Warning: May Contain Personal Opinions: What Makes A Perfect Game

Hi all!  It has been a while since I have done an opinion piece.  I stopped doing them because people stopped reading them.  I think you stopped reading them because I got to the point where I was trying to force myself to write opinion pieces on things that I was not overly opinionated about.  So my blog of recent has been about NPC’s and my own games.  And it has been good.  But last night whilst I was sitting home alone wondering what to do I read a blog about what the perfect game is.  When everyone walks away and goes “Hell yeah!  Great game all!”  And honestly, this post was long and in my honest opinion wrong.

Rant incoming…

But of course all of these things come down to personal opinion.  In the blog the personal opinion of the writer was a great game was where everyone had that one moment where they were involved in a shared visualisation  at the same time.  The visualisation is exactly the same for every player as they inhabit their characters in the moment.

Well, I am here to call that complete and utter rubbish.  If that has ever happened, which I so totally doubt, no one at the table would even know.  So, how the hell does this kind of tripe get out there.  I ask you to talk amongst your own gaming group and ask them about what their favourite gaming moment ever has been.  I can almost guarantee that every single player will have a different moment and that the GM is likely not even going to have something that in reality comes close to this.  The GM works under completely different benchmarks completely.

So, now that my mini rant is out and on the table I am going to give you my personal opinion of what makes it a great game from my perspective as a player and then as a GM.  And understand please that this is personal opinion and not a step by step guide as to how to achieve a great moment.  Call me out on it in the comments, say “Hey man, you are so incredibly wrong, my favourite moment happens when the pizza arrives and there are extra anchovies…” or whatever.  (You may be able to tell my mini rant isn’t quite over yet) Because there is no way that you can plan for these “BEST MOMENT EVER” (BME) portions of a game.  They just happen.

Player Best moment EVER!

Coltyn and Grell
OK, first of all, I am pretty sure my BME happened over twenty years ago with a character by the name of Amphora (Half-orc Fighter/Cleric AD&D 2E) and I have lost it to the mists of time soooooo I am going to relate my last BME which is a toss up between playing Coltyn and Grell, my Pathfinder Summoner and his Eidolon, or Decimus in the Roman Legion game I recently played in Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) run by +Dan Hall.  It is a line call but I believe that it has to be the end fight scene with Decimus that just pips the post here.  In commiseration I include a picture I commissioned of Coltyn and Grell here just because I can!

Decimus was an Optio (apparently a bit like a Lieutenant) and had lead a group to find a Briton King that was causing the Legion trouble.  We found him after a fun set of encounters and managed to play on his honour enough so that he would face Decimus in one on one battle to decide the fate.  Decimus in quite the upstart fashion offered that the legion would leave the area if the King won but I demanded that his army leave if I won.  I could be cocky as I had a few FATE points saved up and knew it would take a string of worst luck ever for me to lose.  

And of course Decimus won.  I took the head of the King and his army fled.  The battle was tense, to and fro but I knocked him to his knees and Mortal Kombat finishing moved him getting a 13(?) on the success ladder.

It was not the fight that was the BME though.  It was the roleplaying banter that occurred between the King, Decimus and my slave that really made this the highlight of my recent gaming.  It came together and I totally inhabited my character for some of the speeches that he made.  I felt the strength and pride of that character in me and it was powerful.  BME!

Was it the same for the other players?  Not sure.  Was it BME material for them?  Probably not as it was largely my character that the spotlight was fully on.  Does that matter?  HELL NO!

GM Best Moment EVER!

As a GM you are looking at a whole range of different benchmarks for a BME.  You need to look not only at the game, but also at your preparation and the execution of it as a whole.  Most games tell you these days that you need to be a fan of the players too so you have to factor in their actions to the whole situation.  After each game you need to ask:
  1. Did my preparation work?  
    1. Did I over prepare or under prepare?
    2. Is there anything I need to focus on preparing for next game?
  2. Did the game end up following the same lines I expected?
  3. What worked well and had the most impact?
  4. What did not work well and had the least impact?
  5. Was there anything I thought was going to be a big thing in game that did not work out that way?
Self reflecting after a game is important
So self reflection is important and I argue that there can be two BME moments for me that factor in this sort of stuff.  The first is the game where everything goes by the numbers.  I have read and prepared for the game and also gotten all my encounters ready prior to game time and I run the game and it hits every point I worked toward.  This is BME material for me!  In essence, where my effort matches my expectation I grin about the game for a week.  I have had many games in recent times that match this.  BME!  But telling you about all the planning and work that went into, say, The Demolished Ones that I ran online would make you wonder why it is BME material, unless you are a GM, and even still it may seem a bit underwhelming.  Not for me.

The second BME material can come because the players in the end break everything.  Take my Traveller game that I refreshed recently.  New ship, new outlook.  First trip out the players accidentally put the ship in deep space with no chance of getting out.  Broke massive amounts of ideas for me of where the game was going.  Left me stunned.  I was glad it all happened at basically the time the game normally finishes up.  But the rebirth of that game gave me some of the best material.  The next game was a rescue crew brought together to find out the fate of the crew of the lost ship.  The same players playing their rescue.  I had a great deal of material to work up to make it work and last game just as they were about to find out what happened I called it.
The Traveller game gives me some of the BME
Next game they go back to the old characters and find out what actually happened.  This complete breaking of my planned game by the players has lead to two weeks of BGE material for me and I love it!  The players are liking the concept but they are likely a bit concerned about there old characters.  And at the end of it all they are likely to be happy because the old characters survived, or annoyed because they liked the new character and of course vice versa if the old characters did not survive.  Does that matter to me?  Does that detract from my GM BME?  Hell no.


I needed to rant about this, and I apologise for any offence as none was meant.  Everybody has different definitions of what a BME is.  Heck, if it is just that you got to sit around the table with some friends for a laugh and a chat and happened to play a game too.  No one shares exact visions and everyone visualises differently.  Sure it may seem that the vision was the same afterward but it wasn’t.  That is just when you talk about it and people alter their memory of the event to coincide with others, which is a common psychological process.

Me, I know what I get out of games is different to many others.  But I am totally OK with that.  As long as I am still having BMEs then I will keep gaming.  Keep rolling!

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