This is another in my continuing series of Saturday night D&D posts, though it was written on Saturday morning and contains no Dungeons and Dragons information whatsoever.
You see, in the early 1980’s, I got in trouble with Baptists for playing Dungeons and Dragons with kids from school because… well, demons and dragons are evil, right? Apparently even the imaginary ones in games and illustrations. So I turned my attention to science fiction games. Traveller was my rule system, and all science fiction was my campaign. And then in 1986 Ronald Reagan and NASA decided to blow up the first teacher in space aboard the Challenger shuttle mission. So, my Traveller game became less about “explore and conquer” and more about “teachers in space”.
Ged Aero was the player character of one of my favorite kids. He was a psionic shape-changer who could transform into other animals, space creatures, and alien beings. He became so powerful that he naturally inherited the job of leader of the Psionics Institute, a criminal teachers’ union that taught psionic skills to psionically talented kids. It was a criminal organization because the semi-fascist government of the Third Imperium had made psionics illegal. He gathered students and taught them to use their powers for good. The students were all non-player characters to start with, but as new kids from school wanted to play the game too, and player characters were needed, the students of Ged’s psionics dojo became player characters.
Junior Aero, a former student and the adopted son of Ged’s deceased brother Hamfast, grew up and became a player character himself. He taught psionics, being a telepath who could talk to computers and robots that were self-aware. His wife, Sarah Smith Aero, also became a teacher. She and Junior had twins, a boy and a girl, both genetically Nebulons, and both destined to be students aboard the Space Bear.
Of course, you may have noticed a K’ung Fu sort of thing going on in the illustrations I am showing you. That was because one time as Ged was in dinosaur form and fighting with a ninja swordmaster, he won the fight by eating the ninja. His shape-changing power then absorbed all the muscle memories and martial arts training of the ninja he ate. So, his students would not only become psionic masters of mind manipulations, but ninja warriors as well.
So, whether they liked it or not, my Traveller players had to learn to teach their skills to others, lead students through complex adventures and problem=solving situations, and basically do themselves a lot of the same things they saw me doing in school all as part of a role-playing game. You see, that was one of the main dangers of playing role-playing games on Saturdays with that kooky English teacher in South Texas. The danger was, you might actually have to learn something. Although, most of them probably didn’t realize that that was precisely what they were doing. They thought we were just playing games, or junk like that.