Game Design

Why Good Horror Design Is not Easy - by Josh Bycer Blogs - 2 November 2017 - 6:55am
Today's post is a belated discussion on horror design and why there is a lot that goes into making an effective horror game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why Hellblade can't serve as a role model for developers - by Sina Shahbazi Blogs - 2 November 2017 - 6:54am
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was released to widespread acclaim. As an independently made and published game with high production standards it has since been heralded as a role model for games. In this article I'll be challenging that idea.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Day 34 of 100 Days of VR: Setting Up the Google Cardboard In Unity - by Josh Chang Blogs - 2 November 2017 - 6:54am
Today we’re going to explore setting up and using Google’s VR SDK. You might think that setting up VR would be an extremely complex process, but after going through the process, I can say that starting out is simpler than you would think!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fantasy Flight Games Posts A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch Preview

Tabletop Gaming News - 2 November 2017 - 6:00am
G.o.T. Catan? (see what I did there?) Anyway, Fantasy Flight Games is coming out with A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch, wherein the seemingly ages-old game is given a makeover with one of the most popular fantasy shows of all time. But how will all that work? How will the show’s characters […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Strict vs. Lax GMs – It’s Not That Simple

Gnome Stew - 2 November 2017 - 1:00am

There is no such thing as a Strict or Lax GM.

Whoa . . . before you jump to the comments section to yell at me, let me explain. The idea of a strict or a lax GM is an oversimplification. GMing is way more complicated than that. There are too many facets of GMing to simply have the needle buried in one direction or the other. Sure, someone can be more strict than lax, but the idea someone is strict in every way possible as a GM is a bit more unlikely. That said, there are still a few of you that want to hit the comments now, but let me crack this open and explain in some more detail.

Previously on Panda’s Talking Games . . . 

A few weeks ago on Panda’s Talking Games, Senda and I addressed this topic, and we got some requests on Twitter to put this into some kind of print form. So here we are. I am going to write out the crux of my argument here in this article, but if you want to hear this in some more depth, complete with outtakes, jump over to Misdirect Mark Productions and give us a listen.

Strict vs. Lax

As I am wont to do, let’s set some definitions for this article.

  • Strict – demanding that rules concerning behavior are obeyed and observed.
  • Laxnot sufficiently strict, severe, or careful; relaxed.

Don’t jump to the comments section yet. Yes, I know that you must know someone that you would say is a strict or lax GM, but wait. Here is the rest of the argument:

GMing Is Not A Skill

I know . . . it’s like I am trolling everyone with these headers. GMing is not a skill, it’s a bunch of skills. Somewhere I once said it was eight different skills, but honestly, I am not sure if that is true. It feels like it’s true, but it could be more. Regardless of its true number, GMing is a collection of skills that a GM performs during the course of running their game.

So a GM is not strict or lax, rather they are strict or lax in these different skills. Some GM’s may trend towards strict and others lax, but for most of us, it will be a mix.

For this article, and for the podcast episode, let’s focus on a handful of those skills, what they are and what strict and lax would look like.

  • Mechanical
    • The mechanics of the game as written by the authors of the game.
    • Strict: We do what is written in the rules, every time.
    • Lax: The rules are a guideline that we can follow or not when needed.
  • Setting
    • The place where the games take place: location, events, NPCs, etc.
    • Strict: No. You can’t have that type of gun because it was not invented until 5 years after the time we are playing.
    • Lax: Oh sure, your knight can have a katana . . . I mean a sword is a sword.
  • Story
    • The continuity of the story as it plays out at the table.
    • Strict: No, no . . . it was the bartender, not the barmaid who threw you out. Come on . . . keep better notes.
    • Lax: You sure Jonesy was dead? If he was, he’s not now. You just thought he was, but he’s here.
  • Table
    • The control you have over the table in terms of getting the game moving, keeping people focused, side chatter, etc.
    • Strict: Everyone quiet, eyes forward, and pay attention – the game is about to start.
    • Lax: Oh hey . . . hey . . . it’s your turn. Yeah, your turn – can you roll some dice for me?
Why does this matter?

It matters in two main ways: It influences you as a GM, and it influences what your players enjoy in a game.

 We will gravitate to games that accommodate our preferences, and we will run games in ways that suit our preferences. 

Your GMing style is influenced by your strictness or laxness (Bob, is that even a word? – Yup! OML) in these areas. We will gravitate to games that accommodate our preferences, and we will run games in ways that suit our preferences. For example, I like to run games fairly strictly, but I also have limited time to read and learn games. The result is that I avoid crunchy games where I would have to work harder to keep all the rules in order, and play games with lighter rules that I can run with more control.

Your players have a preference for these areas as well. You may have a player that has a high amount of strictness for Setting, especially if you are playing Star Wars. On the other hand, you may be quite lax on setting, and not want to be penned in by canon. When you go to GM a Star Wars game, the player is agitated because you keep using non-canon information, while you are annoyed that you are constantly being corrected.

So understanding your preferences, and your players understanding theirs, can go a long way for figuring out what games to play, how to play them, and how your table should run.

An Exercise

If you want to know your preferences, you can do this exercise with your gaming group. List the four GMing skills I mentioned above, and any other skills you may think of (by the way if you do think of some, put them in the comments). Then rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, with a one being totally lax and a 10 being totally strict. Now everyone rates these skills. When you are done, share your scores and discuss any large gaps.

My own scores for these are:

  • Mechanical: 9 – I love running games as written.
  • Setting: 5 – I am a bit lazy about being orthodox to canon.
  • Story: 9 – I love a tight story without any logical gaps or plot holes.
  • Table: 5 – I’m slow to start my sessions because I socialize a lot with my players.
Where do you fall?

The idea of strict or lax is an oversimplification. GMing is more complex than that, with many facets. In each of those facets, we can be strict or lax, and that is what makes our GMing style unique. There is value in understanding this both as a GM and as a player.

So take a look, score yourself, and if you are inclined, share your numbers with the rest of us.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Amazon opens dedicated 'Retro Zone' for selling 'retro' games and gear

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 November 2017 - 5:09pm

If you're making games that could conceivably be seen as "retro", you should know that Amazon has opened a new corner of its online storefront that's dedicated to selling such work: The Retro Zone. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Praxis: Black Monk RPGs Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 3:00pm
For those that know him, Postworldgames Jim Pinto is one of the most prolific game designers out there. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s got like a billion games that he’s designed (might be a slight exaggeration on my part there). But he has certainly created a few in his time. And up […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Operators RPG Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 2:00pm
If you’re a fan of action-thriller movies, you’ll want to check out Operators. Do you want to have your own Mission: Impossible-style chases? Maybe some techno-thriller action like The Pelican Brief? Some spy-game sequences like the Bourne series? This is the RPG for you. The game is up on Kickstarter now. From the campaign: Operators […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video: How game developers define 'success' for themselves

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 November 2017 - 1:51pm

At GDC 2017 researcher Dana Ruggiero gives a talk (based on interviews with over 50 notable game makers, from Brenda Romero to Davey Wreden) on how game developers define success for themselves. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Rick and Morty: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind Deck-Building Game Coming November 15th

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 1:00pm
I mean… I’ve seen games with long names before. But I think this one wins the overall record. Cryptozoic has announced that their new deck-building card game will be available on November 15th. The name of the game? Rick and Morty: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind Deck-Building Game. Yes, I’m copy/pasting that, because it […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Achtung! Cthulhu – Zero Point – Code of Honour Available From Modiphius

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 12:00pm
Pre-made adventures make the life of the GM just soooooo much easier. Just open up the book and get your players going. That is, as long as your players are willing to at least somewhat stick to the script. Thankfully, if they are, you’ve got your next couple sessions planned out ahead of time with […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Midweek Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 11:00am
Alright. Playtime’s over. All the spooky kiddie stuff is done with. Time to get the real holiday prep going. Thanksgiving is a mere 4 weeks and 1 day away. This is not a drill. Prep work starts now. I need to start collecting together gear and ingredients for all the fantastic things I’m going to […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Beyond the Gates of Antares Releases Available From Warlord Games

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 10:00am
Warlord Games is making their way through their 10th year as a company. They’ve come a long way since they started out. One of their more-recent games is Beyond the Gates of Antares. We’re seeing regular releases for the game, and now that their website’s articles are starting to flow again (after a nasty cyber […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GDC 2018 to host a special 20th anniversary Ultima Online Classic Postmortem!

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 November 2017 - 9:15am

To mark its 20th anniversary, Raph Koster, Starr Long, and Richard Garriott de Cayeux will be presenting a Classic Game Postmortem on their trailblazing game Ultima Online at GDC 2018! ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Seven Worlds Sci-Fi Book For Savage Worlds Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 9:00am
Savage Worlds can be easily adapted to just about any setting you really want. In the case of Seven Worlds, it’s being adapted to a hard sci-fi world… or, I guess, seven worlds. If you’re wanting starfaring adventure, you’ll want to check it out. The setting book/campaign guide is up on Kickstarter now. From the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Hordes Preview From Privateer Press

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 8:00am
Can you believe that January is only 2 months away? Well, it is, and Privateer’s got another look at one of the models they’ll be bringing you then. This one’s a new incarnation of a previous warlock. Bloody Barnabas has transcended from being a mere gatorman to a force of nature. His new version will […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Z-Man Games Announces Agents of Venice Expansion For The Voyages of Marco Polo

Tabletop Gaming News - 1 November 2017 - 7:00am
The voyages of Marco Polo are legendary. There’s many conflicting tales of what he did, where he went, and what he brought back, simply because it was seen as such a big deal. It’s so mythical that there’s games based on him, such as The Voyages of Marco Polo. That one, in particular, is getting […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Barcelona Games World 2017 Recap - by Barbara Posada Blogs - 1 November 2017 - 6:52am
Barcelona Games World broke all the participation records from 2016, with 35% more companies and 11% higher attendance. It’s only the second year, but the consensus among press is that BGW has a has already become the video game referral event in Spain.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How to hit deadlines in the games industry - by Lottie Wilson Blogs - 1 November 2017 - 6:51am
The life of a games programmer is hectic and full of ups and downs.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Accents and Dialects in Games—Yay or Nay? - by Marianna Sacra Blogs - 1 November 2017 - 6:51am
Should we write and translate dialects or accents in games? What are the risks?
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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