Note: this is a transcribed interview, edited for ease of reading
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
So, I’m Garrett, and my day job is that I teach 6th grade world history and middle school music. We are a tiny private school, here in Texas, so I teach both of those subjects.
In the evenings, I run Two25Games, which is an Instagram account platform that puts the RP back into TTRPG. What that means is we focus heavily on ways to act and bring your characters and world building to life for both players and game masters.
When did you start playing tabletop RPGs? Do you have a favorite moment to share?
I started playing in college, but I kind of jumped off the bandwagon a little bit. I got, funny enough, back into TTRPGs because of teaching and doing this D&D project. I had this idea to run my students through The Epic of Gilgamesh as a TTRPG campaign, and that’s what kicked off Two25Games. I fell in love with it, and I was like, there has to be more of this, so I made more of this!
My favorite moment as a player, I think, is after Two25Games was kind of established. Chris, who’s another part of Two25Games was doing a one-shot campaign, and I was playing an aarakocra gunslinger, Rudius Toodius Shoodius the Third. He was not smart, and he always used puns and one liners even when just doing menial tasks. Everything was super cool to him, and he thought he was a really, really cool guy, high on his game… and I kept rolling so bad the entire session!
Chris, keeping in mind that I was this gunslinger, set up for a wild west duel. This guy came out and we were dueling out in the streets, and I’m supposed to be this world class sharpshooter, but he couldn’t hit anything!
He set up the whole scene and described it really well, and I rolled like two or three nat1’s in a row and missed! It was then a massive shootout, and all these gang members started popping up out of the buildings and shooting at us!.
The fact that I failed that badly was pretty memorable. So, when it came time for my birthday, all the players chipped in for this Natural One Award that they got from Etsy. It’s somewhere on this bookshelf over here, but it’s a nat1 dice that’s just kind of super glued onto wood and it says “The Natural One Award, presented by:” and it has all their character names on the back!
What does Two25Games do?
Our whole mission and everything we do revolved around putting the RP back into TTRPG, so we’ve produced two journals, which I have with me right here from the podcast I was on last night. The first one we released was A Hero’s Journey: A Journal for 5e.
It has a series of session 0 questions and character sheets, note taking journal prompts, which I also give my students whenever we do this in class – I print it out for them versus making them buy it. They take notes, and put it in their binders. The next day, I always have something from the previous session, so they can use their notes on that. It keeps their notes organized and gives them prompts to be able to take those notes. Then, I made it into a journal that you can get on Amazon or on Two25Games.com.
The other journal is World Building Made Simple, and it’s a world building journal for game masters, authors, and creatives. It’s 60 prompts all about building your own world. It promotes creativity by asking questions in a series of genres, like human geography, physical geography, religions, government… things like that. Inside each of those sections are questions that might prompt you to go a little bit further and be a little more creative than just the surface level stuff.
It’s a way to take your world building and creativity to the next level and organize it. You might have an idea over here and an idea over here, and there’s no connective tissue there, or even worse, they might contradict each other and create plot holes. These prompts are kind of a way to formulate a web rather than just having several different ideas. It makes it cohesive and connected so it makes sense.
How do you use tabletop RPGs with kids?
We do it once per year, and we run, as I said earlier, through The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s the oldest written story in the world that we know of, and it’s by the Sumerians. It’s full of adventure and monsters and demon slaying – it’s like the OG D&D campaign. There’s two brothers, and they’ve got to kill this demon and a massive bull from heaven… it’s just super cool.
The second year I taught this, I was like… why don’t we just run this as a D&D campaign? History is a story, and if it’s presented as a story, you’re more likely to hold it in and retain what’s being taught.
I’m the DM, and it’s usually a week or two long campaign. We run through the first book or so of Gilgamesh, and the kids love it. They build their own character, and I help them with their backstory in a way that they get to know the ancient world of Messopotamia. Like, we might see what a merchant’s life would look like or a tax collector or whatever might interest them.
It’s kind of magical in the story, so I let the magic system and everything be – we claim the magic comes from the gods since they have such a strong influence in the story. There’s also demons and fantastical elements, so it’s not just strict humans only, no magic. It’s Earth, but also this amazing ancient Mesopotamia.
There’s not a lot of combat because combat takes SO long; I try to reduce it as much as I can.
By the end of the project, they’ve played through the major parts of the story, and they should have a pretty solid understanding of who the characters are and why the myth is so important in terms of world history.
What benefits do you see from using TTRPGs instead of a typical class format?
I think just the interactivity on its own is enough to validate this as a pedagogical tool because history is interactive, or it should be. You’re in a story, and rather than being a passive bystander, it’s kind of like a video game. You are acting in the story, whether it’s single player or an MMO. You’re more empathetic to the character because you kind of are the character.
Going along the journey with Enkidu as he discovers himself and has to go fight Gilgamesh because Gilgamesh is being a jerk (I have to tone it down to kind of a G level because some of the stuff is pretty R rated, so we do tone it down)… going through that, if I asked them today about that project from two months ago, they’re still going to remember Enkidu and Gilgamesh and Shamash and Shamhat and all the other characters in the myth, which is invaluable.
If I just read it to them, I guarantee it wouldn’t make as much sense, but because they interacted with these characters in real time, they are able to retain that a lot more because they were active.
What advice do you have for people who are new to tabletop RPGs?
I want to approach this two ways, one from inside the classroom and one from outside the classroom.
So, regardless of age from outside the classroom, I love introducing people to TTRPGs and teaching them because I think, being a teacher, I’m pretty good at breaking things down into bite sized chunks that make sense in the moment and scaffold the material.
As you can see, back here on the bookshelf, there’s 1000 different books for D&D specifically, right? So, that’s a lot of information, but if you make it fun and are confident in leading the charge, other people are going to have fun with you because they’re going to be feeding off your energy. Like running a classroom, confidence is key, and that’s how you gain engagement.
For people who are learning this, the pressure is on, especially with adults who are more self conscious, they don’t like being told no. I don’t agree with the whole “no, but…” If they want to cast big spells and be a wizard or be a massive heroic fighter but tell them no because it’s not in the rules, that’s going to turn them off a little bit. So, I do what I call easy mode. That’s just to let them have fun, always say yes, and unless it becomes a comfort thing (which should have been talked about in session 0 anyway), let it be. If it’s combat and fun and whimsy and adventure and it makes sense, always “yes and”. Don’t worry about the rules. The rules can come later.
Let them have fun and get hooked and THEN be like… hey, if we keep doing this, there’s some rules that we didn’t use that can make it a little bit more challenging and a bit more fun. Then, the limitations breed creativity for getting out of those sticky situations without using fireball, and it gets more interesting to them.
If you’re inside the classroom, it changes things a little bit.
I have two classes of 15, and I introduced these interjection cards. In D&D you have initiative order, which is your order for combat. I keep that initiative order for everything. They roll dice at the beginning and give me the raw number, and that’s the order that each group goes in.
I have groups of four that pilot a character, and they all have to discuss what they want to say, ask, do, etc. but they go through that order.
If somebody is asking a question to an NPC and you want to bounce off of that to keep it more natural, I have two interjection cards or tokens or whatever that allows another group to jump that order and be able to say something.
People, especially 6th graders, can get their feelings hurt pretty quick, especially in the early part of the year. So, the cards allow them to jump that order with an excuse, so it’s not favoritism, and the turn order is kept.
Keeping the frame of turns is important, especially if you have veterans in the class who are super into D&D versus somebody who’s never played before and is a little nervous, now there’s that balance.
The veterans know they can’t just jump in ALL the time like at their home tables, and the new players know that if they want to speak up, they can. They have a voice, and they have a physical thing to use for that, so they’re not competing in terms of volume and ferocity trying to get the DM’s attention. It creates a safer, more comfortable environment for new, especially younger players, by having those interjection cards.
So, if you’re running a table full of young children, whether it’s in the classroom or a game store or whatever, interjection cards are definitely a helpful tool for that, and it helps to guide the narrative aspects of D&D.
Any closing words or shoutouts? Where can we find you?
So, for me, personally, check out Two25Games. You can find us at Two25Games.com or on instagram.
Moonshine Mana Press is our little press where we self publish all of our world building Storyellus material (that’s our homebrew world), and that will be available on Amazon for you to buy on Kindle and in paperback.
The Storyellus TTRPG system will hit Kickstarter in December; we’re still kind of cranking out some stuff and playtesting it, but it’s months away.
And thanks for having me!
Thank you Garrett for the awesome interview, and I wish you luck on your upcoming Kickstarter!
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