Role-playing Game Teaches You Korean

by Kyle Simons, 01/11/2012

Loosely based on the book, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, the tabletop roleplaying game, Magicians, is designed to do more than just get players telling a story like ones they would find in their favorite fantasy books; Magicians gets you learning a language by making the central mechanics of the game about speaking and learning a language.

Players take on the roles of students at a college for magic but with urban fantasy elements that incorporate Korean mythology and superstitions in a culture-rich setting that has a very different feel because of the Asian, Korean influence. Rather than werewolves and vampires, there is the dokkaebi and the bonghwang – a setting steeped in Korean folklore and myth allow for a new twist on traditional fantasy setting tropes.

Roleplaying is a technique that has been used for decades in language classrooms for good reason. Oftentimes students are unwilling to make mistakes and take risks when learning a language, roleplaying provides that disconnect that allows students to open up, take some chances and really learn a language. The game is designed to take the players from knowing almost no Korean, a base of 13 words, all the way up to forming full sentences and learning target vocabulary and grammar.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a teacher or someone fluent in the language they want to learn to teach them or to tell them when they are speaking incorrectly. To compensate, Magicians, uses a dictation app on your computer or smartphone to mediate success and failure in the game and to teach pronunciation while telling fun, collaborative stories with in a more casual, less formal environment.

The game is about giving the players all of the creativity they want in a game about magic with none of the complexity. The only thing constraining the player and their character in the game when coming up with spells is their knowledge of the language they are learning. As you learn the language and get better at it, so does your character in the game; you start to really feel connected to your character and become more and more motivated to keep learning.

The kickstarter for Magicians launched on October 18 and has since been more than 500% funded. The first book, and focus of the crowd funding campaign, is for learning the Korean language, one of the easiest written languages to learn in the world. “If the kickstarter is successful and there’s enough interest, I plan on doing books for other languages as well. It’s important enough to me that I’ve invested all I can afford to bring the book to the point it’s at today and I’m really happy to be working with industry veterans like Ryan Macklin and Daniel Solis and to see the project already getting so much attention.” If the project reaches $20,000 rules for playing and learning Japanese will also be given to all backers. At $30,000, rules for learning Chinese characters are going to be incorporated as well. The kickstarter will finish on November 19, 2012 and a physical copy of the game, including shipping is $25 while the digital version is just $10.

For a video to see how the first few rounds of a game might be played, click here.
For a video on how the dictation app works in conjunction with Korean, click here.

More about the kickstarter: The kickstarter will began October 18, 2012 and will finish on November 19, 2012. It has a minimum goal of $3,000 and has already reached over $16,000. 

More about Kyle Simons: Kyle Simons has been living and working in South Korea more than 5 years and is completing his degree in Korean Education from Kyunghee University in Seoul, South Korea. The game and project is also going to be inspiration and source for his thesis paper. He is an avid gamer on all platforms and always sets some time aside every week for some tabletop gaming. Contact info:, or

More about Ryan Macklin: Ryan Macklin is a tabletop RPG who works on both developing and editing RPGs. He has been closely involved in the development and editing of several award-winning tabletop RPGs like The Dresden Files, Leverage and A Penny For My Thoughts. Contact info:

More about Daniel Solis: Daniel Solis is a graphics designer, layout artist and game designer who has both produced and worked on many award-winning RPGs like Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Happy Birthday Robot and has funded said works partially through his own kickstarters. Contact info:

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