Fall 2021. It was the first semester that I taught biological anthropology. While I have done the lecture course for over six years, the lab was new. I do not like using commercial material and want to keep things affordable for students, so I tasked myself with making sixteen lab activities for the whole semester. Planning took place over the previous summer. I filled in a table with topics and potential lab activities. I was stuck on what to do for immunology, a topic that is very important in the middle of the pandemic. An educator friend I was talking to about my designer’s block said offhand “make a roleplaying game.” I thought it was too much to do amidst fifteen other projects, but the gears started turning.
Almost a year since that conversation, I am very happy to announce that I have released Legend of the Leukocytes, a tabletop roleplaying game that teaches players about the human immune system. This game is all about controlling a team of leukocytes, or white blood cells, fighting a variety of different disease-causing antigens. Doing well in the game maps well with how the immune system actually works. Cells like macrophages and neutrophils get a foothold in fighting off the threat and set up stronger attacks by B- and T-Cells. Other leukocytes, basophils and eosinophils have particular abilities that can be situationally useful. These leukocytes are pitted against an array of disease causing agents. For the initial release I favored common antigens such as staphylococcus bacteria, influenza, and cancer cells. Yes, COVID-19 is a possible foe with unique abilities that match what makes it a formidable virus in real life.
A tabletop RPG needs art so a lot of that year was spent drawing, mostly during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. I used an iPad and Apple Pencil with the app Sketches. I figured a medieval fantasy theme would befit the medium and imaged each leukocyte as a typical class. For the antigens, I played it a little looser with some fantasy monsters and some just a stylized picture of the real organism. I’m especially proud of the cover art, which took a month of TV to draw.
You can buy the Legend of the Leukocytes Rulebook at the online sellers itch.io and DriveThruRPG. If you have education in mind, there is a version on TeachersPayTeachers that costs a little more but includes an education guide too. I hope you check out the game and find it fun and informative. The release is final but who knows, there can be more in the future with even more diseases for the hero leukocytes to battle and other fun stuff.