Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Five or So Questions on Your Best Game Ever

Hi all, today I have an interview with Monte Cook Games on Your Best Game Ever, a new project on Kickstarter that's brought together a variety of consultants to develop guides for the best tabletop game experience. I asked questions about Your Best Game Ever of Monte Cook, Darcy Ross, Sean Reynolds, Tammie Webb Ryan, and Bear Weiter, and I'm sharing their answers with you!

The Your Best Game Ever logo in red and orange tones

Tell me a little about Your Best Game Ever. What excites you about it?

Monte: This is a book that is for everyone, no matter what game you play. It’s a book that basically celebrates tabletop roleplaying. It talks about every aspect of the hobby, from hosting a game to finding a group to building characters and worlds for fun (and your friends’ fun).

Darcy: I’m thrilled that it will be a resource for literally anyone who is interested in RPGs. New folks just learning about RPGs, experienced players wanting to stream their game for the first time! One of my favorite things about RPGs is how many avenues of skills it brings together–there’s always room to become a better player, GM, and storyteller. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, however, so this book will make it easier by giving people hands-on tools and techniques to try out.

Tammie: As a relatively new GM, I’m excited about the concrete examples and recommendations that Your Best Game Ever will contain, which will help me–and all GMs, no matter their skill levels–be better at all aspects of creating and running a game.

Bear: As someone who gamed a lot during the 80s and early 90s, only to then step away from tabletop gaming for almost twenty years, I feel like there’s a big hole for me to fill to be where I should be as both a GM and player. And as the art director for Monte Cook Games, I’m extra-excited to work on this book and make it a beautiful item that people are proud to have on their bookshelves, coffee tables, and game tables.

An image with the Your Best Game Ever and Monte Cook Game logos that includes a list of all topics for players, GMs, everyone, and game designers
So many topics!
What are some of the awesome things we’ll see inside Your Best Game Ever? How is the book structured?

Monte: Basically, it’s divided into sections pertaining to everyone (picking the right game, finding a group, hosting games in-person and online, solving problems that can arise), players (creating an interesting character, working within the group structure, dealing with other players), GMs (building a world, creating an adventure, managing rules, running games) and aspiring game designers (making your own game, playtesting, marketplaces, selling and marketing your creation).

Darcy: A recent stretch goal just funded an accompanying video series, too, which will begin in early 2019! Multimedia goodness.

What are some qualities and bits of experience each of you are bringing to the project?

Darcy: I’m excited to bring to this project my experiences of being a relatively new gamer, a brand-new Twitch streamer, and my role as someone who works to welcome new people into the hobby. I’ve run 30-minute demos of Numenera for dozens of people who had never heard of an RPG before at a planetarium, and I’ve also brought acquaintances over for dinner parties to try it out. I can’t wait to make it easier for people to grow their local gaming community!

Monte: Well, I’m not exactly new to this. I’ve been writing rpgs for 30 years, and gaming for 40. I’ve written a lot of this kind of material, although most of it has been aimed at GMs, so I’m even more excited about the player-focused material, particularly because I feel like a lot of things that have traditionally been put on the GM, like dealing with player problems or conflicts. I think in actual fact such things are everyone’s responsibility.

Tammie: As I mentioned, I’m relatively new to GMing, so for the material dealing with running games, I bring a newcomers perspective.

Sean: I’m a few years behind Monte—gaming for almost 40 years, writing for about 25. I’ve played and run in many games with friends and strangers, at home and conventions and organized play, been the steamrolled player and done a little steamrolling, seen some great games and train wrecks, run games with published adventures and a ton of prep and completely off the cuff, and I’ve brought too many snacks and eaten the last of someone else’s favorite snack.

Bear: I can’t compete with most of my co-workers gaming experience in years, but I am a writer, and I know how to craft and pace stories. I’m also cognizant of some of my own bad habits, which I believe is important to look at and work on. And of course I’m bringing thirty-plus years of graphic design to the table to make sure the book is both beautiful and usable.

The Stay Alive! cover with the white silhouette of a person waving a torch in front of a large, multi-limbed dark and inhuman figure, and the text Stay Alive!, and the whole cover bordered by white silhouetted hands reaching in.
 The cover of The Stars Are Fire with the shape of a person in a space suit filled with illustrations of ringed planets and the stars.

I couldn't choose between the Stay Alive! and The Stars Are Fire covers for which one is the best looking, so we'll have to see which ends up the most useful!

What looks to be your personal favorite bit of the project, where you get to dig in and really see something you love about gaming shine?

Darcy: CHARACTER ARCS. Okay, deep breaths. One of my absolute favorite parts about running Invisible Sun has been the way it empowers, and in fact requires, my players to bring narrative to the table. One of the ways it does that is by linking character progression to Character Arcs that the player chooses, like Justice, Solve a Mystery, Romance, Finish a Great Work, or even Fall From Grace. As the character progresses along those arcs (whether successfully or unsuccessfully, for ultimate good or for ill), the player is rewarded with advancement currency for their character. I love that players come to the table with lots of ideas and momentum. Your Best Game Ever will include how to use this Character Arc system in any game system you might be playing!

Monte: I’m excited about a lot of it. I think the thing I’m most excited about it just approaching this from the point of view that rpgs are a group experience and so all the various issues and problems that might arise are for the group to deal with, not just the GM. Likewise, the understanding that a great player can have as much positive effect on the game as a great GM, and offering ideas and suggestions on how to be that great player.

Bear: The depth of the offering. This will be a significant book.

Significant books it looks like! There are now five books included when you back the I Want It All! level. If you have the funds, it's a pretty impressive collection!
What are some of the challenges and some of the bonuses of working with other consultants on a project that might bring to light differing opinions?

Darcy: There’s no one right way to game, and Your Best Game Ever embraces that, leading you to a host of advice, ideas, and tools to curate for your specific best gaming experience. Even so, the text is going to be one cohesive piece, but we wanted to make sure we’re not stamping out the unique voices of our experts either! To balance this, each consulting expert will weigh in on the text as a whole, and will have a short section all their own.

Monte: I’m the main author, but I’m just one person. I try to look at games from different directions and different expectations and perspectives (that’s just part of being a good game designer), but if we really want this book to be for everyone--and we do--we want to ensure that we have as many different experiences and points of view represented as possible. I’m thrilled that not only do I have the whole MCG team helping with this, but that we’ve assembled a great team of consulting experts who all bring their own perspectives and backgrounds to the project. Everyone involved is incredibly intelligent and talented, and I’m positive that each person will make this a better book.

Sean: I love hearing different perspectives on gaming. I’m lucky in that my regular gaming group is people I’ve known for years and like very much, but other people don’t have that luxury and may be sharing a table with a stranger or someone they don’t associate with outside of gaming. Hearing from the consulting experts is like sitting at a table with a bunch of skilled gamers I don’t personally know, like at a convention game—there’s an anticipation and excitement to see how the individuals mesh together into a group.

Even if I disagree with another person’s playing philosophy, I like to understand what they’re thinking and how they got there. It’s quite possible they might change my mind about how I want to play or run games, or they’d at least give me some perspective about how to interact with another player who thinks like they do. The trick to incorporating their ideas is to present it as either a complementary or contrasting point of view to the other material in the book.

the Your Best Game Ever logo and images of the Cypher System and Your Best Game Ever book with the reminder of the dates July 24 through August 24, and the text "Your Best Game Ever is a resource for all players and all games. If you play or run roleplaying games, this book is for you."


Thank you so much to the interviewees for answering my questions! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and you'll check out Your Best Game Ever on Kickstarter today!

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