Experience Point: New Faces = Great Ideas

My gaming group is what you might call “stable”. Our “new guy” has been gaming with us for 18 years. My best friend is somebody whom I’ve been playing RPG’s with for 30 years. Some might say we go beyond “stable” and verge on “stagnant”.

That could very easily have been true were it not for some of us venturing out of the group and returning with fresh ideas. The best places to go get those ideas are (IMHO) game days and gaming conventions. Oddly however I never had any desire for such things until I met ENWorld.

I joined ENWorld as 3e was launching and I’ve been here ever since. In the very early days it was my primary source for answering tricky rules questions. Hypersmurf was the unquestioned master of tricky 3e rules. And of course there were the awesome story hours that pulled me in, including those of Piratecat and Wulf Ratbane. Good times.

What gradually began to emerge for me was that these were people whom I not only wanted to know on a messageboard but also wanted to game with in person. First I started the NC Game Day by innocently asking, “Seeing as how they are having these things successfully in Boston and Chicago and since I see a lot of folks with NC locations, shouldn’t we do something similar?” The immediate response was, “Great idea, Rel! When’s that going to be?” I’m proud to say that we’ve got NCGD XXVII coming up here on February 2nd, 2013!

The NCGD has caught on well enough by this point that we jokingly call it “GenCon Jr.” I’m proud of that but I must admit that it does not draw nearly the numbers of folks you’ll find at GenCon. My first GenCon in 2005 was totally awesome, not because it was GenCon but because of the people I’d met in person and online from ENWorld. The community was the thing I wanted more than the event itself.

GenCon and the various game days I’ve hosted and attended are a huge part of why I still love gaming. These are events where I get a chance to try out games I’ve never played before and might never play again. Events run by REALLY good GMs who are masters of genres or techniques that humble me and delight me at the same time. I never, ever attend such an event without coming home with something new and awesome to try with my regular group.

I find that it is way too easy to get stuck in a rut otherwise. I mean yes, I can read about new games coming along and think, “Wow that’s cool. We should give that a try.” But nothing beats having it demonstrated by somebody who is very good at showcasing new games. I need to give specific shoutouts to Rodrigo Istalindir, Henry and Piratecat for really doing an amazing job of taking a new game and saying, “Here’s how this is different and awesome.”

It’s not just about new systems either. I adopt (aka steal) great GMing techniques all the time. I will never ever forget Piratecat running a Dread game where there was enough room for him to walk all the way around the table. Narrating that way is a fantastic way to get the players to focus on what you’re saying because you’re not just sitting still at the table. And in addition, him stopping behind you while you were trying to make a pull from the Jenga tower was just bloody unnerving!

There are countless other tips and tricks I’ve stolen from amazing GMs over the years and I’ve gotten to see some truly inspired play from great players too. Whenever somebody compliments me as a gamer, I’m quick to point out that it’s been a group effort.

This broad concept has ported over to my life outside gaming very easily, particular with regards to my business and some of the coaching techniques I use. There is this thing in coaching circles called a “Mastermind Group” that gathers people to brainstorm ideas, set goals and provide accountability. The first time I was ever formally part of one, it was run by a fellow gamer. Part way through, when we were taking a break, I said to him, “It’s fun watching you GM this group!” He commented that there was huge overlap in his skills as a GM and those needed to run such a group.

Since then I’ve started a small business mastermind of my own and it never fails to produce results. As the old saying goes, “None of us are as smart as all of us.” I see time and again the power of bringing smart, motivated, excited people together and engaging in group problem solving. Doesn’t that sound familiar? My gaming background helped me take to coaching like a duck to water.

It’s really liberating to know you don’t have to sit there and generate awesome ideas all by yourself. Going outside your normal life and groups to interact with new people and new systems is probably the single best thing you can do to keep your creativity and drive going. And it’s not just smart and productive. It’s incredibly FUN.

If you have never made it to GenCon or one of the local game days then make time to do so. I guarantee you’ll have a blast and come away with something new and awesome to share with those you regularly game with. And please take this opportunity to share here the cool techniques you’ve swiped from great GMs or players you’ve had the chance to game with. Just because I like stealing ideas in person doesn’t mean I won’t steal them from right here in this thread!
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Best thing I ever did as a player was move. I was an Army Brat, which meant I had to move every few years. Then came my post HS years, where I had to move to go to college & post-grad institutions. My gaming experiences broadened immensely: I went from playing D&D, Traveller, HERO (then called Champions), and TFT:ITL to learning at least the basics of over 100 different RPGs, including doing a couple of playtests.

The takeaway: do try other games; do play outside your group, even if its only for a day at a convention.

The best technique I ever used as a GM was listening to my players' table talk. I don't mean their PC actions or the "you'll never guess what happened THIS week" RW stuff, I mean the players' speculation about what is going on in the campaign. Because I found that it doesn't matter how smart or creative you are, when 4+ people start brainstorming about the options you've presented, they will, on occasion, come up with an angle you hadn't considered...and sometimes, it will out awesome what you have planned. Use it, and your game will improve because 1) you've upped your game's awesome quotient and 2) your players, thinking they have figured you out, will be more engaged...and actually, you're just ripping them off! ;)
 

Nytmare

David Jose
The best technique I ever used as a GM was listening to my players' table talk. I don't mean their PC actions or the "you'll never guess what happened THIS week" RW stuff, I mean the players' speculation about what is going on in the campaign. Because I found that it doesn't matter how smart or creative you are, when 4+ people start brainstorming about the options you've presented, they will, on occasion, come up with an angle you hadn't considered...and sometimes, it will out awesome what you have planned. Use it, and your game will improve because 1) you've upped your game's awesome quotient and 2) your players, thinking they have figured you out, will be more engaged...and actually, you're just ripping them off! ;)

That's something I thankfully stumbled into early as a DM, and I'd say that it's been my number one tool since.
 

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