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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to Win an RPG: the Player's Side


So, I've got ahold of a pre-release copy of Tenra Bansho Zero, a newly-localized Japanese RPG that's going into publication in January. Let me say this: it is phenomenal. As one RPG.net poster described it, it's a "best hits" of the past decade of RPGs, and it was made in 1997! (Well, there were a few updates introduced three years later, but the bulk of the game is still 15 years old.) There's something very early on that really caught my attention, though. In the opening to the game, it outlines a very simple idea: there is a way to "win" an RPG, and it has to do with making the experience great...

The Player Victory Conditions
This path to victory has two parts. One part is for the players, one for the GM. In this post, I'll be covering the players' path to victory. Here's the six victory conditions from the book, listed in order from most to least important:

  1. You had fun over the course of the session.
  2. You helped the other players to have as much fun as you had.
  3. You get the GM to say "That was cool!" or "That was great!" when you do something.
  4. You were able to encourage the other players and keep them involved.
  5. You took the opportunity to show off or express yourself.
  6. You helped create an interesting story.

(Thanks to Andy Kitowski for granting permission to reproduce this brief section from TBZ.)

There's some interesting things here. First, it's quite fascinating to notice that "make an interesting story" takes a far back seat to other considerations. Sure, it's up there, but building the drama isn't even a tertiary concern. What's more important is engaging the players. #1 and #2--having fun. You're out to have a fun time (because otherwise you really can't accomplish much in the game) and to help the players have fun.

It's also interesting to note that showing off for the GM's benefit takes precedence over showing off your character in general. If you do something flashy and cool and awesome that helps the GM enjoy the game, you're doing it right by these rules.

Finally, it's really cool how a lot of these rules support one another. You're supposed to encourage the other players, help them to have fun, and at the same time have fun yourself. This web of enthusiasm makes it really easy to impress the GM, and it lets you yourself show off. And what do you get in the end?

An awesome story.

Take this stuff to heart; it's subtly and implicitly baked into a lot of games, but it's all advice that becomes easy to take for granted. Maybe make it a concrete checklist for yourself, just to remind yourself exactly why you're gaming, again.

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