Over on Abulia Savant, my friend Don Mappin (who’s also in my gaming group, and is a longtime GM) posted a constructive rant about the underpinnings of yesterday’s TT post on player skills: What Do I Expect?
In a nutshell, Don suggests that focusing on a single “skill” — having fun — would be better for the gaming hobby as a whole. It’s a great counterpoint, and his perspective is an interesting one.
When it comes to players and GMs alike, I agree that passion for the game and the ability to have fun — and to be fun to have fun with — trump all other concerns.
I also see value in dissecting elements of both passion and having fun to find out how to best leverage that passion, and have more fun. Those camps aren’t incompatible for me.
In fact, I see three angles on this issue (so far): Joshua’s original list, which is heavy on RPG theory; Don’s rant, which puts fun over theory; and yesterday’s TT post on player skills, which is somewhere in the middle. That’s fertile ground for discussion!
What do you think?
I had some time to think about this, and I realised that there’s one very good reason for a GM to know their player’s skills in various areas.
If a GM knows what their players are good at and what they are not so good at, then they can tailor adventures to the player’s strong points. (Note that this is not the same as tailoring to their likes. A player may love combat without been that good at strategy and tactics)
As an example, my players are quite bad at mysteries. They always seem to overlook the subtle clues and have trouble putting them together. Hence, if I do a mystery adventure, I have to make sure that the clues are quite obvious, and that the mystery isn’t that hard to solve.
If I don’t, then they get frustrated because they can’t work out what’s going on, and I get frustrated cause my adventuer’s giong to pieces, and we all go home upset.
Ack! Your crazy Preview-then-Post comment thingy confused my simple brain! Now I have to remember what I said…
Mostly, I just explained that “Having Fun” is not on the list because I wouldn’t consider it a skill. If we were going to go play baseball, we very well may have fun, but we’d have fun doing the other things — running, hitting the ball, catching, throwing, keeping score — that baseball requires. Having fun is an emergent property, not a skill in and of itself.
Having fun is certainly important — it’s the whole point, after all! We do lots of different things to have fun — the point of the list is to try and identify those things that we do, so we can have more fun doing them.
I posted this at the site you linked but I’ll drop it here for the lazy too:
“Weâ€™re working so hard to try to build the perfect gaming experience by making sure our campaigns are perfectly crafted, our systems model everything we need, and that our players are comfortable setting the proper â€œstakesâ€ that itâ€™s akin to trying to create the perfect snowflake; it doesnâ€™t exist. When you do find it, itâ€™s not through painstaking research, categorizing your players into personality silos, or spending 12 hours on game prepâ€¦itâ€™s through happenstance and the magic that takes place at the table. The magic that you could not have possibly foreseen.”
I think youâ€™re wrong. Not on the entire point of your rant. I think youâ€™re dead on that the point of our hobby is to have fun and by too much theory and not enough practice we can loose sight of that. But with this last part youâ€™re essentially saying â€œThereâ€™s no point to theoryâ€ And thatâ€™s where I have to disagree. Thereâ€™s ALWAYS neww stuff for me to learn out there as a GM and there ARE definable things that we can study to make our games better. Knowing those things (including knowing our players and tailoring our games to them) is a good way to improve.
That being said, as in all other things thereâ€™s a proper balance and chances are, making up a report card with the 64 player skills for each of your players to fill out about each of your other players, then compile and hand back to each player so they can â€œimprove themselvesâ€ is a bit too far on the â€œtoo farâ€ side. On the other hand, if you, as a player, want to read that list, identify a few things to work on personally, and try to improve, that would be fine. Like so many other things, moderation is the key.
GilaMonster: That’s one of the reasons I like the idea of using the list as a GMing tool — because it gives you a way to figure out what to avoid, and what to highlight.
Joshua: That’s a tough one. I agree that “having fun” isn’t technically a skill, but it’s close — and in this case, I think it’s close enough for all practical purposes.
I’ve added a warning line to the preview page — I hope that helps! That “preview, then post” interface acts as a low barrier to spammers, and it also gives everyone a chance to proofread their comments.
When I comment on other blogs — many of which don’t have a preview option — I really miss it. 😉
Rick: It sounds like you and I are on the same page about the value of theory in moderation, and as a teaching tool. Preach on!