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

DIY Medieval Fantasy Camp, part 1: The Ordinary World

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. -Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

This Summer camp is structured around the concept of the hero's journey as put forth by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In his book, he put forth that there is a common template that is used in heroic tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. Each week of the camp is based on one of the phases in the hero's journey. 

Day 1: Creating the Hero

In the first few days, students will create their character, which is the role which they will play throughout the adventure. The hero exists before the story begins, oblivious of the adventures to come. We learn about the hero's everyday life first because we can learn from his background crucial details about the hero, his true nature, capabilities and outlook on life. In the character creation, students learn about the heroic tradition of there being unusual circumstances around their birth; sometimes in danger or born into royalty. They also paint a background that has seeds which will make his character a hero as the story moves forward. After your students have created their backgrounds, they can pick the abilities, skills and the like from the possibilities in the Renaissance roleplaying game rule book that would most closely match the character they wish to play. (Characters could also be created using other role-playing systems.)

Generating Characteristics 

You will need 3 six-sided dice. Roll them five times and assign the totals to the characteristics of Strength, Constitution,  Dexterity, Power and Charisma as you and your student feels is appropriate. Have your student give justification for his choices. Strength is the character's physical force, which will determine how much he can lift, how much damage he can do in a fight, what weapons he can wield and the like. 
Constitution measures the character's health.
Dexterity  is your character's agility, coordination and speed of reaction. 
Power is a measure of the character's life force and strength of willpower. This is perhaps the most abstract characteristic.
Charisma quantifies the character's attractiveness and leadership qualities. 

Next, roll 2 6-sided dice twice and assign the totals to Intelligence and Size. 

Intelligence is the character's ability to think through problems, analyze information and memorize instructions. 
Size is pretty self-explanatory. It also affects the amount of damage he can deal and how well he can absorb damage.

Hit Points: Add your character's Size and Constitution points together and this score determines the character's general health and physical wellbeing. This determines how much damage he can take before receiving grave wounds or dying.

Now you can determine the character's skills.

Common Skills:

Athletics: Dexterity + Strength 
Close Combat: Intelligence  + Strength 
Culture  (the Character's own): Intelligence x 2
Dance: Dexterity  + Charisma 
Dodge: Dexterity  x 2
Drive (as in buggy):  Dexterity  + Intelligence 
Evaluate: Intelligence  + Charisma 
First Aid: Dexterity  + Intelligence 
Influence: Charisma  x 2
Insight: Intelligence  + Power
Lore (regional): Intelligence  x 2
Perception: Intelligence  + Power
Persistence: Power  x 2
Ranged Combat: Intelligence  + Dexterity 
Resilience: Constitution  x 2
Ride: Dexterity  + Power
Sing: Power  + Charisma 
Sleight: Dexterity  + Charisma 
Stealth: Dexterity  + Intelligence 
Unarmed Combat: Strength + Dexterity 

The characters also get 250 additional skill points they can either add to a common skill score or get an advanced skill. No single skill can benefit from more than 30 free skill points for common skills or no more than 20 for advanced skills.

Advanced Skills

To get an advanced skill, characters must purchase them at a cost of 10 free skill points. The Advanced skill then starts at its basic characteristic-derived score as given below. Once  purchased, the character can take from the free skill points, just like the common skill points.:
Alchemy: Intelligence  + Power 
Art (specify type): Power  + Charisma 
Artillery: Intelligence  + Dexterity 
Beliefs  (factions): Intelligence  x 2
Commerce: Intelligence  + Charisma 
Courtesy: Intelligence  + Charisma 
Craft (specify type): Dexterity  + Intelligence 
Culture (other than your own, specify): Intelligence  x 2
Disguise: Intelligence  + Charisma 
Dual Weapons: Intelligence  + Dexterity 
Engineering: Intelligence  x 2
Gambling: Intelligence  + Power 
Healing: Intelligence  + Power 
Language (native or other): Intelligence  + Charisma 
Lore (specify type): Intelligence  x 2
Mechanisms: Dexterity  + Intelligence 
Oratory: Power  + Charisma 
Play Instrument  (specify type): Dexterity  + Charisma 
Ship handling: Intelligence  + Constitution 
Streetwise: Power + Charisma 
Survival: Power  + Constitution 
Teaching: Intelligence  + Charisma 
Tracking: Intelligence  + Constitution 

For more information on character generation, refer to the guide, Renaissance, by Cakebread and Watson.

Day 2: Characteristics of Fantasy Genre

Students learn about the genre of Medieval Fantasy and what elements make up this world. This can be applied to all parts of the Medieval Fantasy that they will be creating.

  • contains elements that are not realistic, such as mythical beings or supernatural creatures
  • set in a Medieval setting with a unique quality to the landscape
  • key element is magic, often the hero possesses a very strong magical ability that they don't know they have, or learn to develop.
  • conflict is good vs evil
  • often there is an element of a love story, especially one that is unattainable
  • the villain must be extraordinary and not easily defeated
  • an epic battle, in which the hero is nearly defeated but is victorious in the end
  • special weapon in its capabilities and also in the reason behind its existence
  • often has a unique language

Literary Analysis

Students will apply what they know about the heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey, of The Epic of Gilgamesh, and of more contemporary heroes of The Lord of the Rings and Watership Down, analyzing the heroes in these stories, comparing and contrasting them. 

"Heroes often exist in a world that seems normal and uneventful to all others that inhabit it. Usually, the heroes possess some special ability or trait that distinguishes them from ordinary people. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk. His people live their everyday lives, their only concern being that their leader is tyrannical. Gilgamesh on the other hand, is simply restless, so he acts domineering to ease his boredom. In addition, as the king, he possesses unique characteristics. He has a perfect body, great strength, and wisdom beyond compare. These attributes set him apart from his subjects in the city." -The Hero's Journey
We also look at the epic as a genre. The original form of the epic is a long narrative poem. This definition has been stretched to include the novel as well. 

  • The topic is serious. 
  • It is often written in a grand or elevated style.
  • Centered on a larger-than-life hero.
  • Often opens in medias res, or in the middle of the action.
  • Tends to have an invocation to the Muse.
  • Concerned with the fate of a nation or people.
  • Everything is done on a grand scale.
  • Includes an Epic Journey, a long arduous which often includes traveling to the underworld.
  • The intervention of some sort of supernatural figure.
  • Contains Epic Similes (extended similes) and Epithets, or repeated descriptive phrases, such as "wine-colored Sea"
  • Long catalogs -lists of some sort of ships, characters, places, etc.
  • Epic battles, extensive and important battle scenes, which often include betrayal.
  • Takes place when the current culture is falling apart.
We look at each of these characteristics and determine if they are in each of the works we are studying.

Day 3: The Ordinary World

Now it is time for students to be introduced to the setting. For this I wanted to make a fictional setting within a real place. I also wanted it to be a joint creation between myself and my students.
To accomplish this, I had my students map out a park near our house. You could instead use your backyard or neighborhood. Any place that you can have access to when you need it for lessons. How accurate, realistic and detailed the map should be is dependent on the grade and abilities of your student. High school students should be as accurate as possible with the measurements and they might want to use Google maps to accomplish this. 

Day 4: Including Elements of a Medieval Fantasy

Next, the students should turn this area into a Medieval fantasy world. What elements would be in it?  Have them sketch in such details, such as changing your house into the castle. 

Once they completed this map, I took it and added my own secret elements, also keeping true to the genre.

Now it is time to create a history of this fictional place. Who lives there? Do they all get along? Are their some past conflicts? 

Day 5: The History of the Setting

The next assignment for your students is to create a legend from the setting's history. These are to be all blended together forming a teacher-students collaboration. Some elements may conflict, creating a conflict that may add to the evolving story. Sometimes, however, conflicting elements may have to be decided upon, with either the teacher or the entire group deciding to eliminate certain particulars.

Creating Costumes

At this point, your student may want to create a costume to go along with his character. This is not necessary, but adds fun to the imaginary world they have created and will participate in.

Now they are ready for their call to an adventure.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really trying to decide the best board to put this on, for now I'm gonna pin this to active games. I'm loving how you're setting this up, and it's got me considering some ideas for Jeff's birthday this weekend.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.