Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Renaissance Role-Playing: Colony of Roanoke, part IV: The Final Decisions Phase

This post is one in a series about how to use the role-playing game Renaissance in your homeschool history activities. For general information about this, click here. For the first part of the Colony of Roanoke scenario, click here. For part II, click here. For part II, click here.

Act IV: Final Decisions
The previous parts of this scenario have had a structure much like a novel and the players were taken through a number of scenes that have led up to this point.

At this point, our scenario is moving into over of a sandbox type adventure, and is more open-ended.  I prepared for multiple outcomes that fit into the clues left behind by the colonists.  "In other words, if the party do A, then X will happen,  if they do B then Y. The adventure branches in a different direction, but you are prepared, and later events can bring things back on track. Covering more than one possibility in this way is sensible but does entail more work." (Renaissance)

Possibilities From Historical Suppositions: (two or more options are possible, as the group may have divided into two or more groups.)

  • Leave Roanoke Island for Chesapeake Bay in boats made from the houses, which they plan to reuse for house building in the new area, as well as the pinnace.
  • Powhatan kills them in a massacre.
  • Captured by Spaniards after killing the main guard (body is left).
  • Tried to sail to England  in penance and lost at sea
  • Taken prisoner by Indian group and taken to copper mines to work for them.
  • Killed by Secotan or other hostile Indian goups. Indians bury bodies and tear down buildings to show authority and/or to use the parts.
  • Survivors move to live with Croatoan Indians.
  • Settlers move past the Croatoan Indians and west along the Roanoke River and are killed, captured or taken in by local tribes.
  • Settlers attempt to travel south and survivors are taken in by a loose group of Indians (later known as the Lumbees).
  • Settlers attempt to travel north to the Chesapeake Bay region and are killed, captured or taken in by local tribes.
  • Settlers killed by disease. Bodies buried until last man. Indians, seeing settlement abandoned, take down buildings to use the materials.

Difficulties of This Phase of the Scenario:

Players who have lovingly helped and made decisions for the characters in which they have played naturally do not want those characters to die. Since we know that it is likely that they in fact did die, how can you resolve this scenario without upsetting (and therefore turning your student off of this type of learning)?

The simplest way is to guide your students to an outcome that enables the character(s) to live, such as their relocation to a neighboring tribe, which is still a valid theory being supposed by historians.

You could also let him role-play a few different endings to represent some of the possibilities.  In this way, none of them will carry the weight of the disappointment that one difficult ending might.

Another way would be to stop the scenario just before this part and have your student research the evidence and write his own ending in a narrative style. Sometimes it is easier on the student  if he kills off his own character rather than the games master doing it, and always he will only go as far as he is comfortable with the ending. In any case,  he will have learned the possible theories and might even come up with one the historians haven't yet thought of!

Sometimes the student won't mind the demise of his character, especially if there is the promise of creating a new one with the next role-playing history scenario! Whatever route you choose, as long as the goal of it being a pleasant and accurate (theoretically) learning experience is met, it is a good one.

Act V: Wrapping up the Story
What did we learn?

Now that the role-play has concluded, I  am sure through your interactions you have a good sense of what your student has learned about the historical incident. You might want to have your student, however, complete writing projects that sum up all that he has learned. The best way is to ask him to write the answer to an age appropriate essay question on the topic. You can have the question be open-ended such as, "Describe what you think the experience was like for the Roanoke colony, from their deciding to leave until White leaves the area." Or, you can have them write about specific parts or aspects of the story such as, "Knowing what you know now about the Roanoke colony, what steps would you advise for them to have taken to ensure a higher chance of survival?"

Another option would be for your student to write a description of what things they did in a story form at the end of each playing session.

You could also have them read additional materials and write reports on related topics each week you run the scenario, such as the clothing they wore, what they ate during that time period or about the types of ships they had.

Special Circumstances

What if I only have one student to play?

It is true that role-playing games are easier and more fun if you have a few players playing, but this type of learning is still possible even with one student. For some students,  you can just play as you would with many students but you will have to role-play many non-player characters. Or, you can describe the interactions of the other characters without actually role-playing them, much like a nonfiction story will. In books there is an interplay between describing what people do and say with actual dialogue. You will do likewise, describing what people do and say as a set-up for the dialog interaction portions that the two of you will do together. Another option is for you to  style the story more like a choose-your-own-adventure story in which you set up each portion and then ask him whether he wants to do option A or B, each of which will lead to different other options and so on. This option is particularly good for young student who may not be aware yet of the appropriate range of choices to make.

For sources and Resources for this activity, see part I.

If they still had any reading or summaries to write from the topics covered in the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia,  I had them finish them up before starting the next unit.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to address them.
My next role-playing scenario will be a bit more detailed and will have more specifics about how to weave traditional schoolwork with the role-playing scenario. We will be exploring the age of Patriots and Independence during the days leading up to the American Revolution through the days following the War for Independence. These posts will begin after Christmas break.

In the meantime you can have your students experience the French and Indian Wars with The Depths of Winter, a scenario that can be purchased at Cakebread and Watson for $4.99. Set in 1756, the adventurers are all French speaking British colonial frontiersmen who have been conscripted into the British Army. Your students can make new characters to play, or you can use the pre-generated characters provided in the resource packet, but in any case, make sure the characters are young so that they can also be used in the Patriots and Independence role-plays, which begin about twenty years later. The characters' mission is to infiltrate a French fort along the shores of Lake Champlain, kidnap the fort's senior officer and to destroy the ammunition stores in the fort.  

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