Tuesday, January 28, 2014

GM enlightenment and the unrelenting doom

I've wanted to get a face to face rpg together since, well, since the first time I ran one. This was when I was eleven back in 1981.

I had received the D&D Moldvay Basic Set for Christmas, and days later, after devouring the rule book, had my brother, and a couple of cousins fighting and dying withing the Caves of Chaos. Whether or not everyone had a good time, I know I did. Mainly because I have been obsessed with rpg's ever since. D&D, Rolemaster, Car Wars, Tunnels & Trolls, Space Opera, Flashing Blades, Pirates & Plunder, Champions, Elric!, USR, Savage Worlds, ad nausium... I feel I've seen it all, rolled it all, and DM'ed it all, and never do I believe, except in rare moments, experienced a shared experience which hit everyone around the table with an immersive hell yeah got to have this everyday, somehow, sometime, screw work I want to sail the silent seas, banish the black gods, put down the mutant riots, fire the cannons, charge the unyielding hordes with these band of brothers, etc.


The search for system was but a symptom of the problem for the question in which I did not know how to ask: How should rpg's be played? Sure there was the usual intro clap-trap you can now routinely find in any current rpg rule book, but it has never worked for me. Or my players.

But I think I've stumbled, bumbled closer to the answer tonight. Desperate for a face to face group I looked at not the possible gamers I could find in my local community, but the people I know in this same community, and how would I get them into rpg's?

And I'm talking people who have never gamed before.

First off, explaining game mechanics, to hit, character creation, all this shit is definitely out the window. Who's going to put up with this nonsense when there's cable? Got to get them (PC's) interested in like five seconds.

That's when I pulled out my copy of Jack Shear's Planet Motherfucker. If I got a bunch of pot smoking, extreme skiing, craft beer guzzling tradesmen here in the high rockies they sure as shit can't say no to "A Psychoholic Trash Culture Setting"! And if they are newbies they won't want to go through the laborious process of character creation, the first chapter in like every rpg book you've ever read. WRONG.

Flipping between the front and back of Jack's nifty little beauty of a game book I found my promise, and my doom. The promise of an evocative setting in which to HOOK new players into wide eyed anticipation, and the doom of doing all the work. Yes, that's right, as Game Master you will have to do all the work. All of it. Don't expect them to crunch all the chrome, calculate the hit dice, figure out the range, smoothly deliver the range modifiers, know the chance of wrenching on the grav lift. That's your job. The best you will get is an evocative setting in which to pitch, and a handy list of character templates for your hooked PC's to latch on.

Planet Motherfucker packs in its 42 pages a lesson in how to do your craft. No whinging, just work. But you got to love it. If you don't how can the others around the table enjoy their play? The book includes the guts of a successful role play experience; campaign setting, source material, random tables, character templates.

Writing out the character templates on a nice, sparse character sheet let the revalation soak in. I'm going to have to come up with some kick ass adventures for these tropes! I mean, once someone says they want to play the Chainsaw Paladin, or the Amazon Brickhouse you better deliver.

Which brings me back to that first game when I was eleven and didn't have a clue, but I got my PC's into the adventure. How did it work, how did it go? I delivered an evocative setting, offered up choices of characters, and thrust them into the fantastic world. Did they know what the stats meant, or what Armor Class was? No. But I did. And you bet I had their attention when I told them to roll the dice to see if they hit.