Gygax On…A Player’s Most Important Ability

What’s one of a successful player’s key abilities? (Once you’ve thought of an answer, hit “Continue Reading” to see if you are right!

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Of course, rolling a 20 (a lot) is a marvellous ability. Beyond that, the ability to get on with fellow players (rather handy), a good grasp of the rules (handy), good role-playing skills (handy) and many other things are all excellent qualities for a player to possess.

I’ve pondered the conundrum of a player’s most important ability for some time and so I was delighted to find a rather nice quote from Gary on this very subject.

So what did Gary have to say?

Whatever the ruleset of D&D you prefer, the ability to think around problems and come up with cunning plans to succeed is key.

What’s interesting about this quote to me is that it appears in the Keep on the Borderlands, a product designed specifically for novice players and GMs. Actually, the more I read this adventure, the more really cool advice I find within that’s still just as relevant today as it was in 1980.

I’m going to be taking a closer look at Keep on the Borderlands over the next few weeks and see what other forgotten treasures lie within. I’ve run the module many, many times, but strangely I haven’t spent a lot of time reading the various advice sections within. I’ll be rectifying that in the next few weeks!

Was Gary Right?

Was Gary right? Was he wrong? What do you think a player’s most important ability is? Let me know in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

8 thoughts on “Gygax On…A Player’s Most Important Ability”

  1. He was absolutely correct. While it is perfectly okay to approach Role playing as ‘beer & pretzels’, it is so much more fun when your mind is engaged. When you as a player are actively trying to solve a problem or participate in a challenging encounter.

  2. This advice doesn’t just apply to games. It applies to most areas of life.

    Thinking is still the most important thing you can do to live a good life. And if that gray muscle doesn’t get exercised, it ends up flaccid and weak, demanding to be fed nothing the mental equivalent of candy and soda.

  3. I’d go 1 further and add the term “adaptability” to the mix. A player and or person has to learn to adapt to their surroundings (people, culture and environment) in order to survive and is a component of thinking IMO. So yes, he is correct in a general sense of the term and “adaptability” would be more specific.

  4. I think successful players make the game more fun for everyone at the table: they find opportunities for other players to shine, they make apparent their appreciation of the world and the time and energy the GM put into it, they focus on the game and the playing of the game. I wish I was more like that.

  5. Actually this is the exact reason that I have taught my kids to play. To engage their minds in creative problem solving.

  6. Yea, I complete agree. More often than not players look toward the most skilled players for direction. I find if they think and act for themselves, the game progresses along better.

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