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Derek, Ed, and Justin are joined by guests: Ayla, Jacob, and Wendy for the actual play of Dread.
My 8 year anniversary at the Denver RPG meetup is on March 1, 2015 and so I’ve been reflecting on how joining up has impacted my (gaming) life. Since convention season is starting soon, it seems like an opportune time to post. I am currently gaming regularly twice a week in 4 every other week games and have been playing in all 4 for about a year and a half. Here is my story about how I found my game groups….
I discovered the Denver RPG group while I was in the midst of a gaming dry spell. My significant other (now husband) is not a table top gamer and the RP group I had been playing with had dissolved due to life getting in the way. I had joined a board gaming meetup but that wasn’t scratching the itch, I just don’t find most board games as satisfying as RPGs. I needed more and I needed reliability.
What it came down to was that I really just had to put myself out there. Finding the right gaming group is a lot like dating, there has to be chemistry among the players, the style of the game play has to be a good fit (rp vs. combat, table talk vs. serious, rules heavy vs. lite), and the scheduling has to work out. I lucked out on my first try and found a group that was the right fit for me. In fact 3 of 4 groups are derived from the group I went to meet on March 2, 2007–I still play in two games run by the GM I met that day (yes, the one in the plaid shorts with the original Jurassic park t-shirt that was more than a decade old when we met). I also play in a game run by one of the players that I met in my original group, though that group has split off and I’m the only one who regularly attends both groups. In fact, that original group contained all three of us Organizers/co-Organizers that still run the meetup to this day, so it was a great way to get connected to the gaming scene in the Denver metro area.
I met my fourth group because, yet again, I put myself out there and started role playing at the local gaming conventions. I’ve been role playing for decades, but doing so at the conventions was both intrguing and intimidating. It’s a great, no commitment, way to try out new systems and break out of my normal group dynamics (rut). I know the meetup is a mixed bag young and older, experienced players and neophytes, rules lawyers and players sipping beers and making Monty Python jokes—but the conventions are all that turned up to eleven. There might be an 8 year old kid with a parent showing up to play a night game that was advertised as edgy horror. Then there is the person who is extremely sleep deprived and slap happy sitting with their head rested on the table for the whole game and yet makes that into the perfect character. There might be a GM who is so stoked about the setting they spend half the game gushing over the book plot. All this and then you get players and GMs of every regular flavor put in an unfamiliar location in less than ideal conditions with the goal of having fun with complete strangers for 4 hours. That is a tough mandate for those GMs and the majority of them exceed my expectations and in 4 hours leave me with a game experience I’ll remember for years.
Conventions are a gauntlet of gaming that, if you can handle the crowds and the uncertainty—the risk can bring a great reward. My fourth group I met through the gaming conventions. I had played with a certain GM over several years and always tried to get a seat at one of his tables, but in a round about way I ended up being the catalyst for him to meet his best friend, then when they set up a weeknight group I was called to join in. (Additionally, there are also a few every-so-often games I hop into with convention friends either at their homes or special game day events–they’re lots of fun and I love seeing the convention friends more than twice a year. )
Through the meetup and the local conventions I have been able to connect with much of the gaming scene here in Denver and I totally feel the love, from having great friends to building a strongly interconnected community. I take great pride in the Denver RPG meetup and I hope our members get as much out of it as I have, but the moral of the story is in order to “get the experience” you have to put yourself out there.
How did you find your gaming group? What was your best or most unexpected “win” in finding a great convention GM or group you had gaming chemistry with?
Derek, Ed, and Justin are joined by guests: Ayla, Jacob, and Wendy for the actual play of Dread.
For the past few months I have been running a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign every Tuesday night. It started as a zero-level funnel and lead into the continuing adventures of a group we have come to know as, “The Murder Cult.” Think Murder Hobos with fewer morals. I know…how could anyone enjoy that?
Well we have come to love our Tuesday night sessions. They are only a couple of hours long each, and up to now, are completely a sandbox. As the GM I provide a few plot hooks here and there and my group (which includes RPDNA’s co-host Ed) takes the story to interesting and fun places. The game isn’t serious, but has a deep and rich campaign history. I’ve become quite proud of it.
But last night’s game turned into a fun session into a chaotic beast.
I really don’t know how to put into words what happened. I don’t want to bore you with too many details so I will do my best to give you context.
The adventurers found themselves on the elemental plane of water. After arriving a player, who is new to the group, interrupted my introduction and asked if he could spot land. I had him roll and he was successful which led to this exchange:
Me: You look through a spyglass and off the starboard side of the ship you see what looks to be a collection of buildings. You also se…
New Player: This is a plane of water there is no land, what are the building standing upon?
Me: Well from this distance you cannot tell. But you can see structures for sure.
NP: Are they built on a platform?
Me: Well if you sail closer you can…
NP: Are they ships?
Me: As I said, you are at quite a distance. If you wish the ship can get clos…
NP: So they are built on rock?
This went on for a few minutes until someone else suggested they sail closer to inspect this interesting grouping of structures.
After arriving on this flotilla of ships that were crafted together to build a small town it devolved from there. Usually the players will see what plot hooks I come up with or explore something unusual. But either the new player or something else changed and every plot hook was explored for about thirty minutes then dropped. At one point in the game the players were trying to get information from an NPC that greeted them on the dock. Just as the NPC was about to answer one question someone else (to be fair it was the new player) would jump in and ask a different question. I kid you not when I say the NPC was answering a question about why the townspeople didn’t come out during the daytime when he was interrupted and asked what the currents were like under the town.
From there a perfect storm of confusing actions and interruptions created a scene I hadn’t encountered in a group of great gamers such as this. Some of the players just checked out completely, some tried to steer the party’s actions back towards some semblance of story. And a couple competed for who could ask any given NPC the most random question they could.
About an hour and half into the game I considered stopping things. But the sick part of my mind wanted to see what would happen. Things didn’t get any better. I tried to force action by having an assassin attack the party. For a while they jumped at the chance to do something. But after capturing the assassin and asking if he had any family in the area, I decided this line of story was going no where. I ended the game 30 minutes early and suggested next week we come back and try again.
Some of the players stayed after the game to debrief. No one knew what happened. Most tried to assure me that I had come up with interesting ideas and hooks, but they couldn’t identify what went wrong. To be fair I am partially to blame, managing a table is one of the GM’s duties and I could have been better at that last night.
I think the new player had troubles fitting in. It happens. Coming in cold to a new group can cause odd outcomes if you don’t ease yourself into the dynamic all around you. Plus the player in question wanted answers to mysteries that I placed in front of him by simply asking me, the GM, what was up. Which leads into a discussion that sometimes you have to play the game to get the answers you want. This also may lead into a great topic for the show, managing the table as a GM or player.
Lucky for me I have a great group of gamers on Tuesday nights. They all agreed they wanted to come back next week and do a mental reset. It has been agreed that I will set the game in a more traditional dungeon setting. And it was agreed everyone would help manage the table as a group. All-in-all the outcome was positive, which is great!
One of our listeners, James, has a bit of a follow up question from our previous episode in which we discussed how Kickstarter has spawned a plethora of game systems and settings. Derek mentioned that it can be hard for a backer of a project to find a group willing to play that specific game. James was wondering if online play can help people find others who share in one’s passion for a niche game. Good question, James.
The internet helps bring those with a more “mainstream” hobby together in an effective and efficient manner. I would wager that it has helped our hobby of face-to-face tabletop gaming as well. In the old days of gaming, I had to have pigeons deliver messages about the next game for my players to ignore. But despite the magic of the internet looking to find local players that share your love of a more obscure title is still difficult. But then came online gaming.
I was an early adopter of the idea of online gaming. Definitely not the first, but necessity brought forth the need to figure out ways to involve a friend in our regular game. My long time friend, and Protocol 5 Productions corporate overlord, Will lived in Asia for a number of years. Because he enjoyed gaming so much and wanted to keep in touch with us we figured out ways that he could play remotely. Our solution was Skype and a webcam pointed at the table. Will had his way to keep gaming, something he couldn’t find where he was, and allowed us to keep a good friend involved.
In the past couple of years the tools to allow people to tabletop game online have become quite impressive. Roll20 and other similar tools can create a virtual table for people to game on. I have only dipped my toe in the online gaming myself, but I do know that it is pretty impressive. But does this allow people to come together who enjoy a game that isn’t as mainstream? Well it should.
The discussions and chats you can have online are like a 24/7 gaming convention. Hoards of gaming geeks are just floating around waiting to talk about their favorite whatever. Therefore one can only assume you could toss a virtual 5-sided die and hit someone who has actually rolled such a monstrosity! But I speak from a point of ignorance. What are your experiences in finding that unusual group of gamers that share your love for that game you can’t get going in your local community? Or what resources do you use to find like minded gamers? Share your thoughts in the comments here or on the RPDNA Facebook page.
Game on! Virtually
P.S. Would our non-Colorado fans like to try out a monthly online game with the hosts of RPDNA? Just a thought…
Chorna H. responded to my request for a topic to write about today with a query on my person horror stories about how to not run a game. I won’t use real names to protect the innocent…unless I am talking about me.
Where I messed up in my early days of being the game master is not being prepared for the players. I’m not talking about prepping a game or not, I’m talking not being able to handle the times that the players find something more entertaining to do within the session the GM had planned. Before I really learned the art of running a game without notes, I can recall times getting flustered and trying to force the players back on to the rails I had so carefully crafted. This will almost always spell disaster.
I think the one time this sticks out in my head the most is when I was running a Cyberpunk 2020 game that involved an assassination job. The players botched the job in a wonderfully fantastic way…they fumbled shooting a grenade launcher at said target and it hit a crowd of innocent bystanders. The players then thought it was more entertaining to incite a riot in downtown Night City for the rest of the game. Their logic was that the riot had a good chance of killing the target. After looking at my notes (yes, I used to write my games out) I just had to toss them aside and try to roll with it. But eventually I just stopped running the game as I had no idea what to do. What could I do? I was just a boy.
Another GM I know tried so hard to get a D&D game back onto the rails he actually had gods show up. This was a 5th level game, and deities suddenly showing up to convince the players where to go was strange at best. Not to mention that at the point the gods showed up we had been playing for eight hours and still had no idea what we were supposed to be doing. A few of us finally had to ask, “What is it we are supposed to be doing?” Shortly after we all went home and pretended the game never happened.
Other times I have seen a game master prepare way too much and there is no going off the rails. You are on the “Small World” ride of game sessions. I have told the story on the show before about a convention game where the GM told us about the world we were playing in and what we, as PCs, were doing for the first hour and a half of the session. I paid $3 to play in that game. I don’t want the money back, I want my life back.
To be fair, not all bad sessions are the fault of game masters. I have seen lots of players mess things up for everyone. I think I can refer you to episode 27 in which I had an experience with a guy who was being a jerk in the name of roleplaying. I’ve even talked about when players come to the game in a bad mood and throw things off just because they aren’t happy. My house rule about no couples (which I have mostly dropped) which was born out of seeing so many of games get deep sixed because of the bickering, or in some cases cheating with other players.
Most of these examples are caused by a lack of experience and/or maturity. And most of these can be solved with a little communication. Unfortunately, we are gaming geeks, and healthy communication is not always our strong suit. It is something I struggle with on a daily basis in my personal and gaming life. But, I also welcome players who approach me and suggest ways for me to improve my game.
Let me leave you with some positive. If you are new to gaming you will make and witness these mistakes. The good news is they are easy to overcome if you practice at it and try to be a good citizen gamer. If you are a GM, take time to get feedback from players.
If you are a player, be aware of the other players. It is the collective job of the table to move the story along (not just the GM’s story mind you) and make sure everyone is having fun.
What horror stories do you have? How did you solve the problem? Leave a comment!
Happy 2015! We welcome Chris the Savage Mommy from Smiling Jack’s Bar and Grill, we talk our holidays, the Dread AP is coming, for 2015 we are going to do at least a few actual plays, our thoughts on the Tenra Bansho Zero AP, we answer a question about if Kickstarter is good for gaming or not, and check out Derek’s work on Soujourn Volume II.
I won’t get into the discussion about what is politically correct to say around this time of the year, so let me start off by saying I celebrate Christmas. However, I respect all the holidays as long as it means you take time to sit and game with friends and/or family.
Some of my fondest memories are those that involve a board game or RPG on Christmas or around that time. Knowing that for a week or two (back when I was in school) I didn’t have to be anywhere and that Christmas was coming, put me into a joyous frenzy that gave me +3 to happiness. When I combined that euphoric feeling with getting a chance to roll dice with loved ones, well it made for the best of times.
I’ve done my best to keep gaming going around the holidays now that I am an adult (in the sense of years spent on Earth, not maturity wise) and I have been mostly successful. I’m fairly sure that as the host of two Christmas get togethers I can rope some people into at least playing something. And I have already scheduled a D&D game for the weekend following New Year’s (Getting all the D&D 5th edition books so this will be my first run with the full game). And tonight, I am going to run a very special holiday themed Dungeon Crawl Classics game.
I hope you get a chance, or maybe already have, to get some quality gaming time in with those you hold dear. But don’t forget to give some attention to those weirdos that don’t game, they need love too.
The cast of RoleplayDNA wants to wish you and yours a joyous holiday season. And the next scheduled recording has been set. You will be getting an episode very near the New Year!