Monday, December 4, 2017

Focal Point: The Complete Game Master's Guide To Running Extraordinary Sessions

Focal Point
The Complete Game Master's Guide To Running Extraordinary Sessions
Written by Phil Vecchione, Walt Ciechanowski, and John Arcadian
Published by Gnome Stew
234 b & w pages

Dusts off blog.

Been busy with work, painting miniatures and day to day living. Been reading a lot of work-related non-fiction and short story anthologies like House of Fear. I bought House in October for Halloween themed horror and am still reading it.


Anyway, in between the mundane, I did manage to finish off Focal Point, a book on game mastering by Gnome Stew by a trio of authors who've done some work for Gnome Stew before.

First off, I hope one day to never see a non-standard gaming book size again. I get that there's some weird small press creed or it's easier to stock or they can be thrown farther or what have you but man I hate the way they look on my shelf.

Layout is simple one column format with different varieties in type to set off special sidebars. Art is solid and goes well with the material. I'd say the cover art is one of the weakest pieces in the book. They might have been better just going with the die and the lighting as opposed to the art there is there. Then again, everyone's an art critic right?

I've been playing since the mid-80's.

I generally play with the same group of people.

Some things in the book will not apply to me.

That doesn't make it any less useful to read thought.

When running a game, there are many chainsaws to keep in the air. Any book the helps remind you of things you may have missed, that provides you with ideas on game elements that could be enhanced, that's told in an entertaining way, is worth reading.

The authors use Gemma and her group to frame the 19 chapters. Chapters are organized into wider sections, Lights, Camera, Action. The chapters move and the story of Gemma and her group flows with it. It's a good framing device.

For me? As long as I play with my normal group, things like 'trigger' warnings aren't a problem. Advice on getting people to pay attention to the game? Variable utility depending on who the culprit is. Good to see that I'm not the only one with such problems though.

Advocating game mastery as a way to streamline gaming? Such good advice. I'm tempted to have one of my friends who works with wood put together a sign, "Read the Fucking Book."

I get at conventions or a brand new system, there are going to be things unknown for players who may be dipping a toe into the waters of the game. But four weeks later, few people, especially the Game Master, should be pondering how the skill check system works. Or at least know where it's at.

I'm not sure if it's just me being an older bastich, but watching how some people think that anyone who knows the rules is 'merely' a rule lawyer and they suck, is wrong.

Expertise in a game system is not a problem. Abusing that knowledge over your other players, standing in every effort to move the game forward, arguing with the GM, those are bad elements.

Knowing your game system is not bad.

One of the things that the book hits a few times, is that gaming is a group effort. The gamers need to get along together. They should know how they're going to work in combat. They should have some idea of how things are going to happen once the action starts. They need to have each other's backs.

Now again, as it's important to point these things out least someone go, "But what about..." Yes, if you're playing the Shield or playing some Vampire double betrayal special, then group unitiy in and of itself may not be the end goal of the game.

But even in those instances, system mastery will reward the group as one player is not dominating game time thanks to not knowing the system and having to look up everything over and over again.

Focal Point may read a little dry at times, but it's all solid advice. It'll go on the shelf next to the other books in the series and perhaps one day be updated through a Kickstarter into a big old Hardcover with all three books that can sit alongside the big boy books and leave it's paperback short shame hall.

If you'r a game master, especially a new game master, I recommend not only checking out Gnome Stew's web site, but picking up their books. You may come across bits you already know, but tuck those away and move onto the examples and other bits that may be new territory for you.

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