Gaming Skills

edited February 2008 in Play Advice
Yes, there is shit that gamers need to be good at. Here are some of 'em. I'd like us to list with a small explanation for each but if it needs to get deeper than that please take it to another thread and please do link to that thread from here if ya please. Also, links to other techniques or AP examples of techniques in action are great.

Thanks!

Scene Framing: Setting up scenes that flow and not playing the scene before you play.

I.E. Yes to this: "In the next scene, you are at the door to the Sorcerer's sanctum and his demon is grinning at you."

And not: "I want to set up my next scene. I want to jab my dagger down that demon's throat, kick down the sorcerer's door and behead that bastard while screaming my now dead lover's name and trashing his most precious books!"

Organizing Friends to Meet: I honestly didn't realize this was a skill gaming taught me until I had to get people together for my girlfriend's birthday a month or so ago and it was just like gathering people for a game.

Pitching Game Ideas that Excite Friends: This is a big ole deal. Via e-mail or in person, it really is like an elevator pitch.

Constructing Situations that make for rich gaming: Examples: you are knights at a tourney all there to swear allegiance to secret society, orcs caught behind enemy lines in elvish lands, Naval investigators aboard a warship that is circling a top secret island known as Ry'leh, etc.

Finding good bangs on a player's character sheet: Looking at those character sheets and the NPC's the player infers and finding the hand-holds, like rock climbing.

Creating good opposition: I think back to my D&D games and how shitty I was at this.

Supporting another player by taking a back seat once in a while: We really can give another player a big boost, even by just knowing that they have the trait, BAD-ASS Swordsman and acting a bit in awe of their skill rather than being a flippant jerk.

Also just sitting back at times and letting the conflict that you know is important to a different character play out, while still having a part and adding your bits to the mix is a real balancing act, I think.

Being a proactive player: This has become synonymous with engaged and bought-in player to me but I find that this isn't everyone's experience. This one might become its own thread.

Others?

A touch more on any of these without any one becoming its own thread?

Comments

  • Engage with the other folks around the table: Listen to what the other players in a scene are saying, watch what they're doing, and engaged them viscerally on that level. Let what they do or say to your character affect you, and respond to it. Let other people see how they impact you, and try to impact them. (I see this as little different than

    Respond in the moment: When someone says or does something awesome, don't let your plans stop you from saying the obvious thing.
  • Also see for:
    * Kickers and Bangs
    * Flags
    * One-Sheet
    * Say Yes or Roll the Dice
    * Relationship Maps
    * Scene Framing
    * Conflicts and Conflict Resolution
    * Fishing AKA "The Mountain Witch Trick"
    * I'm Gonna Make You Awesome
    * Shocks, Issues, *tagonist, Praxis, Minutiæ and Links
    * A short summary of the PDQ system
    * Fanmail
  • I think listening deserves its own bullet point, personally. Just listening.
  • Compromise - being able to put your awesome game idea aside so that your friend who rarely volunteers to GM can run their awesome game idea

    Group Dynamic Management - looking at your group and seeing where the 'ouch' point is and quietly, calmly and effectively dealing with it. Introducing a new member to a group and easing their passage into being an accepted member of the group. Recognising changing life priorities within a group and dealing with them maturely

    Thinking On Your Feet - I think this is a wholly underappreciated gamer skill but how many of us can just spring stuff time and time again to keep a game going that is consistent, thrilling and worthwhile?

    Insta-Character - the ability to instantly create compelling NPCs for players and adopt their persona at the drop of a hat. This leads to my all time favourite gaming anecdote. I was at GenCon UK one year and the late Micheal Sheard was there. You will know him as Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Admiral Ozzel in ESB, but all Brits of my age know him as Mr Bronson from Grange Hill. Anyway, he perennially got involved in the LARPS that were held and he mentioned to a group of us that he was STUNNED that we could just be given a piece of paper with a few lines, a few numbers and maybe a paragraph of background on it and then, five minutes later, engage in a four hour long, 100 person mass improvised theatre production. He said that he knew actors who had been professionally trained who would baulk at such a challenge and yet we paid money to do it and did it effortlessly. Insta-Character.

    Neil
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI thinklisteningdeserves its own bullet point, personally. Just listening.
    Agreed!
    Posted By: vodkashokGroup Dynamic Management- looking at your group and seeing where the 'ouch' point is and quietly, calmly and effectively dealing with it. Introducing a new member to a group and easing their passage into being an accepted member of the group. Recognising changing life priorities within a group and dealing with them maturely
    This one is now its own thread.
  • Helping learn rules: I know Burning Wheel only because I had great players, namely Jim and Aaron who helped us all learn it better while we played. It was the table's committment to learning the game that helped us learn it and start to master it.

    Being the player who isn't involved in a scene who is willing to look up a rule is a big deal as is learning the rules concerning what your character can do so that you don't slow down the game.

    Obviously, this kind of stuff is a bigger deal with denser games ala BW, BE, 3.X, maybe Ars Magica
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI thinklisteningdeserves its own bullet point, personally. Just listening.
    Couldn't agree more.

    I had a player in a D&D game I ran who was great at listening in character. I'd describe something like, "an icy wind swirls down from the mountains to the north" and she'd shiver a little and pantomime drawing her cloak tighter around her throat or something. It was a nice, unobtrusive way of saying "I'm listening to and engaged in what you're describing" that I found very encouraging.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI thinklisteningdeserves its own bullet point, personally. Just listening.
    Agreed! I wrote a post about that last year, back when I was still bothering to blog.
  • Possessiveness needs to be in this thread somewhere. Like, "well, fine, you can LOOK for traitors on the ship but there aren't any - let's stick with my idea because I'm the GM, OK?"
  • Posted By: Ryan StoughtonPossessiveness needs to be in this thread somewhere. Like, "well, fine, you can LOOK for traitors on the ship but there aren't any - let's stick with my idea because I'm the GM, OK?"
    That sounds like a thread all its own.
  • Not Be Annoying

    -Rob D.

    P.S. - Hot sauce!
  • Posted By: Ryan StoughtonPossessiveness needs to be in this thread somewhere. Like, "well, fine, you can LOOK for traitors on the ship but there aren't any - let's stick with my idea because I'm the GM, OK?"
    Thread on this here.
  • Thanks, Thor.

    I added the following to the OP:

    Also, links to other techniques or AP examples of techniques in action are great.
  • Hmm, you know, my reaction to many of the items on this list is that in a perfect world, a well designed game should negate the need for these skills, or make them trivially easy, or at the very least spread the work around.
  • Posted By: cydmabHmm, you know, my reaction to many of the items on this list is that in a perfect world, a well designed game should negate the need for these skills, or make them trivially easy, or at the very least spread the work around.
    Another thread about this here.
  • I love the list so far.

    To it I'd add:

    Exposition and Description -- knowing when to use each, and how much, and WHY.

    Knowing Yourself -- because no game can give you what you want when you don't have a clue what you want.

    Understanding When It Does and Doesn't Matter -- did I say Al was a redhead? Does it mater? Oh wait, it does because you thought he was a stepchild?

    Motive, Goal, and Character -- because nothing fucks up a story (for me) as much as NPCs that are or do nothing other than advance the plot or push PCs in the most expedient, sardoodledum fashion.

    Pacing -- Just because you can cut to another scene now, should you? Just because you could kill the Duke now, is that what you want? (This one does get covered by mechanics, and well, sometimes -- but almost every game has some point where you have to take it into your own hands, and when you do, if you suck...)

    Letting Go and Having Fun -- Because when you're too busy trying to play better, you often play worse.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsLetting Go and Having Fun -- Because when you're too busy trying to play better, you often play worse.
    Oh dear god yes.
  • Wow, good fucking additions to the list, Brand. Holy shit.

    Knowing Shit: Man, having read a book on the crusades during your game about holy knights in a foreign land or even seen a videotape on the History Channel can be a great assett to the table. I love when my fantasy is informed and pushed into shape by reality.
  • The ability to support someone else's fun.

    Players are traditionally awfully good at pursuing their own fun; not so many are good at giving someone else space to pursue theirs. My very, very best players have always understood how to support another player's fun -- helping set up great in-character situations, playing along with someone else's riff: basically being enthusiastic about playing harmony/rhythm to someone else's solo.

    p.
  • Figuring Out When a Given Rule/Game Is Not Right For You and When You're Just Fucking It Up
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonFiguring Out When a Given Rule/Game Is Not Right For You and When You're Just Fucking It Up
    …and when it's just plain messed up in its own right.

    This is a really hard one to develop. I have a friend that I play boardgames with who is really quick to proclaim a game broken just because an element or strategy has proven strong once.
  • Which I suppose leads us to:

    Be Willing To Learn -- about the rules, about the other players, about whatever is important. I'm not saying you should accept homework, but sometimes the best thing you can do is be willing to give something a real try and actually see what it is rather than leaping to conclusion.
  • Posted By: Judd
    Organizing Friends to Meet:I honestly didn't realize this was a skill gaming taught me until I had to get people together for my girlfriend's birthday a month or so ago and it was just like gathering people for a game.
    I think this is the thing that I'm absolutely the worst at. I've only managed to get a full game together *once* in the last five months or so. (Aside from a handful of character/world generation sessions for an epic Sword & Sorcery campaign that never happened.) Similarly, it's nearly impossible for me to arrange a board gaming get-together outside the established days and hours at various stores around town. Heck, we have trouble getting our weekly improv troupe rehearsals regularly scheduled, and that's only half a dozen committed people.

    I know that this has all been discussed before, and we're all responsible adults and so forth, but dang. My gaming needs are not being satisfied, on a purely logistical level, and I'm at a total loss with regards to how to remedy the situation. This is something that I need to learn how to do better, and I suspect that I'm not alone.
  • Accept to reset your plans Know when and dare throw away any plans that are still in your mind only, keep what is already in-game, and restart from there. (Of course some thrown elements can re-integrate the new program if they really fit.)

    Play with expectations and genre conventions Respect them, break them, but wisely. (Especially, for players: don’t try to avoid trouble at all cost, you’ll get boredom. No trouble, no story.)
  • Posted By: Ajax AldwyneAccept to reset your plansKnow when and dare throw away any plans that are still in your mind only, keep what is already in-game, and restart from there. (Of course some thrown elements can re-integrate the new program if theyreallyfit.)
    I'd go a step farther with this.

    Don't make plans; plan situations: Make antagonists with goals and a situation that is a boulder on the edge of the cliff and the game begins as the players push the boulder down the mountain.

    The evil Sorcerer is going to do A, then B, then C and then D isn't my style.

    The evil Sorcerer is going to try to get the demon he is in love with to respect him, protect his tower with his minions and thwart the royal wedding is more to it.
  • edited February 2008
    Stance management: shifting between levels of attention to story, character, mechanics, and social dynamics

    And what about emotional management as a skill or set of skills? It's the skill that helps you figure out what to do when the game makes you or someone else in your group uncomfortable or insecure. I imagine people's lists of specific techniques for emotional management vary a lot, but off the top of my head:

    -Tracking butterflies across your stomach: figuring out what the real underlying problem is, e.g. what sort of stuff you and other players are projecting onto a situation. Also figuring out how to intensify a fictional situation emotionally.

    -Grounding and centering: being able to set aside whatever was nagging you in the previous point, so that you can be energetically present in the moment and speak / listen to whatever is actually going on, not what you're preoccupied with

    -The dirty accounting trick: when you feel uncomfortable for reasons that have more to do with your own background than with actual social dynamics, figure out a way to shift that discomfort onto your character so that you can express it in game and poke at it. Corollary: if I do something lame during game, it is not because I'm sucking as a player that night. My character is acting weird because something interesting is going on with her that we just don't know about yet.

    -Roleplayers are vaylen: learning how to enjoy consuming your character's negative emotions (yes, this is a learned skill. it has its own cultural history. and it complements the dirty accounting trick nicely)

    -Emotional labor: both being reassuring and helping other people troubleshoot their problems.
  • Posted By: Judd
    I'd go a step farther with this.

    Don't make plans; plan situations: Make antagonists with goals and a situation that is a boulder on the edge of the cliff and the game begins as the players push the boulder down the mountain.

    The evil Sorcerer is going to try to get the demon he is in love with to respect him, protect his tower with his minions and thwart the royal weddingis more to it.
    That's included in what I meant by plans. Accept to throw that away also. (The real difficulty is knowing when/why.)
  • This is a great thread. I don't have anything to add yet (you guys have covered a lot). Thanks for this.
  • Learn how to ask for what you want: don't hint, don't whine and wheedle, and don't just sit there like a grumpy dick and fume about it, just openly ask for the things that you feel you need for the story to work.
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