Strangest Book of the Week #16
From the golden age of tabletop role-playing games comes…
Odysseus – Role Play for the Homeric Age, Legendry & Mythology
by Marshall T. Rose, published by Fantasy Games Unlimited, Inc. 1980
This guide booklet comes with two printed ships and a few pages of “Attack” and “Defense” cards. Required equipment is pretty standard: “pencil and paper, binder for moderator’s records, and a set of percentile dice (for generating numbers from 1 to 100), and, three 6-sized dice.”
I don’t know much about tabletop role playing games (honestly Richie would be the one to ask!) but this one looks like a fairly straightforward knockoff – a perfectly fine premise, produced at a great era for such things, but as such, probably pushed through production without a huge amount of effort (Dungeons & Dragons came out in 1974). The few game geek sites I found don’t speak too highly of this game, anyway! (“Odysseus?” he said. “The terrible role-playing game??”) At boardgamegeek.com, it only has a rank of 3 out of 10, admittedly with only two votes.
Tabletop role playing games are fascinating – I just never hung out with the crowd who played them. Now you can hook up with just about any comic book store and find out what they’re schedules are. Maybe I should try that… but maybe I’m too old? too crotchety and out of touch? too much the noob? WHATEVER. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s a fascinating concept. Just another method of storytelling, which I am never against. They seem like they could be as engaging and immersive as any other medium for storytelling, depending on the kid. Fan-fic crossed with traditional board games. Harks back to early childhood make-believe games, only more structured.
There’s a short video I watched recently documenting a European high school that primarily teaches through role-playing techniques, including LARPing (live action role play). I wish I could remember where I found it! Here’s a program that sounds similar.
Albert Cullum, an American middle school teacher back in the mid-20th century, took every opportunity to make learning immersive for his students (mostly through the dramatic arts). There’s a documentary about him, directed by Robert Downey, Sr., which is incredible. I found out about Cullum because he wrote a couple children’s books published by Harlin Quist in the 1970s, which was an avant-garde children’s picture book publisher. I collect Harlin Quist books, love ’em to death. Three of his books in particular – The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died, But Teacher You Went Right On, You Think Just Because You’re Big, You’re Right and Blackboard, Blackboard on the Wall, Who Is the Fairest One of All? – caused some small controversy with parents and teachers across the nation when they were first published. Personally, I prefer his book Murphy, Molly, Max, And Me, illustrated by Henri Galeron.
I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling recently, largely due to reading Ruth Sawyer‘s The Way of the Storyteller, which is all about the practice of traditional oral storytelling. The book is described as “unique in its blend of literary history, criticism, analysis, personal anecdote, and how-to instructions” (source).
Back to Odysseus (got on a tangent there, didn’t I?). Seems to me like this game would be great for students. Have some photos: