Courses across the curriculum at Franklin & Marshall use Reacting to the Past games, which are immersive, role-playing, strategy games focused on historical turning points.

In these activities, students are assigned character roles with specific goals and must communicate, collaborate, and compete to advance their objectives. Reacting to the Past promotes engagement with big ideas, and improves intellectual and academic skills. This spring, when students and professors had to leave campus because of the pandemic, professors found that the excitement and connection of Reacting to the Past continued online.  

We are pleased to offer you a sample of Reacting to the Past at Franklin & Marshall. These one-session mini games give first-year students an idea of how Reacting to the Past works in class and online.

This video is an example of students playing a Reacting to the Past game in class at Columbia University (4 minutes):  
Reacting to the Past: The Student Perspective (2012)

Schedule and Discussion Descriptions 

Click on the event title to register:


Amelia Rauser: 1791: The French Revolution: Wednesday, June 3, 4 p.m.


Alison Kibler: The Fate of John Brown, 1859: Thursday, June 4, 3 p.m.


David Ciuk: The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic: Monday, June 8, 4 p.m.


1791: The French Revolution

Professor: Amelia Rauser

The Bastille has been stormed, and the king is a virtual prisoner in the Tuileries Palace. Now what? Should our new constitution retain the monarchy? Free the slaves and give everyone the right to vote? Or go back to the old ways? Watch out: if you make a wrong move, the crowd may riot and some of you may lose your heads—literally.


The Fate of John Brown, 1859

Professor: Alison Kibler

When law collides with a moral code (a higher law), which should be obeyed?  Can a political system riven by seemingly irreconcilable conflicts and divisions survive? These are the core questions you will debate as you take part in a fictitious trial of the abolitionist John Brown, after he gathered a small force and attacked the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. He had planned to use the weapons at the arsenal to distribute to slaves to liberate themselves. His plan failed. Most of Brown's men died or were quickly captured. Now John Brown is wounded and awaiting trial. How should he be punished? You decide.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic

Professor: David Ciuk

The Articles of Confederation created a weak national government.  Individual states have all the power, and each state's political leaders are selfish.  They need resources to solve their state's problems, but some problems are bigger than any one state (defending the nation from foreign attack, for example), and no one is willing to budge.  How do you build a new government that gets self-interested people together and working for the good of the nation? As a delegate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it's YOUR job to figure this out.  You represent your interests, and you represent your constituents' interests.  However, there are dozens of you --all of your interests, and all of your constituents' interests, are different.  It's not easy to get a bunch of "egoists" on the same page to solve big problems, especially when people can't even agree on which problems are worth solving.  Can you figure it out?