Tips for Experts at Gaming Conventions
I had the pleasure of experiencing True Dungeon for the first time this past weekend, and while it was awesome, we had a party member whose actions were not in alignment with his stated intentions. I wrote this post planning to put it on the True Dungeon forums, but I think the advice is applicable to many kinds of games you might play at a gaming convention, so I’m putting it here instead.
Greetings, True Dungeon fans! I just had my first ever TD experience this weekend, and it was fantastic! My group happened to have an expert player in it who loved sharing the fun of TD with newbies. Based on how that went, I have a few tips to share for other experts who wind up running with newbie groups.
As an expert, resist the urge to change the experience of a game for new players unless they ask you to.
I’ll call our expert Mr. Sash, because he had a big sash over his shoulder displaying lots of (what I assume must be valuable) gear tokens. If you are Mr. Sash, hello! Thank you for running with our group! Please understand that this isn’t a call-out or a rant. I realize your intentions were good, and I’m hoping that this post will help to identify some places where your actions conflicted with them.
I had a chance to chat with Mr. Sash briefly after our run, and he told me that his goal was to help us new players have a great time by offering little hints if we strayed off course. Assuming he was honest about his intentions, there are some behaviors he exhibited that didn’t quite have the effect he was hoping for. So here are three ways that expert players can help newbies have the best time possible:
1 — Don’t coach unless asked
Mr. Sash understood the game super well, and had even been through our particular dungeon setup multiple times before. He seemed to have a particular fondness for the rogue boxes, and hovered over our rogue each time she was solving one, offering tips and suggestions.
The intention was good! Mr. Sash had learned some lessons from previous experience and wanted to share them. The result, though, was less fun for our rogue. For her, a big part of the fun of learning a new game is experimenting, making her own mistakes, and owning her own successes. By coaching her when she hadn’t asked, Mr. Sash removed a lot of the fun.
2 — Don’t reveal information unless asked
In the very first room of our dungeon, we were presented with a puzzle that had a five-step solution. Mr. Sash entered the room and immediately marched towards solution number one.
The intention was good! Mr. Sash wanted to get out of our way quickly and fade into the background while the rest of us solved the other four steps. The result, though, was that he changed the puzzle by adding new information to it. We weren’t solving from step 1, we were leapfrogging it and solving an easier, less interesting puzzle. For a lot of people, a big part of the fun of puzzle solving is at the beginning when you’re not even totally sure what to do. By adding this new information to the mix, Mr. Sash made that puzzle less fun for us.
3 — Don’t be the first to break the fourth wall
Mr. Sash is an old hand at True Dungeon. He’s reached the point of experience where he has moved past the outer veneer and is interested in digging in to the underlying workings of things. Apparently our prep coach at the entrance had gotten some calculations a bit wrong, and Mr. Sash was quick to point this out to every cast member along the way. Also, he would talk shop with the cast, discussing things like problems with the electronics that went into the props.
The intention was good! He noticed an error with his expert eyes and wanted to make sure our group had a fair run. The result, though, was that we were taken out of the fiction of the experience. Our group wasn’t exactly a hardcore role-playing group, but we were having a good time engaging with the cast and pretending to wander through this alternate universe. If we had been more of a behind-the-scenes kind of group, an expert sharing his knowledge would have been amazing! But since we were not, we were anchored to reality and had had less fun.
I think what these tips boil down to is this: Resist the urge to change the experience for other players. We paid our entrance fee so that we could experience the game that the True Dungeon designers created. From your perspective as an expert, it might seem like your help will enhance the experience for us newbies, but there is no way to know ahead of time if your help will enhance or detract, so only help if asked.
Again, if you recognize yourself as Mr. Sash in the description above, thank you for being a part of our group! I know that your intentions were to make sure we all had a good time, and I hope you’ll be even more successful at doing so with future groups.