Saturday, November 26, 2016

Easy Button Rolls

     I am not a big fan of social based skills in tabletop RPG's. No, I'm not  talking about the use of effective interpersonal skills by the Participants between each other out of game, or those exercised in-game with the NPC's. What I am referring to is social based character statistics. Depending on the game you are playing they may have names such as Intimidation, Bluff, Fast Talk, or Discern Lies. I call these "easy button skills". Why? Picture this scenario:

Game Master: "You find yourselves at the gates of Theranor. The sun has crept behind the Adder's Tongue peaks to the west and the lands east of them are now blanketed in shadow. 'Halt!' A voice shouts from the ramparts 'State your business strangers, we are loath to let in travelers after the suns retreat!' You see an anxious looking guard staring down from the wall. What do you do?"

     What indeed? Do the Participants state their reasons for approaching the gates honestly? Do they try to bamboozle the guard? Does the fearsome barbarian in the party step forward and threatened the fires of the hell's for standing in the way of their quest? Or do cooler heads prevail?

Player: "Lets see, I have a 10 in bluff, I will make up a reason for approaching the walls so late."(Player rolls a die and adds the 10) "21 what happens?"

     Now there are different ways to handle how social rolls are made in-game. Some Game Masters may choose to have the player "earn" the roll through role play. If they feel the player made a reasonable attempt at bluffing for example. Then the player will roll their bluff skill to see if they are successful.Some GM's will just have  the player roll and let the dice and the characters stats speak for themselves.

     As the GM of a traditional tabletop RPG, either of these approaches are fine, the players are after all not their characters and the two will have different skill sets. But, as the Game Facilitator of a Skill Centric Role Play session designed to teach social skills to the Participants involved, the first consideration is how to do this. In the first case of earning a roll, what if the player "William Shatner'd" the role play (by this I mean reached the very pinnacle of acting brilliance), earned the roll, but rolled poorly? This method for the purpose of building social skills leaves success and failure too far from the Participant. The second method removes the connection to the individual completely, weighing all on a combination of statistics and chance. I propose another method. When running scenarios involving social skill based role play, I use what I refer to as the "push" method. Picture this scenario designed to teach negotiation and effective interpersonal skills:

Game Facilitator: "You find yourselves at the gates of Theranor. The sun has crept behind the Adder's Tongue peaks to the west and the lands east of them are now blanketed in shadow. 'Halt!' A voice shouts from the ramparts 'State your business strangers, we are loath to let in travelers after the suns retreat!' You see an anxious looking guard staring down from the wall. What do you do?"

Participant: "I... I mean we...that is our group...what should I say?"

Game Facilitator: "Well, you are standing before a gate to a town after dark, the guard seems nervous and hesitant to let anyone in after the sun sets."

Participant: "Oh, I say to the guard 'What worries you so, good soldier, that you would turn away enterprising adventurers such as us?'"

Game Facilitator (speaking as the guard): "Tis a dangerous time. Strange and horrific creatures have been seen in the surrounding woods. It is rumored that they can wear the skin of humans. You are adventurers you say?"

Participant: "Yes, that we are. Adventurers on a noble quest to save the kingdom from dark sorcery. We are in need of supplies before venturing forth, will you allow us to enter your town."

Game Facilitator (speaking as the guard): "What proof can you offer to show that you harbor no ill intent, nor are horrors of the dark?"

Participant: "Ah...well, proof you say...

     In the above scenario the Game Facilitator presented a situation which challenged the Participants current understanding of negotiation and effective interpersonal skills. Rather than having the Participant roll to see how well their character did in-game, the Game Facilitator used a combination of in-game challenge (when speaking as the guard) and out of game coaching to guide the Participant through the interaction. At the end of the session, the Game Facilitator and the Participants discuss the events that took place in game, going through what methods were effective and those that weren't. From this post game analysis, lessons are derived that can be taken into the real world.

Pushing the Participants with a combination of coaching and challenges, allows a Game Facilitator to get the best skill "performance" during game. This is akin to a director trying to get a grade A Shatner level performance. Could you imagine what would have been if those who directed William Shatner just simply called for a roll? We would be robbed of the full realization of his brilliance...

Friday, October 28, 2016

City of Inspiration

I recently went to New York City for the first time. Wow. New York is one of those places that gives you no choice but to be inspired. It is the eternal muse, setting the imagination ablaze with imagery and verse. I was impressed. Today's post is about the value of a good setting for the purpose of teaching through Skill Centric Role Play.
A setting is in itself like a character. It is most arresting when it has a gripping story, a personality and at least a couple of personal "flaws". A setting in a tabletop RPG has two very important tasks when presented to the Participants; to engage and entice them. A good setting fires the imaginations of both the Participants outside of game and their characters in-game. Some of the most beloved novels and films have settings with names that provoke reflexive imagery; Hogwarts, Mordor, Cloud City. These settings are as unique as the characters that exist within them.
For the purpose of skill acquisition during skill centric play, an engaging setting further acts to build investment on behalf of the Participants. Their characters may develop friendships with NPC's or long standing rivalries. They may stand in defense of their home city against the onslaught of an undead army, or they may raise an army of their own to free the land from an oppressive sorcerer king. Developing a world that lives and breathes, teaches cause and effect through the in-game narrative. The setting responds to the in-character actions of the Participants which can later be reviewed during the Session Debrief at the games conclusion.
An engaging setting stays with the Participants after they leave the table as well. It gives them a place to look forward to visiting in their imaginations, even when their personal lives might be at a difficult point. A good tabletop RPG setting bestows a sense of agency that might not be readily found in our day to day lives. Its empowering to act and watch the world ripple.
New York is an amazing city, an amazing setting from which to draw inspiration. It pulses with its own life and echoes the dreams of countless characters. What is your setting? How does it inspire you?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Empathy for the Summoned Celestial Black Bear.

     I would like to take a moment to acknowledge an unsung hero. A team player who though never given the credit or respect he so rightfully deserves, has always been there, willing to step in and do what was needed no matter how dangerous, horrifying or just plain foolish. An ally who often times literally took slings and arrows in defense of, or simply for the amusement of, the party members. A selfless being, sworn to obey the commands of the cleric who conjured him from the picturesque mystical forest of the plane of Celestia where he roamed; only to spring into existence in a dark dank dungeon or in one instance, inside himself. Summoned Celestial Black Bear, this is for you.
     The Celestial Black Bear has become a running gag that has endured almost as long as our 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons campaign. For almost the entirety of the 10 years we have played in the world of Tubbnia, the Celestial Black Bear has been the punchline of many a memorable game. Much like Kenny in South Park, the bears most notable (and notorious) act is meeting a grizzly end during session...see what i did there. The bear, however, isn't really killed. As a summoned creature it is returned to the plane of Celestia no worse for wear, remembering the events like a dream; a terrible, terrible dream. The bear then waits until the  cleric summons it once more.
     So, what can the repeated destruction of a summoned creature teach Participants in terms of life skills during a Skill Centric Role Play session? In one particular case, it was used to teach empathy. The cleric who had summoned the bear, often marching the creature to its doom, found the whole thing quite amusing, until the day the shoe was on the other foot.
     The party found themselves in a dungeon, as they often did in those earlier days. They stumbled across a throne room, sitting on the throne was a skeleton, aged and in disrepair. The skeleton was however without a head. The skull laid several feet from the the throne, it seemed to smile with a rictus grin.
     One of the party members decided to walk over and pick it up. No sooner did they do this then they realized they weren't standing where they had been. Looking about, they saw their body several feet away, kneeling over the skull looking around as confused as they were. It soon became apparent what had happened; they switched bodies. The party tried to figure out how to fix this problem and came up with the idea of passing the skull until everything was as it had been. It would have worked too, if it wasn't for that summoned Celestial Black Bear. The cleric got the skull and switched bodies. When he looked at his own body through a pair of new eyes, he saw his face grinning wickedly back at him. When he looked at his hands he saw paws.
     Just to give you an idea of the level of retribution floating around in the bears head, here's a short list of bear deaths.
  • The time the party cast water breath on the bear and tied him to the bottom of a raft to act as a propeller. The bear was eaten by a megalodon
  • The time the bear was commanded to charge through a noble's garden to distract the residents while the PC's looked for documents. The bear was riddled with arrows by guards.
  • The time the PC's found an orb of annihilation and "just to be certain" it was one, they had the bear touch it.
  • The time they sent the bear down a hallway to retrieve a Lich's phylactery. The phylactery was on a pedestal with a pressure plate that when triggered caused sneezing powder to fill the room; a room which was made of mirrors and magically attuned to amplify sound several thousand times.
  • The time the bear was summoned inside of itself causing the first summoned version to explode while the second summoned version screamed in horror. All just to see if it was possible.
     The Celestial Black Bear gained control over the cleric as the cleric once had over it. Eventually everyone was returned to their correct bodies, but not before the topic of empathy, illustrated by this in-game example of walking in another's shoes, was explored. Though the tale of the Celestial Black Bear, if literally taken, is impossible and has no relevance to any real life experiences the Participants were likely to encounter; as with the happenings of a fairy tale or fable, a bit of wisdom was buried in the details.
     Using the events that transpire in-game to teach life skills analogically allows Participants to learn by their own example, albeit in character. The impact of learning in this fashion can be tremendous. Looking back over the events of sessions played and considering the effect of personal actions  on others and how others can affect us, are concepts which work to foster empathy. Separating the raw life skills presented in sessions from the in-game narrative, and reviewing those skills with the group, allows even the most outrageous and over the top events to function as effective teaching tools. A lesson the summoned Celestial Black Bear has taught well.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Theater of the Mind vs. Miniature/Tactical Play.

     For me, the idea of "Theater of the Mind" style play is a bit romanticized. I always imagine a group of players sitting in a room, each on the edge of their seat as the Game Master describes in epic detail the dungeon corridor, dark alleyway or the inter-dimensional alien craft in which the PC's find themselves. Though the players have no visual representation before them, the GM's descriptions are vivid, so vivid that they draw the players out of the room and into the scene. The players can smell the foul odor of the goblin warren and feel the cool clammy air of the alien ship. These are the moments GM's strive for...but on the other hand, I do so love my Dwarven Forge pieces.
     Miniature/Tactical play involves the use of some form of character and environmental representation. These may be miniatures that the Participants have painstakingly painted by hand. They may be pre-painted miniatures bought in a randomized box, or flat tokens with pictures on them. The environment could be a roll out wet erase tactical mat that the GM draws chambers and passages on. Or it might be eye popping 3D terrain.
     GM's and players often have strong feelings around which method is most conducive to a deep and immersive gaming experience. One school of thought is that having physical representation can impede immersion into the world; that it can feel like a board game vs a collaborative story. Others claim that having pieces and visuals can intensify focus and further connect the players by allowing them to see their character. Miniature/Tactical provides a visual standard for spatial placement which prevents disagreements; disagreements that can break immersion.
     For Game Facilitators teaching life skills during a Skill Centric Role Play session, choosing whether to use Theater of the Mind or Miniature/Tactical play presents an additional consideration beyond those of aesthetics and story immersion. Namely, what do each of these methods offer as teaching tools?
     Theater of the Mind style play is dependent on effective communication skills by all at the table. The Game Facilitator must describe the environment that the Participant Characters are in with as much detail as necessary for the Participants to make informed decisions in-character. The Participants, must describe their characters actions as completely as necessary for the Game Facilitator to respond effectively through environmental events. This often requires asking for clarification when needed and effectively articulating intended actions and responses.
     Miniature/Tactical play allows Participants to have visual representation of their characters and the environment in which they find themselves. Being able to look at this physical display allows Participants direct access to the environment they are in. Accessing physical risk, for example, can be much easier for Participants if they are looking at it. Seeing a chamber with crates stacked in the corners may prompt Participants to anticipate an ambush as opposed to a solely verbal description.
     Depending on what life skills are the focus of a Skill Centric Role Play session, each of these methods have strengths that support particular skills. However, that's not to say that Miniature/Tactical play isn't an effective approach when seeking to promote communication skills, or that Theater of the Mind isn't an effective approach for teaching physical risk assessment. The beauty of tabletop role play as a means of imparting life skills is its flexibility as a teaching tool. Either of these approaches, alone or in combination, can certainly be used to teach any skill. As is the case with other aspects of tabletop role play, it is largely a matter of taste and preference.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Whatever you do, don't say Hastur!"

     I just picked up a copy of the 7th edition Call of Cthulhu rules at my local game store. Call of Cthulhu is a tabletop RPG based on the works of American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The in-game events depict the struggle of people (often average people) against unfathomable horrors from mind warping realities and alien worlds. With a default setting of the roaring 20's, Call of Cthulhu is one of my favorite tabletop RPG's of all time. It is designed to evoke feelings of dread, horror and uncertainty in the player characters (referred to as "Investigators"), and if done well, the players themselves. This style of play is fairly different than what would be found in the typical game of say Dungeons and Dragons.
     In a game of D&D, the players usually portray somewhat above average, trained adventurers who through magic and uncanny swordsmanship can take the fight directly to the monsters terrorizing the town or haunting the nearby ruins. In Call of Cthulhu, even looking upon a creature of the Cthulhu Mythos can result in debilitating loss of mental faculties. In essence Call of Cthulhu is a game of cautious approach, of keeping direct contact with otherworldly beings and their human servitors as a far and absolute last resort. This often results in the goal of foiling your enemies plans to summon a eldritch horror rather than confronting them.
     So, as a Game Facilitator seeking to teach life skills to Participants through tabletop role play, what does a game like Call of Cthulhu bring to the table as opposed to a game like D&D? In choosing a game system to teach life skills, are some systems better for teaching particular skills than others? Well yes and no. It really comes down to mechanics vs. story.
     Tabletop RPG's can be divided roughly into two parts. One is the rule mechanics of the game being played. The other is the story that will be told through group collaboration. Some RPG's have mechanics that lend well to cavalier heroes facing swarms of enemies and, more often than not, returning to tell the tale. Others, are not so forgiving. In Call of Cthulhu, players have a small pool of hit points and few defenses against earthly injury with almost none against the other worldly. Not only is an Investigators body at risk, their very mind is subject to the ravages of alien forces.
     Perhaps the most well known mechanic in Call of Cthulhu is sanity (SAN). Simply reading the wrong book or seeing the wrong thing can render a character physically unharmed, but mentally overwhelmed. Risk assessment in such a game is paramount to continued survival and the maintenance of sanity. Another skill which Call of Cthulhu teaches well through its mechanics is the value of research and preparation in facing the unknown. The Library skill is indispensable to Investigators hoping to survive the eldritch horrors of the Mythos.
     However, though these mechanics support the teaching of particular skills like risk assessment, or act as an emphasis for the value of research and preparation, their prevalence during play is ultimately dictated by the challenges presented. So, a D&D game could present a situation that evokes terror in the PC's (and hopefully a bit in the players), and a Call of Cthulhu game could tell a tale of brazen Investigators throwing caution to the wind and strapping chainsaws to their wrists (groovy). As the facilitator of a skill centric game keep this point in mind; in the end the mechanics are used to tell a story, the story is used to impart skills, and skills are used to lead a fuller life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Skill Centric Role Play manual is here!!!

     At long last the Skill Centric Role Play manual is complete! Tabletop role play is a fantastic tool for the teaching and strengthening of life skills. For people who have played these games whether Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu or any of the many other great systems out there, the power of role play as a teaching tool is unquestionable.
     There you are, sitting at a table with your friends telling tales of brave heroes questing for riches and renown in a medieval fantasy setting. Through the story and the lives of your characters, unimaginable possibilities are achieved. You eat some snacks, make a lot of pop culture references (and Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions), have a great time and then go home hopefully itching to return and pick up the story at the last cliff hanger. These are all typical RPG experiences; but what was learned in-game?
     In the pursuit of riches and renown, the characters had to start somewhere. Perhaps they went to ye old tavern and used effective interpersonal skills to question locals for information on the town and the surrounding lands in hopes of learning a rumor that would lead them to forgotten temple or a dragons lair. The characters may have entered a trackless wilderness and had to rely on critical thinking and deductive reasoning to navigate back to civilization after taking a wrong turn. Maybe the characters ran into a hungry troll and were pressed into combat needing to recall from memory the trolls weakness to fire and its ability to shrug of wounds from nearly anything else. Ethan Gilsdorf gives a terrific overview of Dungeons and Dragons during his Tedx Talk, highlighting many skills which that particular tabletop RPG can teach, including how it has impacted him personally.

     The many skills which tabletop RPG's teach are often learned passively.  The Game Master doesn't set out to do so. Players learn just by being at the table among the group collective, taking part in the collaborative story. Whether delving into dungeons in games like D&D, or confronting eldritch horrors in 1920's Boston while playing Call of Cthulhu, tabletop RPG's teach invaluable life skills because they are a simulation of life, choice and consequence. The Skill Centric Role Play manual provides a structure which facilitators can utilize to actively teach predesignated skills to participants through the collaborative story and rule mechanics of Tabletop RPG's. What stories will be told? What skills will be taught? As with the in-game events that teach them, the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Promotion of Participant Investment

Whenever possible, I try to add elements that work to further draw in the attention of Participants during a skill centric game session. Props are a fun and relatively easy way to do this. I've found that thrift stores are a treasure trove of strange nick-nacks and oddities that can bring a game world to life with physical representations of various items. For those crafty types, a piece of sketch paper, a gel pen, a sponge and some black coffee can be turned into a mysterious map scribbled on a piece of old parchment. A paper towel roll with some electrical tape and a few markers can become a scroll case containing an eldritch spell to awaken otherworldly horrors.
A key component to using tabletop role play as an effective tool for skill acquisition is the promotion of Participant investment. The greater the Participants investment in their characters and the events in which those characters find themselves, the greater the desire to see those characters succeed during play.
Humor is another fun way of getting the Participants involved in the game. Where as physical props bring a piece of the game world into the room to be experienced, humor is more a matter of atmosphere and can have little or no relation to the events of the game itself. Sound boards for example are a great tool to bring a bit of comic relief. Arnold Schwarzenegger one liners are a favorite of my gaming groups, whether the genre is medieval fantasy, science fiction or Lovecraftian horror; though anything silly will do, the more over the top the better. Many such sound boards are available for free download online for tablet or phone use.
As a Game Facilitator seeking to teach life skills through tabletop role play, a critical concept to keep in mind is this: To entertain is to teach. The more immersive and engrossing the experience is at the gaming table, the stronger the investment of the Participants in the collaborative story being told.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment
“A chest!” Sophifia’s eyes grew wide and saucer round at the sight before her, the box sat upon a dais at the center of a hewn stone chamber. The half-ling rogue took only a single step forward before she felt Garret’s hand firmly grip her shoulder. Sophifia looked back to see a stern expression on the face of the crouching ranger as he slowly shook his head side to side. The sound of heavy steps drew both of their attention as the rest of the party banked the corner of the dungeon corridor.
Cyrus the paladin, his armor seemed to gleam even in the darkness of the subterranean labyrinth. He raised an eyebrow curious as to what disaster the ranger may have prevented, or more likely, just delayed. Following him, was the dour faced robed form of the wizard Rugaro who seemed too deep in thought to notice that his allies had stopped. Lastly the stout grime caked fighter Agar; the dwarf smiled, though it was hard to tell beneath his beard. Hopefully the sudden stop meant that something smash worthy lay ahead.
Sophifia looked past Garret to the others and said with poorly contained excitement “I found a chest!” The suspicious expressions on her allies faces prompted a reflexive eye roll from the half-ling. “Come on, it could be treasure, riches, its why we’re here isn’t it?” Garret stood up, taking a step back toward the others “Or it could be a trap.” He said “If we’re going to look, we must use caution.” Sophifia nodded, but the words were drowned out by the sound of coins jingling in her mind.
When she regained her focus a moment later Sophifia said “I’ll be sure to check for trip wires, magical wards and mystical guardians before I open the lid.” This did little to alleviate her companions fears, but the rogue was right, at least in part. The party had dared to descend into the depths of the dungeon to discover the source of a dark curse that had befallen the village of Shady Oak; but also for the riches rumored to be lost within.
The group debated and put forward suggestions until finally a consensus was reached. Sophifia would enter the room to check the chest for traps in the company of the fighter Agar, should something go awry. Once ready, the two adventurers moved cautiously toward the chest, the rogue in lead. Sophifia’s steps were light, making sure that there were no pressure plates along the way. Agar looked cautiously about. The possibility of cultist hidden by spells of invisibility or extradimensional horrors ready to appear out of thin air kept the dwarf’s perceptions sharp as the axe he gripped so tightly.
Sophifia reached the chest without incident and began checking it over. She looked for wires and wards, poison needles and scythe blades. After about twenty minutes of careful examination she took out her thieves’ tools and tried the padlock. The mechanism gave quickly and at long last she stood up and lifted the lid. Leaning over with her lantern, she saw a disappointing dust caked hollow.
The rogue let out a heavy sigh. “Nothing, its empty, what a waste of…” Just then, the light from the lantern caught a faint gleam within the filth collected at the bottom of the chest. It was a metallic loop. Sophifia’s eyes brightened. “Wait!” She exclaimed leaning in “It’s a ring!” The cries of protest reached her pointed ears a bit too late. As the half-ling lifted the ring from the dirt, the sound of grinding gears echoed loudly and an iron door slammed down sealing the entry way, barring Agar and Sophifia from their allies. Dust began to rain from above as the ceiling slowing started to descend. Agar ran to the iron barrier and began hacking wildly at it roaring in rage. Sophifia scrambled about in search of a means to reverse the mechanism, but to no avail.
The sound of frantic banging came from the other side as Garret, Cyrus and Rugaro tried to break through on their end. The ceiling grew ever closer as Agar bent forward, hands on knees exhausted and gasping from his efforts. Things were beginning to look very grim. Then, the iron door raised up. At first a few inches, then a foot, then another. “Hurry crawl under!” Agar and Sophifia heard Rugaro yell. The rogue made a dash for the archway and made it under with ease. Agar however was a different matter. “Lift it higher I can’t fit!” protested the dwarf. “It won’t raise higher, the gears are locked!” returned Garret straining as he and Cyrus used all the strength they could muster to keep the door where it was.
The ceiling sunk low, low enough that the dwarf had to crouch down. That’s when the wizard had an idea. “Take off your armor!” Rugaro shouted rifling through the pack he carried. “Why should I do that?” Agar yelled back. He was answered by a flask of lantern oil sliding into the room. The fighter arched an inquisitive bushy eyebrow, but he soon reasoned what the flask was for. The ceiling bumped him on the head. Grumbling he began cutting away the straps of his armor with a dagger he kept in his boot. Agar uncorked the flask and frantically coated himself in oil before crawling beneath the iron door. Try as he might though, the dwarf still struggled to fit.
 Rugaro and Sophifia seeing this each grabbed on to their wedged friend. The two pulled with all their might as Agar kicked and squeezed with all his power. At last with a great heave the fighter was pulled free just as the ceiling lowered to the chambers floor with a grinding thud. Garret and Cyrus let go of the iron barrier which fell with the force of a guillotine. The ranger and the paladin both staggered back against the dungeons wall.
Everyone fought to catch their breath for a few moments, and then they just sat in silence. No one said a word. Rugaro had an extra robe in his pack which he lent to his greasy dwarf ally. Agar took it and put it on with a sullen nod. The adventurers climbed the stone stairway out of the ruins. The ride back to Shady Oak was a somber one. Failure left a bitter taste. Tomorrow though would be another day, and when next they entered the dark depths in search of wealth renown and power; they will be armed with knowledge that they won in defeat.

Though humbling, a failure can teach us things that a success cannot, assuming we take the time to explore the events. Risk assessment is an integral skill whether making decisions in regards to personal safety or when looking to make safe investments. The above story was adapted from events in a medieval fantasy game designed to teach Risk Assessment, chronicling the events of fictitious characters in an unlikely and over the top situation. What lesson could possibly be drawn from such events that would have any relevance to the life of you or I? Tabletop role playing games share a common element with fairytales and myths; they can teach through allegory. Like the story of Little Red Riding Hood teaches caution when encountering strangers, the above story when examined can teach risk assessment through metaphorical context. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Is an old adage that comes to mind when I imagine the rogue reaching for the ring at the bottom of an unguarded and apparently un-trapped treasure chest. Tabletop role playing games have a significant advantage over the traditional fairytale or myth as a teaching tool; the listeners are also the ones writing it. Through the shared storytelling process inherent in tabletop role play, Participants actions decide the outcome of a tale’s events, for better or worse. Whether success or failure, it is the players who decide how the story goes. By drawing parallels between the fantastic events of the shared story and the everyday truths of life, lessons can be harvested and carried into the day to day.