Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Teaching a Game

So, I’ve just hit 5300 words on the new Mythender character creation chapter. It’s only at around 50%, since I haven’t finished talking about the pieces of character yet and still need to unpack the various Paths in character creation. That said, I’m really proud of the first 200 words, though (in concept; I’m sure the need proper editing, but that’s later). I want to share them with you:

GM Advice: Look, Teaching Advice!

This chapter will be full of boxes like this one, which will give you suggestions as a GM on how to teach this game to your group. Recognizing that many GMs have to teach new games to their group orally and through demonstration, rather than have the benefit of everyone playing the game owning and familiar with the book, I’ve set it as a goal to empower you to teach this game to others.

You’ll find plenty of times where I’ll say “Don’t say this part yet.” This book has multiple purposes: as a teaching text, as a reference text, as entertainment itself. I’ve done my best to organize it so that one of more common uses of game books, as a reference, is not hampered. That means sometimes an idea is introduced in the text at the right place for referencing, but not at the right time if you’re teaching to your group how to play. That’s when you’ll see boxes like this one, where I’ll suggest a better time to tell the players about a concept.

That said, read this section (or have the players read it themselves) before they start making a character.  [Editor’s note:  “this section” refers to the first section of the chargen chapter, “Who are Mythender Heroes?”]

Now you know my text’s agenda. I’m constantly recording myself every time I explain the game, because I’m always doing it orally while characters are being generated of a battle is being played. I’ve learned when to hold off mentioning a concept because it wasn’t relevant at the time, or because I didn’t want to trip up people part-way through the process. I’ve done this with lots of games, through a process of trial & error. I want to bring that knowledge into Mythender so that you don’t have to deal with the same errors I do. This is very much in the spirit of “I want to put all my knowledge of the game as the designer into the text.”

To this end I ask my fellow Master Miners: what tricks have you learned as GM when teaching the game to players who haven’t played it or even read it before? What stumbling blocks have you hit? Help me learn what I should put into my book that would help you, as a GM, teach my game. (Specific bits will, of course, be welcome. But for that, I suspect you’ll need some sort of text on Mythender. Heh.)


March 3, 2008 - Posted by | Mythender


  1. I’ll share an example of a bloody failure which may help. When I was playtesting Giants, I never could explain how health boxes were figured. This was in the old health system, but I tried showing division with remainders, counting each box, and then just ended up figuring everyone’s health for them. And that mechanic is not that complex.

    In general, I think that if it involves higher order math, provide 2-3 examples.

    Also, if possible, the more you can compare two things (this mechanic is like this other mechanic), the better. The danger is that this relies on knowledge of the reader’s experience.

    I think you have an advantage with your chargen system. Because combat takes place right from the word “go” you have the opportunity to make that a tutorial as well, since as I understand it, some of the features of the full combat system are not present during that first conflict.

    Not sure if that helps.

    Comment by commondialog | March 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. Chris can probably comment on how I explained Seiyuu during his playtest, but I follow two basic approaches: 1) the “business model” (tell me, show me, let me do it), and 2) start with an overview (“we’re gonna create our show, then characters, then play) and then drill down from there (“OK, here are the steps to creating our series, in order…”).

    I love what you’re thinking in terms of incorporating such methodology into the text itself.

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | March 3, 2008 | Reply

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