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Recommend Your Favorite GMless Games

People are always looking for suggestions of GMless games to try, so I decided it was time to harness the collective brainpower and make a list. But not just a plain list of names: actual descriptions and recommendations from people who have played the game, so curious folks can decide for themselves whether it sounds […]

Ben Robbins | June 27th, 2024 | ,

The Layer Cake of Gaming

Every time we sit down to play a role-playing game, we build this layer cake, stacking each level upon the previous one: First we decide what our game is about. What are the themes. Then we make a setting that reflects those themes. Then we make characters who fit that setting and those themes. Then […]

Ben Robbins | April 25th, 2024 | , , | 1 comment

Emic vs Etic: Invent Words You Can Use

Way back in college, when I was taking anthropology courses instead of focusing on my major, I learned the idea of “emic vs etic”. Anthropologists, being clever folks who have spent a lot of time studying cultures, recognized a distinction between terms and concepts that were part of the culture they were studying (emic), versus […]

Ben Robbins | February 16th, 2023 | , , , | 8 comments

Two-Player Creativity Is Harder

Of course not every game of In This World has been magical, but when I hear about sessions that dragged, they often have one thing in common: Only two players. In a high creativity game, the difference between two and three players is bigger than it seems. When there’s only one other person in the […]

Ben Robbins | January 31st, 2023 | , , , , | 1 comment

Building Better Gods

“I’m the god of fire. I have fire powers” “Fire powers? What are you, a superhero?” We’re in the middle of a game and you need to make up a god. Because you know, we’re gamers, we have to create whole worlds, gods, civilizations on the fly. What do you do? The number one approach […]

Ben Robbins | November 17th, 2021 | , , , | 2 comments

Only Say Yes to a Yes

“Say yes” is a fundamental principle of just about every shared creative process. “Yes and”, “yes but” — either way, say yes. And it is absolutely good advice for role-playing games. Accept what other people contribute. Embrace what’s been said as established truth and build on it. Don’t contradict it. But there’s a big caveat […]

Ben Robbins | August 19th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

A Careful Balance of Agreement & Disagreement

Any role-playing game is a careful balance between agreement and disagreement. We need agreement because the game world only exists in our minds. If we can’t agree about what’s true, we’re going to contradict each other. If you think there are walls around the city and I don’t, our game will crash. Since agreement is […]

Ben Robbins | July 3rd, 2021 | , , , ,

Making Characters: The Fine Art of (Not) Fitting In

Taking a break from my kickstarter (and the worrrrrrlllldd) to talk about a character creation trick that’s extremely applicable to Kingdom, but also applies to a whole host of other games. Say you’re playing a game (like Kingdom) where the characters are supposed to all be part of the same organization or group. Naturally you […]

Ben Robbins | October 5th, 2020 | , , ,

Great Players

I know a lot of great players. If there were an Earth-threatening crisis that could be solved by the power of play and I had a red phone, I could pick up that red phone and I would know who to call to save the world. What do I mean by great player? Knowing the […]

Ben Robbins | August 30th, 2019 | , , | 2 comments

Story Games 101: Protagonist, Be Transparent

I talked about good antagonism a while back, so let’s talk about the flip side of the coin: good protagonism. When you’re playing a protagonist in a story game, you have a very important job: want something. Have desires. Have needs. But merely wanting something, deep down inside, isn’t enough. You have to *show us* […]

Ben Robbins | June 23rd, 2018 | , ,

Story Games 101: Saying Terrible Things

“We expect kindness and maturity from everyone who attends and so should you.” That’s what it’s said on the Story Games Seattle website for years. When your charter is to game with strangers every week, maturity and civility is fundamental to making that work. We did not tolerate bigotry or discrimination in any form and […]

Ben Robbins | June 13th, 2018 | , , | 4 comments

Farewell, Story Games Seattle!

After 8 years and over 600 meetups, I’m shutting down Story Games Seattle. Lots and lots of people have been a part of Story Games Seattle over the years. So many people and so many great games… and some terrible ones too, because that’s the risk you take when you sit down with strangers and […]

Ben Robbins | March 29th, 2018 | , , | 9 comments

Story Games 101: Angle the Chairs

This is a simple trick we’ve been using at Story Games Seattle for years. It may seem trivial but it’s not. Your physical environment has a huge impact on your social interactions, and a role-playing game is just one big social interaction. In the kind of games we play — story games with no game […]

Ben Robbins | September 20th, 2016 | , , | 2 comments

Story Games 101: Shifting to Third Person

You’re sitting at a table, playing a game, and someone across from you says: “I grab your neck and put a knife up to your face and say “Tell me what I want to know, or else!’” Story games can be intense. Sometimes too intense. If you need to cool it down and avoid scaring […]

Ben Robbins | January 31st, 2016 | , , | 2 comments