MAGICIANS: A LANGUAGE LEARNING RPG
Magicians started out as a classroom roleplaying game after-school activity at the academy I taught at a few years ago in Korea. I had just finished reading The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, and loved the idea of a person's unhappiness dissatisfaction with the world being the source of their magic. So I came up with the better part of the game, but for teaching English and for some kids I knew had trouble with bullying at school. The kids made up characters, chose their name and we came up with a high school together via world building. The core of the game was largely the same - I gave them points for telling me stories about their character's troubles in school and then they used those points to fight monsters and do cool stuff.
I always wanted to make a version for Korean and other languages but I always ran into the roadblock of needing someone who was proficient in Korean to mentor, mediate or arbitrate the language learning - until I got a smartphone and started using it for dictation. I came up with the idea to use the dictation app to check for pronunciation and to determine success or failure as a resolution mechanic. The rest is a lot of playtesting, tons of hard work and all of my savings going into initial artwork and editing.
I'm currently majoring in Korean Education (specifically teaching Korean to non-native speakers) and this roleplaying game is going to be the basis for my thesis. I'm working with industry veterans like Daniel Solis and Ryan Macklin precisely so I can do this game justice and so that you, the backer, know that quality is important to me and this project. This has been a labor of love of mine for a long time and with your help I can actually get it out there!
Magicians is about having unlimited creativity without complexity. The only thing that restrains you and your character is your own knowledge of the language because the magic system in the game is a language. Doing away with the necessity of a teacher or even dice, all you need is your smartphone and a few hours a week to game with friends to have fun telling a great story and to learn a language along the way.
Magicians will connect you to your character, motivate and push you to do more, learn more and make you feel like you're living out one of your favorite fantasy novels. People who love books like the Harry Potter series, the Earthsea books or The Magicians will have a great time using Magicians to tell coming of age stories about students of magic learning about power and responsibility, pride and humility, trying to grow up with the ability to remake the world at their fingertips.
The setting takes place in modern-day Seoul and adds Korean folklore, superstition and mythology into the mix to create a dense, unique fantasy setting. Long-standing superstitions in Korea like whistling at night drawing ghosts and snakes to you, or insects and mice stealing souls or turning into people by eating their fingernail clippings are woven into the setting. Nine-tailed foxes seduce the unsuspecting and prowl the night, dokkaebiroam the mountainside along with other mythological Korean creatures like the Bonghwang. Dragons live throughout the rivers and other magical creatures are hidden in plain sight. Characters learn magic, deal with high school and university life, and relearn everything they know about the world - secret magical orders that sew sesame seeds into the skin and practice blood art, strange dogs that have human faces lurk in the shadows, bartering souls back to their owners while those who have lost their own prey on the living.
Whenever you want to cast a spell, you speak in Korean. There are three systems you can use but the assumption is that you have no knowledge in Korean whatsoever.
- Prodigy System: Learn and combine 7 archetypal nouns and 6 verbs to create any kind of spell you can think of.
- Apprentice System: Takes the training wheels off and makes it so that you have to come up with your own noun and verb to suit the situation and intent.
- Master System: Has you speaking in full sentences using target grammar and vocabulary.
If you're just starting out you can play the game no problem by just learning how to pronounce 13 words. As you slowly build up your ability you can learn the Korean alphabet, build up vocabulary and then finally start learning how to speak in full sentences.
The Korean alphabet is one of the easiest to learn in the world, it was invented precisely so that it can be learned quickly and is completely phonetic. Here's a great little comic by Ryan Estrada, his trick to learning Korean in 15 minutes.
Cards in the game are tools for telling no-prep, fun, collaborative stories. Plot cards are whole adventures boiled down into 10 separate elements that are drawn every round by players to make a fun, interesting and unique adventure every time the cards are used. All players need to start a game is a set of cards and their characters!
All games require a system to determine success, failure or how the story progresses when there is conflict. Most games use dice to do this - how you roll affects how the story develops. In Magicians, no dice are required (though they can be used for some things); instead, all you need to do is speak the appropriate Korean words or phrase into your smartphone or computer and a free dictation app will tell you if you were correct or not and if you cast your spell properly.
There will be video lessons and free materials for you to watch and download that will help you with everything from pronunciation and the alphabet to more complex grammar patterns if find yourself really wanting to dig in. The PDFs will also have audio files built in so that when any Korean is clicked on an audio recording with proper pronunciation will play so you'll never have to wonder how something in the book is pronounced.