So we wrote an educational tabletop RPG.
Last year, I wrote a blog post titled - Why you should be using tabletop RPGs in your classroom (and beyond). In it, I talked about my career (so far) as an educator linking tabletop games and education at the Royal Ontario Museum. I wrote about how analog RPGs can help people of all ages learn math, history, science, and social skills. I raved about how games like Night Witches by Jason Morningstar and The Warren by Marshall Miller could be used to teach history and science.
Then it hit me. There's got to be more.
2018, specifically November 11, 1918, marks the centennial of when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies to end the First World War. As a teacher at a Canadian museum, I knew I'd be teaching many lessons about the First World War. So alongside my two good friends (and now business partners) Patrick Keenan and Daniel Groh, we decided to write our own game. A WWI Powered by the Apocalypse hack. So, in August 2017, both Ross Rifles and Dundas West Games were born. Dundas West Games (DWG) strives to create tabletop RPGs that are engaging, educational and can be used in a classroom setting. The founders of DWG have over two decades of combined experience using roleplaying games as an educational tool in museum classrooms. Dundas West Games hopes to create games that help curious gamers uncover things about the world around them, and the world of the past!
Ross Rifles is our first game. It's a tabletop roleplaying game that requires 3-5 players, one of whom will serve as the game master. In this game, you’ll create and inhabit the lives of soldiers from the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) stationed on the Western Front. Sent overseas to fight for crown and country, your characters will make personal sacrifices in the name of Canada, and experience the horrors of industrialized war. While Daniel and Patrick have familial connections to the First World War, my connection to it was different. As far as I know, none of my family members served during the war. My connection is more abstract.
For those of you who listen to my podcast - Curiosity in Focus - you'll know that I am very passionate about empowering the voices of Asians in mainstream media. When recording the fourth season of the show, I met a man named Jack Gin through the Chinese Canadian Military Museum society. On episode #38 of Curiosity in Focus, he told me the previously unknown story of Frederick Lee. Taken from the CiF website - "Frederick was born into a respected Chinese Canadian merchant family with ties to the Hudson's Bay Company. His family had actually immigrated to Canada from a county near the city of Guangzhou, China - much like Daniel's did in the 1960s. Fred was one of approximately 300 Canadians of Chinese descent who served with the Canadian Corps during the First World War. His previously unknown tale is one of courage and determination against widespread social and legal discrimination faced by the Chinese communities living in Canada. Frederick fought in and survived the Battle of Vimy Ridge as a machine gunner for the 172nd (Rocky Mountain Rangers) Battalion. He later fought in and was killed in the Battle of Hill 70. He's among the 11,285 Canadians who were killed in France and whose final resting place remains unknown."
Frederick's story is one of the reasons why I wanted to co-author Ross Rifles.
To me, Ross Rifles is about telling the story of those underrepresented in history texts and WWI media. I remember reading my high school history textbook and seeing only white people fighting for Canada. The only Canadian heroes of the First World War that I got to learn about were white. But the history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was so much more complex and diverse. Ross Rifles is our way of teaching that to the masses.
In essence, the finished game will be both a history book and game manual. The preview edition we've made available on DriveThruRPG is but a mere sample of what's to come. Included in this package is all of the basic information required to make characters, a detailed list of moves, playbooks, and a Battle of Passchendaele scenario to structure a full session of the game. The complete version of Ross Rifles won’t assume that you have experience with this system, nor will it assume that you have an in-depth understanding of the First World War and Canada’s involvement.
You can download the preview edition of Ross Rifles for free at this link.