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Critical Core


Harness the power of therapeutic gaming with Critical Core!

Critical Core is a fun, easy-to-understand tabletop RPG that helps new and experienced game masters run epic games. Players build social confidence and connect with family, friends, and the world around them. 

Critical Core includes two thoughtfully designed reference books, three game modules specially designed to make any game master look like an experienced veteran, and a plethora of additional tools which make the game accessible to new and experienced players alike. It is enhanced with Game to Grow’s therapeutic foundation, backed by years of therapeutically applied role-playing game experience and specifically designed to build social confidence and collaboration between players. 

With Critical Core, you can bring the benefits of intentional gaming into your own home!


Critical Core

Critical Core was designed to get everyone, regardless of experience level, playing a tabletop role-playing game with as little preparation as possible. Even the game master will be ready to start playing right away! Not only are the reference books and modules spectacular for new game masters, but even experienced game masters will find valuable new tips and tricks to hone their skills and that they’ll use for years to come. The modules, rules, and game itself are built to support an open collaboration and a playful mentality, creating an engaging and fun experience in each play session. The Critical Core has everything game masters and players need to get started and play through hours of beautifully crafted and diverse stories. 

What’s Inside?

Game Master's Guide

Regardless of experience level, game masters can dive in and begin running groups, with this simplified ruleset, making elements of the game mechanics easier than any other tabletop role-playing game to pick-up and play.

Facilitator's Guide

Packed with best practices and tips to help parents and professionals run effective game groups, the facilitator’s guide provides game masters with tactics that help players flourish in several ways on their own terms. Here’s just a subset!

  • Help kids who may often struggle to fit in to feel welcome and valuable

  • Build social confidence for kids who have struggled with friendships

  • Support the development of self-advocacy skills during group work

  • Use game events to provide opportunities to view events and feelings from other perspectives, even when emotions are heightened and intense  

  • Support formation of friendships and caring for others 

  • Manage group dynamics when conflict emerges

  • Adjust the game for a range of player needs

3 Starter Adventure Modules

The unique module layout has been carefully designed using over a decade’s worth of experience running therapeutic game groups. The clean and simplified 2-page encounters, or scenes, have everything a game master needs to cater to the needs and interests of their players with a digestible amount of flexibility and structure making any GM seem like a pro. Gameplay is balanced and dynamic, featuring role-play, combat, and exploration. There are moments of drama and comedy, hope and fear, triumph and disaster, all designed to keep players engaged and eager to come back session after session.


The Little Town of Tusk:

 While trying to help a new friend escape certain death after an encounter in a tavern, adventurers start to unravel dark secrets that must be protected at all costs. This classic dungeon crawl adventure is generally light in tone and fun for all players, a great introduction to the world of role-playing games for both players and game masters.

The Festival of the Birds:

While relaxing at an exototic festival in the city of Myren, players and villagers alike are attacked by hordes of bugs! The players embark on an adventure to relieve the city of their newfound pestilence. The player characters navigate unknown depths, encounter new friends, and battle mysterious creatures to bring peace back to the city of Myren and restore the success of its festival.

The Age Of Green:

A diplomatic mission for the town of Fildree takes players through the dangerous Living Woods only to discover a threat that could bring about the end of the world. As they work to restore balance to the world the player characters must negotiate with ancient dragons, discover lost magics, and travel across the map and in an exploration of new and fantastical biomes. All in a day's work for your average adventurer, right?! 

Pre-generated Character Sheets

Critical Core comes with 8 illustrated character sheets designed with everything players need to jump right in. The simple layout is rich with content acting as a players guide and a character sheet all in one.

CC_Fighter_Character_450.png        CC_Fighter_Character_pg2_450.png

Module Maps

Maps for game-play are in the module and also in separate files so you can easily use the maps in your digital game space.

World Map

An ultra high resolution printable map of Toverus - the world of Critical Core. You'll find lots of details that will spark your imagination if you want to build your own adventures.


Additional Resources

Critical Core also includes additional tools available to help improve engagement at the table such as: Spell Cards, Monster Cards, and Ability Cards, and Printable Game Tokens. Everything that you need to play and more!


How does Critical Core benefit Autistic youth?

Role-playing games have inherent benefits. The social nature of the game strengthens relationship skills, and the open structure offers a safe and rewarding sandbox to test new ideas and interactions. Critical Core takes this a step further by providing a specific set of tools for facilitators to guide the process with adapted game mechanics so they can be easily picked up by new players, parents, and therapists.

The 'adventure' content and in-game scenarios that players will experience in Critical Core have been tuned to reinforce specific developmental capacities we call the Core Capacities: Regulation, Collaboration, Planning, Perspective, and Pretend Play. These are the building blocks to social flourishing. 

Can you provide a specific example of benefits?

Players may find their characters in a situation requiring them to escape from a collapsing cavern. To escape they will need to work together and communicate to solve the problem: Two players may need for their characters to lift a boulder together while a third player props the passage open. This simple interaction stretches the skills of social problem solving and multi-causal thinking.

In another case, players may encounter an in-game character (role-played by the game master/group facilitator) who is asking for help but seems to be acting nervous, as if they know more than they are letting on. To effectively respond to the situation and uncover the mystery, players will need to flex their abilities to identify, understand, and respond to the character’s verbal and nonverbal communication. While there is no wrong answer there are a multitude of ways to solve these puzzles and problems! Critical Core is neurodiversity affirming and is not designed around neuronormative “rules”. 

Critical Core empowers players to grow friendships and develop sense of self over time. As they engage in relational social play, Critical Core's developmental model provides a safe and affirming space for building social confidence and the ability to flourish socially on their own terms. 

Is Critical Core aligned with established autism intervention methodologies?

Yes! The methods underlying the Critical Core system are built on established frameworks. Critical Core's development team is trained in and informed by narrative therapy, drama therapy, and humanist family systems therapies, along with the DIR/Floortime model developed by ICDL.

Has Critical Core been tested or proven effective?

The benefits of role-playing games towards social and cognitive capacity-building are clearly documented. The methods underlying Critical Core have been used as a framework in human research studies, and tabletop RPG-based therapies have been applied with great success.

What groups are suitable for Critical Core?

We recommend players begin their role-playing journey around cognitive age 9, and play for their entire span of development thereafter. More experienced game masters may decide to adapt the material to be age-appropriate for younger audiences. In terms of number of players, we recommended the ratio of 3-4 players to one caregiver (parent, teacher, or therapist) who will play as the game master.

Is this the first time role-playing games have been used as therapy?

The use of games and tabletop role-playing games in therapy and education has been studied, researched, and put into practice by several individuals and organizations over the years. Critical Core is, to our knowledge, the first role-playing game kit designed and adapted for use as an  alternative to traditional social skills groups.

Is Critical Core only for kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Not at all. Critical Core is not only a great general introduction to tabletop gaming but also a superb tool to support progress toward a wide range of social and developmental goals.

What's the difference between Critical Core and other role-playing games?

The rules and game mechanics have been adapted for easy adoption by players, parents, and therapists. While all role-playing games have an inherent benefit to social skills, Critical Core adheres to specific guidelines and established best practices for mapping in-game challenges to developmental goals, responding to and managing issues at the table, and supporting players to maximize the benefits of intentional gaming.

Why not just use an existing role-playing game system like ______?

In the hands of an experienced game-master and trained professional, almost any game system can be adapted for use as a therapy. Critical Core simply makes adoption easier. Once the group is ready, the tools, techniques, and participation structures in Critical Core's Facilitator's Guide can even be adapted to other game systems, supporting more experienced players and game masters to gain therapeutic benefits from nearly any tabletop role-playing game. 

What is needed to play the game?

The digital kit has almost everything you need. You'll also need a set of 7 dice frequently associated with tabletop role-playing games—ideally a set for each player and the game master. You may also benefit from using an erasable "battlemat" to track certain parts of the game. If you're playing the game over video chat programs or a Virtual Table Top platform, you may need to utilize an online dice roller, or encourage players to bring their dice to their own desk or table surface, otherwise the Critical Core Base Game - Digital Edition contains all that you need!

I’ve heard this supports a good cause?

Critical Core is designed and sold by Game to Grow, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the use of games of all kinds for therapeutic, educational, and community growth. Not only does your purchase of Critical Core bring a wonderful game into your home or community, but it also supports the mission of Game to Grow, improving the lives of everyone through games.

Join into the fun and growth of Critical Core today!

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (0)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Richard M February 14, 2024 1:04 pm UTC
I really enjoyed the Facilitator’s Guide. It fills a gap in the GM book universe that deserves more attention.

- Handling situations that may be emotionally charged.

- Getting players to collaborate in the world building processes.

- Creating useful pauses so players can think through their options.

- Thoughtful ways to use “you” and “your character”.

- Strategies for framing disappointing rolls and turning them into satisfying role playing experiences.

And so much more.

I’d love to read more books like this that help me create memorable and engaging experiences at the table.

Customer avatar
stephen G January 16, 2023 11:55 pm UTC
Love the world map. I'm not sure what you mean by "intentional gaming" ?
Customer avatar
ATİLLA B January 16, 2023 5:29 pm UTC
Were the character sheets designed by HP in a ploy to deplete ink cartridges? Who thought of making one-third of a page entirely black? Seconded the preview.
Customer avatar
Twyla H January 28, 2023 12:25 am UTC
They have the downloadable character sheets available on their website, so you can see them. There is a "print friendly" version included as well, and it has something akin to a marbled effect along the edge instead of black =)
Customer avatar
Ralph T January 14, 2023 7:22 pm UTC
Please provide a preview.
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File Last Updated:
October 05, 2022
This title was added to our catalog on September 29, 2022.
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