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Worlds in Conversation: Tabletop Storytelling Games

Teachers
Everest Pipkin, Caro Asercion, Rufus "Weaver" Walker
Date
Section 1: June 12, 2024 to August 14, 2024
Section 2: June 15, 2024 to August 17, 2024

(10 classes)
Time
Section 1: Wednesdays, 1-4pm ET Section 2: Saturdays, 1-4pm ET
Location
Online (Zoom)
Cost
$1200 Scholarships available learn more...
Deadline
Applications open until April 15, 2024

Apply Now

Description

What compels us to play within fictional worlds? How do we construct meaningful cultural, social, and natural environments to learn about our past, present, and future? ,Worlds In Conversation: Tabletop Storytelling Games, considers the theoretical and practical underpinnings of worldbuilding through the lens of tabletop role-playing games. Through a survey of existing work in the field, hands-on play, and independent and collaborative experimentation, this class offers an understanding of why–and how–we tell stories set in worlds other than our own.

Course of Study

  • Week 1 - Introductions: Hello! Who are we / who are you? What is this class? What are tabletop games, why are we interested in them? And what do we mean when we say worldbuilding? Plus, our past work in the field.
  • Week 2 - Worldbuilding: Why do we worldbuild? What utility does worldbuilding serve? What futures are we imagining, and what histories are we drawing on? What gets remembered?
  • Week 3 - Lyric games: Poem games, lyric games, instructions artwork, walking games. The skeletons of structure as play.
  • Week 4 - Prompts, questions, tables, tools: Into the nitty gritty - the tools and levers that people use to design games. Looking at design goals, structure, breadth vs specificity, prompts, leading questions, dice tables, random chance, and other techniques for building something from nothing.
  • Week 5 - Journaling games: Solo games, drawing games, diary play, journaling as a world building practice. How to play games with and for yourself.
  • Week 6 - Playtesting as practice & collaborative design: Introduce the idea of playtests, the role of playtesting, how to run a good playtest, how to see what are games like in motion. Also discuss the role of collaboration inside of development and writing, and some modes in which collaboration can be fruitful.
  • Week 7 - Summary week: Pulling in various threads so far, and also discussing going deeper or bigger. Looking at longer games, games with complex mechanics that create specific kinds of play, games with pre-built settings, or games with specific verbs and actions.
  • Week 8 - Games can be anything: Looking at the expanded field of games in conversation– considering tools (discord bots, roll20, playingcards.io, miro, google docs, zoom) and alternative tools (the postal service, bulletin boards, custom software). Discussing the where of games– from tables, to larps, to MMO worlds, to phone calls.
  • Week 9 - Layout, design & distribution: Discussing presentation, visual information, readability, clarity of information, editing, and language, as well as network of distribution for small and independent games. Professional practices week.
  • Week 10 - Conclusions & presentations: A chance to discuss, share, work, play and celebrate.

Expectations

Time & Workload
  • During class, participants can expect a mix of discussion, lecture, and practical exploration — including playing tabletop games. Outside of class, participants can expect short weekly readings or assignments. Participants should expect to spend a few hours a week outside of class on deliverables, with less time spent in the beginning and more towards the end of the course. The course will result in a printed book including work produced in class.
Materials
  • No specific materials (other than an internet connection) are required for this class, but students may appreciate having physical or digital dice, cards, and writing materials of choice.
Learning Outcomes
  • By the end of this course, participants will imagine, design, and iterate to create their own short tabletop game (as well as some smaller experiments). They will also leave with a strong theoretical and practical understanding of the process of designing towards worldbuilding.

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if:

  • You tell stories about arcs of history or cultural trends, big or small.
  • You wish you could talk to videogame NPCs about what they had for breakfast.
  • You catch yourself flipping to the back of the fantasy novel to look at the map again.
  • You always read the Wikipedia.
  • You want to practice speaking, playing, and imagining with others.
  • You are a writer interested in tools for building out universes.
  • You are a game designer interested in conversational or prompt-based mechanics.
  • You are a poet who poses questions in your poems.
  • You are simply a person who finds the complexity of it all fascinating.
  • You believe that a different world will rise out of this one.

This class may NOT be for you if:

  • You are more interested in exploring specific characters than the world they live in.
  • You are not interested in conversational or collaborative play.
  • You feel like history is over, or that culture is static.
  • You want to make an improved version of Dungeons and Dragons.

Meet the Teachers

teacher

Everest Pipkin

Everest Pipkin is a game developer, writer, and artist from central Texas who lives and works on a sheep farm in southern New Mexico. Their work both in the studio and in the garden follows themes of ecology, tool making, and collective care during collapse. When not at the computer in the heat of the day, you can find them in the hills spending time with their neighbors— both human and non-human.

they/them · website · twitter · instagram

teacher

Caro Asercion

Caro Asercion is an interdisciplinary artist working at the intersection of theatre, visual art, and analog games. Their design practice centers on expansive storytelling with an eye toward collaborative structure and form. As a theatre practitioner, Caro works as a dramaturg and artistic producer with a concentration in new works.

they/them · website · twitter

teacher

Rufus "Weaver" Walker

Weaver Walker is an outsider artist, philosopher, and storyteller. His work attempts to illuminate paths for the radical reinterpretations of knowledge, history, and complex symbolic systems wherever they might occur. He currently lives in Washington, DC where he is both a union and gay liberation organizer.

he/him · website

Accessibility

Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

What sort of worlds could be built out of this one, and why do we practice imagining them?

Applications open until Applications closed on April 15, 2024.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on . Please email us at admissions@sfpc.study with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $1200 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email admissions@sfpc.study if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.