Ann Arbor Game Day
Magicians - A Language Learning RPG
Elevator Pitch: Wizard high school teen supernatural drama with a system that’s actually a cleverly disguised Korean language text book.
Core Resolution Mechanic: Spend tokens to speak into a dictation app to test language skills.
Dice used: None! (Smartphone with dictation app recommended)
Magic is real. It hides in the shadows of the modern world, but academies exist to teach those who have the potential to learn—potential which can only be drawn out by some kind of emotional wound. New students are sent away to other countries to learn, because the process of casting a spell involves speaking words with focus; experiments have shown that people have an easier time learning magic when it’s cast in an unfamiliar language.
So, sent to an unfamiliar land, with unfamiliar monsters, and speaking an unfamiliar language with a bunch of strangers, it’s no surprise that the teen years of most wizards are more difficult than most. And because your magic is literally fueled by your emotional damage, that drama ensues. Especially when those strange monsters start to assert themselves around the school and it’s up to you to deal with them . . .
Players take on the roles of foreign students sent to a school for wizard candidates in South Korea, where they’ll study magic through the medium of the Korean language. While there, they’ll get involved in Buffy-style adventures, which they’ll need to use their magic to solve. Spells are cast using Drama Tokens, which are earned by playing through Drama scenes in which the character is somehow negatively affected in terms of Self-Worth, Love, Freedom, Justice, Safety, or Trust. The monster-of-the-week is only able to be truly defeated once a certain number of spells have been cast, so it’s up to the players to use their magic to get themselves into (and out of) trouble until the climactic battle arrives.
When a character casts a spell, her player tries to speak a word or phrase in Korean into a smartphone dictation app. If the app recognizes the word as the player wanted to say it, the spell goes off successfully, working exactly as the player intended. If it doesn’t, the spell goes awry in some way, although it does still count towards the number needed to resolve the adventure. The game features multiple levels of complexity in terms of casting, from a simple beginner’s version where only a word is needed, to a more complicated advanced mode, with parts of speech cleverly standing in for Schools of Magic (so, for example, casting spells that affect time is done by learning how to use tenses).
The Haunted Dormitory
The students explore an old, abandoned dormitory. Rumors say it’s haunted, but is that really all that’s going on?
Getting the Game
A cool feature of the PDF is that it includes an option for one with embedded sound links, so that you can hear how the words are supposed to sound!