Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gygax on Groups

My last gaming session with my OK pals: a small but good group.  Bonus points for assigning it the correct Gygaxian type.

Today I pick up again with another installment of Tomeful Tuesday!  I'm continuing my read-through of Role-Playing Mastery by Gary Gygax.  I'm laying it out in outline form today with a little summary, some key terms, and what I identified as the quotes with the greatest Gygaxian gaming goodness.  My other take-aways here were the dredging of memories of problem players from my youth (the player of the supposed paladin that motivated a friend of mine and me to secretly become assassins with the help of one of our group's DMs just so we could assassinate his character in revenge for his unchecked abuse of his fellow players that one DM encouraged and the other didn't know how to handle but was willing to be our accomplices to address) and yet another moment of recognition that I am not getting to play often enough.

Chapter 4

The Group: More Than its Parts
To Gygax, it is inherent to RPGs like AD&D that they are focused on the group and dependent on the group.  By group, he predominantly means the player group or the playing group (players + GM), which are the main subjects of the chapter.  The PC group is considered predominantly as an expression of the former.  Gygax considers the danger signs of players and playing groups that are not working well and hence not producing ongoing, successful play.

Group Interaction
“The game master is dedicated to providing fresh and challenging problems in an imaginative setting to a group of players who appreciate his effort.  The players are uniformly interested in the genre, have a sound grasp of the game rules, understand roles and role-playing, and function as a cooperative entity” (58).

Types of Groups:  1) regular veteran playing group, 2) fragmented veteran playing group, 3) enthusiasm-driven playing group, 4) peer-group, 5) club gatherings

Danger Signs: Group Insularity, Infrequent and Irregular Meetings, Frequent Absenteeism, Gamer Dropout, Non-Integration of Casual Gamers, Overdependence on GM, Overdependence on Gaming Location, Overly Frequent Changes in Group Membership, Elitism, Poor Choice of PC for PC group balance or for player ability

Problem Players
Bully, Know-it-all, Adviser, Cheater, Pouter, Talker
Outside of these types of players, the other player danger is incompatible players.

The Problem GM
“The Game master should derive his satisfaction from entertaining the associated group, from testing them and seeing them succeed, and from the approbation they give him in return” (70).  Not by:
  •  Viewing the players as enemies
  • Viewing the player group as a means to self-importance through denigration (would seem to be a form of the preceding.)
  • Viewing the players as mere puppets
  • Inappropriate referring such as the killer campaign and the easy rewards campaign 

mastery is group success
“Your entire investment in the game genre, your survey of the field, selection of a topic, study of the rules, and application of what you have learned should be used to the benefit of the group” (74).

Thanks for reading and may all your games be mythic!


  1. A "regular veteran playing group", surely? I guess I should be digging out my old copy of Role-Playing Mastery to check.

  2. I think a key clue had to be re-edited into the post: fragmented veteran playing group, in this case. They're too far away to be regular for me.

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  4. I am really enjoying these excerpts and your commentary from the Gygax's books. I am always looking for role playing tips both as a GM and a player. Keep them coming please.

    Reposted with typos corrected.