Sunday, 10 April 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 12 - 1994

There is a time when everything comes together in a roleplaying venue. The right players with the right attitude, the right game and the right location. With me it was Star Wars D6 at Paul's house with Paul, Mark, Andy, Darren and Louis (with an occasional visit from Jason, my first DM from 1984).

Paul's house was perfect. The room was a dining room far removed from the rest of the house. In it was a large oval dining table with a hanging light directly over the centre, with easy access to bathroom and kitchen and there were very few distractions inside. The head of the table was wide and great for a GM, with a table behind to put other stuff. There was room for paper, maps, dice, food, everything a gamer would need right in front of him without intruding on anyone else's space.

Here - I made a video a few years ago of that very year in that very room, check it out:



The second dude with the long hair who looks like he's trying to strangle himself - that's me. The hair, sadly, is no longer with us.

The games were run by me and Paul, and we'd swap duty every now and then to keep the games fresh. We both knew the Setnin Sector inside out and played the NPCs pretty much the same so we could flow on from adventure to adventure, using the same PCs, locations and NPCs. Because we were playing games set in the underworld the players soon got tired of double-crossing the NPCs and slyly turned on each other.

It was a case of outdoing each other, not through combat but through double-dealing and dishonesty. Notes were slipped under the table. Every now and then a couple of players, or a player and the GM, would call for a secret meeting and slip out of the room. Everyone knew that everyone else was out to get them. The games were, to be frank, brilliant. Andy and Mark especially revelled in the insidious nature of the campaigns and discussed the situations outside the game to try and get one-up on the other PCs.

I was also running games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for groups in two neighbouring towns - one group I got in touch with through an advert in a gaming magazine (I'm not sure which one but I think it was GM International), and one of the players in that group introduced me to another group. Luckily he was local to me so I got lifts to both places. The one group was good and enjoyed Star Wars games. That was easy, I just recycled the adventures I was running for the Sunday night guys, and the other group chopped and changed every three or four weeks; a bit of Star Wars, a bit of WFRP, a bit of Call of Cthulhu, it really depended on what mood they were in that month. Both groups were pretty good fun but they petered out after three months or so due to the members going back to their respective universities. It was nice to hear that they were running games set in my campaign worlds, but we lost contact soon after and I've not heard from any of them since.

It was, however, the Sunday night games I concentrated on and enjoyed the most. They were fun, exciting and every week bought new suprises because the players were so invested in the game. I'd finally cracked how to run large group games effectively, and the fun the other two groups in the week had was testimony to that as there was constant communication between players about the game between session. Each player was treated fairly, with time and attention equal between them all, the story flowed, the action was furious and dangerous, I didn't allow the game to get bogged down in details or rules interpretations or page-flipping... I went with the flow, created sandbox games and created situations, not stories. It was as much fun for me GMing by the seat of my pants and winging it as it was to play.

Yeah... that was a great year, and every game just seemed to get better and better. It wouldn't last - what does? - but I learned some very valuable lessons about running group games, lessons that I still adhere to today.

1995 was pretty much the same, but of course there were a few changes. Me and Paul were the main two GMs of the group, and two was enough. But five? Five GMs all running games in the same campaign world with the same PCs?

Uh-oh.