Multiple Intelligences and Table Top Role Playing Games


In 1983, Howard Garner wrote a book entitled Frames of Mind. He proposed that there were multiple intelligences in which to excel rather than a singular intelligence measurement, say as in an IQ test. I practice this theory in that children possess all 8 intelligences in a quiet way and by learning, they access and grow their preferred intelligence. Since playing tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) such as Dungeons and Dragons, I determined that all 8 intelligences can be accessed while playing this kind of game. And in that way, we are all brilliant.

In our family, we homeschool, and you may think of this as the DIY of education. We also play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, as that was the game we first learned. By blending learning styles such as Garner’s, along with TTRPGs, here is how I think the game brightens our children’s intelligence. I will only explore 6 styles in this post and plan to show you how each child may use all 6 styles to learn through playing table top role playing games.

Naturalistic – these children can store tons of data in their brain and at the same time, understand systems. All of the plants, animals, planets, stars, and humans mix together in their mind with concern for the parts making up the whole. Naturally, they are good at understanding any system, since they fascinate themselves with our first big system of nature. One of the lures of TTRPGs is the worldbuilding, the creation of a fiction world with laws and powers that resemble our own. Sometimes this creation can feel so real in the mind, we are then free to “wander” about in it and influence it from the table. This naturalistic way of learning provides moments of exploration in the game, seeking to understand how the small village in this kingdom fits in the larger continent of your fiction world. They are also the most likely to collect items, relics, books and animals. They love adopting pets.

  • Action: allow these learners to collect and build their own systems such as pets and shops.
  • Action: allow this learner a diary to classify discoveries in the fictional world.

Linguistic – these children excel in verbal skills. Through writing, reading, and speaking, they fill the game time up with all of the literary devices that enhance a story. Players can generate a backstory for their character. Without much effort, these learners love to write up their character stories as they play. They also enjoy telling the tales of creation, destruction, gods and powers, rise and fall of empires right down to the homely hamlet in the wild, communing with an eldritch force that threatens to overthrow all we think we know.

  • Action: allow these learners to assist with writing up a short narrative of the lore in your fictional world.
  • Action: allow this learner to write up a 10 sentence narrative recap of the last session.

Visual/Spatial – The game master can incorporate physical items in the game to stimulate visual learners. Maps, physical puzzles, miniature toys, and image depictions of the the villains are all examples of ways these learners enjoy the game. They often have a “photographic” memory as well and can easily remember what they saw. The other component of their brilliance is understanding the physical distance between two objects. They will enjoy travel, plotting courses, acting tactically in combat and visual artistic depictions of the game world.

  • Action: allow these learners plenty of visual examples of your descriptions. Include maps, letters and pictures as often as you can in the game.
  • Action: allow this learner to assist in setting up the terrain or map on the table.

Kinesthetic – Anyone who learns by moving their body may not want to sit for an hour and play a board game, much less a tabletop roleplaying game where so much is left up to the imagination. However, it is easy enough for a game master to collaborate with those who learn through movement. Rather than using jumping and running, remember that kinesthetic learners also learn through their manual dexterity. Including tactile information, such as physical maps, terrain, toy miniatures and dice is a sure way to enhance their learning experience. Allow them to stand up while playing. Allow them to act out their scenes in person. Allow them to continue the roleplaying game outside afterwards, for in fact, they will learn the best, the more often they move. When playing TTRPGs, most children will need something to fidget with during the game, might I recommend modeling clay, since it is dynamic, but also silent? Consider taking the roleplaying game to a new level by setting up a live action scavenger hunt, or puzzling game of Twister.

  • Action: allow the player to stay in motion at the table by moving miniatures, or drawing pictures.
  • Action: Ask this player to assist by rolling for the monster in combat.

Auditory/Musical – With the ability to primarily learn through processed sound and rhythm, these children will be the first to enjoy ambient background music, read aloud poems, clever word play, and live action bardic inspiration. Consider that these children might not always make eye contact, or even seem engaged. Because they learn primarily through hearing, they will make an attempt to shut out the other senses, by looking down, remaining still. When they do express themselves, they might stand to speak, annunciate clearly, or even be shy if they don’t understand what is required. Much of the game is listening to the game master describe through words, requiring a level of auditory learning.

  • Action: allow this player to restate in their own words what the game master describes. This helps the quiet child engage in an appropriate way and engages the other children in a second round of listening.
  • Action: Spend 30 seconds describing a pirate ship and then ask this player to verbally describe what their character sees using their own words.

Logical/Mathematical – Much of TTRPGs involve strategy, logic, probability, and you may be surprised to know that math is at the heart of every game. Learners who excel at this enjoy puzzles, clearly defined answers, binary options. Often this is called “optimizing” and looks like the learner keeping their character sheet up to date, pre-rolling sneak attack damage, or commanding the team during combat. They will be the first to examine the rules and the first to make an attempt to challenge them! They enjoy the game best when the information is clear, objective and goal oriented.

  • Action: for the sake of the table, clearly state the options, risk, reward of the quest and allow the learner to win the game by discovering loop holes and flaws in the villain’s plans.
  • Action: allow this player to assist with difficult rulings by resourcing the handbook and their own logic.

Conclusion

In this short and simple explanation of how the Multiple Intelligence Theory is proved in playing tabletop roleplaying games, I hope to have encouraged you as a parent or educator that this kind of play is remarkably beneficial in children’s learning development. I also hope that you may intuit that playing TTRPGs also keeps adult’s brains plastic and resilient with regards to learning. Overall, play is the best way to learn and build understand between us and even, our own world.

May your story continue.

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