Playing Up

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Episode 57 – Playing Up
(a.k.a Player’s advice for players)

We have books full of gaming advice for GMs, but where is all the help for players? What can you do to help your fellow players out? Shouldn’t we all just be helping each other have a great time?


All this and more answered in this episode, with your genial hosts, Baz and Gaz!

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2 thoughts on “Playing Up

  1. Elina

    Thank you Baz and Gaz for a very interesting podcast. I am glad that my little post inspired a much wider conversation about player to player interactions in game. I agree that there is a lot of advice for the GMs and as a player, I always love to hear tips about how to improve play for me as a player.
    The “playing up” technique in its simplest terms (as you rightly put it in your post) can be distilled to “supporting a trait / aspect of another PC in a way that the player wants their character to be portrayed”. It is all about what the other player wants.
    The way that I have seen the technique used in larps is that before the start of a campaign (after character generation perhaps) or before the start of a new chapter, people go around in a circle and list one or maybe two things that they want to be “played up for their characters”. Clear communication is key, especially in tabletop in order to understand what each player wants for their character and discuss any possible conflicts.
    It is also (at its best) a reciprocal technique. If you play me up and I play you up, we both win. If you play me down and I retaliate by playing you down, then both our characters are weakened and the whole game is less epic.
    This works both in party-based PvE games as well as in PvP games. I would argue that in PvP games, it is even more important because while your characters are at each others’ throats, you need to make sure that you are not playing them down.
    To give you an example: Gisella is the biggest toughest barbarian in the West. Jeliah is the most agile and sure-footed ninja in the East. They hate each other and finally after sessions of play, it is the final reckoning. If they play each other down, then they become petty mediocre fighters who just brag a lot about themselves. If they play each other up, then they are the most awesome bad-asses in the world and this is an epic fight. I know which one I would want to see in TV and also at the gaming table.
    It is all about giving a little bit of thought in what the other players want and making their characters look cool. If they then do the same for you, the whole game shines!

  2. Playing up can also help with what might be otherwise be considered disruptive play. A common scene might be this: the PCs are hiding near an enemy campsite plotting how to attack, one of the PCs has an impetuous trait or a particular vendetta against one or all of the enemy and so their player declares that they cannot contain themselves and charge in regardless. This then causes an argument between the players becaus they consider this  disruptive play. They have been robbed of their chance to plan their attack properly because of this one player’s actions.

    However, viewed differently, the other players are ignoring an aspect of this character because they expect the player to act like themselves.

    Consider a different scenario, the characters all need to fly somewhere by plane. One character has a fear of flying trait or bad history with flying and so their player says they refuse to go. Instead of arguing about whether this is disruptive, all the players work out and agree how the other PCs might trick or drug or otherwise get the character on that plane. They acknowledge this trait of the character but they work together so that it doesn’t halt the adventure.

    (This is pretty much what happened in The A-Team time after time with BA and was a running theme that added to both the characters and the story.)

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