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Play Unsafe: How Improvisation Can Change The Way You Roleplay Paperback – January 20, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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  • Play Unsafe: How Improvisation Can Change The Way You Roleplay
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 82 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publis (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1434824594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1434824592
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. W. Perry on December 22, 2010
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Play Unsafe, by Graham Walmsley, is a primer on using techniques from theatrical improv for your RPG session. It has a lot of interesting insights on what makes a story work, and how to structure it even as you're making it up from whole cloth. Even GMs like me, who like to prep a lot before game, will find themselves improvising from time to time, and the methods here seem like they really can help. For instance, Walmsley devotes a whole (short) chapter to Status, both player status and character status, and how changing it generates story moments. It's reasonably thought through, and analyzes it from the point of degrees of status differences, how rapidly it changes, and whether those can lead to comic or dramatic events. It's quite perceptive, and well-written.

But there's one thing I can't get over: it's 74 pages. With a lot of white space in there for tables, boxed asides, and illustrations. If it were reduced to monospace text, even with reasonable section breaks, it would be maybe half that length. So if you want this book, you're going to have to pay almost a quarter a page for it. For me, that just wasn't worth it.

Still, as far as I'm concerned, it successfully accomplished what it set out to do, which was to illustrate some guidelines so you can be able, as a player or a GM, to spin the story of your adventure into new directions. I just wish it were cheaper.
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I'm no stranger to books about GMing, there's a few out there, but this one was a solid disappointment.

Preaching Tone: If you don't like being lectured to about how You Are Doing It Wrong, this might not be the book for you. The author adopts from the very beginning a mantle of 'True GM'-style authority as if there was one way to GM and he was about to let you in on the secret. There is no such secret, no such path, and while the information bestowed was sparse and slim, it was handed out as though bestowing upon you the Secrets Of The Universe.

Contradicting Proclamations: In the space of a single page-turn the author proclaims that you should never do something, as it would be horribly injurious to your game, then immediately tells you how you can use that very same thing as a really spiffy narrative device. The whole book is disjointed and scrambled and in places comes right out and contradicts itself, completely eroding the percieved focus of the book as well as the deific mantle taken on (see previous paragraph) by the author.

Whitespace: There's just not a lot here. I'm not talking about the size of the book, I actually like the trade paperback format, especially for RPG materials. I'm talking about the fact that if you flip through the book you see an appallingly small amount of actual ink on the pages. It seems like there's enough space to put in a whole second book. What comes to mind is a high school student trying to fill out a minium page count on a paper by fiddling with the margins, spacing, and leaving extra lines 'to separate things'. There's no reason to skip 80% of a page just because you completed an idea.

In short, not worth the (very small amount of) ink it took to print it, and you can get more out of some of the (free) columns on rpg.net or just about anything written by John Wick or Robin Laws.
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At six dollars for the Kindle version, it's overpriced. It would be a bargain at three dollars. However, it does distil improvisatory game mastering into 74 pages, read in half an hour. I'm a game designer and a busy game master with little prep time, and little brain space for prep, so I'm happy with my purchase.
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My gaming has been on another level since reading it. I'm told there isn't supposed to be one-size-fits-all roleplaying advice, but for me this was it - the source of the best advice on how to roleplay that I've yet to come across. It's valuable both for GMing traditional RPGs like D&D and for playing modern indie RPGs like Fiasco, Lady Blackbird, Apocalypse World, and Dogs in the Vineyard.

With its advice you'll find you're able to go into a game cold, without preparation, and create something awesome together. You'll push yourself out of your comfort zone and have some incredible experiences.

And the attitude in Play Unsafe is viral. If I model the stuff in here, it's catching.

It may have a high price-per-word but after what it did for me I'm glad to have it on my shelf.
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