empiriecom people: Creativity Training with a Difference

05. Jun 2019
Johannes Haaf

Our employee Dominik has been with us as a backend developer since April 2019 and – beside his professional knowledge and skills – brings a special hobby to empiriecom. "Pen and Paper" roleplaying games are a mixture of traditional board games, storytelling and improvisational theatre and promote not only creativity, but also expression, logic and much more.


What is a “Pen and Paper”?

Role plays are often used in assessment centres or training courses. The candidate or participant slips into the role of a certain person and interacts according to his/her characteristics.
In the same way, the participants playing a Pen and Paper find themselves in another character with whom they can react to events and do whatever they like to.

And how does it work?

All P&Ps are based on a set of rules that can contain various settings, such as "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Wars". The best known role-playing games in Germany are "The Black Eye" and "Dungeons and Dragons". These are available in hardcover or PDF format and range in size from 50 to 500 pages. The selected set of rules determines whether the characters are created, diced or selected from existing ones.

The most important part, however, is taken over by the game master, who acts as a kind of moderator and narrator and has devised an adventure or a story in advance, based on the chosen set of rules. He prepares pictures, cards or letters, characters if necessary and takes a lot of time for the setup. In order to introduce the participants, he/she describes his/her world and the entry situation, the following scenes and the challenges the players have to deal with. During the course of the game the game master has to improvise a lot, as the players themselves determine the story through their actions, knowledge and certain social characteristics. As an "author", he/she only has a very rough outline of the story and does not know how the adventure is going to end.

What is needed?

The name "Pen and Paper" gives it away: basically, the only equipment a player needs is a pen and a sheet of paper. Before the first round of the game starts, the participants are supposed to write down the character each of them want to represent as well as its values and abilities. In addition to this character sheet, a note sheet is used to record important information during the game, which may be relevant at a later stage.

Depending on the rules, one or more dice/s are used as an additional tool/s. This allows the game master to build up an arc of suspense, because the course of the game is determined by chance.

Pen and Paper
How long is a game?

You can play as long as you like! In many cases, the game extends over several evenings and lasts about four hours per session.
Sounds lengthy, but time flies by!
The introduction itself lasts about an hour; until the game situation has been explained and all the players have made themselves familiar with their role. Then one or two scenes are played through, which – depending on the players’ experience – takes roughly about another hour.

What about you, Dominik?

"I have been playing Pen and Papers for over ten years; mostly ‘Das Schwarze Auge’ (‘The Black Eye’) and occasionally ‘Die Welt der Dunkelheit (‘World of Darkness’). By now, I am usually the game master and plan adventures for a group of about 20 people. Depending on time and interest for the respective topic, 4-6 players participate in the adventure.
This hobby has also affected my two children: at the age of four, my oldest son listened to the adventures of the adults (and fell asleep). In the meantime, the rules for ‘My Little Pony’, ‘Aborea’ and ‘Power, Pluesch and Plunder’ (‘Power, Plush and Trinkets’) have found their way into my shelve and some of them are also played by my children.

One of my goals is to keep a blog about role-playing games. I would provide information for interested people and newcomers, but also give old hands new ideas and food for thought regarding certain topics.
A big dream of mine is to examine this topic from an educational point of view and to offer it as a team-building excercise for companies or as a small club for children and young people in our home.

What skills are promoted?


Each player has specific abilities that impose a certain framework of action on him/her. Thus nobody is an "all-rounder" and is therefore dependent on the help and cooperation of the other players. It is necessary that everyone knows the strengths and weaknesses of his/her character in order to ask the right questions or to explain his/her actions in a comprehensive way, so that the other players can use their skills to support properly.

Pen and Paper

It is not only important to express oneself correctly and unambiguously when taking any action in the game. It is also crucial to describe one's actions precisely, because – most of the times – the game master exclusively accepts what has actually been discussed. Additionally, you have to get to the bottom of many hints and possibilities. In doing so, different connections have to be considered, suitable persons have to be found and the right questions have to be asked.


Some solutions are obvious – others not and have to be uncovered first. Several points play an important role here: available tools, the abilities of the characters present and the provided framework conditions. Conclusively, different groups of players may face the same problem, but each group will find its own solution.

Pen and Paper
Pen and Paper

Some adventures require logic to solve riddles. For example, a hidden message – a warning or a cry for help – could be encrypted into a song. Puzzle questions and problems that need to be solved also increase logical thinking and – once again – communication and cooperation.


Important hints are sometimes only mentioned in passing – but these should also be kept in mind. If you write it down, you store the knowledge for later occasions. Directions, names of persons or places, dates and other information can be just as important and can be written down if necessary – or kept in mind safely.

Taking on different perspectives

Since there are no requirements for the players about who can play which characters, each participant can freely choose. The top athlete can be a weak scholar and the doctoral student can be a ‘mountain of muscle’ – the employee can be a leader and the leader a simple peasant. So everyone can put themselves into a different position and experience strange situations like moving mountains with little effort or taking over the leadership of a kingdom. You get to know the problems involved; such as accepting responsibility through instructions or the issue that people may be less friendly when your character is ranked above them, and much more.

Pen and Papers already have cast a spell over some of our employees and Dominik had been able to win a few new players who are fancying to throw themselves into new adventures with him. If you have already experiences with any Pen and Paper, you are welcome to share your ideas, favourite rules, and characters with us. If you have not had any contact with it yet, all we can say is: Do not hesitate to try it out!

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