Last night was game night, the night every week where I embrace my inner geek, revel in the memory of wearing headgear with my braces and cast a magic missile at the dark.
I’ve never been a guy that could sit still for long periods of time, and game night often runs between four and six hours. In a marathon
session last night we ran 7.5 hours, until almost 3:30 in the AM.
I retain information better when I’m writing. It doesn’t matter if I’m typing or writing by hand, but I have to jot down notes. As part of building this alternate personality, this character I play every week, I decided to use a leather bound notebook as my character’s personal journal, where he keeps notes and sketches and various other things he’d like to remember.
I don’t think anyone would actually be able to make anything out of the notes that I write down, they’re mostly memory keys for me, things I’d like to remember about the story that the game master (Marshall James Kirk, the most AMAZING GM of all times, AND he has a badass name.) is telling us. Essentially that’s what role playing games are. I take on the persona of a character in a story. That character goes through a story just like any character in a book, except that I have some ability to effect the outcomes, like an infinitely complex Choose Your Own Adventure book.
Being a good game master means being able to adapt your story based on the decisions and the dice rolls of the characters you’re directing. It’s way more difficult than writing a book, and Mr. Kirk does it amazingly well. His story comes alive through our adventures. He may have intended for us to talk to some guy, his story may have hinged on us having a discourse with someone. But then, instead of acting with civility and speaking, someone in our party opens fire and kills the guy. Now what? The Game Master has to be able to roll with it, still have the story play to a reasonable, logical conclusion, and yet now there has to be some new way to deliver the information that we (the players) were supposed to learn from this guy. There probably has to be some sort of penalty for killing the man in cold blood, and there could be pretty drastic changes to the story as a result.
Another example, if someone catastrophically fails a skills check, there is a chance that that ability or skill backfires. In simplest terms, if a player character rolls a 1 (one) on his die roll to see if he hits the guy he’s shooting at, that is a catastrophic failure, and it’s likely that he misses and actually hits one of the player characters. A “normal” Game Master would say something like “Oh dude, you failed that hard. You shot your friend.” Then he turns to that friend and says “Roll for damage”.
Instead, our GM would say something like “As you were drawing and firing your pistol, out of the corner of your eye a hawk crossed over the sun momentarily distracting you. Your bullet went wide, and unfortunately shot Marvin in the face”
The story telling is key, and that (to me) is what makes a great GM. The ability to, on the spur of the moment, alter the story, make the decisions of the characters and outcomes of their dice rolls part of the story. I’ve played with a number of them. Most of them would have stuttered and stammered at that unexpected unfortunate turn of events. Mr. Kirk would (had that been an actual scenario) just roll it out like he planned it.
If you haven’t ever played a role playing game, it’s more than just Dungeons and Dragons. The genre has evolved well beyond “I wanna cast a magic missile!” (Look up Summoner Geeks on youtube if you have no idea what meme that is I continually refer to).
Today is Sunday, I’ve had four whole, uninterrupted, glorious hours of sleep, I”m off to conquer the world. Or a few of them anyways, and all entirely worlds of my own creation.
By the way, check out Grown As Gamers on facebook if you haven’t. They’re a great bunch of people, and I have the distinct pleasure of playing with them on a regular basis.