Mar 142013

Hello gentle readers. I have been promising something special for a while now, and with the big weekend almost upon us, I present my Student Nationals Special. Well, I say mine. I’ve been lucky enough to get a very special guest to write something for me on the topic of role playing to win. If you don’t know who this gentleman is, I will assume this will be your first visit to the student nationals. In which case, please, prepare yourself. If, like me, you’re an old hand at this, then the man needs no introduction. Please, enjoy the thoughts of the legend that is BBJ.

COMPETITIVE ROLEPLAYING : A Roleplaying Game (RPG) where upon it’s conclusion the Games Master (GM) would judge which of the players brought the most fun, excitement, teamwork and other objectives to the game, and declare them the winner.

Got that?

Easy enough, isn’t it?

Yeah, I thought not.

When you’re playing a wargame, or a cardgame or most boardgames it’s easy enough to work out who the winner is. They’re the person with the most armies standing, or most tricks taken or in the most extreme of cases they’re the one that spilled Tizer on the table, flipped the board onto the floor and run out crying.

Not so with roleplaying games, though the Tizer manoeuvre is always worth a shot.

In a roleplaying game the players are working together as a team, albeit with interpersonal frictions, to defeat a bad guy, his minions and his plot as portrayed by the GM.

So where does the competition come into it? You win or you lose as a team, right?

Yes, absolutely right.

Aaaaaand also no.

See, for a few instances, and one particular convention I attend every year, the games are competitive and so the GM at the end has to work out who was the best roleplayer of the party.

He has to work it out. It’s not obvious, in fact, it’s purely a judgement call on their part. So it’s really about how the GM decides who is a good roleplayer and who isn’t. This is fraught with danger if nobody gives the GM guidelines as to what might be a good idea for them to look at.

For example, in previous years I have encountered GMs who thought it would be a good idea to base their judgments on such things as dice rolling, character longevity or even accents.

Yup, you rolled a six more than anyone else that day?

Have a cookie.

You character didn’t die in the final encounter?

Three gold stars.

Your Russian accent is flawless, and you come from Moscow originally?

Go to the top of the class and take a bow.

Reasonable ways of judging a roleplaying game?

Not even close.

I am fortunate enough to have written a few guides as to how to mark and judge a competitive RPG and I know that some of those are followed each year so you’ll have to accept the fact that I’m not just making this up for shits and giggles, or shiggles as we shall never call it again.

It’s easy enough and I can boil it down to a couple of simple questions.

You know the guy at the table that’s annoying, stinky, self obsessed, overly loud and patronising?

Yeah, you do. Well, they’re not going to win.

You ever sit at a table that gets really into the character and spends more time talking in character bantering with other characters than the GM? Who’s quick and funny and helps his fellows along the way, even if they’re not in charge?

Yes, them. They’ve got a good shot at winning.

You’re looking for someone who helps the plot along without claiming all of it for himself.

You’re looking for someone who can get into character, even going for the accent, no matter how badly they mangle it.

You’re looking for the player who makes it fun for everybody to play, rather than spending all their time looting their pockets and stealing all the glory.

Someone who you would want to play with again and again no matter what the game or the situation.

The best way to become that player is to completely forget that you’re playing in a competitive game in its entirety and get on with playing a fun game with friends. It’s not your job to try and judge the game, so get on with playing it.

All you should watch for is not to mark yourself out as ever being ‘That Guy’.

[NOTE TO ALL FEMALE READERS : I have, and often do play a great many games with girls of all ages, stereotypes and beliefs, they’re great to play with. But since I hate writing articles with clumsy “he/she” bits clogging up the text you should now go back and replace every ‘Guy’ with ‘Girl’, ‘he’ with ‘she’, and still educate some of your own sex to use shampoo and soap occasionally, it’s not just blokes.]

Of course there’s always something else you could try that I’ll never rule against.


  5 Responses to “A student nationals Special on competitive Role playing.”

  1. Or just use ‘they’, or another gender-neutral pronoun. Or alternate your pronouns for each subject.

    • Yeah but that disrupts the flow of an article horrifically and makes you seem alien and weird. Unlike the current writing style where you can picture the person talking to you.

      • I guess it’s just a matter of what you’re used to. I am quite used to the singular “they” and do imagine a person when you’re talking to. Although I guess some may find that difficult because in English we have traditionally differentiated the speaker being male or female (as opposed to languages like Chinese, where they really don’t distinguish and pretty much exclusively use an equivalent of the singular they).

  2. I’ve seen groups at large conventions that reward the best roleplayer at the table with some sort of prize. Often times this is done by having the players vote at the end of the session for the MVP. This can be a real problem when you’re not an exemplar roleplayer because you’ll probably never win.

    I also played in a Castles & Crusades game once where we had to see how far in the scenario we got and were compared to other groups to see how far in the scenario they got (apparently based on how some OD&D modules got run) with the winning group getting prizes. I hated this, not only because it meant the scenario was designed to not be completable in one session, but also how far we got was largely based on how well we rolled in combat and what luck-based choices we made (do we take the right or the left path?). I’m glad to see that this idea is no longer used by modern games.

  3. [...] a way as to be as close to the same as possible for two different groups, so that they could be judged fairly against each other. This is an extreme example, but I’m sure that a lot of GMs out there [...]

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