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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gary Gygax's 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery – Mastery?

Gary Gygax took role-playing very seriously. This should not be a surprise since we’re talking about the man who co-created Dungeons and Dragons and what is now a billion dollar industry (there’s no World of Warcraft without D&D). He differentiates Role Playing Games (RPGs) from other games played to pass the time:

Many games are mere pastime activities, but RPGs are enjoyable pursuits of a sought-after nature and are hobby-like, rather than pastime creations aimed at filling an otherwise empty period of leisure. While some games are aimed at rainy afternoons or social gatherings that might bring boredom, role-playing games are designed for and should be played under far different circumstances. Participants engage in the play of such games because they have an active desire to do so. This is because the games of this nature provide them with fun, excitement, challenge, social interaction, and much more on an ongoing basis.

Gygax establishes RPGs at a ‘higher level’ than games such as Monopoly or Sorry. They are not something you do to pass the time. They are voluntary activities that players participate in for a continuing sense of fulfillment.
If you don't know what
this is about, you need
to do a little D&D
history research!

 He also makes a point that I feel is important: the cooperative nature of role-playing:

Role-playing games are contests in which the players usually cooperate as a group to achieve a common goal rather than compete to eliminate one another from play. Chess, board games, cards, and miniatures games all pit individuals or teams against each other. Role games, in contrast, bring players together in a mutual effort to have their characters succeed or at least survive against the hostile “world” environment.

Roleplaying games foster creativity, imagination and cooperation. If the party doesn’t work together, they usually don’t last long. I played “around a table” from middle school into grad school. After a long break from that type of RPGing (replaced with Pc games), I now play via message board (known as ‘Play By Post’) due to real life constraints. But it is still rewarding to work together to solve problems and vanquish foes. RPGs deliver that in excess.

Regarding Mastery, he says:

As it is with other kinds of mature amusements and diversions, so it is with role-playing games: The higher the level of play, the more enjoyable the game. Simply put, mastery of role-playing is not so much an effort toward individual excellence as it is a broadening of personal knowledge, contributing to social group activity, and increasing the fun and excitement that stem from superior participation. This is when role-playing becomes captivating. When you master role-playing, you become immersed in an activity that is peerless among leisure-time pursuits.

Mastery is achieved by understanding the game system, using it fully and correctly, excelling in operation within the system, and assuring that the experience is enjoyable for all the individuals concerned.

In other words, it’s not about you. It’s excelling at the game to increase the enjoyment of those playing with you. Back to cooperation. When you have a butthead in your group, it ruins the fun for nearly everyone because they are focused on their experience, not the group’s. Mastery should not make you a ‘Rules Lawyer’ who challenges the GM and other players on every point to show how much you know. Mastery should lead to a better played game. I like that focus.

Next up: Step One – Rules Study

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