Pen & Paper for school

Hello everybody,

I wondered about something and thought to ask here for some help.

Years ago I had the idea of offering a pen & paper class at my school, I didn’t pursue the thought but now it came back and it is a better time for me to think about it.

So I teach kids of 11-14 years and almost all of them have trouble with learning in one or the other way or show problems in their social interactions. Sometimes both combined. Creativity and imagination are not talents many of them have.

I wonder if you know of any pen & paper games which are easier, simpler or better for introduction to the genre. There shouldn’t be too many rules, an easier but also for kids exciting setting, availability in German would be appreciated but is not necessary (I probably have to write my own stuff in easier language anyways).
I don’t know if that all is helpful, I personally only played the German The Dark Eye for many years (15 years ago), so I have no idea what’s out there nowadays.

Hope you have some input for me, thanks you all! :slight_smile:


OSR stuff might be worth a try, as it has the feel and attitude of well-known fantasy RPGs (like D&D, Pathfinder, etc) but without a lot of rules. But they’re also more straightforward than the really rules-light games, which rely a lot more on creativity and improvising.

Something like Mausritter might be a good choice in terms of setting/tone. And it does look like it’s available in German.

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Thanks a lot :slight_smile: , Mausritter looks very interesting.

What is OSR? Google suggests Old School Renaissance. Found some free stuff in an old random forum thread (even in German). Have to look closer into that too.


Very broad church. Some of it is “every development in RPGs since 1976 is bad, especially inclusiveness”, some of it is “let’s have rules for fighting and just talk out everything else”.

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Yeh, pretty much what Roger said. A lot of them do tend towards making things more dangerous and have darker themes.

Mausritter has the danger element, but more just because you’re a mouse, rather than because an eldritch horror is waiting round the corner to eat your face.

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i always found various “action” rpgs easiest to get into. the rules usually prioritize “cool stunts” over heavy dice rolling. and they tend to center themselves around various pop culture themes or movies.

maybe go for a world or style the kids are already familiar with? action rpgs that come to my mind are games like Feng Shui or Exalted (I always loved the old White Wolf d10 system). but both of those are quite old now. Monster of the Week was recommended to me here last time i was on the hunt for something easy.

a while back there was a Kickstarter for an Avatar themed rpg. this might now be available. i have no idea what the ruleset might be like but I’m sure the kids would already be familiar with the world and characters and having talked to a bunch of people about it this week, the show seems to be very well liked…

having to worry about only the rules and being familiar with how things work in the fictional world might be helpful.

DSA has become more and more complicated over its various iterations. I think modern D&D might be simpler (thanks to games like BG3 some familiarity with that could also exist!)

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You could do a lot worse than Call of Cthulhu. Emphasis on investigation and problem solving over combat, lots of short adventures though I don’t know how many have been translated.

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Monster of the Week is very good and very easy to pick up (and Avatar uses the same system, but I haven’t played it, so don’t know what adjustments it’s made), but it’s very loose and much more about collaborative storytelling. So I don’t know if it would be the right fit for a young group just starting out

One of the strengths of stuff like D&D is predictability. You hit a goblin with a sword and in that kind of game and you have a pretty good idea of what will happen - the dice just varying whether you hit and how much you hurt the goblin.

In MotW, it’s more focused on the narrative outcome of such an action. Which can be great, but is a lot harder to conceptualise.

(Not to mention it’s very different from the standard video game approach to RPGs that people may be used to.)


First of all, thanks a lot for everybody’s input. You gave me a lot to think about.

That’s a great idea. Marvel would be the perfect choice for the world, because they all love these movies. I googled and there is even a Marvel RPG.
Avatar is a good choice too. They don’t really mention the series to me but I am sure they know it.
Some may know D&D from Stranger Things but not from BG3, they only play games with big mainstream names (CoD, Fifa, Fortnite, GTA, Minecraft) or cheap F2P stuff. BG3 is not on their radar at all.

These are some good points too!
One (stupid) question: When I watched The Big Bang Theory back in the day and they played D&D, they seemed to have a cloth map they used to visualize parts of the game (I also noticed that Avatar uses it too). How does this exactly work nowadays? Is it for the dungeon crawl parts of the game? Are there minis?

Well whatever I decide to do, it seems I have to spend some more money on it than I thought.

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(@Boronian , do you mind if I move this thread to the role-playing section?)

Opinions differ on maps and miniatures. In general, the more the game’s focused on fighting, the more useful it is. But many games use no maps at all, just verbal description; if one wants to be pretentious one can call it “theatre of the mind”.


I don’t mind at all. Sorry for posting it in the wrong category.

To be honest I personally feel like you don’t need minis and maps but thinking of my students it could help in several ways. First of all it adds an element of “wow, that looks cool” (it is not just a bunch of books and papers) and secondly (the bigger reason) it helps their imagination.

But also more expensive ofc.

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we used to have one mini per player that we painted ourselves during a group session and we had a reusable plan we could draw maps on and a bunch of cheap plastic minis we used for opponents

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I haven’t had a chance to properly read through my copy of the Marvel RPG, but giving it a skim, it looks on about the same level of complexity as D&D 5e. Maybe a bit simpler. As it’s pretty new, there are probably lots of YouTube videos that could give you an overview of how it works and give you an idea of whether it would be suitable.

It’s a chunky rulebook, but a lot of that is taken up by a vast array of power options, as well as about 130 pages of pre-made stat sheets for different Marvel characters.

For maps, the best option is something with a grid that’s dry erase (I use this, but it’s maybe too fantasy focused for a Marvel game) and then you can just scribble on any needed scenery/objects.

I mostly just scavenge bits from board games for playing pieces (504 is great for this). Or for player characters, you can grab some standee bases and bits of card and have the players draw their characters.

And if you’re going Marvel, there are loads of HeroClix figures you could grab.


I would advise taking a survey of the arithmetic skills of the players before choosing a system. The level will probably vary and it’s not unknown for the players who are better at addition, subraction, multiplication and what have you to help the less capable: as long as that’s in a friendly way there’s no harm done but some people don’t like having their weaknesses pointed out and some kids are right swine about it. Some adults too.

I’d rate the arithemetic needed as

  1. Really none at all. If the player has to roll a die and compare it to a difficulty level set by the GM or by the system then all they need to know is which numbers are higher than others and all addition and subtraction happens in the GM’s head. D&D, Pendragon, Questworlds.

  2. Adding numbers together. Rolling two dice, rolling three dice and then comparing it to a rule is hard enough for some people. Examples are GURPS, the Powered By The Apocalypse games and others.

  3. Single numbers against a difficulty with rules for some results being very good (‘Critical hits’) and some very bad (‘Fumbles’) The Chaosium house system used in RuneQuest and Call of Cthulu has this in various versions. I’ve been playing RQ since 1979 and though I can calculate Specials off the cuff, criticals and fumbles I still have to look up. Most of my players can now do it in their heads.

  4. Dice Pool systems. Where you have to roll a bundle of dice and check each one to see if it counts as a success. Then you make further decisions based on the number of successes you got. White Wolf pioneered this for the World of Darkness games and it’s spread from there. The One Roll Engine is a more complex version of this requiring you match dice in the dice pool and then apply the result of any matched dice.

  5. Top of my complexity league are weird things like Genesys. Which look more like taking auguries than consistent dice systems.

I suppose I’m saying you need to find a system that not only you like and are capable of teaching but also one that fits the ability of your players.

I may be talking out of my backside here since though I’ve been a GM since 1976 I’ve never been a teach. I hope I’m suitably grateful for that mercy.


GURPS - “3 or 4 is a critical, unless you needed that to make your roll at all; 5 or 6 is a critical if you also made the roll by 10”.

Modern D&D or Pathfinder is here: I roll a 15, I have a +3 bonus, do I meet the target value?

I’d offer to try to explain it better than I clearly did last time, but I fear I may have soured you on it.


Thanks, that’s a good point to keep in mind.

My students are very bad with numbers, so I already considered simplifying the combat system if necessary. But it would be much better of course if it already came with an easier system.

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Pathfinder can get a bit in the weeds when it comes to determining exactly what modifiers you have. D&D 5e is simpler, but situational modifiers throw in extra stuff (like spells that grant a bonus die, or features that let you add other stats to a roll, etc). And that’s not even getting into multiple dice addition for damage (and again with weird modifiers).

The Marvel system is similar, in that it’s 3d6 + modifier, but (in a bid to be thematic while also selling you some branded dice) one of the d6 is special. On that die, a 1 is actually a 6 and triggers special stuff (depending on what you’re doing).

Good Strong Hands is a nice simple fantasy game (though more Narnia/Neverending Story/Labyrinth/Dark Crystal style fantasy, rather than LotR/D&D). It uses a dice pool system where you roll a dumber of d6 and any that are 4+ are hits (or 5+ or 6+ for more difficult tasks).


Typically, the GM will take care of any plus or minus modifiers. Or at least they can.

Because we were talking about some of this and I am not sure if we have a general RPG thingy thread or buying or whatever I‘ll just put this here:

Even though I just bought the paper edition of Avatar, I might jump on getting all those ebooks :slight_smile:


Oh nice! I think I will get that. Thanks for linking :slight_smile:

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