Episode 124: Unresolved Rage About Billy Bunter

This month, Roger and Mike consider social interactions modelled as combat, and magical school stories.

We mentioned:

Lace & Steel, Charles Ponzi, Blades in the Dark, Unknown Armies, Gantt charts, the RPG.net discussion of magical schools A Deadly Education, Ars Magica, GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School, GURPS Locations: Worminghall, GURPS IOU, Girl Genius, Billy Bunter, Tales of St Austin’s, Stalky & Co., Gaudy Night, CyberGeneration, Monsterhearts, Witch Week, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, The Skool Rools, Brit School Hijinks, St Trinian’s, So You Want to Be a Wizard, Wives and Sweethearts, and Full Metal Jacket (which Roger meant when he said “Platoon”).

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com and other royalty-free sources.


All good discussion. Although SciFi rather than magic I think Enders Game is pretty squarely in the space that came up at the end about the adults being in on plans about how a graduate of the program thinks of themselves in addition to what skills they will learn.

GURPS IOU also discusses playing the faculty as well as the staff IIRC.

The old Chaosium Miskatonic University sourcebook had rules for managing classes and extracurriculars while investigating the mythos that seemed solid.

And Savage World’s East Texas University setting has some similar mechanical ideas to perhaps bust apart for the toolbox.

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I despise Ender’s Game so that might well be why I didn’t think of it, but fair point.

I could certainly see a Scooby Gang style of monster hunters at good ol’ Misk U, perhaps under the nominal supervision of an Armitage-like figure.

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Not a big fan here either and I think that may be informative towards how players could react to a school setting that’s deliberately twisting kids. Pretty solidly in “evil opposition” as opposed to “here’s our setting” territory I’d suspect.

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I need to listen to this ep again…

In terms of school stories, I think balancing the School and Adventure parts are pretty key - with some stories ending up really as mysteries, adventures etc. with the school as purely background. So I agree with Roger that Mike should think long and hard about whether he’s actually interested in the School part before agreeing to run one.

So, what do school stories actually have to offer? One thing is the sense that small things are important - which I think does reflect the mindset of that age. In your typical school story, characters are deeply invested in who gets selected for the cricket team; the outcome of the match; passing the exams; getting back the confiscated radio-controlled plane; learning whether Mr Phipps really does wear a wig; and so on.

If it’s the kind of story where romance exists (like a lot of TV school stories and more modern books), getting a chance to see a crush or impress someone is a huge deal. Avenging a slight that seems trivial to an adult is a moral necessity.

And these are not just important, but no less important than the Adventure part. Yes, you discovered the spies hiding out in the physics lab, but more importantly, you got back the half-day holiday when Smith’s uncle promised to take you for dinner! The fire was extinguished without casualties, and you don’t have to resit GCSE French this summer! You survived the death-defying plunge from the Swiss cliffs and being shot at by gangsters, but never mind that - Darren wants to meet you behind the bike sheds with a distinct possibility of snogging.

(this is also something that I felt the older Dr Who did better than the modern iteration - letting small stakes be important because they feel important, instead of insisting the multiverse is in perpetual peril)

Schools also offer a microcosm for you to play in. You have a semi-isolated community with its own rules and norms (Mike did touch on this). People can’t easily run away from their problems, the way adults in the wider world might get a new job - especially since you typically need parents’ permission to change schools etc. The world is small, and the author (or GM) can visualise it in much more detail than might be possible otherwise, and rely on being able to reuse the locations and characters.