Monday, March 5, 2018

Let's Read: Role-Playing Mastery by Gary Gygax Part 1; Understanding Mastery and Role-Playing Fun (pgs. 11 - 23)

Gary Gygax begins the book with a simple question: why would anyone want to become a role-playing master? It's a question that he spends the whole introduction, and often revisits throughout the remaining text, trying to answer - and it's one that many of us today are still trying to answer in our blogs, tweets, facebook posts, tumblrs, and Instagram posts. Becoming masters of our preferred role-playing game promises us little. There is no widespread fame, there's little money to be made, and even less power. So why are we expending so much effort in attempting to become masters of our hobby?

Over the last five years I've found myself asking this question a lot as long time bloggers and friends move away from the hobby. Why are we spending so much time, money, and effort on this game that captures our imaginations and causes so many of us to put other things on the back burner? Gary Gygax argues was that we expend so much effort becoming master of role-players because it ". . . is not so much an effort toward individual excellence as it is a broadening of personal knowledge, contributing to the 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 . . ." (Gygax, 12). To a certain extent he's correct. This hobby does broaden our personal knowledge as we all spend countless hours researching the various topics that our games touch upon and becoming good at the hobby is good for our social circles. Where he falls short is when he adds the part about "contributing to the social group activity." It's a needless addition that doesn't explain why anyone would want to become a master role-player. We all contribute whether its through bringing drinks, coming up with good ideas, or telling off color jokes. Being there as an active participant of the group is contributing and it doesn't lessen your contribution if you're good at role-playing or not.

If Gary Gygax's answer to the question is only partially correct it begs the question: why do so many of us expend so much time, money, and effort to become masters of our hobby? 

I can not answer this question definitively for all of the other Game Masters, role-players, and gaming enthusiasts out there but the reason why I have become a better Game Master, and why I launched this blog, is because I find it personally fulfilling to become good at all of the creative aspects of the game. I love telling stories with my friends and creating situations that challenge my players. It's exciting to sit down at the table, pull out fantastic maps, and let my imagination wander down cavernous dungeons and to see my friends battling diabolic monsters. The creative side of the hobby is what captures my attention and that pushes me to become a master of it; and it's that creative side of things that I see driving the most notable members of our online community - the people that many of us would say are masters of the hobby. So yes what drives us all to become masters is the broadening of personal knowledge and all that other feel good noise, but it's also the way that it allows each of us to express ourselves creatively. 

After this discussion Gary Gygax explores what role-playing is and what it means to be a good role-player in the first chapter of the book. Largely it comes across as an answer to a lot of questions that we today no longer face. What is role-playing? Is it Satanic in nature? Will it give you brain damage?

Figure it out; fucking yeah; and I hope it does. 

Let's Read Role-Playing Mastery by Gary Gygax
Understanding Mastery and Role-Playing Fun (pgs. 11 - 23)
Master Players (pgs. 24 - 40) [live March 7, 2018]
Master Game Masters (pgs. 41 - 56) [live March 9, 2018]
The Group (pgs. 57 - 76) [live March 12, 2018]
Making and Understanding Rules to the Game (pgs. 77 - 103) [live March 14, 2018]
Research (pgs. 104 - 119) [live March 16, 2018]
Tactical Mastery (pgs. 120 - 137) [live March 19, 2018]
Designing the Game (pgs. 138 - 152) [live March 21, 2018]
Mastery and the Appendices (153 - 173) [live March 23, 2018]

In unrelated news I will be getting interviewed by DM Shane of The Greyhawk Channel on Twitch on Wednesday at 3:00 PM EST. If you'd like to hear me talking about silly elf games with a fun guy then come on by and join the stream. All I can promise you is that I'm going to have fun and you should totally join me and we can have fun together. AND maybe a baby. 

No promises. 

Below I have posted links where you can purchase a copy to read along if you would like. If you buy from the Amazon link I get a referral fee. It doesn't affect the price of the things you buy but it helps me buy things. So if you use it that's wonderful, but I would prefer you get the best deal no matter what else is going on. 

Barnes & Nobel (starting price $33.80 used)
Not available on !ndigo
Not available on
Not available on Wayne's Books
Amazon (starting price $38.95 for a new copy and $42.93 used)

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