What’s In Your Best Game Ever?

Back Your Best Game Ever and the revised Cypher System Rulebook on Kickstarter now!

Last week, we announced our next big thing: Your Best Game Ever!

Not a rule book, but a tool book, Your Best Game Ever is a resource for all players and all games. If you play or run roleplaying games, this book is for you. This gorgeous hardcover will be filled with advice and suggestions for enhancing your RPG experience at the table and away from it. We’re launching the Kickstarter for it July 24th!

So what, exactly, will Your Best Game Ever include? Here’s just a sampling of the topics that we, along with our team of consulting experts, are planning to tackle in the book!

Our goal with this book is to make every game your best game ever. But we know–as GMs, players, and designers ourselves–that every game and every experience is unique. What’s the hardest struggle you have with creating great games, either as a player or as a GM? Tell us in the comments below! Looking for some GM or player advice? Ask those questions in the comments as well.

Once the Kickstarter is complete and we’ve started working on the book, we’ll look through your comments to make sure the book covers players’ biggest issues and concerns.

(Note: This isn’t a place to ask customer service questions. Please use our Contact Us form instead.)

Check it out on Kickstarter now!
Shanna Germain
Shanna Germain

Over a 20-year career, Shanna Germain has penned six books, hundreds of short stories, and myriad other works, along the way garnering a Pushcart nomination, the C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship, and the Utne Reader award for Best New Publication. At Monte Cook Games she has contributed to dozens of products and was lead designer for No Thank You, Evil!. She is a cofounder of the company, and our Creative Director.

24 thoughts on “What’s In Your Best Game Ever?

  1. David R Howard says:

    As an adult with a wife, a child, and a full-time job, time is often the greatest struggle with creating great games. I love gaming. I love designing campaigns and NPCs and scenarios and conspiracies. But gone are the days of being completely focused on writing adventures, campaigns, and NPCs. Now it’s a matter of trying to balance life and gaming. Sure, you can do One-Shots (and that helps scratch the immediate itch) but they’re not quite as satisfying as full-blown campaigns or even episodic storylines. The struggle is remaining creative while watching the clock.

    As a GM, I think an important part of the struggle is managing folks’ expectations (including your own). You don’t have to tell simple, linear, railroading stories but you need to be able to get to the point of the adventure quickly. Try to avoid convoluted plots and subplots. You may not have time to let stories build and build before payoff; therefore, to me, it’s best to remember that everyone around the table is probably playing with borrowed time (from work or families or even other interests). Don’t dawdle and delay, play and have fun. Let your players help you develop important points and work with them to mine ideas and stories. Make sure everyone has something to do so they don’t feel like a walk-on or bit player in someone else’s story. Always be ready to improve. Ensure that someone is taking notes so you don’t have to go back through “Last Time on Game X” before starting again; it’s certainly a big let down when someone asks “Hey, what did we do last game?” (because that is almost like they didn’t bother to pay attention and you’ve been working your ass off to create a good story).

    I love to create…so the hardest thing as a GM and as a Player is to know that no matter how many campaigns and/or PCs I create, I’m never going to have the time to get them out there and playable. It gets to be disheartening at times, but that’s life. Figuring out what your Players like to do is helpful. Figuring out what kind of game you want to run, and what kind of game you want to be a Player, is important. If nothing else, it makes it easier when you’re on the clock to get down to business.

  2. Erica Jane Archer says:

    So… I really wish I had some kind of organizational system to help handle world building, especially with integrating the on-the-fly stuff that hits you out of nowhere mid-session. You know, that perfect NPC name, or ancient god, artifact or NPC plot twist. I have these stream-of-consciousness moments where all kinds of things go ker-splat (sorry for using technical terms) in my mind and it’s so hard to get them all massaged into what I’ve already built. I have scraps of notes here, there and everywhere. Not to mention what I’ve got jotted down in several Notes files. Blarg!

  3. John H. says:

    My hardest struggle with creating great games? Figuring out players’ preferences and catering to them without sacrificing what I want to get out of a game myself.

  4. Brian Kurtz says:

    “We want different things.” I have a more eclectic gaming palette and am more excited by narrative than the other members of my gaming group. They’re nice people, but I have limited time to game, and so I’ve been wondering if I should lay out my dissatisfaction and hurt their feelings (I especially don’t want to hurt our current D&D GM who I am closest to of our group, and I think our game has been a good outlet since his wife has been fighting cancer), or if I should break off and leave the group on a pretext, or if I should just continue to suck it up and look on the side for other places to satisfy my gaming appetites (The Gauntlet, etc). For now I have seeded some things to build excitement for Invisible Sun and when our D&D stuff gets to the end of an arc (and my black cube arrives!) I’ll give a hard sell on that to see if I can make this group work.

  5. Brian says:

    My biggest issue is coming up with fun, engaging puzzles for my players to interact with. After a year or so in a long-running campaign, my puzzles start to look the same as what came before, just bigger and with higher stakes.

  6. DT Butchino says:

    My biggest issue is getting the players invested in the game on a long term scale. We’re all adults with separate lives, which makes time to work on characters and such limited. Any advice on that would be gold for me.

  7. Jim Fitzpatrick says:

    Accidentally posted this on Twitter.

    My biggest challenge as a GM is portraying a world full of NPCs when I’m just one person. Video games have large voice casts and varied art — how can I build the same effect with just me? Mannerisms, conversation styles, voices, personalities, props?

    And then a challenge from me as a linguist: language in gaming is way more than “funny accents.” It’s baked into our identities and it’s an easy place for stereotypes to hide. We express our ideals through it. For some, it’s The Truth. But we need to treat it delicately at the table, the same way we’d treat gender or race or any other sensitive topic. If your gully dwarf sounds like the stereotype of a backwoods hick when you voice him, that might not be unproblematic at your table. At the same time, a person’s speech can tell us a lot about them. Like so much else, it’s a question of balance. Really want to see how you treat that topic.

  8. Lucero says:

    My greates struggle as a GM is making clear and creative enough descriptions to paint an inmersive world that players can really imagine. This also impacts how clearly I’m able to describe a situation so my players and I are on the same page.

  9. James says:

    I would like a GM checklist for running a session.

    I am so new to RPG’s, I’ve never been a player myself, but got family and friends into it by GMing for them. All I know is what is in the codebook, and a few example videos on YouTube. The nearest game shop is over an hour away, so learning by getting with other GMs is difficult.

    Basically, I am looking for a step by step guide for putting together a session. Some kind of fill in the blank cheat sheet. The kinds of things you might normally learn from playing with those who have played similar games before. I don’t have a “mentor” for this, and I feel like there is so much more I am missing. The “unwritten rules”.

    Thanks,

  10. Andrew says:

    My biggest struggle when creating a game from scratch is creating interesting characters and settings from scratch. I don’t have the narrative chops of some other GMs out there and I think its my biggest weakness. I had a friend several years ago (we’ve since drifted apart) who could come up with a story really quickly and interesting characters too. It takes me hours to write out an original plot for a game session, and it always feels subpar to something a professional writer could do.

    Like when I sit down to write a Vampire plot from scratch, I don’t really know where to begin. When I sit down to write a D&D adventure, I don’t know where to begin either. When I decide to write up the NPCs in a Vampire game, I don’t know how to make the NPCs all unique and not samey.

    The note in your preview about adapting TV and Movie structures to Tabletop might be helpful to someone like me that struggles with narrative structure and characterization.

  11. John Walker says:

    Scheduling for adults is a nightmare! The good thing is that when it works, you can make it an event with real food, drink and comfort. Not like playing with chips and mountain dew int he basement (not that that wasn’t cool back then).

    In my years of playing the hardest thing has been getting the right group dynamics going. I have had great groups where sessions were usually great, full of energy and fun and laughs and others were it is just meh or ugh!

    Getting from welcome to the game to suspension of disbelief.

    Best ways to encourage players to build the world with you and contribute while in session. Help them make it ours instead of mine.

  12. R D Gray says:

    I’d like some advice/guidance in stretching a campaign thread over a world. I have a great story in mind, but how do I integrate it in the concepts of the campaign?

  13. Andreas says:

    My hardest struggle is scheduling. Several of the groups I play with are outright saying that they enjoy playing, but none of them want to commit to regular scheduling. For me it drains so much energy when every game session requires so much planning.

  14. Philipp says:

    I think I solved it in my case, but where I would have needed support:
    We were in early in high school when we started playing, the game survived university just fine, but with careers and families the kind of stories had to change.
    First complicated, multi-layered political thrillers with dozens of moving parts where not that appealing anymore (thinking through intrigues works in boring lectures, but not in meetings with customers, or in a laboratory).
    Second it was irresponsible for me as GM to engage people in the time between sessions, that was time dedicated to families, careers or home-building.

    In my case the solution was not to rapidly introduce new elements in the game. Through repetition of fewer moving parts I could maintain a political focused game, albeit with less surprises for the people. My game is now more casual, easier to miss a session or two, on the other hand the fewer NPCs have thicker background stories and more personality.

    Maybe you have an idea to enhance this further?

  15. Todd says:

    I’m very interested (aka highly needy) in learning how to structure a campaign – objectives, villains, key NPCs, key locations – which will carry the game for 4-6 levels of play without being a railroad. The mentioned guidance about making character arcs sounds fabulous and I will greatly appreciate that too.

  16. Annwyn says:

    I’d really like to see the ‘Cooperating with other players’ section include tips on being assertive in the group – light, fun and entertaining ways to make yourself heard. I’m both the newest player and the only girl in my group, so I find I get totally drowned out when it comes to group decision making. On the flip side, something in the GM section about recognising when this is happening and subtly countering it through NPCs?
    Another great inclusion would be ‘Thinking Outside the Box’. This could include ideas for coming up with innovative, quirky and just plain entertaining ways to approach/deal with common role-playing scenarios.

  17. Edwin says:

    Assembling a like minded group of players and GM instead of cliques. Last Numenera group I played with, the GM and several players were a clique and were not inclusionary to the point that the group disbanded.

  18. Sarah S Kelley says:

    Energy and motivation. I run out of steam. Figuring out where to go next, in my head, is a challenge that my games don’t always survive.

  19. Delrian says:

    As a GM, I feel like the majority of my encounters end up being very straightforward. Having a list of elements that I could add to these encounters to give players more interesting choices would be helpful.

    I also would like to see some sort of common communication mechanism for defining what types of rpg sessions GMs want to run and players want to play in would be helpful in the finding the right group section.

  20. Heath Wilder says:

    I’d love to know what project management tools people use to keep their games on track. I’ve used Trello boards, Pintrest boards (for in game photo reference), The the suite of Google tools. I love to hear what other tools people are using to facilitate their gaming around the table

  21. Walter says:

    Something that really merits discussion is how to look at the rules. What makes for a good rule? What makes for a bad one? And how does context change this assessment?
    What does the game tell you the rules encourage? What do the rules show you that they encourage? Often there’s a disconnect somewhere, even if it’s a small one that a group might paper over in play because everyone’s trying to be polite and nondisruptive.
    How do you tell what a +1 (or equivalent bonus) actually means? Some games actually tell you the odds straight up front, but otherwise you shouldn’t need to pull out that Hogg & Tanis textbook to learn what order statistics are.
    If the rules have incomplete guidelines, how do you respond? One system might expect you to write NPCs with the same high complexity as PCs, but not give you instructions on quickly creating them let alone running two to five such rules behemoths. Or another system might make money a major incentive for the players, but fail to tell the GM how much to actually give out on a per-session or per-mission basis. What do you do to make up for this deficiency? Maybe you attempt to infer and kitbash based on printed examples and sample adventures. Or instead you conjure up your own formulae and guess based on feedback. Maybe you just run entirely by the seat of your pants. Perhaps you outright punt on the system.
    How do you choose one system over another for a story concept? Even supposedly “generic” systems have subtle biases in one direction or another. Inversely, how do you determine what story concepts will work or not in a given system? Tales of courtly intrigue won’t fly with a system designed for resource management, originally written by a former actuary.
    How do you determine when to homebrew or houserule? And if so, how extensive should your changes be? Allowing someone to use two stances at once in combat might be wildly potent in a game that places great mechanical weight on that mechanic, but it would instead be no big deal in another game that treats stances as an afterthought. And even if everyone gets access to two stances in the former game, you might still tilt gameplay in an unexpected direction. Maybe everyone is suddenly more brittle, making for faster PC turnover, or perhaps instead everyone is too sturdy, forcing combat to drag out unnecessarily.

  22. Scott Mayes says:

    encouraging player direction decisions at the end of each session to allow the GM to plan better and thereby enriching the story of the next session. getting players to recognize the advantages to this over complete randomness due to lack of player coordination, forethought/planning, major shifts in primary direction taking. understanding maintaining directional changes within a minimal framework to better the story.

    encouraging players to stay in character and in the moment with role playing rewards/recognition in the game in the form of minor character boons, good role playing highlights like in-the-game trophy passing, other tools.

    constructive, not superficial, overly judgemental or abstract (not on a scale of 1 to 10, what did you hate most, etc.) session feedback tools/surveys that speak to assessing/supporting group satisfaction over more narrow-focused individual satisfaction, thus focusing on growth as a group of people, maintaining a healthy balance of give and take, thinking positively outside just the game play for better relationship building, improving individual awareness of your actions toward that end.

  23. Dave Zokvic says:

    I love that there’s a small section for game designers!

    It’s no secret that one of the big barriers to tabletop roleplaying games is that they can be difficult to teach. And even if they are relatively simple to pick up, they can still *appear* intimidating to the novice player. There’s all sorts of terminology, strange dice, and other foreign concepts that can easily easily overwhelm players and GMs.

    I would *love* to see a section in YBGE for GMs with tips on teaching games, for players with tips for learning games, and most critically, a section for designers on how to make your game easier to teach. Things like using easily understood (and pronounceable) terminology. Give words meaning that is clear. Smart iconography. Scaffolding learning by building concepts on top of one another, so the learner doesn’t have to grasp everything at once. Stripping out extraneous information and simplifying what is left. Different rules resources to allow learners to engage how they want—full rulebooks, short digestible videos, even interactive web components. Making components accessible to as many audiences as possible.

    Of course, I’m an instructional designer by trade, so I’m sure my bias is showing. But making games teachable is a huge step towards making them more enjoyable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *