Enhancement Workshop at Langkawi

24 July 2017 | Hisham | | Teaching

If you had asked me 10 years ago or so, I would say my new experiences will be declining gradually the older I grew. There would be less chances for me to do new things. I am pleased to report that I was wrong.

In the last year or so I have been involved in a number of things I never thought I would be involved in with regards to my professional life.

At the ferry terminal with Bazli

Last weekend I accompanied the entire language department for an Enhancement Workshop.

The workshop was held at a hotel on Langkawi Island. It had been some time since I was at Langkawi and we have not been there since moving to Perlis.

The Kuah Ferry Terminal

The ferry ride took an hour and they played a Jackie Chan movie on the cabin screens. I think there was a lion in a sports car or something? I fell asleep en route as the movie was playing.

I pretended the islands were large asteroids

I had forgotten how breathtaking the islands were as we come in to dock. Photos do not do the view justice when the ferry moved between them.

Everyone's TOO happy

The hotel was located at Cenang Beach. A bus was chartered to transport us from the town of Kuah to Cenang Beach.


Force and Destiny: Jungle in the Sky

17 May 2017 | Hisham | | RPG Actual Play, RPG Teaching Plays, Role Playing Games, Star Wars, Teaching

I was finally able to run another role-playing game session for my students for an English Language speaking exercise, the first for this semester. Probably no other games will be run because it is already quite late in the semester for other sessions. Students will be concentrating on their finals.

Although it was technically a Force and Destiny game, we had character types from Edge of the Empire too, thanks to the Legends of the Galaxy pregenerated character sheets.

Blue and red title card?

Force and Destiny:

Jungle in the Sky

across the Empire! Thousands of
suspected rebel agents have been
rounded up and imprisoned by
secret prisons across the galaxy.

        Many innocent citizens have disappeared
because of the Empire's evil wrath,
from the DURO system.

With little time to spare,
the REBEL ALLIANCE has sent
an extraction team to the
south pole of the planet CANTO BIGHT
to rescue the senator...


Bobo Inbound

A Lambda-class T4 shuttle dropped out of hyperspace and an asteroid the size of a mountain stood in its path. The pilot Malea - a Jedi Warrior/Starfighter Ace - was able to swiftly dodge out of its way (thanks to Enhance power that boosted Piloting - Space skill with a Force die). Her passengers, Byt the Twi'lek Technician/Outlaw Tech, Koogik the Rodian Explorer/Big Game Hunter, Merick the Zabrak Jedi Guardian/Armorer, Salporan the Wookiee Technician/Outlaw Tech and Vonnick the Gand Bounty Hunter/Survivalist were nonplussed by the event and went back to whatever they were doing.

Meanwhile the planet Canto Bight shone like a beacon beneath them.

The projector is busted though. Everything is yellow.

There was a Star Wars crawl, but no music because of technical difficulties.

Traffic control contacted them and Salporan answered them in his native Shryiwook language, telling them that the shuttle Bobo requested permission to land at the southern region of the planet. (For some reason, even with the Setback dice the Deception worked.)

Arrival at Ketri Hill

The Bobo flew toward a small with a landing field called Ketri Hill. The shuttle landed and the team disembarked into the frigid morning air, their breaths billowing visibly and blown away by a light wind.

A stormtrooper approached them as they were about to leave the landing field. He said, "Halt! Civillians are not usually allowed to land here. What is your business here?"

Merick stepped forward and told him that they were expected and invited by the Governor here. (Another successful Deceit check with Setback die!) The armoured trooper stepped aside and told them, "Welcome to Ketri Hill. Enjoy your stay."

After they were alone, they considered their first move, which Vonnick immediately insisted to be looking for food. He quickly took the lead and led the team on a merry chase throughout Ketri Hill streets. He came to a stop at a Gand street vendor and started digging in. (Success in Streetwise with...) However the food was inedible for non-Gands, toxic even (...some Threats).

Amani as Byt, Faeezah as Koogik, Nailah as Malea, Adha as Merick, Saiful as Vonnick, Ridzuan as Salporin

The students with their character sheets wonder what in the world is their teacher up to.

"Sorry, guys," said Vonnick as he slurped his soup through a hole in his mask.


Tabletop Games Expo at UniMAP

15 April 2017 | Hisham | | Board and Card Games, Role Playing Games, Teaching

After almost two years in Perlis, there arose an opportunity to host a tabletop game exhibition here at the university. Gray and Ben both gamers I knew and interacted with online back in Kuala Lumpur were planning a KakiTabletop Northern Tour which would take them from KL to Taiping to Prai to Penang to Perlis and back down to Ipoh before returning to the Klang Valley.

We thought it would be great to hold a tabletop gaming exhibition to introduce tabletop games - boardgames, card games and role-playing games - to the students of this university and the local community. If you remember I even once ran Mini Six for one of my classes last semester as a speaking exercise.

Welcome to the PFI1 college

We were assigned Seminar Room 1 of Tunku Abdul Rahman Residential College.

After proposing the event to the Centre for International Languages, we had the green light to go ahead. With the help of colleagues, we scheduled the Tabletop Games Expo at UniMAP to be held last Friday.

First on the scene

Ain, Irfan and Faezan helped to organise the seminar room before the KakiTabletop crew arrived.

LibreOffice Impress

Meanwhile, I prepped the laptop, projector and the presentation slides.

Darren's ships

We also arrayed the exhibits on the table, like these Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game pieces.

High fantasy and espionage

Here are my complementary copies of BareBones Fantasy and Covert Ops, both RPGs published in a digest-format by DWD Studios.

Most of what I brung?

A range of RPG books and boardgames I brought. Not much, but regular blog readers might recognise a number of them.


Some Sort of Translation Workshop

28 October 2016 | Hisham | | Teaching

Then it came to pass that I have to present a talk at the department's inaugural Basic Translation Workshop. Public speaking is not something that comes to me easily. Despite all the training afforded to be by over 25 years of gamemastering, it still affects me negatively as I was extremely introverted growing up. I did not know whether it felt more harrowing about to give a talk to strangers... or to people I know, such as my fellow workmates here in this case.

The title font is Faktos

After several days burning the midnight oil producing the slides and rehearsing, it was time for me to dive into the deep end of the pool. I was creating new slides less than 30 minutes before the talk was scheduled to begin! And I would not have be able to do it without the help, suggestions and support of my colleagues in our Translation and Language Service Unit.

I have no idea what I'm doing

Naturally because I was the one on point, the presentation just had to involve a couple of Star Wars and Star Trek references as I talked, organised exercises and brief group competitions. After over two hours on my feet - actually another two hours even before we started - I was done! I hoped the participants were able to absorb some of the theories and anecdotes that I shared to help them understand the intricacies of translation between Bahasa Malaysia and English.

I suppose I can do this presentation this again... and give a talk to scary strangers next.


Mini Six: Shadows Through The Mist

13 October 2016 | Hisham | | RPG Actual Play, RPG Teaching Plays, Role Playing Games, Teaching

I have always stated that tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) can be amazing teaching tools, not only for language purposes but to develop critical thinking skills, social skills and general knowledge. Yesterday, I finally ran a game in an English for General Purposes class to see the students could be engaged enough for them to communicate with each other and me without being shy.

The players at the table

The horror begins!

The Setup

Seeing that polyhedral dice were rare in these here parts, I thought I would run a game that used the ubiquitous six-sided dice. Thus, AntiPaladin Games' Mini Six was chosen. Besides, the system is based on West End Games' D6 system which runs the Star Wars RPG which I have been familiar with for the last 26 years.

The previous week the students and I had agreed to participate after briefly explaining to them what the game is, how it would be played and what my intentions were. Six of them volunteered to be Player Characters (PCs) while the rest would be able to observe and give suggestions to them as they played. I would become the gamemaster (GM) and pregenerated characters would be provided to the players.

I thought I would create a setting riffing off The Mist and Silent Hill because I had no idea how familiar the students were with genre tropes. A mystery setting with lethal monsters might provide enough motivation for the players.

I also played the video above that I quickly made with OpenShot Video Editor.

Shadows Through the Mist

Episode 1


At The End of the First Week

09 September 2016 | Hisham | | Teaching

And now the first week of teaching is over.

Before the storm.

What do I have to report?

The students are well-behaved (so far) and are very disciplined, most wearing their dark engineering jacket uniforms. They adhere to procedure quite well to, even if registering for classes seemed to be a haphazard affair. They spent little time appointing a class representative among themselves. And the class reps were easy to communicate with via smartphone messaging apps.

I was quite apprehensive of presenting the module to the students, especially in trying to get the lessons delivered relevant to each class's course as each class belonged to a different engineering or business course, and I had to customise the delivery and how I presented examples to each class. And my gamemastering experience also helped, I believe.

Ultimately I discovered that the key to a good lesson presentation is to brush up one's stand up comedy skills.


And Then You Teach

05 September 2016 | Hisham | | Recent News, Teaching

When you were a child, you always imagined - no, been compelled to believe - that life is a series of consequent acts that scales up as you experience it. You would expect pieces of your future would fall into place like a linear jigsaw puzzle that solves itself as you grow older.

For example if you started out as a young technician perhaps you would advance into becoming an engineer and perhaps end your professional career as a top level manager or even a CEO of an engineering consultant firm. But on the other hand here I am at 43 and my jigsaw puzzle consists of a collection of discarded pieces from a hundred totally different puzzles.

Throughout my four decades (plus change) of life I have been a extremely short-lived manufacturer and seller of bookmarks, a helicopter technician, a translation company executive, an IT company marketer, a freelance writer, a research assistant, a freelance proofreader, a children books' illustrator, an IT executive, a freelance illustrator, an avionics company techincal manager, a graphic designer, a university translator, a comic artist, a photographer and a language instructor.

Two things: Firstly, my professional life is apparently a series of unfortunate, unconnected, unresolved events, much like a number of the RPG campaigns I have run. And secondly, two of the jobs in the list above are a lie as I have never worked in any of these two job titles. Can you guess which?

Instead of having to ride a bike on a remote road in the early hours of the morning only to face off with a entire family of wild boars once upon a time, I am faced with the following view en route to work now:

Atmospheric, no?

Instead of driving all over town in the middle of the night to get a piece of tech repaired by an engineer who is only in the country for a single night before I had to fly to another country with the tech, I have to meet these humans now and try to teach them stuff:

Pitter patter of... something.

I am still insanely vexed at how I have arrived here, teaching these university students English. Will I succeed? Will I instead produce a new generation of twisted thinkers?


We'll find out if they come for me with a straitjacket before the semester is done.

Update: The report at the end of the first week of teaching has been posted.