Novice

I had been wanting to run a game since about 2006. At that time I was living in Central NY and had been playing on a more or less weekly basis with a great group for about two years (3.5, though we started off 1e). I got the great idea to adapt a scenario from a book I’d been reading into an adventure (more about this below), and from there started developing the bare facts about the continent of Quendor, within which Deadlake exists. I even got some great character ideas from my gaming group, and was really looking forward to getting the whole thing off the ground when, at the end of Summer 2007, my life went kerflooey and I left the middle of nowhere to return to Greater Boston.

Upon my return I found a (3.5) gaming group pretty quickly, and played regularly for four or five months until life got too busy for me. Apart from a very few oneoff events my RPG life was restricted to reading blogs and talking with friends in the D&D diaspora – the handful of people who, if we were ever in the same city, would make a great gaming group. Sometime in 2008 or so I discovered Grognardia and the world of the Old School Renaissance (OSR), which henceforth occupied most of my gameblog-reading time, and provided me with a new sense of inspiration as I made little notes here and there for the setting I had come to think of as Deadlake.

One obstacle I ran into that derailed my work for some time was the realization that the scenario I’d been working on adapting – from Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion – was in itself an adaptation of the moathouse from The Village of Hommlet. Thanks to James M. for the post that provoked this realization, though I was plenty frustrated at the time.

So I kept reading blogs, and accumulating books, and talking with friends in faroff places about playing (even trekking to NYC on occasion to “guest-star” in my friend Brian’s [4e] game), but not actually doing anything about it. Between academic commitments, my own insecurities, and a somewhat hectic interior life, I figured it wasn’t meant to be.

Until January of this year, when Colleen – a fellow student, and someone I’d wanted to get to know since we’d started the program in 2009 – and I had a class together, and in the course of talking about plans for the weekend I said something about “reading RPG blogs.” She asked if I played much, and I gave her the quick version of everything I’ve just written here, and she said that she and her boyfriend had talked about playing but never had.

Gears started to turn… the combination of a novice GM and novice players seemed like a perfect match. Plus I had just purchased the Weird Fantasy Deluxe Edition as well as “Tower of the Stargazer,” which seemed like the perfect proving ground for everyone involved. In the time it took us to add three players (two friends of mine, neither of whom knew each other, and neither of whom had gamed since high school, and one friend of Colleen’s, who had never gamed), I was able to flesh out a bunch of details regarding the world I would be dropping the Tower of the Stargazer into, and finally we were able to meet for our first session in April.

Though – or because – I had put an awful lot of work into reading and rereading the adventure, and rehearsing the mechanics of combat and everything (because I am notoriously bad at remembering things like that), I was amazed at how easy running the game was. After the initial (unavoidable) awkwardness of the “prologue”, I realized that portraying the entire world was really much easier than I had expected. It was also a hell of a lot more fun.

Which isn’t to say I was flawless – if flawlessness is even possible. I botched a few mechanical details, and, because I wasn’t listening properly to a character’s actions, totally blew what would have been an awesome (to me) surprise. None of which seemed to matter, though, because a) nobody seemed to notice, b) after making one type of mistake I proved pretty good at self-correcting, and c) everyone had fun anyway, which was the whole point. The worst of it has been writing up these damn play reports!

As I think about the process of GMing – at least, my process – it reminds me a lot of the process of doing therapy (which is what I’m studying to do). It’s the therapist’s job to be sensitive to the client’s needs and open to following the client’s lead without pressing the therapist’s own agenda; and likewise it’s the GM’s job to let the players pursue their own interests without being railroaded into the GM’s own idea of what ought to happen. Once or twice I caught myself pushing (but only in the lightest way), which I think is normal for both beginning GMs and therapists, but that’s OK. It all worked out in the end.

In the meantime, we’ve got an unfortunate monthlong gap between sessions, in which time I’ve managed to come up with more political, historical, and mythological details for the setting, and I’m excited to see who survives the Tower of the Stargazer and where they head next.

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~ by erranttiger on May 10, 2011.

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