Friday, July 12, 2019

Games That Can Help You Improve As A GM

Outside of table top RPGs is a world of games out there. I love games. I love them however they come. What I love the most though is when I play a game that teaches or shows me something that can then be used in other games to make them better. I especially love this when the tools given to me by a game help me be a better GM. Of late I've played two games I feel do this. Today I want to talk about that.

Diplomacy is a game that is often tagged as the best way to end a friendship. The rules of Diplomacy are simple. The execution of Diplomacy is not. The game is built around pre-World War I Europe with players playing one of the major powers: England, France, Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Russia. You then move your forces around, make deals with other players, and betray those players in your quest to get 18 control points on the map and win, or to arrange the map so you and your allies are all locked with none at 18 control points and you call a draw.

I play Diplomacy online at I do that because by playing online I'm not playing with friends which means I don't have to worry about that whole friendship ruining part. But playing the game is still educational.

What does Diplomacy teach? Mostly, it gives perspective on what it must be like to run a kingdom. Kingdoms grow. Kingdoms grow or they get consumed. It puts you into difficult positions. It shows you what its like to have to work with another kingdom, when you end up with "no choice" but to betray that once ally, and about making deals and reading the situation. In short, Diplomacy teaches Diplomacy on a grander scale. Alliances are made and broken. Armies are dispatched. Battles are fought, won, and lost.

It doesn't show the meat of the battles or the grit. Just the higher level perspective. But that alone is also worth noting. If you're doing anything in your game with kingdoms and war, its worth playing at least a few rounds of Diplomacy.

Sigma Theory: Global Cold War
Sigma Theory is a PC game by Mi-Clos Studio. In the game there is a new technology emerging called 'Sigma' and you are in charge of a Country's sigma program. You then run four agents as you handle diplomatic relations with other countries, have your agents perform acts of espionage, align or not with third party organizations, and keep the Doomsday Clock from striking midnight before you win.

Sigma Theory has a lot to show for how Espionage can work and the kind of decisions you have to make being in charge of a country in a race where there is no Silver medal for second place, just loss.

However, what Sigma Theory gives that is directly applicable to RPGs is how to inject choices into races and chases. During the game you have to extract scientists from their current country. Doing so gives you your agent on a map of a city. As the agent moves along you are given choices and tests. Succeed or fail the agent moves forward (unless they die or get captured) but the choices have impact on how difficult the rest of the chase will be, how far the agent gets, and how fast or slow the agent will be from then on.

There's a cost involved with Sigma Theory, but it's worth at least watching a play through or two to see how the game works. It has a lot to teach.

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