Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Open for Gaming

Here's the long and short of it: I love running RPGs - being a GM, DM, storyteller, whatever have you. The problem is that, whether because of the crisis du jour at work, personal freelance deadlines, or other responsibilities and adventures, it's been a challenge for me to run games as much as I'd like to.

That's an understatement. It's been more than 8 years since I regularly ran a RPG.

This isn't to say I don't play RPGs. I'm in more gaming groups now than I've ever been in my life. I'm also not saying I haven't GMed in 8 years, but these days it seems like it takes a convention for me to dig out my GM screen.

The real shame of the matter, though, comes in the form of my friends and coworkers - a who's who of some of the most skilled, creative, imaginative, unpredictable authors, game designers, artists, explorers, and evil geniuses anyone could ever hope to surround themselves with. And nearly all of them are top-notch gamers. With so many charming and talented folks in such ready supply one of the major difficulties of starting a new game becomes simply choosing who to play with.

So this is my solution: Erratic Episodes.

Life is hectic - even more so when you work in publishing, and even more so when that's game publishing - and, after 8 years, I've finally accepted the fact that "calming down" was a 90's craze that went out with Tomogatchis. With that, I'm not using the "I'm too busy" excuse to not run games anymore.

That said, things are still hectic. People have boyfriends, cats, wives, freelance, kids, mixed drinks, and other relationships that make sticking to a weekly, even bi-weekly, gaming regimen challenging. So rather than get myself and others motivated for some elaborate campaign, only to have that enthusiasm wane and start the slow slide toward game death, I'm proposing a format that captures the excitement of a game's first sessions, without being an unmanageable impediment to the players' other obligations.

I'm not starting a campaign, I'm hosting a series of episodes.

Every other month I'm going to run a single adventure. This might be a published work, this might be something of my own design, it might be using the Pathfinder RPG, it might not, it might be in an established campaign setting, it might be in a galaxy I'm excited about at that moment, it might be fantasy, it might be sci-fi, or it might be something else. In the weeks leading up to the first session I will post a description of what I want to run and interested parties can sign up on this page, e-mail me, hand deliver haiku, or express interest in whatever fashion best conveys their interest. As a firm adherent to the "GM as tyrant" philosophy I will choose who plays - largely based on factors of group size and player compatibility. From there players will receive further instructions (or not) and, as a group, we will determine two dates, one for the first session, and another for - should needs be - a concluding session the following month. And then we'll play.

That's worth commenting on as well. I kind of go all out for my games. There will be gimmicks. There will be custom soundtracks, there will be handouts, there might be a menu, there might be other props. I've always considered "host" one of the most important roles of a GM, so it's not just about the game system and the story, it's about the whole experience and making it as engaging as possible. As I plan to run these episodes at the Paizo offices there's certain elements that won't be under my control, but as much as possible I plan to make these episodes detailed productions. By that right, I'd also ask that anyone who signs up to play comes to play, not paint, not write, not text, or engage in other distractions. Additionally, as there's limited time for each episode, I plan to limit the usual joking and table talk to the minimum. That's not to say I expect some sort of gamer high seriousness, but with only two sessions to play we've got an objective.

And what happens if an episode runs out of time? Well, that's it. There are no third sessions. Things end where they end and that's that. After all which did you like more: the way Firefly ended, with cool characters left unexplored and exciting plots unresolved; or the way Carnivale went down, with a thousand awesome ideas bungled in a rushed mess? (Yes, you have to pick one.) My preference and goal will always be to complete stories in two episodes, but if it takes longer, game over - tune in next month for something else cool.

So that's the idea, and hopefully it really is that easy. We'll see. But either way, I'll be posting details on the episodes here, using this blog as a staging ground for episode details, a player rallying point, and a spot to host the results of this little experiment. One month it might be sword swinging and spell slinging on Golarion with the Pathfinder RPG, the next it might be laying in ambush for megacorp freighters off the rings of Rhea with Eclipse Phase, and the next it might be investigating a grisly murder in downtown D.C. with True 20. They're erratic because who wants a locked-in schedule for their playtime, and they're episodes because who has time for anything more?

Now who wants to play?

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic idea Wes, and the more I think about it, I've got hundreds of ideas that would be perfect for short campaigns, not long ones (the last campaign I ran lasted five years real-time).