In the 1970's really the only tabletop RPG out there was Dungeons and Dragons, and because of its fantasy setting, garnered a poor reputation by some. In the 1980's there were a handful of other RPG systems that were also mostly fantasy based. Now there are published RPG's of every imaginable setting, or you can use any number systems to create your own RPG setting and scenario.
Because of their flexibility, and their scenario driven format, tabletop RPG's can be a powerful tool to teach theory of mind concepts, cause and effect, and even actual historical and political settings. It does take some gaming literacy and a few key ingredients in order to create a successful role playing experience. Below are some general recommendations and guidelines, followed by three recommended role-playing systems for people starting out.
- Every game has a "game master"- A game master lays out the scenario, provides direction for the story, and narrates the events.
- Players create characters using the guidelines laid out by the particular gaming system being used. The players then act out their character for the entirity of the game.
- Games can have gaming episodes of several hours in which a story unfolds over weeks, months, or even years. Some games can be "one shots" in which the story is told in one gaming session.
- A game usually starts with a scenario written by the game master. This scenario is an objective for the players to achieve, or a journey that they are to take.
- Game masters need to expect that players will veer from the game master's originally envisioned scenario, but that there can be many paths to the same end point.
- Game masters use the dice and point system to help determine the outcome of events. They allow players to make decisions about actions of their characters and experience the consequences and results of those decisions within the story.
- Sometimes games do not go as the game master intends, but if the goal is to have fun and learn, all is well!
Here are three recommended gaming systems that will be helpful starting points for role playing with kids with Asperger's or high-functioning autism. You must READ the instructions well!
Chronica Fudalis- This is a reasonably priced RPG system that is downloadable and printable. The setting it supports is realistic Medieval Europe so allows for the interweaving of historic events into the story. The example scenario laid out in the instructions is also very strong and helpful for a new game master.
Primetime Adventures- Rather than using dice, this system uses card dealing as its core mechanic. It is intentionally formatted like a television show, with each game playing session being an "episode" for the season. This system can work for even kids around 10 years old in that television and episodes are not a new concept at that point. It also allows for many different settings in that television shows come in a variety of genres, subject matters, and settings.
GURPS- With GURPS, or Generic Universal Role Play System, the sky is the limit when it comes to creating different worlds for your players to explore. Many for-purchase RPG's use GURPS as its foundation.