Let's find out what the Ruolando s'Impara project consists of, with which the Role Parents have made the children of Omegna discover role-playing games!

In this interview, we have already told you about Role parents and one of its most prominent members, Alessandro Savino, on the occasion of the Storytellers Masterclass last year. Most of you who read will know that Role Parents are, in fact, parents who want to introduce children to the world of role playing games. You will know that they are engaged in numerous activities, and that during the quarantine they have contributed with Gamer_Mamma a let children role play online.

But today we are talking about one of their projects in particular, namely Ruolando s'Impara. We discovered Ruolando s'Impara thanks to this beautiful video, which shows the activities done with the children of the village of Omegna. To find out more, we interviewed Alessandro Savino, who kindly told us all the details about the project!

Hi Alessandro! Thank you for attending this interview! Let's start from the beginning: how was the Ruolando s'Impara project born?

Hi Gloria and thank you for contacting me.

So: Ruolando s'Impara.

The project was born from my idea about dissemination of the Role Play towards children. I have always believed in the power of the GDR as a tool to grow. in this very tumultuous period, governed by individualism and competition, the RPG is something that breaks the classical schemes of society and allows you to re-discover something important that, growing up, people tend to forget. With this vision shared by all of us Role Parents, when the opportunity arose to propose a structured project, whether it went beyond after school or events, I talked to others and we decided to take it!

What does Ruolando s'Impara consist of?

It is a educational project based on the prevention of deviant behavior and the development of soft skills, that is a series of skills important for the relationship and growth of an individual.

In practice, it consists of two mini multi-table campaigns by Dungeons and Dragons of three sessions, set in the medieval fantasy version of Lake Orta. The children, aged 7 to 10, divided into tables of 5, contributed in a quest to save their land. Much importance was given to the collaborative aspect. In fact, the PCs, pre-generated by us, despite having a lot of customization possibilities, were designed to make synergy with each other, with complementary powers and abilities between them.

A character sheet from Ruolando s'Impera
A character sheet from Ruolando s'Impera

Why did you choose Omegna as a town in which to carry out the project? And what was the contribution of Azzurra Soc.Coop. Social Onlus?

Omegna was chosen for two reasons: first of all because it is my city. We also needed close spaces and partners. Azzurra Onlus, as well as the Park of Fantasy Gianni Rodari, they could provide us spazi, training and all the support needed.

Azzurra Onlus, in particular, is the leader of the project. With the support of their organizational machine, the educators and the psychologist, she made sure that Ruolando s'Impara had form and an economic basis, also creating a replicable format. The project was then partly financed by Community Foundation of the VCO and from private donations (about 50%). But for the users, i.e. the children, it was completely free.

What was the reaction of schools and institutions to your project? Have you encountered a positive and curious climate towards role-playing games, or a climate of skepticism?

The schools around us immediately had a great interest and allowed us to advertise the project, with a possible follow-up that, due to COVID, has stopped. The institutions have us supported and encouraged, but there is still a lot of skepticism around role-playing games.

When they found themselves choosing which activity to invest the most attention or resources on, they often preferred those that were "safe" for them. Maybe because until you try to sit at the table, you can't really understand the strengths of RPG.

Many don't see it as a tool, but often as something just for children and catalog it as activity too long to do. People go too fast to be able to stop and use their imagination, relate and get into the depth of the relational aspects. And they don't know that using the GDR with children is not at all common in Italy. In fact, many players always stay a little away from the little ones, almost as if they can't understand them. Fortunately, many are longtime gamers and can't wait to start their kids in this hobby that has given them a lot.

However, I only received positive feedback from the families of the children who participated in Ruolando s'Impara, so much so that we were going to prepare sessions on Saturday afternoon for everyone from March, but alas, we had to suspend. But they are there ready to leave.

The map of Lake Orta, where the Ruolando s'Impara sessions are set
The map of Lake Orta, where the Ruolando s'Impara sessions are set

What was the reaction of the boys and girls to Ruolando s'Impara? Do you know if some of them then continued to role play?

Almost all of them were children excited. They wanted to continue having adventures with friends discovered at the table. During the lockdown period, a lot of people played with us online and I know for a fact that several have started playing. Some parents contacted me for advice on acquired and, between April and June I had a dozen kids who followed a small "Master's course" with me on Sunday to learn how to be a storyteller. Nothing out of the ordinary, but online sessions, with Q&A and some weekly homework to gain confidence in order to face the game table.

What were the biggest obstacles to your project? And what have been the greatest satisfactions?

The first obstacle is there diffusion of the project: many did not know what roleplaying was, most were skeptical and then they had already filled their children's week with different commitments that finding them a glimpse was not at all easy.

Yet being able to start and finish this project, which saw 13 people involved and 51 children to play, it was really exhilarating. Being stopped by kids asking you "when do we play again?" or they boasted of having bought another set of dice in addition to the one we had given them is truly unbeatable.

Also the fact of having acquired more credibility towards Entities and Institutions has given us a lot of satisfaction.

Do you have any advice for those who want to let children play online? Are there any games or platforms that you have found better performing than others?

During the period of lockdown we did play, from mid-March until June, as well 500 players (between children and parents) with an average of almost 10 games per week (at least one per day). We experimented with some games and besides us, several people helped us.

We tried to use as platforms Discord, roll20 and several applications for video calling. As games we did try simplified D&D 5e (which we had used for Ruolando s'Impara), My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria, Broken Compass, Lost in the fantasy world, Fantastories, Apprentice Heroes and some self-produced.

Of my own I can recommend play the easy way, with video calls, trusting their dice rolls that they can physically make at home or even using the Google bar.

As a game I got on very well with obviously with D&D but because I was prepared in its use with children (we also did a live during the quarantine with 4 children), but I must admit that My Little Pony e Broken Compass they gave a lot of fun, at all ages and with all the masters who brought them online.

A table of boys and girls intent on playing during Ruolando s'Impara
A table of boys and girls intent on playing during Ruolando s'Impara

What do you think is the positive side of role playing for a school-age boy or girl? Do you think there are negative sides instead?

As I said before, today we live in a highly competitive society and where the individual is exalted over the community. Role play has a lot of positives. Allows you to have fun, to learn to be with others e relate to the group, to pass the time without the hassle of a winning performance, without the anxiety of having to prove something to someone. The fun counts and, without realizing it, the child learns several fundamental values ​​for his life as an adult, including a fundamental one: without someone to help you at the right time, it is very difficult to succeed, to be successful and to be happy. It should be an element inserted in school teaching, just as it already happens in some foreign countries.

I don't see any negative sides specific to roleplaying... but maybe I'm biased: I grew up with role play.

Are there any special and particular approaches you use to bring boys and girls closer to role play?

Generally when we promote our businesses we find two big ones fence: parents and shyness.

I Parents they may have no interest, be in a hurry or, albeit rarely, believe that certain games are a waste of time. With them I simply explain what the game is about in a minute by giving examples from Tolkien or from Harry Potter. Then I explain the parallelism between table role play and video game, explaining to them that children can have fun as if they were playing a video game without being in front of a screen.

For the guys shy, I try to suggest to come and try with a friend, or to sit and try to watch, without acting if you don't feel like it. At best, if he doesn't like it, he can always get up and go. This approach usually works.

What advice do you find most often giving to parents who want to bring their children closer to role play?

For parents who want to bring their children closer to the RPG, I often recommend that they follow us and see where we play, or maybe play an online game with us. But since they write to parents from all over Italy, I suggest you take an interest in the games and cartoons that their children watch and then to try with simple games to make them roll a bit, inventing a story for them familiar. I do not consider it essential to start from a specific game, but it is always better to try an RPG in which the adult is more familiar and simplify the rules to simply scroll the narrative and not get stuck too much. If the boy wants to do one thing then say yes and make sure you create opportunities and emotions, compared to a "no, you can't" dry direct.

There are many other tips that deserve to be explored, but generally I always close with one that I consider fundamental: when letting your child play a role play, get them to play it with at least a couple of friends. Slowly the game will become a cause for fun between them. Sometimes, then they will exclude you, dear parents, but if they start with their own campaign you will have succeeded in your intent.

The group of boys and girls who participated in Ruolando s'Impara
The group of boys and girls who participated in Ruolando s'Impara

Will you continue the Ruolando s'Impara project in the future?

Ruolando s'Impara is an educational project that exists and that we will carry out over time. Furthermore, for those who contact us, they can have the support of Azzurra Onlus to be able to use it as a format to be proposed in playrooms or recreational centers with their support of material and training.

On our own, always with Azzurra Onlus, we are preparing a new project which will be called Ruolando s'Impara 2020: the great treasure of knowledge. This is an educational didactic project for all the elementary schools of Omegna and which should involve almost 300 children. But this would be better to talk about at the end of October.

A nice project to learn from

First of all, we thank Alessandro Savino for answering our questions.

Ruolando s'Impara is obviously a project conceived and carried out with great professionalism. By combining the skills of psychologists and role players, the beautiful people of Parents in Role have built a solid format. Anyone who wants to introduce children to role play, or use role play as an educational tool should look to Ruolando s'Impara as a virtuous example.

We hope that Ruolando s'Impara 2020 can take flight!