A sure sign that the conversation at a management conference has exceeded its “best by” date is when the topic turns to “What management book are you reading now?’ You know the books I’m talking about, right? Craptastic fare such as Who Moved My Cheese, The One Minute Manager, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Ugh.
I absolutely hate management books. I read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It was given to me eight years ago and it’s served me well since. I really don’t need another management book. I tend not to waste my time with them.
When asked, “What management book are you reading?” I decided to answer honestly.
“I’ve not heard of that,” Her eyebrows raised, “What’s the angle?”
“Manipulating people to improve output,” I replied.
“You mean motivating, right?”
“Sure, if that makes you more comfortable.”
Play Dirty gathers together Wicks’ essays originally penned for Pyramid. It’s a collection of GM advice on the subject of challenging, confounding, and tricking ones players to get the best out of them by employing a host of often dirty tricks. Upon reading, I found that I was already utilizing about 70% of his recommendations. That other 30%? That stuff’s gold!
As folks who read management books no doubt agree, it’s great to read a book that gets the brain-bone primed with thoughtful, creative new ideas. Wick’s book certainly delivers. In fact, I used one of his recommendations just this weekend.
Using Wick’s process described above for Saturday’s penultimate session of the first arc in my This Empire Earth campaign, I guided the players into researching the site of the final game’s big action. It is the villain’s secret lair, his nest of outlaws.
Going in, they knew two things to be true from in-game recon. There are two entrances to the complex: A well guarded doorway on a narrow mountain pass and a cliffside hangar bay. Beyond that, they needed to engage in a bit of research.
With Wick as my mentor I established that for every “fact” the players contributed to the hideout, I tossed a die into the box. These dice will be used by the players in the next session as bonus dice. The dice awarded were either d4 or d6 dependent on how cool the idea offered was.
For every five minutes this process took, I applied a poker chip to the box. These represent complications, allowing the GM (me) to determine that a fact is not indeed true. I can alter one fact per chip.
They took 15 minutes applying such truths as “the hallway’s are very well lit,” “the guards are well trained and well-armed,” “they’ve got a jet pack development lab,” “there’s a heavily armed battlemech in the hangar,” and my favorite “there’s a really cool motorcycle in there.” They wound up with a box full of bonus dice for next time and I received three complication chips.
When I pitched this process, there was, perhaps, some reluctance, but no real resistance. Feedback from the players was actually very positive. They got into the groove and left Saturday’s game excited about how their contributions will be incorporated into the next game.
And that was my goal. Get ’em jazzed, even maybe talking about it until next time. I manipulated/motivated them to doing some of my work while also getting them pumped for the big game.
Each of my players remarked at having had a good time going through the process. One even called me Sunday morning to chat about it.
Thank you, John Wick!