Tweens Role Playing Game in Imperial Rome
February 26, 2018 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I’m a member of a homeschooling Co-op and have been throwing my creativity into the classes I teach there. I’ve been thinking about doing a pen-and-paper RPG set in Imperial Rome so that I can cut in educational stuff between the kids doing battle with roadside bandits. I haven’t run an RPG in two decades, so I’m a bit rusty. Can anyone point me in the direction of materials that would be helpful for this (either on the RPG side, the Roman History side or, most awesomely, something that combined both)?
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not an RPG, but there is a board game called Republic of Rome. Finding a copy is (presumably) an exceedingly long shot, but it might be worth asking around if you have board game friends.
posted by hoyland at 6:42 PM on February 26, 2018

My resident Ancient Rome/RPG enthusiast recommends GURPS: Imperial Rome.
posted by KatlaDragon at 6:46 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a copy of Republic of Rome! It seems super neat but I've never gotten a chance to play because my gaming friends, who have engineering degrees from Harvard and MIT, are intimidated by its complexity. Might be a tough sell for tweens unless they are very motivated for it.
posted by phoenixy at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2018

GURPS is the way I would go. Character creation is a bit long but the system is great and has supplements for a wide variety of historic places and eras. Characters are easy to reuse and tailor to different settings.

GURPS Age of Napoleon
GURPS Arabian Nights
GURPS Aztecs
GURPS Greece
GURPS Imperial Rome
GURPS Middle Ages
GURPS Old West
GURPS Russia
GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel
GURPS Swashbucklers
GURPS Vikings
posted by irisclara at 7:34 PM on February 26, 2018

It's worth noting that the majority of the GURPS supplements mentioned are for the 3rd edition of the game. They will probably require a bit of conversion work to play with 4th edition, not a whole lot, but… The historical information is, of course, applicable to either edition and perfectly lovely.

As a bonus, most GURPS books contain extensive annotated bibliographies.
posted by Alensin at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2018

Maybe check out Basic RolePlaying and this impressive sounding source-book Rome: The Life and Death of the Republic.
posted by meinvt at 8:24 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

GURPS may not be the best introductory RPG for homeschool kids, unless you are currently teaching them spreadsheets and volumetric calculations for engineering (not kidding!). That being said, GURPS books are always well produced and written, and I can vouch that the Imperial Rome one is no exception-- it is definitely worth the money for all the impeccable (and cited) historical research and advice on role playing in the era. Thousands of people buy GURPS books for the research and writing, and then adapt them for their own favorite RPG systems. GURPS Imperial Rome would be my first recommendation, but with the caveat you might want to try an easier RPG system.

Maybe FATE, or the even easier FATE Accelerated (FAE). You can download pdfs of these to try them out. It is "pay what you want", and the authors realize some people will want to pay nothing, and do it anyway for the promotional benefits. Downloads page here. Other possibilities for RPGs good for homeschoolers would be 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, which has the cachet of being the current most popular RPG, and is surprisingly easy to get into. Free rules for that one here, and there is also the $20 Starter box if you want hardcopy. There are other systems that might be good for homeschooling, as well. I'm sure others will have recommendations in addition to mine. I will probably remember some more as well, and make a later comment, as using RPGs for homeschooling and traditional schooling is an interest of mine. Feel free to ask more questions or memail me. Good luck and this sounds like it will be a fun and useful project!
posted by seasparrow at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

SeaSparrow has this correct in that you really want Fate Accelerated (FAE).
Character creation is really fun for kids and only takes minutes.
I don't think you will need any sort of special source book beyond what you might already know, and know you want to teach them. Weave the information into a very loose narrative, such as exploring a new city, meeting new people, getting hired by someone to perform a heroic task as a team, or crawling through an underground cavern together.
Don't stress out about it, it's gonna be FUN!

Here's the downloads page where you can get character sheets and FAE Rule book.
Here's the SRD Page for FAE, where you can dig a bit deeper into the system.
Here's the Fate Accelerated Google Plus Community, who are ridiculously helpful and will probably LOVE to help you with this.

posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:03 AM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

This pains me immensely to share, but my best friend's ex-husband created a D&D-type simulation for his Cold War unit in his World History class. It could probably be modified for Rome. Here's the website. Specific rules. I'd put you in touch with him but he and I will never talk again in this lifetime but maybe you could contact him via the website.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:24 AM on February 27, 2018

Oh god don't do GURPS. Quoting myself:

So you have a new guy:

Give him some pictures of characters (google D&D characters).

Let him pick one and give them a name, then ask him if the character is strong, quick or smart.

Write VERY [STRONG]. Now ask if the character is quick, or smart. Write FAIRLY [SMART]. Then write NOT VERY [QUICK] (obviously replacing those with whatever answers he gives).

Now ask what he loves doing, what he hates doing and what is he scared of. Write those down. Now ask what's his job and write that down. (you can keep on going, e.g. does the character have a pet, who is their best friend, but that's enough to be going on with. Use the picture if you want to know what gear etc the character has)

Now you have a chacter, so have an adventure! Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is great, but really any kind of spooky adventure would do. The innkeeper asking for help killing rats, and discovering a spooky tunnel that's been dug into the earth, maybe...

For tasks, roll a d20 when the character needs to do something and add 12 if it's using a VERY quality, 8 if it's a FAIRLY and nothing if it's a NOT VERY. If the number is over 10 they succeeded, if it's 20 or over they succeeded super well. Always make sure to fail forward.

If he has a fight, then you both roll without adding anything - the loser draws a skull on their sheet (most baddies only have one skull). If he gets hit he can try and avoid the skull by saying what he does (i'm very strong so i block it with my shield! = roll and add 12, trying to break 20)

This 'system' needs a bit of DM work but in my experience it's instantly legible to complete newbies.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:21 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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