Case Studies as Tabletop RPGs


  • Susan Weiner



case studies, science, role-playing games, Biology, education


For many college educators, case studies provide a relatively easy form of active learning to implement. Students connect with them and can see the application and value. There are resources for published case studies available for free online and they can be applicable to almost any topic. However, frequently, case studies mostly involve research that can be divided up among group members with perhaps a few thinking and discussing questions at the end. In this article, I introduce a method of implementing case studies using a tabletop framework, allowing students the agency to make decisions that have impact within the world of the case study. Approaching the case study like a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) provides a more interactive and realistic feeling format. In a tabletop RPG, generally the players specialize. They have roles that only they can provide. Similarly, students can become “specialists” on their part of the case study and bring that expertise back. They may take on the role of particular stakeholders within the issue they are addressing. This structure allows students to teach each other and also discourages “slacking” in which a few people do all the work for the group. This method can also allow for a “role-playing” aspect, in which a student is considering the decisions that are relevant to their specialty from the specialist’s perspective. Also, in a tabletop RPG, there are many points at which the players need to make decisions that affect what happens to their characters in the follow-up. While there are many divided case studies, most of them do not change based on decisions made in prior parts. Due to the interactive nature and direct responses to student decisions, students can feel like their answers matter and get feedback about their choices. Depending on class size, length, and preparation, the results may come within a class session or between class sessions. Either way, their actions matter. These pieces together can give students a sense of ownership and agency over their work and improve understanding of complicated topics.




How to Cite

Weiner, S. (2018). Case Studies as Tabletop RPGs. International Journal of Role-Playing, (8), 21–25.