love and power and will.

And one of the, I was very fortunate. I feel like I’ve talked about my professors a lot lately in different venues and things. But I was very fortunate to be with some really great professors who were very focused on the love side of things and just coming at everything with as much love as you can.

And I, that is how I approach a lot of this is, is from a space of just love. What can I do to hold these students while they’re learning? What can I do to let them fall and pick themselves back up and wouldn’t have they fallen and they need help getting picked back up. And that is how I build a lot of my Like, scenarios for the campaigns that we run and how I built a lot of the interactions is do they need to be picked up right. now or are they okay?

And can I continue to help teach them from this spot if that makes sense?

Lucas: [00:13:32] It does. Yeah. How did you get the opportunity to give a TEDx talk? And what has it been like since you did?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:13:38] I don’t know. No, I’m I am part of a Facebook group that I know Facebook is for people who are old. I am part of a Facebook group and it’s like women entrepreneurs of like the Denver area or whatever. And so it’s a whole bunch of women who started their own businesses and just want to support each other.

And through there, someone posted up an application for one of our local Ted. You know, we have a local TEDx, Cherry Creek. And I thought to myself, it’s called ideas worth spreading. So like, what is your idea worth spreading? And I was like, you know, I’m just going to try it. Like, what’s the worst that can happen.

Rethinking how we teach social skills to teens and then specifically using role-playing games for it. And so I filled out the application, they thought it was cool. We, they had over, I think a hundred applications and I think it eight or 10 of us spoke at it. And I was like, okay, cool. So that’s how that happened.

Which was just like, Wild to me that because I, whatever. And since then a lot has changed and a lot hasn’t changed  my work hasn’t particularly gotten any, actually I have personally downgraded my work because all of my extracurriculars have picked up.

But I’ve met really cool people who want to talk to me and hear more about it and are starting to think,  how can D and D be used differently? So this is a great game, but what are we, what else can we do with it, right? Instead of just gathering your friends around and like going through dungeons and killing dragons and collecting treasures, like what else? How can we take this pop culture phenomenon that has launched  and become huge over the last couple of years and actually make it something that we can use more intentionally?

So that has been awesome. So I’ve been talking to lots of people about that, which is cool.

Lucas: [00:15:27] Well, we’re about half an hour in

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:15:29] we can talk monsters!

The Childhood Monsters Workshop

Lucas: [00:15:31] I we’re just about to come to the point of the thing in the first place.  Let’s cut to the childhood monsters workshop that you mentioned.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:15:38] Yeah. So in this pandemic happening, I decided to expand my offerings. And one of the things I wanted to do was look at how we can take quote, unquote, real life monsters and turn them into D and D monsters. And it went okay. I mean, I got a handful of kids who registered for it and we, there were a series of different ones.

There was like childhood monsters. There was world monsters. And so the childhood monsters was really fun because basically when I sat down with eight, well online, I sat down with the kids and we started talking about one thing from, I mean, and they’re children now. So one thing from either their earlier childhood, so prior to teens, or even things that prevent them now from being able, what, what is their monster look like? And started thinking about, okay, once you’ve identified this, let’s start to think about it in like creepy D and D terms, like, what does it look like?

What kind of, is it a magic creature? Is it something that, can charm you or stun you? Or is it something that maybe, you know, just beats the heck out of you? Like, let’s start to think about what that would look like. And we had some pretty interesting creatures come from this.

We’ve had, my favorite was the lazy bunny. This bunny distracts you, right? So you’re supposed to, you’re supposed to go do your chores, right? Whatever it is, homework chores. But a bunny appears and it’s like, no, just sit on the couch for a few more moments, like, come pet me. It’ll be fine. And so you ignore your chores or your tasks that you’ve been assigned by your adult or whatever. And that’s fine. And then it just kind of like charms you into staying on the couch, but if you decide to resist it and you’re like, no, I really should get up and do this chore.

It turns into I don’t know if you all have ever played Overwatch, but kind of like as like a big scary bunny with like those Zenyatta orbs around its neck.

Lucas: [00:17:24] Wow.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:17:25] Yeah. And it, and it like tries to hypnotize you with the orbs. So like, does these like cool patterns with the orbs and it really just like stunned, like paralyzes you on the couch or the bed or whatever, and like prevents you from being able to do anything for the rest of the day.

So that was one of my personal I’ve. I have a lazy bunny that appears often in my life,

and challenging, but so it was cool, you know, so the student is thinking about how they, what prevents them quote unquote, from being able to get up and do things, which was fantastic and I loved it.

Anxiety Monsters in D&D

Lucas: [00:17:56] What would you describe as the range of the monsters that your students were creating?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:18:00] For the younger group, like the lazy bunny was approximately like seen throughout. The older ones though. I had, I had a couple of later teenagers. So this, the lazy bunny student was like 12 or 13. I had a couple of 16, 17 year olds in the group.

And their monsters were actually more people-based, magic-based creatures that were like anxiety, monsters, right? So these are the voices. One was like the voice in your head. And the voice in your head,  tells you you’re, you’re an idiot. You shouldn’t talk. Like whatever you just said was stupid. And no one cares about what you’re saying.

And so you saw this more mature monster, right? This more mature monster that is now more society reflective, if that makes sense? Of this is like the, the way society is viewing you versus like the bunny that is more like, this is just a problem that prevents me from doing chores in my house. And so you’re seeing like a paralization monster as well, that like, when you go to parties or gatherings of people, you have to stay in the corner and you can’t move.  I think it was like, you catch it in the reflection of a mirror and then it paralyzes you and forces you to like fear run to a corner. So you get like feared and stay in a corner and you’re not allowed to interact. So you’re seeing like this more, more mature struggle of, you know, a teenager who’s trying to quote, quote unquote, fit into society and is their monster is preventing them from doing that

Lucas: [00:19:26] So when you were working with these monsters. How far did you go in the development of them for Dungeons & Dragons?  Did you go as far as assigning a challenge rating?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:19:35] For the younger kids, we didn’t quite get there. For the younger kids we sort of did, like, they created a couple of different things. The older kids they had like armor classes they had, they had, you know, spell slots and what spells they could cast you know, they did all the stats and things like that.

So some of my younger kids love D&D, but don’t read D&D if that makes sense, like they’ll play,  but they haven’t like opened a manual out how to make it. Some of the older kids. Right. You know, D and D is there’s too much. I mean, it’s great, but there’s a lot, but some of the older actually pulled up like stat blocks and kind of based  the things off stat blocks.

So most of their challenge ratings for these like monsters were for the older kids floated around like a nine or 10, the younger kids pro theirs were a little bit easier. Theres were like twos and threes. And I think that, it makes sense that the younger kids don’t view their things yet quite as big as some of the older kids who actually have maybe have experienced the What’s the word I’m looking for, like the pushback of society or their own anxiety within, raising your hand in the classroom and then feeling like an idiot if you don’t answer the question, you know, and again, they’re not that they are idiots, but that voice in the back of their head is of course telling them that they are because that’s their anxiety being a jerk, which is what anxiety does.

Lucas: [00:20:57] So the challenge rating of the monster is sort of reflective of the scale and the maturity of the problems that the students are facing.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:21:04] Yes.

Lucas: [00:21:05] Are there mechanics in Dungeons and Dragons in either the monsters that you saw your students making or the ones that you use in your scenarios that you see as more useful or true to life?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:21:20] I’m going to say yes, but I think I’m going to answer this question differently than you’re anticipating.

Lucas: [00:21:25] Alright!

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking through D&D

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:21:27] My first campaign that we ran for like a full school year into the summer was definitely a trial campaign and there were a lot of really cool opportunities within it. And some of the things, some of the monsters and the way that, that I used them were just to create teamwork within the group. So I amped up monsters abilities, especially like AOEs and stuff like that. I wanted to make it so that the group had to figure out how to work together.

But with the second campaign, me being a little bit more intentional with it and knowing what a full year would look like with them, I’ve created a lot of very multi-dimensional  humanoid characters, less, so dragons, less so mimics. These are like your main baddies, right? Who are carrying you through the story, whose goals are multifaceted in order to get my students to start thinking about multiple sides to a story, which I know isn’t really, I know you’re thinking more like, Hmm. what spells do they cast, but to be honest with you, like, it’s not so much their powers as much for me as it is their motivation that I find useful in encouraging critical thinking and encouraging problem solving within the students.

Did they have to fight a whole gnoll pack? Absolutely. Was that a moment where I was just hoping they’d learn to work together a little bit? Sure. Less so than like having them be particularly built for it. My thing is I want my worlds, I want my main baddies, villains who are driving it, to have multiple sides, which I don’t find a lot in the books. In the pre-written campaigns. I don’t find that your baddies are relatable at all.

Lucas: [00:23:14] Hm.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:23:14] They’re just evil. Like you just want to kill them. Does that make sense?

Lucas: [00:23:17] Absolutely does. one of the reasons I’m still doing this podcast months later is that,  I’ve found that attitudes towards villains and what a villain should be, are deeply reflective of what we want out of a story and how we use them.  I think there’s a place for a monster who’s one note or a villain who is definitively evil with no question as to whether or why or how.

But I think it’s also really interesting that, we are starting to demand more of our monsters. Like we’re not as a whole or in general, or maybe it’s just the circles that I run in, but. Anecdotally, I seem to see that the tabletop RPG community is no longer satisfied with a monster who just sort of pops up and deals X number of D twelves.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:24:06] I can describe to you one of the main villains my group is going for, and we can talk about how I use that.

Lucas: [00:24:13] Yeah.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:24:14] Yeah, this one’s going to be painful. So.

Lucas: [00:24:18] Okay.

When Good People Do Bad Things

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:24:18] I have a lot of groups of kids, but I have one main group that’s been together for awhile. And so their stories, their backstories and their world is a little bit more built around them versus some of the other groups that are newer where the world is built and we just kind of like shape a few moments around things, if that makes sense.

So the main villain that the, my longest running group is going after right now is named Bailey Luna. And this particular villain is a challenge because this is the father of one of the characters I have one of my PCs.

This is because that particular player was like, I want some drama. And I was like, Okay, well, you said it, so here you go. But part of it is also because of the way that we wanted to build this connection. So this particular character is a wood elf, you know, very generic, like wood elf, long braided hair you know, whatever. But their original goal was to keep their family well off. And by doing such, they made some maybe less than stellar connections, right?

Because he sells maple syrup. This is what he does. He’s a maple syrup farmer person, and you can’t make a ton of money doing that. So he has started to trade information. He has started to learn a little bit more about things and that’s how it started was just like, I will trade in information. By the time the characters re-meet with him, there is a war happening and he is actually, this is terrible, trafficking humans up to the Northern part of the continent for reasons that the group has yet to figure out, but it is because when they try and get them with ransom, he gets some of the money. And so it’s become this interesting thing of like, well, I just wanted to keep my family alive and well, to this whole thing well, now I’m making a lot of money and I can, I don’t know if I can get out of this, but I like the power that comes with it.

And so it’s kind of gotten to this point here where this particular character has told a few more lies than he meant to, to get out of it. And the group is trying to figure out like, do we dispatch one of our character’s dads? Do we hope if we like kidnap him and like shackle him up, maybe he’ll change his mind? And so again, this character isn’t, or this monster in this case, or this villain, his goals were originally good. And sometimes when we have originally good ideas or good goals, we don’t realize that they’ve gone too far until we’ve can’t help ourselves, we can’t get past it.

And so the group is really trying to figure it’s been fascinating to watch them figure out or try and figure out like, what’s the best route that we take? Do we want to, just because he’s doing bad things doesn’t mean that we should, like, should we kill him? Is that the option? Or is the option more we break him out of this and see if he changes?

Seeing if people change has been a big theme in this group and they have shown a lot more mercy than I think most groups would have for the even low-lying villains. And so I’m very in this case, just interested to see if they sit down and talk to him or if they just decide outright, he’s a jerk, we’re going to kill him.

Because of the fact that I work with social skill development, nothing that I have is set in stone. I need it to be flexible because a, the kids always surprise me and I think that happens in any campaign, but they surprise me more than I anticipate; and because I want to be able to shift everything, to fit where they’re at versus force them to fit what I’ve written. If that makes sense. So I never set anything completely in stone. I never decided that, Hey, this is exactly how this baddie is going to operate, or this experience is going to go because I always need to gauge where they’re at  in their development.

Lucas: [00:28:11] There’s a couple of things that that brings up that, that are going to be worthwhile to explore in the last little bit of time that we have left. First of all, it’s been my theory that, the difference between a player, character and a monster is leveling up, and I think that comes from the heroic fantasy genre as a whole.  We have this sort of clear divide between the hero, who grows and excels and comes back having crossed the threshold with power gained from the unknown, and then these sort of static threats that we can encounter and overcome or not.

What that means is that you can enshrine those  static monsters in a block, and it seems to me that what you’re telling me is that, that approach is less useful to you than a  monster in sort of the broad sense of the word who also grows and changes and has variability in  their motivations and abilities.

The world continues on even when you’re not part of it

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:29:03] Yeah. absolutely. One of the first things I remind my students, cause you know, they like to test boundaries, especially students who’ve never played D&D before, is that the world continues on even when you’re not part of it. So when you leave X town to go to Y town, X town still exists and the things you said and did have ripple effects.

And so whether that’s saved somebody who maybe you wouldn’t have normally saved, or maybe you kill somebody on accident or on purpose, I had a group of kids storm into a butcher shop and attack the butcher, cause some of the cows had gone missing and they assumed it was the butcher who like wanted extra money and they rolled a natural 20 on pinning him to the wall.

And I was like, well, you snap his neck and he’s dead. Now his wife and kids are mad, you know?

Lucas: [00:29:51] That’s a hard move as a DM.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:29:53] Right? But, part of the social skill development piece is that you need to figure out how to talk to people. Like we get it. I mean, raise your hand if  you’ve gotten angry at something, everyone experiences that emotion, but you can’t just charge at the pro- I mean, you can, but there are consequences and you rolling a natural 20 on your grapple check or whatever to throw them against the wall. I mean, that, that’s, that’s part of the dice.

And again, that’s an extreme example, but  another example is I had one kid who gave like two or three gold their character had grown up on the streets and they saw a kid begging for food and they gave them like two gold, right?

That’s a lot of money to give to a kid. What is that going to do? Well, that that could have really positive effects and down the line that that kid might be your ally. Right? And so the same with the villains and same with your monsters, they’re going to experience things when you’re not around and those experiences could be good, right?

Maybe that ally that you created also goes to school with a potential villain and actually changes the potential villain’s mind, or maybe you’ve killed the butcher. And now that kid hates you because you killed his dad and is now going to learn magic specifically to kill you. Right?

And, and so I, listen, I have a lot of, this is what I do.

So my goal is to make the villains, the good people, anyone you interact with has, has been affected by you and potentially in some way, shape or form, And if my students all decide to violently kill something, that’s one option. But if they also decide to diplomatically approach a situation and try and make it better, I’m going to reward that by having the villain, maybe change a little bit or something like that.

Monsters as “the enemy other” – can we do better?

Lucas: [00:31:41] The other thing that, monsters tend to do in history, culture, folklore, is fill the role of the enemy other. And it sounds to me like what you’ve done is break down that difference entirely.  Did you think of it in those terms? Was that intentional? Or was this just something that came out of the work that you were trying to do?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:32:03] It was intentional. I have plenty of monsters in my games that help them just fight and get out their anger. Right? Like, you know, they’re going to come across some goblins and the goblins are just disposable in that point. But yeah, I was very intentional of  saying to myself, particularly in this campaign that I’ve created, is that not everything that your character knows is correct, because they’ve learned it from a book that was written by somebody who’s biased. Right? They have a particular goal in mind and saying that your villains, your bad guys are good guys. Everything is mutable.

And so, yeah, my definite goal was to also help them to start thinking more critically. With everything going on in our society, this particular campaign is really focused on racism and how history is told by the victors. And I’m being very intentional of making it  so that everything that they know might not be correct about the bad guys, about the, or the baddies and about people in their lives. This is my favorite campaign that I’ve ever run.

Lucas: [00:33:09] And it would be it sounds like you’ve done what I think people now are trying to do with the N D

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:33:16] In my opinion,  monsters can and should be part of the story. They shouldn’t necessarily be the driving force of the story all the time, but they  should help tell it, right? I mean,  it’s one thing to have an owl bear who like attacks the party on the road and it’s another thing to create a mind flayer who’s super intelligent and super controlling and aware of what’s going on around them and just say that their sole purpose is X and they will do anything to get that. And there’s nothing you can do to change their mind. Come on. It’s an intelligent being, there has to be something you can- like, yeah, they might be evil, but like even evil creatures have needs aside from taking over X colony and making it all their own.

Like what else can be done? And I feel like that’s something I’m really trying to bring into my games and my work especially with the kids is that, they have a story to tell too, and together you’re going to tell a bigger story.

Lucas: [00:34:13] Why did you choose D&D for the work that you’re doing?

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:34:16] The very short story is I appreciate the randomness of like the dice rolls. And I think that that’s really important because it does kind of reflect day to day life. You might be prepared to take a test, but then you get into, and I talked about this in my Ted talk, you get into a fight with your parents in the morning, and that adds this level level of like  in predictability to your day, right,

how you’re going to be feeling. And I think the dice rolls reflect that really well.

And I like the lore, I like the worlds, and I like the monsters. So I felt like if I could just adapt it a little to fit my needs uh, could still keep the basic parts of D and D as part of it, like  the infrastructure that is already put in place.

Lucas: [00:34:54] Yeah, thanks for that.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:34:55] Of course.

Lucas: [00:34:56] I think that’s about all we’re going to have time for  I would love to know if there’s anything the average listener might be able to do to support what you’re doing, or be a partner in what you’re trying to accomplish.

Jamie Flecknoe: [00:35:07] Yeah. Role-play lead has a website it’s currently roll play  lead dot org. We’re working on changing our name to Game with Purpose. And I am working and to become a 5 0 1 C3. So a nonprofit, but for now we’re still just your everyday for-profit organization.

The New Queen's Handmaiden coverBut we have a, if you’re interested, if you think that social skill development might benefit some teens in your life, your kids, your friends, , neighborhood kids or whatever Roll Play Lead on drive-through RPG has a social skills module already available. We’ve wrote it. We’ve built in social skill moments for it. So you can go online and purchase it. It’s called the New Queens Handmaiden and any profits from there, go towards the programming that I run with role-play leads. So that’s a bonus for, for us.

Click here to get the New Queen’s Handmaiden through an affiliate link and support both Roll Play Lead and Making a Monster:

We have an Amazon wishlist. Some of the stuff we’re not using right now,  due to pandemic, but I love magic item cards and spell cards. It’s great for the kids because you know, if they don’t have a copy of the player’s handbook or if they have it, but they don’t want to dig through it, they can quickly see what their spells can do which is also really helpful for learning.

And if you’re like a creator or you think anything that you create would help Roll Play Lead out, we’d be more than happy to work together to come up with something. I’ve had people make me little like, health potion tokens and stuff, which has been great. So those are some great places to go. It’s all on Roll Play Lead dot org. So you just go there and it’ll send you to all the other stuff.

Lucas: [00:36:24] I’ve put a link to Roll Play Lead’s website in the show notes, as well as a link to Jamie’s TEDx Talk where you can go deeper with what she’s doing and how it’s unique and relevant.

Thanks for listening to Making a Monster. If you want to continue learning about how monsters reflect the world around us, please consider supporting the show on Patreon. Your support lets me choose guests with interesting and important work rather than chasing SEO with whatever is trending at the moment. Plus, there’s some really cool perks like free music and my personal favorite, stickers.

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I’ll see you on Monday for the finale of Making a Monster season 2!

Next Episode: Roll20’s Burn Bryte with James Introcaso

James Introcaso: [00:37:22] Through the wall of your ship walks this adorable fox-sized creature with big blue fur all over its body. Giant eyes with red irises, a quivering little lip on its snout. Big ears and three bushy tails that are all wagging. They’re wearing a collar that has a little dangly tag coming from it, that jingles, as they walk over to you,  you see one of your companions reach out, to pet this thing. And as your companion does,  suddenly , the creature becomes translucent and their hand passes right through it.

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