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Play Unsafe $8.00
Average Rating:4.0 / 5
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Play Unsafe
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Play Unsafe
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by Jordan R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/24/2015 17:54:42

« Play Unsafe » is a list of tips, insights and ideas about RPGs organized under 5 broad categories : Play, Build, Status, Tell Stories ans Work Together. I put 3 stars, but don’t let it fool you in thinking the book is not worth reading. It’s good : it makes you think differently about RPG, and can make you reconsider some things you do, thus improving your game. But I feel this would have been an excellent blog series : 8 US$ is a bit much, especially if you already read improv-oriented games or blogs and forums about this play style.

The thing is that if the book makes you realize and question some of your assumptions, it does not help you do much more than that. For each insight the author share, he gives a good short explanation and illustrate it with a helpful example, then proceeds to another insight. No deeper discussion, no analysis, no nuances are given; and if good practical advices are sometimes offered, they still feel incomplete. Sometimes this is no big deal, but it is often frustrating : « Don’t plan ahead » means avoiding to plan contingency plans (if A happens, B will, but if C happens, D will instead…) and Walmsley’s practical advice to help the reader is to « Hold ideas lightly ». But should I plan something, some kind of scenes maybe, or some places, or maybe an evil plan that some bad guy will put in motion, or some stats blocks, or a story hook, or NPCs? How much does that change if I play a crunch-heavy game versus a light-rule one? None of those issues are acknowledged, much less discussed; some tips, like « Screw with each other » or « Shooting ideas deliberately » are in dire need of that.

This superficial treatment leaves you at the end of the book realizing that for most of the tips, one or two sentences does not only sums, but basically says pretty much everything the book itself said about it. That does not make it bad or useless : the right one or two sentences can improve your game, and the book contains a healthy dose of « right ». But that still is an obvious lack of substance. Imagine a book of aphorisms and quips about entrepreneurial success : it can be uplifting, eye-opening, maybe even life-changing, but it’s leaves a lot to be desired if you actually try to start a small business. « Play Unsafe » is the tabletop RPGs version of this. To be fair, the author tells you at the very beginning about the « Zen of gaming » approach of his book, so in retrospect, that was to be expected.

Of course, the quality of those insights will also vary. For example, « Keep the action onstage » (« Never describe action from a distance […] when you can bring the action closer ») strikes me as either false (it’s actually a great way to give life to the universe and/or to hook the PCs on some adventure) or uselessly cryptic (of course you don’t want to describe in detail a great battle if the PCs cannot take part in it in some way; but why then not write « make sure PCs are part of whatever is happening » or « make sure you are not monologuing for more than one minute »?). On the other hand, « Get to the action » presented just before is great advice : instead of stalling cool things from happening (« we kill the usurper! ») with dull obstacles (« the usurper isn’t in the room we thought, but miles away! »), let them happen and continue the story from there (« we become the new rulers of the kingdom. ») Your mileage may vary, but I’m pretty sure that you’ll find some tips great and others quite bad.

In summary, « Play Unsafe » is a book that will help you reflect on how you play and see RPGs. It may change some of your attitudes, but do not expect much else beyond that. 8$ is probably too expensive, but it’s not a waste of money.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Play Unsafe
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by SJ B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/17/2013 16:17:23

I truly wished I clicked on the preview button to see the size of the pages before i had purchased this.

Ill make this short.

  • The pages have roughly 1/4th the text of a normal page.

  • This book has 80 pages.

  • This book is $8.00

Summary: 20 pages worth of information for $8.00

Worth it? Not for me... decide for yourself.

[1 of 5 Stars!]
Play Unsafe
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by Bruce L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/18/2013 09:40:49

I like this book, as it really helps GM's, and players, to go beyond the mechanics of a game. The author stresses improvisational theater techniques for use within an RPG, and I like that. It is a bit short on page numbers (hence the 4 of 5 rating -- not as in-depth as I would have preferred), but what it has, is rich, and valuable. It is not as good as "X-treme DM'ing", but it is along those lines, if you are familiar with that book.

I would definitely recommend this book to friends, whether GM, or player. It may stretch folks, and that is very good -- that is its entire purpose! This book is not for min-max'ers, who concentrate on power-up's, and goo-gad's. It is about interactive story-telling, first, and foremost (aka, cooperative gaming, as in non-competitive). I've been playing AD&D since 1980, and I discovered much of what this book recommends, on my own, through the school of hard knock's. If you want to maximize your enjoyment of the game, without getting caught up in mechanics, and rules manipulation, this is a fantastic place to start. Cheers!

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Play Unsafe
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2012 07:48:35

I have heard of Play Unsafe by Graham Welmsley when it first came out, but I only got around to reading it in the last couple of days. I really wish I have read this earlier, since I think it would have improved my gaming no end. While the book is very short, it is packed to the brim with information, suggestions and ideas. In the book, Graham draws on some lessons from improv, about how to make the game more enjoyable for everyone at the table. The central ideas are one of trust, doing the obvious and taking risks.

TRUST A gaming group always needs trust around the table, and Playing Unsafe emphasises that fact. Trust enables the players to relax, and to go with the flow of ideas around the table. I have experienced a flowing game, where the whole table gets on the same wavelength, and we just push forward, riffing off each other. Every time that happened, I played with people I trusted.

DOING THE OBVIOUS I found the idea of doing the obvious mindblowing. Something may seem completely obvious to you, but to the other players it will seem like a breath of fresh air. I have spent too much time and effort in the past trying to come up with an elaborate scheme, just to see it fall flat.

TAKING RISKS The idea of taking risks is linked with the idea of trust at the table. It means that you are free to do interesting things with your character, and to take the story in unexpected and different directions, while knowing that you will have the support of the rest of the table.

Overall, Play Unsafe is a book that I wish I had gotten when I started roleplaying, It is packed full of ideas and new ways of looking at things that would help in any game.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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