Review: Your Best Game Ever
Just a couple weeks ago I received the first of my rewards for backing Monte Cook Games’ Best Game Ever Kickstarter. This was the titular Your Best Game Ever book, which is available right now. Today let’s talk about this wonderful resource.
A Guidebook Bound By No Game
I have read a couple books to help guide me as a GM. Books and articles to help me run my games, prepare my games, tell stories, and more. I have books that help me with D&D specifically and focusing on fantasy settings. I even have books (not intended for RPGs) to guide me in horror, science fiction, and more. What I never had and had never really seen was anything like this. No matter how helpful those books are this one stands apart.
Your Best Game Ever is an incredible hardcover book for literally (and I use this in its intended way) anyone who has ever played or thought of playing a table-top RPG of any genre or rule set. Between its pages are pieces of information for everyone at the table and even those who don’t yet have a seat there. Just as the author, Monte Cook himself, intended this book is meant to guide you into a game and to make yourself the best GM and/or PC that you can be.
With every section Cook reminds us that, no matter what kind of game you are playing, these are still games. More than that we are reminded what makes games like this so great: the group of people we get to play with. These people are your friends, your co-conspirators, and so much more. Despite leaning heavily into the modern viewpoint that RPGs are collaborative storytelling games (something I wholly agree with), the lessons here run deeper than that. These are lessons on being a decent human being, how we can forget to do that sometimes, and how we can work together to make those forgetful moments just that, moments.
A Chapter For Everyone
Between the covers of Your Best Game Ever, we get a look at the biggest topics of RPGs. This isn’t how to world build or how to make sure your campaign doesn’t derail. It isn’t how to remember your abilities or picking the right class for you. The book is about the problems, obstacles, and concerns that pervade all aspects of all games.
To begin we get a look at the perspective of someone who has never played. The first chapters are all about finding a group. How to find one, where you might find one, helping figure out if the one you fin is right for you. Throughout it all it encourages you not to settle if you aren’t happy, even if you are playing with friends. It encourages many solutions from a new GM to a new group and a new genre to a whole new campaign. The goal is to find a table that works for you and for them so that you can become (or stay) friends who continue to share adventures together. And don’t worry, throughout the section the players with no current group are not forgotten. Monte Cook reminds the reader that they are part of this too and that none of the lessons go without merit just because you’ve played before.
And that’s when we get into the even better stuff. First we have a chunk of chapters dedicated to being a player, followed by another dedicated to being a GM. Each individual chapter concerns a specific topic such as creating a backstory, working with a group, or dealing with problem players (or characters). It isn’t the depth that is important in this book, not like other books which might describe in pages of detail the different “types” that might sit at your table (like the “diva”). Instead the book seeks to give the topics breadth so that we might solve them in whatever form they take.
Most of all we are calmly and passionately reminded that the key here is that we are people, dealing with people, in an emotionally deep game. We all do better to remember this. This is just as much about solving problems between two people and it is between two characters and reminding the reader that a game doesn’t have to work. I mean, I love horror movies but I know who will watch them with me and can count on one hand who will enjoy them, I will not ask just any friend to come watch one because we enjoy watching and discussing movies. RPGs are no different and people forget that…for a lot of reasons. Your Best Game Ever helps reveal this and teach us to be aware so that we can have as much fun as possible.
Not Just Self Help
I may be starting to ramble about just one aspect of this book now. As important as that underpinning theme is, that isn’t the entirety of Your Best Game Ever. Part of the reason the book is as great as it is, is due to the other stuff that is mixed in there, fully integrated and part of it all.
No matter what game you are playing the stuff in here still works too. From working out arcs for your character to creating backgrounds and developing quirks to developing in-game bonds, these concepts are not genre specific. I love that these are in here and done with elegance. The character arc section is especially useful in describing basic arcs for a character (PC or otherwise!), but let’s look at backgrounds.
These are written with 0 genre specificity. They aren’t complicated but give you a foundation for depth and development. One example is a simple adventurer who has left home to make money for their family and sends back what they can. They always look back towards home. That little description can be used anywhere, for any type of character and THAT is incredibly useful.
The section for GMs is no less useful. Taking up a good third of the book that portion has even more useful things to help you. From planning methods for story telling to world building considerations to pacing tactics to making NPCs and ensuring player agency. The section on creating arcs with the 3 act outline and how to intersperse them as done wonders for the games I am running and I have a flowchart for each now that works better than any I had previously attempted.
Honestly, at this point, all I can say is go check this book out.