#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 11: "EXAMINE"

"Steal with pride!" is an adage at my current workplace. It doesn't mean that we should illicitly take anything from somebody; rather, it means that if someone at our company has done something that you think might work for you, absolutely take it and use it in your own area.

In business-speak, such things get labels like "Best Practices", "Lessons Learned", "Improvements" or "Innovations." And they all mean examining what has that has already been done, and making it your own so that what you do is more effective.

Monte Cook Games' Your Best Game Ever book was created to support this very idea. It takes hundreds of years of combined game experience by his team and his guest writers and condenses it into a consumable book of really good advice for new and experienced gamers, and for both players and GM's. And it's not specific to any system...it just presents general ideas and encourages its readers to take those ideas, use them, and make them their own.

But while I really like the book, and the concept behind it, I have also paid attention to interesting setting concepts, mechanics, playstyles and themes and I've stolen with pride for my own games.

Some of these include:

Other means of experiencing collaborative storytelling
In QAGS (Quick Ass Game System), you have "yum yums" (candy tokens) which as a player you can use to temporarily take control of the narrative. I mentioned earlier this month that I had played a "Jonny Quest" game, and it was fun. But I really got the idea of this concept the following year when the game had a superhero theme. We were in a parking garage, looking to commandeer a vehicle for our large group. I got inspired and asked the GM if there was, perchance, a stretch Prius with the keys in it. A couple pieces of candy later, and yes by golly there was. We were going to find a car, or we were going to get where we were going in some other way. But as a player, I got to take control, and get us there in style.

Other ways of doing initiative
Handling combat sequencing is a hassle. Six players, four factions of monsters, people holding their action...managing initiative and player turns can be a major hassle...and I've seen many people try to address it.

One company created a specialized product that let me arrange tokens on a board, and move a marker based on whose turn it was. Much better than a sheet of paper, because I didn't have to write anything out. But still slow and error-prone.

The Mayhem RPG has an initiative circle. Your character goes on the circle based on speed, then each action you take advances you along the circle. Your huge attack might cost your 6 spaces, so you wouldn't go until six "ticks" on the circle. Your stiletto might have a speed of 2, which means you'd go every other "tick." It was easy, innovative, and encouraged you to try different things to balance speed and effect.

Shadow of the Demon Lord had the concept of Fast and Slow actions. Fast actions always go first but are limited in how complex they can be. Slow actions go next but can include more things. Initiative is fast players around the table, then fast monsters, then slow players then slow monsters. This is elegant and easy to track.

My preference seems to be for round the table initiative, with monsters going either early, in the middle, or at the end, but otherwise proceeding clockwise from whoever chooses to go first.

Different types of encounters
At my own home table, we have three GM's who run for a period of months. I've run for years, and have the way I do things...and I've found that my stories and my encounters are NOTHING like what the other two do. I tend to use small groups or big mobs; one of the other GMs tends to use lots of little mobs, and another uses staged events so that there are multiple waves of things showing up. Each style has its own challenges and is fun for different reasons. I've tried to adapt some (but not all) of my encounters to bring in some of those other elements.

The list goes on: highly cinematic vs highly tactical games, Rule heavy vs rule light, popular games and indie games...and I've enjoyed them all. And one thing that I do for each game is to examine the experience and ask "Why is this fun, and is there anything I could use to make the game more fun for my players?"


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