Rules and Advice
Game Mastering
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December 14, 2005, 10:23 am

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Gaming is Like Pizza


From Feudal Japan to the modern Pizzaria, you can learn a great deal about gaming from food.

In Feudal Japan, one of the reasons warriors learned fine arts was to learn new ways of looking at things. They could them bring the new ideas, new patterns, and new processes from their fine art to their combat arts. Many of the florid descriptions found in Japanese combat texts comes from describing draws like setting down a tea cup or swords strikes as strokes of a paintbrush, the opponent being the canvas.

I have been reading a cook book and developed tips based on en mes pleis (French for In Place, the cooking technique of doing all the prep work first then cooking) and how to roast as an analogy on how to create drama for charcters (high heat… then long and slow… then a burst of high at the end). I could see the wisdom in the Samurai’s approach. In addition to better gaming, I can now make a souffle.

So I was highly receptive when I encountered an article that was called “Why Gaming Is Like Pizza”. It is an article from another site. (Highly recomended).

Why Gaming Is Like Pizza

Mark Kibbe of Basement Games

It was a gaming night like any other. I was sitting behind the Referee screen interacting with the players as the adventure unfolded. I had spent nearly two weeks constructing the adventure and, so far, things were going as I had planned. The adventure’s twists and turns had caught the players unaware but they were overcoming some of the more elaborate traps. They had already acquired a fair amount of valuable trinkets but the main treasure was still beyond their grasp; the treasure was goading them onward. We had been gaming for about three hours when Paul chimed in, “Is anyone hungry?” That was our cue. Rain reached for the phone to place our order with the local pizza shop while Scott and I put on or jackets and headed for the car. And while Scott was driving us home and I was sitting in the passenger seat with the pizzas and sandwiches on my lap it dawned on me: gaming is a lot like pizza. Now, you might ask yourself - what do role-playing and pizza have in common? The simple answer is: everything.

Good campaigns, like good pizza, take time to prepare. In gaming, the Referee should think first about the size of the adventure. Small scenarios might not need a lot of time to create while supreme-size campaigns can take weeks to complete. Also, once the size is determined, thought should be given to the adventure, its plots, its hazards, and its rewards. Like preparing a pizza, if the process is rushed or haphazardly thrown together the product might not be enjoyable. It could have a bland taste or a cardboard texture. The more preparation given to the adventure, the more appetizing the adventure will be.

As with pizza, role-playing adventures are better with lots of toppings. The Referee should pay attention to the amount of treasures, monsters, and traps that go into an adventure. The hazards should not be too easy or too difficult for the players’ characters and the rewards should be worth the risk. Also, like with pizza, the adventure’s topping should be evenly distributed over the entire adventure. Overloading one side with too many or too few toppings might leave the remainder of the adventure tasting bland or ordinary.

Creating tension in a campaign adventure is like heating the pizza oven. Just like a pizza needs sustained heat to cook all the way through, a gaming night needs drama and tension to hold the players’ interest. If the Referee fails to engage everyone in the campaign, players may become distracted and lose focus. Keeping the campaign sizzling is the best way to ensure that everyone stays involved. Remember, drama does not always need to be life-threatening but it does need to create a puzzle or predicament that must be resolved.

Appealing to the players’ likes is a good way to entertain them. If a person doesn’t like mushrooms, would you order a pizza with extra fungus? Of course not. They wouldn’t enjoy the pizza. The same consideration should be given when creating a campaign. If your players enjoy a certain type of adventure, cater to their likes. Give them some of what they enjoy. You don’t have to submit to their every whim but giving them something that appeals to their overall tastes is a good way to entertain them. If your tastes vary from your players, split the difference. Like ordering a half pepperoni and half extra cheese pizza, build the campaign the same way. Give them what they like and then expose them to the type of gaming you enjoy. Maybe you can win over their appetite.

2002 by Basement Games Unlimited, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Comments ( 8 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted KendraHeart
December 15, 2005, 0:54
We are most Amused. -.5x because you didn't write it.

However, the point is very true.
Voted Taxus
December 16, 2005, 12:25
The point is very true, but this isn't anything extremely special, I think. These tips are the same almost everywhere, this just applied them to the near-every-gamer's-heart concept, pizza.

Still, most amusing. Plus, re-reading this things is the way to wisdom and better gaming.
March 12, 2006, 1:43
Give Taxus the kewpie doll. He understands. Rereading things like this help bring things we are doing unconciously to the fore. That way we can better use those existing techniques. Combine that with new techniques and it all becomes better gaming (and writing).
April 3, 2007, 3:46
Hey Moon,
I was wondering what exactly is "en mes pleis" which is definitely not modern french for in place since that is the more simple "en place"? never come across it before...
April 3, 2007, 12:09
The phrase is used in a number of cook books and websites. I don't know if it is modern French, it is an old cooking term.

It defines a process: to have everything cut up and measured before cooking begins. En mes pleis is like they do in the cooking shows, where everything is pre cut and in those little bowels ready to be dumped in. Thus you would do all the prep work before you begin.
Voted Chaosmark
September 6, 2007, 11:54
Mer. Good concept, but I enjoy the ones you actually write better.
September 6, 2007, 19:26
So do I, but I like salvaging good pieces from being lost on sites that might not be up in a few months.
Voted valadaar
April 23, 2013, 9:13
And it does seem that the original site is not to be found. A decent article, though the analogy seems overwrought and in some cases, obvious.

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

Rural Mystery

       By: Murometz

The PCs are making their way from village to village across a rural hinterland, when they spot a weird sign along a farmstead's fence, with an arrow pointing to the actual farmstead.


If they investigate, a rather sedate local farmer, explains to them that for a mere two coppers, they can witness the show for themselves.

The show involves six ordinary, animated hoes "dancing" on a makeshift stage, as the farmer accompanies them by slapping his thighs to keep the beat, and playing on his flute.

If asked how the trick is accomplished the farmer demurs, not wanting to share his "secret".

"If you can get Old Man Purkiss to tell you how he gets his cows to spout poetry, I'll tell you how I make my hoes dance."

In reality, this minor encounter can lead to the PCs discovering that some localized, magical effect is active in the area. All kinds weird phenomena seem to occur in these parts.

Perhaps the PCs have finally found the ley-line of mana energy that they have been searching for! The party's wizard gets excited.

Encounter  ( Other ) | December 12, 2015 | View | UpVote 6xp

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