David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Academics & Assessment

April 22, 2019

The recent scandals involving celebrities and the wealthy, in general, trying to buy their kids' way into elite schools have made many claim that higher education is just a game.

Of course, it's just a game!  The finest role-playing game in history.

Here is your acceptance letter when you open the game's box:

Congratulations on purchasing the Starter Pack for Academics & Assessment: A Role-Playing Game.  Inside this box is everything you need to start role-playing the exciting world of academia.

In your box, you should find the following:

20 Blank Character Sheets;

3 Rulebooks (The Student Handbook;The Academic Master's Guide; and the Monster Assessment Manual);

A variety of dice, ranging from 3-sided to 20-sided.

To begin, grab a character sheet and a 20-sided die and prepare to determine your basic academic abilities.  Record the number you roll on the die for each of the following abilities:

  • "Strength" -- Strength is an informal term that captures your ability to endure and resist through the travails of the next 4-12 years.  A high strength score means you might have a PhD after those 12 years; a low score might mean you never graduated with any degree.
  • "Dexterity" -- Dexterity captures the physical characteristics necessary to keep you flexible in your studies.  It is, for instance, what defines your ability to take three tests on the same day after a massive block party.
  • "Constitution" -- Constitution goes hand in hand with strength.  Your constitution equates to resistance (or lack thereof) to Mono, Measles, Gonorrhea, and the Asian Flu.  Ultimately your constitution aligns with your hit points, the number of overall points representing the number of hits you can take to your body, self-image, and ego throughout college.
  • "Intelligence" -- Intelligence is exactly what you think, some highly artificial score that came from some stupid standardized test you took. Many players are naive to think that intelligence is all that matters in higher education, but they would be sadly mistaken.
  • "Wisdom" -- Wisdom, more than intelligence, is the composite term encompassing willpower, judgment and enlightenment. As some old-timers put it, "intelligence" can get you into a top university, "wisdom" is what will get you out alive.
  • "Charisma" -- Charisma embodies attractiveness and personal magnetism.  It's the trait that tricks lecturer, professor, and dean alike. 

After you have your scores, choose the race you want to be.  Remember, race plays a very important part in higher education success, even when we factor in all the court decisions that say it shouldn't.  Experienced players often test the "wind," so to speak, for the current social environment, before choosing their race.

  • Dwarf -- Fellow human in name only.  Dwarves walk around with huge chips on their broad shoulders.
  • Elf -- Also fellow human in name only. Elves believe they are better than everyone else, and have Mommy's and Daddy's genes, if not their money, to prove it.  Elves frequently play lacrosse.
  • Halfling -- Undocumented immigrants with the work ethic to beat out all other races. However, easily distracted by the 24 hour cafeterias in the residence halls.
  • Humans -- Sadly, the most boring of the races.  Spend most of their time bitching about the unfair advantages held by the other three races.

Next, you will choose your character class (often called "major" in the local parlance).  Choose carefully. In the first versions of A&A, you could jump majors pretty easily, but that is no longer the case.  You will be locked into this choice:

  • Barbarian -- Career Tech, Trade Occupations.  Don't be upset if others mock you early in the game for choosing Barbarian. You will be the only one who will be able to make a fire when Armageddon comes.
  • Bard -- Arts, English.  You will specialize in magic, recognizing that magic comes only when you are able to sell your weed in the dark recesses around campus.
  • Cleric -- Medicine, Nursing.  Be ready to be in it for the long haul. Early in the game, players will dismiss you as being too studious and not necessary to scoring (especially in the local bars), but your dedication to your craft will pay off.
  • Druids -- History, Humanities.  Druids get a little more action than bards, usually because of their ability to morph into animals and other races because of their extensive studies of the past.
  • Fighter -- Undecided.  At one time, the great wars of academia were fought by thousands and thousands of the generic "fighter." But no more.  Undecided gets you no financial aid, and no financial aid leaves you at the local unemployment line. If you do choose to be a fighter, figure you will go out in a blaze hacking and slashing.
  • Ranger -- Philosophy. An articulate good-looking Ranger can go far in this world.  But it is also a lonely, lonely life.
  • Rogue -- Law.  Rogues, often called thieves, rely on sneaky tricks and arcane knowledge of the rules to make themselves successful.  Some Rogues are happy just to go into Business.
  • Wizard -- Chemistry.  Wizards concoct all sorts of potions and spells that allow them to stay in the back and never really get their hands dirty.

Finally, you will need to identify your "alignment," which refers to your ethical and moral make-up.  There are two axes: studious vs. chaotic; and, good vs. evil; each axes has the option of being neutral.

  • So you can be studiously good, studiously neutral, or studiously evil (the kind of student who spends hours trying to find obscure information that discredits the teacher).
  • Or you can be chaotically good (random outbursts that advance the class discussion), chaotically neutral, or chaotically evil.
  • Or, you can be neutrally good, neutrally neutral (the kind of kid who sits in class and says nothing for a whole semester), or neutrally evil.

Once you have completed your character you are on your way with your cohort class.  The Academic Master will lead you through a series of courses with different assessments that you must slay. Some will be ridiculously easy, some will be incredibly hard, some will require teamwork, some will be done after the cohort has been forced to split up (or at least sit with a desk between each one of them, especially irksome to the rogues).  Some assessments will make no sense; others will be resurrected just when you think they are done.

If you fail an assessment, you will have a chance to make a "saving throw," via the dice, depending upon what the Academic Master offers.  Extra-credit equal to the number on the dice is a favorite one, but stay away from snake eyes. If you pass an assessment, you will get treasure, which upon the first few "adventures" (courses) will seem really meaningful (Dean's List, President's List) but in the long run will seem more meaningless as you see other cohorts partying all night and avoiding class.

Every time you pass a class, you will gain experience points.  Enough experience points will eventually allow you to level up (freshman to sophomore, for instance).  Each level will allow you to add points to your core abilities or, if you have amassed some money from your campus job, might even allow you to start to bribe your way to higher levels.

Frankly, the game is what you make of it. If you finish, please drop us a line.  Not too many players ever do.