Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Roleplaying in the Dune universe - the final chapter... house.

Image result for dune book coverI've been writing and musing over a Dune tabletop roleplaying game and how I'd like to run it. My last two blog posts have concerned this, primarily because of the RPG 'Coriolis: The Third Horizon' by Free League Publishing.

The more I have considered it, the more I find it difficult to think of a campaign where the player characters would be able to have any kind of fun and not feel overshadowed by the huge events that occur within the Dune books. What might work is a game set before the events of the primary book and the following stories, as the sheer amount of influence the main events have over the entire setting may limit the options of a gaming group, unless the players are playing the characters of the book and creating their own version of the saga, but I'm not a huge fan of alternate realities in gaming. I much prefer my groups to have much more control over events and not feel swayed or pressured into doing what has come before.

I think the best route for me to take is to create a game set well before Dune and concentrate on smaller Houses, perhaps minor Houses of insignificant worlds that have their own affairs and vendettas to tend to. They're footnotes on Guild reports, or unread files on the Padishah Emperor's desk.

At this point I should mention that I have only read the first two 'Prelude' books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. I didn't continue beyond those first two books and I'm sure there is a huge amount of material that can be used. However, I have no real knowledge of the content of these books so they don't have an influence on the direction I've decided to go.

Anyway, these Houses would have their own histories and banners and have access to the Landsraad but not have a seat there for all the major decisions. It would give the players a fantastic opportunity to create a dynastic family they are part of, are loyal to, work for or are secretly working against as a group. Perhaps the player's team are a collection of several Houses, either working together to improve their standing in the Landsraad or, better still, they are fighting to avenge their fallen banners against a larger force. Let the Atreides and the Harkonnens have their issues; we know how that turns out. A whole new set of Houses on the periphery of the Known Universe having their own problems opens up a lot of amazing opportunities.

That way I can keep my iconic Dune toys; Bene Gesserit, Mentats, shield fighting, smugglers and traders, novice Space Guild representatives getting their first taste of power, new Navigators flexing their minds... there are plenty of opportunities for the player's to really sink their teeth into the setting and be hugely creative. Every now and then I could throw in something hard hitting, like a Sardaukar visit or an Imperial inspection. I can even throw in something different; how about some Weirding Modules?

Image result for pendragon 4th editionAfter giving it a lot of thought, I think a great game system to use would be Pendragon, as the whole dynastic feel of the game and the fact that campaigns can cover many years would suit the setting down to the ground. I don't have to worry about space battles or travel as that's all taken care of by the Guild, but ground vehicles might need some stats. Thanks to shield technology the order of the day is swordplay, but some basic guns can be statted. As far as mental powers are concerned that would be easy to replicate.

Visually, I love the design of David Lynch's 'Dune' movie. It's not the greatest interpretation of the book, and the end leaves a lot to be desired, but the design is quite excellent and although I'd change some of the starship designs and bulk out the stillsuits, the look and feel of the movie gives it a fantastic atmosphere.

So, I'm already having some ideas. A player group could be an ex-smuggler helping a noble of a fallen House, the Bene Gesserit advisor, the House Mentat and the Captain of the Guard escape from a world that a rival House has conquered. Not a world, a moon. A simple garden moon where some of the most desirable and expensive delicacies are produced for the greater Houses, and the small House in charge stands to make a huge profit, as does the Spacing Guild Heighliner that passes through the system every few months. The invading House desired the profits and what better way to get them than to disgrace the House in charge, concoct a pretex for invasion and then drive them out.

The players get to create a House, it's family and history, the heraldry and uniform design, and the world itself. After that, the game is in my hands and I can create the rival House, their homeworld, and all the adventures and storylines that come with it. The Pendragon system then enables me to run a game set over years and even decades, and we can follow the fortunes of the House over generations.

Dune is an amazing setting, and the book touches on religion, politics, ecology, and all kinds of things that give the Dune universe a reality that's hard to find anywhere else. This opens all kinds of roleplaying opportunities for adventure, conflict and introspection. I don't want to intrude on the main story, but to take the elements of the story - the Houses, the spice, the different orders etc - and use them in my own games is quite exciting.

Sadly, I parted company with my copy of Pendragon (4th Edition) in the Great Nerdpurge of 2006. I'l have to source a new copy, but that shouldn't be too hard. Then I'll have to find players to actually take part on my madcap campaign idea. I'm a little fearful that I may not get that far.

But I must not fear, because fear is the mind-killer.

Friday, 16 March 2018

A 'Dune' roleplaying game

Image result for dune first editionIn my last blog entry I discussed my love of the Dune universe and the fact that I have never been able to run a game with that same sense of intrigue and mysticism. I thought I'd expand on those thoughts a little more and try to make sense of why that is. Bear with me; this is probably more for my own edification than anything else.

I have never owned an official Dune roleplaying game, namely 'Chronicles of the Imperium', so I have never seen an official interpretation of the science fiction and religious elements of Herbert's book in practice. That's a shame in many respects as if I had seen the game I may have had a better understanding of what it was I wanted to do with a Dune game, where I wanted it to go and what kind of story I wanted to tell. However, I couldn't find a gaming group to play that kind of game with. My group was casual and enjoyed having fun with the games - as did I - and even though I tried to surreptitiously sneak games with these grand ideas into the mix they never took off.

I used to think it was a decent game system I required. After all, it was easy for me to have grand ideas of star-spanning adventures, intricate plots and intrigue between the great Houses of the Landsraad, and soul-tearing tales of religious passion and persecution. Would I have run the game on Arrakis, and have the players members of the Fremen, or House Atreides, or even spies for the Harkonnen or the Padishah Emperor? Maybe they could have been simple traders, or smugglers, or perhaps I could have designed a lesser House for them to represent? The scope of Dune is huge and there's plenty that could be done, so all I needed was a game system that could reflect that.

I should mention that my desire to run a Dune game only included the first three books by Frank Herbert, and elements of the universe he created in the following books. I've only read the first two of the Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson books but never continued. I imagine that there is plenty more material to choose from in their books, but they are beyond the scope of what I wanted to do.

At first I went with my standard science fiction options, namely 'Traveler' and 'Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game' (WEG 1st Edition). These are two great games - the Star Wars D6 system being my favourite - and quite easy to create a campaign around. In fact, with a little tweaking the psionics and the Force rules could be modified into something that would suit the Dune universe, and the effects of the Spice could be interpreted by the rules. But, to me, Dune felt more like a science fantasy story, based as it was on feudal houses and mystical prophecies.

So, I looked at standard fantasy systems, mainly 'D&D' and 'Runequest'. I also looked at 'Starfinder', but to be honest the standard 'Pathfinder' game seemed more suited to the setting with some elements of Starfinder included. I came to the conclusion that starship rules weren't really a necessity as space battles weren't the order of the day in the Dune series. D&D was a default option - it was the game that my group played the most - but the leveling put me off as I wanted the players to concentrate on the story and not what their characters could get out of it and how they could improve, which is something that I feel D&D focuses on. With Runequest I found that I had better luck with 'Cthulhu: Dark Ages', what I see as a kind of Runequest-lite. It was quick and easy, and with a little modding I could bring in modern weapons from normal 'Call of Cthulhu' to reflect the weapons in Dune. Pathfinder is good, but I'm moving beyond rules complexity these days and it had the same problems as D&D.

I had choices as far as system was concerned, but I came to the conclusion that no matter how perfect the system was or how well I could adapt it to suit Dune, the real challenge was convincing a gaming group to sit down and play an epic game of intrigue and otherworldly powers.

And that was the real problem, I think. I couldn't force the players into spending their time focusing on a world that they may not have felt the same way about. The general feeling at the table was all about having fun and partaking in crazy adventures, and to ask them to reset their gaming habits to a more serious tone was a bit of an ask. I did try through other games to include a sense of seriousness and drama to test the waters, but inevitably the games reset to the fun factor. My attempts to find a group who were willing to play a Dune game the way I would have liked it to be played were fruitless.

So, I moved on to games that emulated the ideas of Dune but were not Dune; perhaps my players would play a game where they could still have fun but also allow me to introduce these elements into the game to satisfy my own needs?

Firstly, I attempted to create my own game. 'Spirit' was a game set in the League of Seven, seven star systems ruled by the Kerraph Empress Thane Cherin, and was set hundreds of years after a devastating civil war that tore the League apart. Hundreds of other star systems had moved on and created their own civilizations and empires, and the drive of the game was that the League was trying to bring them back into the fold with the promise of advanced technology and, if necessary, violence in the name of their Kerraph Empress, who was descended from a deified person who first created the Clans and the League... oh, I could go on for ages about that. I wrote it up and put it out there for people to play, but it wasn't complete or polished and it was more of a tester to see what people thought.

It never saw much play; I ran a few games using my systems, a D12 system that wasn't great and my own SKETCH system, but I ultimately settled for the D6 system. The games were fine, the feedback was good, but it didn't hit the mark.

So, I decided to read another game of the ilk and that was 'Fading Suns', which is right now being developed by Ulisses North America. It was excellent, the game system was usable and the setting was very close to what I was looking for, with Houses and a pseudo-Medieval culture. Sadly, I never got to play it.

Now I have 'Coriolis: The Third Horizon', but I won't repeat myself here. I talked about that in my last blog post.

So... what did I take away from all of this?

Well, for a start I think I approached the difficulty of running a Dune game the same way I did when I was trying to run Middle-earth games, which I talked about here. I was somewhat elitist in my view on how a Dune game should be played and was most likely rather limiting on options; because I had a definitive vision of what the game should be I didn't take the player's views into account. They may not have been interested in the deeper philosophical elements of the game, but they may have played it with a sense of melodrama that I would have no doubt enjoyed. It's that meeting half-way thing I think I struggled with, the point between getting really involved in a game and simply enjoying it for what it is.

System-wise, I don't think it really bothered me as long as we had a system to use. I don't think I would have enjoyed a crunchy system with hundreds of options as that can sometimes detract from the purpose of the game, but a system that was too light wouldn't have given the PCs much individuality, and detailed characters are something that a Dune game cries out for. I think that's why the D6 system would have worked for me, it's an easy intuitive system with enough detail to have really unique characters.

Actually playing in the Dune setting? Now that I look back on it, I'm not so sure it would have worked as well as I would have wanted. It may have been fun for a few games, but the overarching metaplot of the Houses and CHOAM and the Fremen... the players would have felt that they were playing second fiddle to a much bigger story, and as the fate of the human race had already been decided thanks to Leto II they may have felt that their actions were pointless, with much bigger things hanging over their heads. I get that, and it didn't need to be the case, but once again the vast scale of the setting - and it's fame - would have overshadowed things.

So that just leaves me with 'Dune-but-not-Dune'. I think this is going to be the best way to go. My own 'Spirit' game is always an option but it requires a huge rewrite and a better game system, but it means that the players can do things that will affect the overall story arc which is a much better experience for everybody. If I do use this I'll most likely use the D6 system, primarily the 'Mini Six' system from AntiPaladin 'games.

'Fading Suns' is an excellent choice and I liked the original game, but if I go down this route I'll wait for the new edition from Ulisses North America.

'Coriolis: The Third Horizon' is the game that set me off on this whole thing anyway, the game reminded me of what it was I wanted to do with a Dune-esque setting because of the ethereal Middle Eastern influences on the game setting, which is something I felt was present in Dune. Of all the options I think this will be the one that I end up pursuing as the mystical, intrigue and adventure elements are all there, so it truly is a game that will allow me to meet my players in the middle.

Alternatively, I could keep searching for a group who are as invested in the Dune world as I am. I'm no expert on Dune - far from it - but I feel I would get a lot from running a game such as that. It was what made my Star Wars games of the 1980s/1990s so successful; the entire group were already huge Star Wars fans so their passion for it came out in the games. That's something I'd love to replicate with this.

If you've made it this far then thanks for sticking with me. I think this was more to help me make sense of what I wanted from a Dune game in my head, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Coriolis - The Third Horizon

Image result for coriolis the third horizonNow, this product will get a proper full-on review in the near future, but I felt I needed to share a few things about how this game from Free League Publishing has managed to not only punch me in the face and shout 'LOOK AT ME, I'M BEAUTIFUL!', it's made me think about a level of gaming that I haven't thought about for years.

I'm a huge fan of Dune, Frank Herbert's sprawling epic of feuding worlds, mysticism and cult worship that hasn't been equaled, in my opinion. What always struck me about the story, and this is something I loved about the first three books in the series, was the effect that religion and blind devotion had on some of the characters, not because they had faith in Paul's abilities but the fact that these abilities were demonstrable and therefore quantifiable, giving an entire new level of passion in the beliefs of his followers. It's why I always found the jihad in the books terrifying, not because they were devoted to Muad'Dib and believed in his powers, but because they were actually justified in their beliefs because it was all real. I'm not saying they were right in their crusade - far from it - just that they kind of had a point.

Such was the impact that this had on me as a young man it stayed with me for a very long time. In fact, with the absence of a Dune RPG I could actually get my hands on I tried to emulate it with different systems, or at least find a game that had the same kind of approach. I tried a few different systems and games (quick plug, I had some success with 'Stellar Adventures' but I did write some of that book so I'm biased!) but I couldn't find one that scratched the itch. Not only that, I couldn't find the players to play the game with me as I needed players who were on the same page.

Middle Eastern culture had quite an influence on Dune, I think, with Arabic and Islamic themes that really enhanced the universe that Herbert had created. I loved that; from the feuding houses which felt very Medieval to the sands of Arrakis that felt incredibly Middle Eastern, the themes really stood out.

I ended up letting it go, and instead of trying to game in the world of Dune I decided to try and find a game that emulated aspects of it that I loved.

And that brings me on to Coriolis.

Coriolis wears it's Middle Eastern influences proudly, and rightly so. It even has it's own system of mysticism, with it's fledgling powers and Icons, and the Dark between the Stars. There is true power here and the people of the Third Horizon, with their designs and beliefs shaped after Arabian culture, exist in a world where this power exists, they can pray to it and get results and can exhibit powers that could drive entire nations into a religious fervour.

That's perfect. That's what I'm looking for. It's not the Dune RPG I hankered for, but then I'm not sure a true Dune RPG would ever really work as different people come away from the books with different impressions; some love the feudal warring Houses and the intrigue, some love the environmental references, some like the religious overtones, some love the action and adventure elements. That would make a Dune game difficult. However, Coriolis takes each of those different angles and mixes them all together... well, maybe not so much the environmental side of things. Action/adventure, mystery/exploration, mysticism/intrigue, and to cap it all off there's a metaplot that opens up all kinds of opportunities.

Can you tell that I'm quite excited about this game? Finally I might be able to play in a world that I've thought about since my first attempts at a Dune game, and I'll be able to cater for the different kinds of gamer that wants to sit at my table. I get to explore the effects of faith and belief and my players get to fly around in spaceships and blow stuff up. I think we'll meet somewhere in the middle, and Coriolis - The Third Horizon will facilitate that.


Coriolis – The Third Horizon is a science fiction role playing game set in a remote cluster of star systems called The Third Horizon. It is a place ravaged by conflicts and war, but also home to proud civilisations, both new and old. Here, the so called First Come colonists of old worship the Icons, while the newly arrived Zenithians pursue an aggressive imperialistic agenda through trade and military power.

In this game, you will crew a space ship and travel the Horizon. You will explore the ancient ruins of the Portal Builders, undertake missions for the powerful factions and partake in the game of political intrigue on Coriolis station – the centre of power in the Third Horizon. You might even encounter strange beings from the Dark Between the Stars.

From the Monolith in the jungles of Kua to the floating temples of Mira, the Horizon is yours to explore. You can be traders, explorers, mercenaries, pilgrims or agents. Whatever your calling is, together you will make your own fate. In the end you might even discover the truth about the mysterious Emissaries and the threat of the Dark Between the Stars.

Coriolis – The Third Horizon was awarded the ENnies Judges’ Spotlight 2017 and is produced by the makers of critically acclaimed Mutant: Year Zero (six-time nominee and winner of a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015). Features:

- Create your unique player character – including skills, talents, gear, and relationships – in mere minutes.
- Fight fast and furious battles, praying to the Icons to overcome your enemies.
- Build and crew your ownspaceship, to explore the many star systems of the Third Horizon.
- Experience thrilling spaceship duels, using a game system that puts all player characters at the heart of the action.
- Take part in the intrigue between powerful factions on the majestic space station Coriolis.
- Uncover the mysteries of the Third Horizon, a rich tapestry of cultures that have settled the stars.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

BECMI, and my sadness

Here's something I honestly regret - parting with my original Dungeons & Dragons boxsets.

The Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals boxsets were very special to me; the red box Basic was my very first foray into roleplaying games and I held it in very high regard. The art, the layout, the fact that it was so different from anything I had ever played before, and that it was giving me a chance to expand on my love of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that I had been playing for the previous year.

The first three boxes especially guided me through my first months and years of roleplaying games. I never got to use the Master and Immortal boxes, but it didn't matter as the damage had been done and I was on my path to playing, running, writing and collecting games.

I had a huge RPG collection. I had more than 30 different games and systems of varying quality and some of them had a huge slew of supplements and adventures. WFRP, the WEG Star Wars RPG and Call of Cthulhu especially had dozens of books taking up space on my shelf, and the collection took up a lot of room - and time.

When my son was on his way I made a very simple choice - I had to sell off my collection. I had neither the time or the room to hang on to this 20+ year collection, so I hit Ebay and started the cull.

Some of my games I sold for peanuts, others sold for incredibly high amounts; my original MERP modules and Call of Cthulhu books raked in a lot of cash. In the end, I made enough money to pretty much pay for everything my son needed and the first year or so of his life. The collection turned out to be an investment, and it paid off.

I never intended to sell my BECMI set, but as I was putting a lot of stuff up I got a lot of questions about what else I had and a recurring question was about Basic D&D. So, I checked out some prices.

They were worth a lot. A complete set, two boxes still in shrinkwrap, with all the dice and the wax crayon... I tentatively put it all up for sale. I won't say how much it went for, but I will say that I was stunned.

And that was it. I hung on to some of my books as I honestly couldn't part with them (and I was still using them, to be frank) but my BECMI set was a sale that made me a lot of money, and I miss them a hell of a lot. Just to have them to hand, to read and to enjoy, and to step back in time to the sunrise of my gaming hobby.

I got a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia a few years ago and it's amazing, but it can't replace my BECMI set. That was, and always will be, something special to me.

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Friday, 9 March 2018

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition

Related imageI was recently gifted an original print of the amazing Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness and it's something that I have not looked at in thirty years. I'm ashamed to say that I never purchased it when it first came out, and now that I have it and I'm looking at it in depth I can see so many different avenues my WFRP games could have taken.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is my favourite game of all time. If I reviewed it fully today it probably wouldn't rank very high as far as mechanics go but that's really not the point of the game at all; in my eyes, the unbalanced, easy to abuse system with it's oh-so clunky magic is a wonderful reflection of the chaotic, unfair nature of the world it is set in.

The game came into my life when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I'd been roleplaying for about four years and up until that point I had only experienced the high fantasy side of gaming; Dungeons & Dragons. Heroic deeds, flashing swords and a Hollywood realisation of the European Middle-ages kept me entertained, and the only flash of slight insanity I had experienced was through the playful Fighting Fantasy world and some Call of Cthulhu.

So, when WFRP hit it was amazing timing. I had reached my angsty, nihilistic teenager phase and, coming out of education into a country seething with unemployment, I had nothing. The cover and the content of the WFRP game perfectly reflected my mood and the sheer creativity - this pseudo-historical insanity with Monty Python-esque dark humour and a huge dose of British cynicism - really hit home.

Britain at the time was going through a huge change. This post-punk era seemed unreal and the nation, still under Thatcher, sometimes felt like it was unravelling. The British attitude was somewhat 'yes, it's all quite shit but soldier on' and WFRP seemed to capture all of those elements. The dark, grim world of perilous adventure with it's twisted humans, punkrock dwarves and social elite elves was an amazing twist on the worlds I was used to, with noble heroes and justified slaughter. Now, here was a world where everyone, from Emperor to beggar, was corruptible, damaged and on the edge of insanity. Games were dark, bleak, and dangerous, and the first few games were one of fear and concern as your worries weren't about getting enough gold to buy that new magic sword, but if you would survive the next day without being gutted, going insane or dying from some horrendous disease.

It was fantastic.

The rulebook was dripping atmosphere and it was so complete that it was all you needed to run games for years. However, alongside this incredible game was the campaign 'The Enemy Within', a sprawling adventure about corruption, madness, cultists and sheer bloody carnage. 'The Enemy Within' is one of the campaigns that I feel all gamers thinking of designing their own campaign should read to see how it's done. It not only tells an amazing story but it fills out the Old World wonderfully.

A second edition came along and, as much as I enjoyed it and even preferred the rules, it never captured the essence of WFRP for me. The third edition came and it was very well designed and a good game to play, but it lacked longevity for my preferences. Even Zweihander, with all the obvious love and attention the writers put in to the game, couldn't unseat my favoured edition. I always end up returning to first edition, partly for nostalgia but mostly because the atmosphere the books evoked was just all-encompassing, and really helped me set the tone of the games I designed.

WFRP will always be my favourite game. It's not my favourite gaming system, but the rules and the setting sit so well together - and the game itself came along at just the right time for me - it's going to be nigh on impossible to unseat it from that lofty pedestal that I've put it on.

Image result for warhammer fantasy roleplay cubicle 7

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Why I Fight - character background stories (or a lack of them)

Female Warrior Silhouette by GDJI'll be honest with you - I don't usually look into a character's pre-game history that deeply. When I create a character the personality forms as the stats are created, even more so if I'm rolling randomly, but that's about as much character detail as I like to go into. All I know is that my character will be going on some highjinks adventures (it's why I'm playing the game, after all) and for that initial game I need a reason to get involved. More often than not he'll be looking to take the plunge to improve his lot in life (ie 'looking for fortune and glory').

It honestly depends on the type of game I'm playing - most of my fantasy characters are looking for fame and gold, but my MechWarrior character was a strong Davion special forces soldier who gave his oath to his house, my Golden Heroes character wanted to fight the good fight, my Shadowrun character wanted to haul himself out of the gutter.

In general, though, I like to start my character off with a simple, regular goal so that I don't have to think about who he is, what he's like and why he's doing it. In those first few games I'm looking for some plain, unmoulded clay. As the games go on he develops and the character grows. Depending on what happens to him in the those first few adventures, probably the first few adventures he's ever had, will determine the sort of person he becomes. Up until then he could have been a simple, unassuming person who was just plain nice. After eight games trapped in the plague-riven dungeon of Hell he could turn into a cynical backstabber who just wants to live, or after a few games pushing back the tides of evil he could be a flag-waving do-gooder who fights for the honour and safety of the good people of the land. I honestly won't know until the games have been played out.

For that inital jaunt the majority of my new characters start out somewhat selfish and then maybe find their altruistic tendencies, depending on the game the GM runs. It's not the only choice - and the majority of my players like to detail their backgrounds and dig deep to find their reasons and that's fine - but it's a way of getting initially involved that works best for me because I like my character development to happen during gameplay.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

GMing: Learning from mistakes

Railroad Tracks Lineart by TikiGikiOne of my biggest failings as a GM when I first started out running games was the fact that I felt, as the controller of the game, I not only had control over the direction the game took but I also had control over the fate and the even the decisions of the players.

I think this was borne out of two things; Firstly, I felt that as I was in charge and I had designed the story of the game then the game should progress as I saw fit. Secondly, I felt that the players were there to be entertained by me and so it was up to me to talk them through something that I thought they would find entertaining. It was both a misconception and a conceit, and my first games suffered terribly for it.

This approach to GMing stripped away any control the players may have had, or even wanted. I didn’t simply railroad them, I forced them onto the train and strapped them to the seats. I was literally narrating a story, telling them what was happening and in some cases what they were doing, and I only stopped and asked for their input at certain points, such as when a fight was about to take place or a situation/puzzle needed to be solved. Looking back on it now I can’t even fathom why it is I never noticed the looks of sheer boredom on the faces of the players. It’s actually embarrassing to remember it. I was so wrapped up in the powers that I had been given - or that I had granted to myself – I didn’t even realise that players were the other 50% of the game. I was the GM and I had The Power! I can simply put this down to inexperience but it amazed me, years later, when I took part in games where the apparently experienced GM was running the games in exactly the same vein. I played in groups where this way of gaming was the norm for the GM and the players sat back and let the GM go on and on and on. It was incredibly strange to experience, especially since I already knew these people and didn’t expect it from them.

GMs do not have The Power in the literal sense. They have the reins but they don’t have full control of the bolting horse. In fact, if anyone has The Power it’s the players, as it’s their decisions and actions that drive the game forward and result in an enjoyable fulfilling experience for everyone. It took me a while to realise that and now I feel my games are better for it.