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The Play's the Thing


by David Goodner
Oct 29,2004


The Play's the Thing

By David Goodner


Welcome to the end. I've decided, after about two years or so, to close the curtain on The Play's the Thing. I've said pretty much everything I have to say, and it's starting to be a chore, more than fun. I'd rather leave on a relatively high note than drag it out and write lousy columns that neither you nor I enjoy.

But before I go, I thought I'd leave you with one last summation of what I've been saying.

Here's what I think makes for a good gamer. Other people have different opinions. These are mine.


A good gamer shows up on time. He's prepared for the game. And he plays in a logical way. If his character was a grim soldier last session, he's not a zany clown this week just because he got bored. (But maybe his character is really insane, in which case it's ok, unless it's annoying.)


A good gamer plays well with others. He makes a character that fits in with the group, and tries to avoid invalidating other characters. He plays the game as a cooperative venture. Even when characters are in conflict, the players should be working toward a mutual goal.

Consideration is actually the cornerstone of my thoughts about being a good player. If you do everything else great, but you're a jerk to all the other players, then you're probably not someone I would want to play with.


A good gamer plays nice. Not cheating is obvious. Exhibiting good sportsmanship and style is a nice bonus. Fair play extends from the tangible things like not breaking the rules into intangible ones like not exploiting loopholes to the detriment of the game. If everybody is a point-scraping ubergamer, then that's fine, but if you're the only one and you specifically enjoy doing things no one else (including the GM) can do, then you might want to consider changing that behavior.

As a real-world example, I refused to play any Hero system game for about ten years after falling in with a group that had a couple min-maxers who got off on being able to point-screw the newer players.


I enjoy playing with lively, exciting players. One hefty part of gaming is performance art. Part of your job as a player is to play your role like an actor does. The better you do that, the more fun the game is.

Being entertaining isn't just about being funny, or intense, or anything else. It's about doing the right thing at the right time. A character played for comic relief needs to take center stage when comic relief is needed, and to fade into the background when it's time to be serious. On the other hand, a character who's always in the background, or never does anything fun to watch, then why is he there at all?


The very best gamers bring the game to a higher level just by being there. Some nights, I'm even one of them.

What's inspiring, of course, varies. Being entertaining (see above) is certainly part of it, but there's more. When I've been inspired (or more rarely inspired someone else), it's been a combination of factors. A character who really fits the game is absolutely necessary. He might be played true to genre, or a little oddball - but in a way that adds to the mood and themes of the game. His background makes the game more interesting - which might mean it's rich and detailed, or it might mean its light and sleek, with just the hook the GM needs. He has goals that bring him into conflict with the game's adversaries, and occasionally the other PCs. And he's played artfully, by a player who knows which buttons to push and how to push them, and most importantly when not to.

Now that I'm at the end of the column, I really don't know exactly how to be an inspiring player, or how to tell anyone else how to do it. I know it when I see it, though, and knowing what to look for gives me a goal.

And maybe it's like the quest for the Holy Grail. The finding isn't as important as the looking. And everybody dies at the end except Sir Bors.

(Well, maybe not the last part)


Really conclusions this time. That's all I've got. It's been fun. I hope you've enjoyed it. I hope a few of you have learned something that helps you have more fun gaming. If I've managed to accomplish that, then that's pretty cool.

See you 'round. I'll leave you with the words of a guy who probably would have been a pretty good GM.

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber'd here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend:

if you pardon, we will mend:

And, as I am an honest Puck,

If we have unearned luck

Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,

We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.
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What do you think?

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  • Conclusions by David Goodner, 29oct04
  • You Can Lead a Horse to Water by David Goodner, 23sep04
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady by David Goodner, 18aug04
  • The Error of the Moon by David Goodner, 24jun04
  • The Best There Is at What I Do by David Goodner, 28may04
  • The Game is Dead, Long Live the Game by David Goodner, 21apr04
  • Dial "H" for Hero by David Goodner, 17mar04
  • We Don't Need Another Hero (well, maybe just one more) by David Goodner, 24dec03
  • I Need a Hero by David Goodner, 19nov03
  • In Nature, there is no Evil... by David Goodner, 17sep03
  • What Evils Lurk in the Hearts of Men by David Goodner, 19aug03
  • The Evils Men Do by David Goodner, 22jul03
  • Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: or, What Should I Do with All These Experience Points? by David Goodner, 16jun03
  • When Players Attack by David Goodner, 20may03
  • When GM's Attack by David Goodner, 18mar03
  • Let Me Tell You About My Character by David Goodner, 19feb03
  • Where Do You Find the Time? by David Goodner, 21jan03
  • 101 ways to amuse a player character by David Goodner, 17dec02
  • What do you want? by David Goodner, 18nov02
  • Group Dynamics Part 2: People who need people... by David Goodner, 22oct02
  • Group Dynamics: Part 1 -- So You All Meet In A Bar by David Goodner, 17sep02
  • Character Creation Part 5: Even Better than the Real Thing by David Goodner, 14aug02
  • Character Creation Part 4 by David Goodner, 10jul02
  • Character Creation Part 3 by David Goodner, 12jun02
  • Twinking for Fun and Profit: Capability based character creation April 23, 2002
  • So You Wanna' Be a Hero? March 28, 2002

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