better gaming through chemistry





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  1. #1
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    better gaming through chemistry

    as a game designer, i've had hundreds of debates internally at AEG about what sorts of books would sell, etc.

    i've had conversations with gamers at conventions, game stores, parks, and dark alleys where bootleg pdfs are sold and bartered for cheap knock off mountain dew.

    in all this time, i've never seen a book for PLAYERS that gave advice on how to be a better PLAYER

    there are dozens, nay hundreds, of books, essays, articles, and advice columns for being a better DM. the list is nauseating to look at. no one person's advice is entirely withour merit, but no one book ever challenges the PLAYERS to up their game

    and when i say UP their game i'm not talking about looking for better cheats, buffs, or min-max combos.

    i'm talking about adding to the enjoyment of the game, not detracting from it. helping the DM tell a better story, not make the DM an advesary.

    knights of the dinner table exists not only as an satire of gaming, but also an allegory of those kinds of gamers who walk around saying... my DM is always trying to screw me... well... you might be right that your DM sucks and you might want to stop gaming with him until he gets better... but you might want to consider that ADVERISTY and CHALLENGES are at the root of all story and myth

    without challenge, there's nothing to write about or do...

    PCs that need to do max damage every round should go the way of the dinosaur and not be rewarded with book after book of broken feats and classes from mongoose and the pdf du jour.

    there's a few more things to touch on here, in the vein of book publishing style, but i'll let someone else chime in before i suggest a new method of presenting information in books.

    - jim pinto
    (fluidsum.blogspot.com)
    author of the World's Largest Dungeon, Ultimate Toolbox, King for a Day, and more

  2. #2
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    I have ni idea if I would buy such a book (I mostly DM), but your suggestion is--if nothing else--unique as far as I'm aware.

    I am intrigued


    "...show me a game where the roleplaying involves deep emotional experiences and making tough decisions in-character and experiencing vicarious unpleasantness and, generally, all the stuff that people like Ron Edwards insist is the very heart of roleplaying without which the activity has no meaning and is so much wasted time, and I'll show you me leaving the room..."

    ---Stephenls; RPG.net Moderator---

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    I think it is a good idea and you are right there are no books like this. The closest is mechanic books that just help the player make more effecient characters and do max damage. I'd love to see something like this

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    Wow, what a great idea.

    I too mostly dm, but I might buy this book just to let would-be players read it.
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  5. #5
    The idea is intriguing. However, I wonder if the skills needed to be a good player are as specialized as those needed to be a good DM? Playing is generally easier.

    Looking to the creepy player thread on RPG.net, it seems like a lot of bad players are bad because of socialization problems or even mental illness... Otherwise, RPG players are a pretty tolerant lot.
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    I think the major problem you'll find is that defining "good player" wil be a bit more slippery than defining "good GM".

    The GM's role in the game is highly service-oriented. The GM's job is to provide something for the players, and one canmeasure his or her success by how much the players like the offerings.

    The player's role, traditionally, is not quite so service-oriented. While playing is a cooperative endeavor, the player's role is a bit more centered upon themselves, and that makes grading their performance a bit more difficult.

    In addition - one of the things that marks a great GM is flexibility of playstyle. A really good GM can satisfy munchkin and dramatic angst-bunny alike. But right in your original post, you approach it like one of these styles is not as good as the other. Your bias is showing.

    The number one thing you'll have to understand before you can write a successful book is the relative nature of "good". Until you can show that a good powergamer and a good dramatist are both good players in their own styles, you're doomed to fail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran
    I think the major problem you'll find is that defining "good player" wil be a bit more slippery than defining "good GM".

    The GM's role in the game is highly service-oriented. The GM's job is to provide something for the players, and one canmeasure his or her success by how much the players like the offerings.

    The player's role, traditionally, is not quite so service-oriented. While playing is a cooperative endeavor, the player's role is a bit more centered upon themselves, and that makes grading their performance a bit more difficult.

    In addition - one of the things that marks a great GM is flexibility of playstyle. A really good GM can satisfy munchkin and dramatic angst-bunny alike. But right in your original post, you approach it like one of these styles is not as good as the other. Your bias is showing.

    The number one thing you'll have to understand before you can write a successful book is the relative nature of "good". Until you can show that a good powergamer and a good dramatist are both good players in their own styles, you're doomed to fail.
    excellent point.

    my bias is showing. but i don't believe munchkin players have anything to offer, and by default the DM is not obligated to offer him anything in return. he can go play zelda and be the antisocial power-gamer he wants to be against his xbox and not ruin anyone's fun... and here's where the problem lies...

    the DM can't be expect to:

    a) write a story
    b) detail NPCs, maps, locations, etc.
    c) administer the game (maintain the flow, know the rules, have everyone, involved)
    d) make things interesting

    AND

    e) put up with everyone's nonsense

    somewhere people have to bend to the DM. because if they're not bending to the DM, they need to start paying him for his time.

    the DM should have an equal vote about the tone and quality of the game, especially if he's bound by all these rules about how to run things for the PCs.

    and a good player, understands his role in this.... and if his role IS munchkin super power gamer, he needs to realize he doesn't get to be the center of attention all night. in fact, he's lucky if he gets to shine for longer than 5 rounds of the final fight of the evening.

    at this point, i should list the SEVEN types of gamers... these are, by marketing standards, the people you have to focus your product on when selling.

    Power Gamer. This is the guy who knows how to make the most with the least amount of rules. He knows that a gnome barbarian is the best combo for dealing maximum damage in a round, etc. He typically purchases books with more feats, equipment, etc.

    Combat Monkey. Different than than the power gamer, the combat monkey's character has one schtick that the player is particularly proud of. All of his energy goes into making the perfect chain fighter, etc. The character is effective in combat, but the main purpose of the character is to kick ass.

    Escapist. He's here to kill things, loot things, and generally just play. He wants to escape the rigors of the real world. His characters are one-dimensional and provide the game with nothing, but provide the player with the joy of killing stuff. He's just happy rolling dice.

    Storyteller. Typically also a DM, the storyteller is concerned with making sure everything fits together. He doesn't care about rules and generally doesn't even care if he succeeds at all his actions.

    Actor. Particularly devoted to character motivation, themes, mood, and drama. The actor creates characters that come alive at the table, but generally are less effective in combat. In battles, he tries to do things that the rules do not support. DMs have a hard time juggling this sort of player.

    Hanger-On. A friend of a friend. This person shows up to game because someone he knows games. He generally doesn't buy books.

    Casual Gamer. This is the guy who is inconsistent in showing up. He loves making characters, trying out new systems; playing asheron's call one week, and everquest another. He's buying pattern is unreliable.

    and of course, some people are combinations, but generally one trait stands out.

    the key, i think, is to make sure a book covers these elements and details how the PCs will get more OUT of the game, if they can adhere to these basic principles.

    and "good" isn't as relative as you may think.
    author of the World's Largest Dungeon, Ultimate Toolbox, King for a Day, and more

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran
    I think the major problem you'll find is that defining "good player" wil be a bit more slippery than defining "good GM".

    The GM's role in the game is highly service-oriented. The GM's job is to provide something for the players, and one canmeasure his or her success by how much the players like the offerings.

    The player's role, traditionally, is not quite so service-oriented. While playing is a cooperative endeavor, the player's role is a bit more centered upon themselves, and that makes grading their performance a bit more difficult.
    That attitude is the problem right there. If a player is self-centered, then they should seek a form of entertainment that best suits selfish play, such as MMO gaming.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim pinto
    in all this time, i've never seen a book for PLAYERS that gave advice on how to be a better PLAYER
    Well, it's not a dedicated book, but D&D for Dummies does address some of the issues you mentioned. Apart from role-playing advice scattered throughout the book (the "How to Play a Fighter/Rogue/Sorcerer/Cleric" sections in the chapters covering the four basic classes, for example), Chapter 21 addresses "Role-playing and Working Together").

    Still, a dedicated book on how to be a better player is a neat idea .

  10. #10
    I wrote a couple of essays on the subject for the newsletter of the RPG association at the university I was at at the time back in 1987. That's Entertainment and Leads and Excuses. I think some of them are floating around the 'Net somewhere.
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