What's someone else's gaming skill?

edited February 2010 in Story Games
I started a thread asking people about what they're good at doing during games... and it's making me really joyful to read the responses.
So, I decided I'd like another thread like it.

Think about the people you game with (or have gamed with, whether once or a hundred times). What's something that someone at the table does really well?
It can include specific techniques, personality traits that lend well to the group, anything!

If you'd like to share what about the thing is so good, do so! If you want to reflect on whether you're capable of that same thing, also feel free, though don't make the post about you. There's another thread for that!


  • Daniel Wood (icecreamemperor) is really, really good at creating moments of quiet revelation, where a simple line of dialogue is just so perfectly timed and placed that it brings everything together... More than once its happened with a single-word line, like "...oh." It just communicates who the character is, what the problem is, and where the game has been heading all along.

    It's like a tiny fishing lure that somehow manages to snag an entire school of fish, reeling them all in at once.
  • John Aegard (Johnzo) is amazing at coming up with snappy, clever, dynamic ideas. In one game of Danger Patrol, he decided he'd be a stygian. There's this moment, where a light comes on in his brain, and he's like "Oh, wait a second, I've got it... The ship is a giant computerized manta ray." It fit so perfectly, was right in line with our quirky characters, and was awesome. Him playing the analytical and diabolical (but also good-hearted) Stygian was priceless. So many clever, awesome moments.

    He's really good at taking people to their awesome threshold, but never quite crossing into that stupid gonzo territory.
  • Re: Johnzo: YES. That. He's also one of the best GMs on Earth. A double threat!
  • Steve has a huge reservoir of miscellaneous knowledge. For example, if I describe caves in the Severn Valley, he knows that the rock there is granite. If I talk about an army base in Dover, he knows it's near the White Cliffs.

    It adds a lot to the game. It does make it very tempting to be lazy when writing scenarios, leaving it to Steve to fill in the details.

  • Posted By: GrahamSteve has a huge reservoir of miscellaneous knowledge. For example, if I describe caves in the Severn Valley, he knows that the rock there is granite. If I talk about an army base in Dover, he knows it's near the White Cliffs.
    That's awesome.
    There's a separate skill called "tactful integration", where one inserts details in a non-derailing, scene-enriching way. Does Steve also have that skill?
  • In the other thread, Eero said:
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenIt's super-useful in creating games and understanding them, so my practical contribution is that I can understand a game text and successfully execute its procedures in play nine times out of ten.
    And I would like to agree that Eero has this skill. His exegesis of about half a dozen games (TSOY, Heroquest, some others I can't think of at the moment) has either allowed me to put words to things I felt but could not articulate about the game, or given me completely new understandings of the game I never could have come up with on my own.

    Its happened more often on his blog than anyone else's (even Our Lord Vincent's) that I'll be reading along and suddenly go "OH SHIT! That's what I've been trying to get at but was too lazy to actually put in the thought and effort to get all the way to the conclusion. Thanks buddy for making that clearly expressed for me!"

    Past that, I've friends with amazing gaming skills, but no one here knows any of them, so I can't see where you'd care that, say Leo Lingas brings the most amazing and infectious enthusiasm to games, or that Chris Claxton brings a focus and dedication to game that's a rare thing to see, or that Mo has a skill at creating full, round characters that is amazing to see.
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: joepubThat's awesome.
    There's a separate skill called "tactful integration", where one inserts details in a non-derailing, scene-enriching way. Does Steve also have that skill?
    No, he destroys the scene every time, sadly.

  • Posted By: John HarperRe: Johnzo: YES. That. He's also one of the best GMs on Earth. A double threat!
    I'll have to add to the praise. My D&D 4e books will collect dust unless Johnzo is GMing.
  • So, Jason M is infamous for not blowing his own horn. But I'll do it for him: He will come to any table with enthusiasm. Even if it's a shitty demo game, or an epic scenario for some game or genre he couldn't care less about, he brings his A-Game, brings fun for other players, and never lets his personal feelings of a game/ruleset cloud the experience for others.

    Shane Jackson will slide into the role of any character like putting on a pair of gloves, from the first sentence his character utters. This is big for me, as it often takes me some time to "wind up" when getting into a character. But whether a cynic, a romantic, a man or woman, Shane really gets into his characters. That's probably why he is so into Call of Cthulhu.

    Everyone at my table brings something to it (Quintin Stone = great with planning, keeping characters involved, Travis Bryant = great at character acting, etc). The above are just some specific examples.

  • Judd will see what you want to do with your character, think it is awesome, and help you get where you are going consistently. It was like being teleported to a bizarro dimension to play with a GM who didn't obstruct me from doing what I wanted to do in-play, but it was a bizarro dimension I wanted to stay in.

    Bob will know the rules inside and out and will teach you how to build characters if it is one of those strategic, wargamey games like D&D.

    Jere will attack his characters with gusto and haul ass, pulling the rest of the game along behind him. I have a really hard time GMing without at least one Jere in the game who I can bounce things off of and react to.

    Shael will play strange, interesting characters to the hilt and address morality issues in the game. I always feel like we're breaking new ground whenever I have a game with him in it.
  • Graham is amazing at running Poison'd. I don't know that I'll ever be able to play it with anyone else running, because he's convinced me that the ideal GM for Poison'd is snidely British. ("The crew has tied you to the mast and is going to let Bloody Harry have his way with you. Would you like to do anything about that?")

    Tony LB is amazing at creating situations in which he plays these endearingly pathetic characters and then stabs you in the heart with sadness. I'm pretty sure that he wrote Misery Bubblegum just so he could do that a lot. I still remember our game of Ganakagok at last year's GenCon that went something like this:
    Me: Wait, you're saying that YOUR EXISTENCE is a sin against the stars.
    Tony: YES.
    Table: ....whoa.
  • Rob Bohl is a genius at injecting strife into the fiction when things are going too smoothly.

    John S. (jenskot) is great at finding the dramatic opportunities in scenes where that isn't obvious.

    Emily Boss is great at really listening to every player at the table.

    Frank Hablawi and Rich Flynn can each express a character with clarity and distinctiveness through a few sentences of dialogue.

    Jeff Colyer is great at structuring a session and facilitating group communication, including calling breaks or asking metagame questions at just the right moments.

    Matt W. (Deliverator) can get really into character and simultaneously keep a keen eye on storytelling concerns like pacing and direction.

    My buddies who none of y'all know: Dan G. can play characters via just facial expressions. John Z. is brilliant at drawing connections and inventing theories about "what's going on" in the fiction.

    Jonathan White has this unique thing he does where he starts narrating, gets to a moment for dialogue, takes a second or two to formulate what he wants to say, then says it -- but somehow keeps the energy extremely high through this whole process.
  • Wilhelm "Bork bork bork köttbullar" Person is really good at saying a lot with only a few words and simple gestures, I call this the skill of Creating Vivid Imagery. He's also got the skill of Breaking: he'll quickly spot a flaw that he can use to "win" a game (terribly obvious after a few rounds with the 1001 Nights playtest rules). Thankfully, he's also got the skill of Doing Greater Good which means he can ignore such impulses.
  • One of the guys I play with is a masterful problem solver. He can take minimal but flexible tools (particularly minor spells/cantrips) and come up with all kinds of ideas about how to use them to help out in the other player's plans. It's one of the reasons why I rarely worry about putting the player's characters in a tough spot when I run games; he can be relied upon to come up with some pretty ridiculous (if nearly plausible) ideas.
  • Two guys I've played with, who you have never heard of:

    Rob Sama always manages to come up with memorable, off-the-beaten path character concepts and breathe life into them in spectacular fashion. The sundress wearing wookie (who spent a lot of time discussing "the lifestyle" on-line with the handful of other transvestite wookies in the galaxy), Le Chef Magique (the arrogant awakened television chef who was forced into a life of shadowrunning after he punched a kid on his live Christmas Special), MacBride (who gave up a life of swashbuckling piracy to go to university and agitate for Democracy), you could always count on Rob to bring his own style to any game you played. (This description would help if you could hear him singing the Chef Magique theme song in French.)

    Jeff Herrold is the best long-term campaign GM I've ever seen. One reason why is a supernatural willingness to ditch his own notions in favor of those of the player's. Example: at the end of the best campaign I've ever been in, he asked if we had questions. I remembered a point years earlier where the group had a choice between following two goals that led in opposite directions, and asked what would have happened if we had made the other choice. "One sec", he said, and left the room. He came back with two huge binders and showed us what the plan would have been in that case. What impressed me wasn't so much that he had done all that planning, but that he totally jettisoned it all without us even noticing, basically because we zigged instead of zagged.
  • My little brother is amazingly good at being a co-GM. Especially in more traditional games with a lot of rules. He can play a character and be a fun contributor to the group and, while managing that, he's also this ridiculously helpful rules encyclopedia. On other players' turns he looks up rules and keeps my head from exploding while we're playing.

    It's the kind of synergy that, I suppose, only really comes from playing RPGs together for 14 of the last 26 years.
  • Jonathan Eisenstein is an incredibly gifted antagonist. Some of my best convention gaming experiences resulted from him finding the exact right way to drive my characters nuts. At Dreamation 2011, he managed to undermine my cult leader character's authority so convincingly and so insultingly that I actually wound up screaming at him in character! Thanks, Jon.
  • Rich Rogers is great about consistently asking for feedback about what is and isn't working, even when things are going great, and sensing when a scene is slowing down and cutting it off before it sours.
  • Anna Geoffroy weaves tight little social situations full of drama and angst.

    Ray Geoffoy brings The Epic. Bigger, shinier, more awesome, LET'S GET IT ON! (Family Guy reference there) It's not always what's needed, but for games like Exalted it's hella fun.

    Drew Tatro and Janra Roberts will find a way to be eeeeeevil together in such a way that no one will ever catch or stop them, or even particularly want to.

    Evan Hughes creates games where the PCs are caught between two large and dangerous antagonists, where there are no "good guys."
  • Not sure if any of these folks are members here, but

    Joe S is terrifyingly good at plots and intrigue, which sort of makes it's own action.

    Simone C is simply one of the best role-players I've ever met, and our styles align so well that it's just pure joy to play in games with her.

    John Kim (who is here) I haven't played with much, but the LARP he ran at ACNW last year was really awesome, and just the sort of game I like to play in. He brings a LOT to the table, and you can tell he's really thought things through, but he let's stuff happen too.
  • So many people I enjoy playing with, some over Skype (Trevis, Brendan, Terra, Mark) and some at SG Seattle (Pat, Martin, Shuo, Sev, Erik, Xander, Bridget, Adrienne, the occasional Johnzo appearance, and many more) play unsafe. They don't flinch, hesitate, or stall. They don't block.

    Ben R has lots of ranks in Mentor, plus he can be counted upon to bring the incest.

    I don't think any of you know Skaff - for a trad player who acts like he's all above freeform stuff he can really bring it. He's a creative force, and does some pretty awesome voices too.
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