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The tabletop game that helps kids on the autism spectrum build confidence and social skills, one dragon at a time.
The tabletop game that helps kids on the autism spectrum build confidence and social skills, one dragon at a time.
3,157 backers pledged $244,162 to help bring this project to life.
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$244,162

3,157

A special kind of magic happens when kids gather around a table to play a fantasy role-playing game. Legends are born, friendships are forged, and they begin to experience real-world personal growth.

For the past seven years, we have been using tabletop games as therapy to help kids become more confident, creative and socially empowered. We're ready to help thousands of children around the world, but we need your help! 

Critical Core is a tabletop role-playing game designed to help kids on the autism spectrum build social skills and confidence. It's a great way for parents to engage with their children at home, and for professionals and experienced gamers to use as a group social skills tool.

Critical Core is brought to you by Game to Grow, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and co-developed with autism advocates, parents, therapists, and educators.

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  • Suitable for cognitive age 9+, including teens and adults.
  • 2 to 4 players recommended, plus one adult that acts as the facilitator. (Game Master)
  • Players must have basic listening and verbalization skills.
  • When running games with young players on the spectrum, parent or certified therapist should be present.
  • Experienced gamers will be able to integrate Critical Core into their favorite platform: Ruleset is adapted and streamlined from D&D's 5th Edition OpenSRD.
  • A great introduction to tabletop role-playing games for everyone.

The Critical Core Starter Set has everything you need to play. The game has been tuned to be as easy as possible to get started and stay engaged. 

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  •  Facilitator's Guide - For parents, therapists, and Game Masters, our best practices on running fun and effective therapeutic gaming groups.
  •  Player & Game Master Guides - Quick-start rules and playing guides for players and Game Masters.
  •  Adventure Modules - Tested and tuned to be challenging and fun.
  •  Dice (4 sets) - One for each player, one for the Game Master. Enough to run a 3 player game out-of-the-box.
  •  Character Sheets - 4 popular hero archetypes, each with their own unique abilities.
  •  Game Cards - Not required for play, but helpful aids for both players and Game Masters - Visualization, quick-reference rules, and spell cards.
  •  Game Tokens - Visualization aids for working with the included map.
  •  Reusable map - whiteboard marker friendly. 

Please note: Artwork shown is work-in-progress and may be subject to change!

We believe that Stretch Goals should improve and enhance the usefulness of Critical Core, so we're planning a steady stream of new adventures, characters, cards and tokens that you can use at home or in therapeutic settings. Plus a few extra surprises that will unlock at higher levels!

Critical Core is fit-for-purpose, designed to help neurodiverse players get started and stay engaged. At the same time, facilitators are provided with the right tools to make the experience effective without it 'feeling like therapy'.

Each encounter the players face is targeted to help build strength in areas that are related to challenges associated with autism spectrum disorder.

Critical Core is scaffolded around the DIR/Floortime model, and game encounters map to the FEDC framework. (Function Emotional Developmental Capacities)

But all of this is under the hood. At its heart, Critical Core is simply FUN.

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When kids engage in a world of fantasy play they are free to explore new ideas and relationships in a safe and fun sandbox. Skills learned while playing Critical Core can last a lifetime.

 Although designed for kids on the autism spectrum, Critical Core is just as beneficial (and fun) for all kids. It's an easy stepping stone into the fantastic world of tabletop role-playing games.

Critical Core is built on established developmental frameworks and distills seven years of practical gaming therapy experience into an easy-to-use format. It is an amazing tool that can be used at home, at school, in a therapist’s office, or out in the community. And above all, it's great fun.

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Game to Grow - Adam Davis (MA Ed) and Adam Johns (LMFT)

Critical Core is brought to you by Game to Grow, a 501(c)(3) organization that runs tabletop RPG therapy gaming groups every week. Founders Adam Johns and Adam Davis are distilling 7 years of experience and best practices into the Critical Core project so that the benefits of intentional gaming can be spread to an even wider audience.


Virginia Spielmann (MSOT) - Executive Director of STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder in Denver, Colorado.

Virginia is a British trained Occupational Therapist with more than 20 years experience working in pediatrics. Virginia co-leads the development of the Critical Core Project, defining the system within the established DIR Floortime™ framework of developmental intervention.

mcgarrybowen Greater China - creative agency

The Critical Core project was initiated and co-created by creative agency mcgarrybowen Greater China as part of an ongoing program to provide creative solutions for social good.

ICDL - The Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning

A not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting each person's development to their fullest potential. ICDL was formed over 20 years ago to be the official home of DIR® and DIRFloortime, recognized as the next generation of evidence-based intervention for autism and other developmental challenges.
 


 
Your passion and support can make Critical Core a reality. Please, pledge now and then get a friend to do the same. Together we can bring the incredible benefits of intentional gaming to those who need it most.
 

We're committed to getting this right. The majority of our time will be spent improving and refining the Critical Core Starter Set with the feedback from beta testers and testing groups. We also have some final artwork and design work to take care of, and of course there is the physical production. We'll be keeping you informed throughout the process, and probably asking for some help and advice along the way! 

Game to Grow is a not-for profit 501(c) company, and our donations are allocated to helping run game groups for kids across the Seattle region. Kickstarter is important for two reasons:

  •  First, you are an amazing community, and if anyone can help spread the word about the incredible benefits of role-playing games, it's you!
     
  • Second, there are costs involved in developing and manufacturing Critical Core, so Kickstarter helps us to produce this amazing project!

Perhaps you already have a favorite role-playing game and are wondering how Critical Core can fit into your gaming life. Like many of you, we are avid gamers and have many games we’ve loved for years. 

Critical Core can improve the games you’re already playing.

If you’re already playing an established RPG with your kids, your students, or your community, Critical Core can still help you improve your game and boost your outcomes. 

Critical Core contains a rule system, designed to be easily accessible to a neuro-diverse population as well as new facilitators, but that’s not all! If you are already established using a game that you enjoy and find effective, you’ll be able to use the other components of Critical Core that are designed to support a game facilitator in helping their players learn and grow.

Critical Core contains a unique module design where in-game scenarios are targeted to real-world development outcomes. This can be translated to most established role-playing games. Additionally, the Critical Core kit includes a facilitator’s guide which contains the learnings of the past seven years of facilitating role-playing games for social growth.
 

Do I need prior experience with role-playing games to run Critical Core?
                          No. Critical Core is a 'rules-light' tabletop RPG, and the instructions will be designed to help brand new Game Masters quickly learn how to facilitate games that are enriching and fun. We are also planning to release video guides and tutorials to help you out! 

I'm already playing tabletop RPGs with my kids!

Awesome! You already know the amazing benefits we're talking about. You also know from experience, that tabletop RPGs can be easy to pick up and play, but learning how to be a great Game Master can be challenging, especially for new players.

Why not use an established role-playing game platform?

Critical Core's rule set is adapted from D&D's 5th Edition Open SRD. We have taken out some of the complexity for new players and Game Masters. Think of Critical Core as an entry-level platform: easier for parents, schools, and clinics to pick up and play.

Are you trying to replace my favorite game?

No way! We see Critical Core as a stepping stone to the wide world of RPG gaming. Actually, we hope that as kids grow familiar and comfortable with the system, they can move on to your favorite platform. If you're already using some of the great games out there, then more power to you!

So how is Critical Core different?

We have applied our experience and best practices to help children (and caregivers) have the most effective and fun experience possible.

  • Meticulously designed adventure content to help empower kids with social and problem-solving challenges.
  • Game encounters, guidebooks, mechanics heavily influenced by established developmental frameworks (DIR/Floortime).
  • Rules have been adapted to be easier for new players and Game Masters to pick up.
  • Adventures divided into 'one-shot' chapters that can be completed in 90 minutes.
  • Goldilocks Content'  -  not too complex/scary and not too easy/cartoony. Just right.

I've been GM'ing for years, what's in this for me?

For starters, you'll be able to pick up the Critical Core system in minutes. We have had inquiries from organizations from across the globe who want to start using Critical Core. You could be a great mentor or GM partner for Critical Core games. Please contact us for more info on how you can help!

Risks and challenges

Critical Core is based on our learnings in using tabletop RPGs over the years as a therapy, and we're confident that we have a solid system in place. We're actively testing and refining the mechanics and content to ensure the more effective tool possible.

Artwork, Illustrations, and future adventure modules will be brought to life by some of the most experienced and talented artist and game masters from around the world.

For physical production, we're not going it alone. We've partnered with a leading manufacturer of tabletop games to ensure there are no surprises when it comes to manufacturing, testing, and delivery. For shipping and handling, we are using an established fulfillment center to achieve efficient warehousing and shipping

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 30 or more About US$ 30

    DIGITAL VERSION

    Critical Core Starter Set in a DIGITAL format that you can print at home or view on a device. You'll receive all the Critical Core Starter Set printed materials and stretch goals in a PDF format for printing at home. Note: If you don't have access to polyhedral dice, you can use one of the many dice-rolling apps for your mobile phone. Also you will need to use your own map or whiteboard for facilitating games.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    STARTER SET - FOR YOU

    You'll get Critical Core Starter Set - the complete game with everything you need to play, including the Facilitator's Guide instructions, cards, dice, adventure modules, and an erasable map. For details on what's in the box, please see the main text on this page. You'll also receive all unlocked stretch goals and DIGITAL versions for you to print out.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    STARTER SET - FOR A GOOD CAUSE

    One Critical Core Starter Set will be donated to a good cause on your behalf, and you will also receive the digital version and digital versions of all stretch goals for you to print at home. We work with schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations and low-income families around the world who will benefit from your generosity. Thank you! A flat rate of $10 USD will be added to shipping for the extra set, we'll cover the rest.

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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    ONE FOR YOU, ONE TO A GOOD CAUSE

    In addition to your Critical Core Starter Set, including all stretch goals and access to the digital version, we will donate one additional set to a good cause on your behalf! $10 USD will be added to your shipping costs for the extra set.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    LAST MINUTE BENEFACTOR

    We're opening up additional BENEFACTOR pledge rewards for those of you who are upgrading to receive the limited edition engraved blue sandstone Critical Core dice from Level Up Dice. This pledge level includes everything in the BENEFACTOR reward: In addition to ONE FOR YOU, ONE TO A GOOD CAUSE rewards and the limited edition dice, we'll also put your name on our benefactors thank-you page on our website and send you high-resolution digital versions of Critical Core's artwork for you to print.

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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    HONORED BENEFACTOR

    In addition to everything in the BENEFACTOR pledge level, we'd like to thank you by offering a 1 hour video consultation with Adam Johns and Adam Davis from Game to Grow. They’ll teach you how to play Critical Core, give you tips on improving your GMing skills, advise you on playing the best possible game to help your players grow, or just hang out and chat with you. The choice is yours!

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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    MONSTER SPONSOR

    We're opening up another pledge level where you can sponsor artwork for a Critical Core Starter Set MONSTER or GAME CARD ITEM. This art might be black and white sketches, or color illustrations, but whatever is created you will be credited as the sponsor and receive a high resolution print of the artwork with a signed thank you from the team. Of course this special pledge level includes the ONE FOR YOU, ONE FOR A GOOD CAUSE reward. Thank you for helping to breathe life into Critical Core with incredible art!

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    LEGENDARY BENEFACTOR

    Your incredible contribution will help spread the positive impact of role-playing games to the people who need it most. We realize that at this level, you are supporting the mission and goals of Critical Core for the good it will bring. It is hard to adequately reward you for your support, but we would like to offer the following as a small measure of our appreciation, so in addition to GRAND BENEFACTOR rewards you will receive:

    *Your organization logo, or your name, featured as a supporter in printed materials
    *5 one-hour video training sessions with the Critical Core team donated to an individual or organization of your choice.

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    Pledge US$ 10,000 About US$ 10,000

    MYTHIC BENEFACTOR

    We're overwhelmed by your support and generosity. In addition to all LEGENDARY BENEFACTOR rewards, Game to Grow will offer 10 personalized training sessions to the individual or organization of your choice.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    BENEFACTOR

    To thank you for going the extra mile, in addition to ONE FOR YOU, ONE TO A GOOD CAUSE rewards, you will receive a set of limited edition Critical Core dice! We'll also put your name on our benefactors thank-you page on our website. Additionally, we'll send you high-resolution digital versions of Critical Core's artwork for you to print.

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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    GRAND BENEFACTOR

    To thank you for your amazing support, we'd like to put you in the game. Ever wondered what you would look like as an orc, or an elf wizard? Now is your chance to find out. As a grand benefactor, you can choose to have one of the characters in Critical Core created with your likeness, or the likeness of a friend (sorry no celebrities). So in addition to HONORED BENEFACTOR rewards, the digital version, and all unlocked stretch goals, you'll get your likeness as a Critical Core player character, a printed poster of your character, and a high resolution digital image for you to print out.

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Funding period

- (37 days)