Lab Management advice from Gary Gygax

(rest in peace, Gary)

An avid gamer since I was sixteen, I dug out one of the oldest – and best – books on the subject, by the man himself:

Still the best

Re-reading it, I was struck by the following passage:

However, it is again a case of delving into subject areas from which the author of the work drew information. In addition, a broad background of material in the genre, specifically in that portion of SF in which the author in question wrote the work, enables the game participant to excel. Furthermore, if the author is of real substance and his work has been around for some time, it is a safe bet that there will be associated works to draw upon.

These associated works will be influenced by and at least peripherally touch on the same material as the original author did. How many readers of H. P Lovecraft have read The Willows? The King in Yellow? While most are probably familiar with The Hounds of Tindalos, only the devoted few will have managed to find and read the two former works. Time to go back to your Necronomicon for all the rest of you!

What’s great is how he describes understanding an author’s world in layers:

For example, one company has produced a role-playing game based on the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, specifically his books and stories set in the fantastic land of Middle Earth. The primary source material for the game master is the game itself. Beyond that, a game master who aspires to an intimate knowledge of this milieu should read the author’s works and keep them on hand for reference. He should also learn about Tolkien by reading biographical or autobiographical information, to determine which literature, myths, and legends influenced the author’s creation of his fantasy world, and then peruse Tolkien’s source material. Likewise, the game master should examine previously published role-playing games and compare them with the game in question to ascertain which things influenced the designer and how the designer interpreted and presented these concepts in his own game. This need not be the end of the information-gathering process, for as noted, the quest can go on indefinitely, but this much work ought to give any student a solid and sizable background.

In other words, there’s the core books that the author has written at the top, the ones that describe the world the Game Master is trying to understand and replicate.  The next tier down are the other works the author has written (which may or may not be in the same genre).  Below that are those works that inspired the writer, as well as as historical, scientific or other real world details he drew on.  Then you can move on to the author’s biography, works inspired by him, commentaries…  The work never really ends.

As Lab Managers, we’re not trying to understand a fictional world, but the real world.  That makes our job much, much worse.  Luckily, that makes this layered approach even more valuable.  For example, right at the top you might put the Risk Assessments that cover what’s going on in the lab.  These represent the core, the essential matters of risk in your lab.  Directly below can be your safety policies, guidelines and handbooks (just because the lab worker’s don’t read ’em, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t).  Below that you can start looking closely at the different manuals for the different research apparatus at work in the lab.  Then come details on the experiments being conducted, the different Safety Data Sheets, that sort of thing.  Then comes the careful reading of journals like the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, the Fire Safety Journal, the Journal of Loss Prevention…  And what about refresher courses in chemistry, biology, physics, engineering or what have you?  Then there’s a vast and growing library of books on the subject of lab safety….

This work really never ends.  The massive advantage of the layered approach is that the lab can be made functional while you explore the deeper layers.



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