Note: I’ve considered deleting this post, but I’m keeping it around for later reference. I started out with an idea, but it got lost in my bitching. I will revisit the idea of “Change Is Good” later on down the road.
Where to begin with my current gaming group. I guess the first thing I need to get out about my group is that none of us are strangers to each other. We didn’t meet at a local Denny’s one late evening after finding a Craig’s List ad. We all did go/are going to the same university, but we didn’t meet each other in the Anime Club or in the basement of one of the dormitories. Hell, I didn’t know any of these people until I moved to Texas almost even years ago. We all met working at Best Buy. Like most people in retail, we talked to each other
while avoiding all the customers in the store during our breaks and the down time between customers. At some point during year two, one of the older guys revealed that he played the Baldur’s Gate series back when it came out. We would exchange stories about our party’s composition or how we all wanted to kill Drizzt for his crime of being a Mary Sue. Despite all of our talks about Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, Daggerfall, etc. we never really realized until year three that maybe, we could start a role-playing game of our own. We would talk about it every now and then, dreaming about how awesome it would be to play with other people and relive some of the stuff we did back in our younger days. The problem was, there were only two of us and we would need at least three more if we wanted a standard party of four. Time went on, we looked but couldn’t find anybody. We dropped it and went on with our lives.
Fast forward to year four at Best Buy, my friend pulls me aside one to tell me that he managed to get a group. It turns out he never gave up and managed to talk a few other people from work and some old college friends into giving it a try. The only stipulation at the time was that he runs the game. I agreed like any other person in my position would. I was hungry for some role-playing action. I had a character already set in my mind and was ready to
kill something role-play. I showed up that evening to a room of seven other guys, some of them unfamiliar, sitting down at the table with a pile of books in front of them. RIFTS. In retrospect, he and I agreed that it was not the best system to start out a group of new role-players with, but it was the only way he could get them to come. He tried explaining to them why it was awesome to play a half-elf cleric of Jesus/Illmater, but they all called it lame. He then took the approach of RIFTS. For those not in the know, RIFTS takes place on a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Earth where anything and everything is possible. Do you want to have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight against Robocop? Just get the core book along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness and you have yourself a game. Did I mention that the same company also owned the rights to the Robotech RPG? RIFTS was every man-childs wet dream come true. Ninjas, robots, tits, turtles, mutants, tits, boobs, and did I mention tits? I digress, this really should be reserved for a different post for another time.
I’m going to spare you the details of the campaign, but it was actually pretty fun. I started playing a human mystic named who went by the name of Diametes Jackson, but ended up being called Space Moby for having rolled a physical strength of 4 (Average human being 8-10) and the space suit I wore. Overall my experience involved creating barriers to protect the rest of the party from the incoming damage or buffing them through other means. It wasn’t the best character I’ve ever played, but I payed the small sacrifice needed to let the other guys have a blast doing hundreds of MEGADAMGE! The rest of the party consisted of a gunslinger, a pyromancer-type character, a cyber knight, a full conversion cyborg, a tengu named Fengu, and an ice-based superhero whose only contribution to the party was being the center of the story line and freezing heads. After a year, our GM finally called brought the story to a close and ended the game. Most of the people involved were absolutely in love with the system. At the end, we only lost two people in our group. One of the guys had to go off to Austin for college, while Mr. I-Freeze-Heads got an overbearing girlfriend who wouldn’t let him spend four hours with friends on a Sunday night. It was then that he and I figured it would be time to introduce them to the wonders of D&D. The group wouldn’t have it. They wanted more RIFTS. More adventures like the one that just took place. Our GM didn’t really have any other stories to tell at that point and really wanted to play in a game. It was then that I decided to take on the mantle of GM for the group. It was the first time I had ever ran a game, and it showed. I had a few GM NPCs that overshone the characters and my plot had a few holes in it, but the guys didn’t seem to care. They were playing RIFTS. We did this for a few more months when one of the guys finally came out and said he was bored. Almost immediately a few more people started sharing the same views, so I killed the game.
Around this time, a few of the new guys started getting deep into TESIV: Oblivion. They began to see that “sword and sorcery” could be more than Harry Potter. After waving the good old D&D books in their face again, they agreed. Our last GM wanted to take up the mantle of DM again and I agreed. He was better at it than me, and I really wanted to play my aasimar cleric of Ilmater. This time around, we needed new blood to replace some of the players who had completely lost interest in role-playing. We managed to pick up our first but most certainly not lats girl for the group. Amazingly enough, nobody hit on her and she was a great player. I only say that because I have experienced in the past certain people who try to shove their dicks down the throat of every girl who role-plays. I no longer game with those type of people, but back in the day you didn’t really have a lot of choice in some parts of the nation. I don’t want to go into much detail about the game as I feel it might make for another post concerning game design at some point, but I’ll at least mention that it went on for a year before it slowly died off. We gained some people and we lost some people. Like the first game we played, it was time well spent. We draw closer to the present and the reason for my writing this.
I have been playing role-playing games both on the table and on my computer for a good portion of my life. I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to let campaigns die. Maybe there was a month long break between sessions and everybody forgot about plot. Sometimes the GM runs out of juice or the story goes absolutely bonkers (looking at you epic level campaigns). Shit happens. Games die. The idea of a campaign that runs the entire lifetime of a group of players is absolutely absurd to me. I play games to share stories and escape the daily grind of life. Playing the same character over several years, never trying something different or brand new, would just feel like a grind. This is why I’m an altoholic in World of Warcraft. Sure I have my hunter I’ve been playing for going on six years, but I supplement that experience with playing different races and classes. I would not be playing WoW today if not for that very reason.
The fact that campaigns can and should die is something that my group, the other GM excluded, has not learned. When we first started playing, the campaigns went for a year not because the stories were interesting. On the contrary, the stories were full of tropes, cliches, and horrible dialogue. They went on for a year because it was something new for them. They had never really experienced what it was like to play with a group of people pretending to be something their not in a world that does not exist. They created fictitious bonds with people that were as strong as the real thing. They felt the rush of rolling your first natural twenty in a life or death situation, and the humility on rolling a natural one when interrogating the queen’s guards. This was a change in their normal life routines, and it was good. They had never done any of this before.
Here comes the problem. Before we first started playing a few years ago, everybody thought role-playing as lame and stupid. RIFTS was just a stupid system an there was no way they would have fun with it. A year later they were enthralled with the concept of it. While we played RIFTS, there was no way in hell they would play Dungeons and Dragons. It’s full of elves, wizards, and lame fairies. Plus it has new rules that I have to learn! How ever will I learn how to play it? Several months later: “Fuck yeah, D&D! These rules are easy! We killed a dragon! Have you heard of Drizzt because he is cool! Need more exclamation points!” It was a natural progression to move on towards Pathfinder at that point as 3.5E was no longer being supported except by the community, and most of them were heading towards Pathfinder. Yet again I was met with the cries of how difficult it was going to be to learn a new system and new rules. Even when I explained to them it was 3.75E, they cried. Guess what happened? If you guessed that several months later after me talking it up that they finally caved in and loved it, you guessed correctly.
Something that my group has yet to figure out is that each time they were presented with a new system to try, they denounced it before trying it. There was no way they were going to like the system, yet each and every time they loved it. So the question is why do I present them with new games? Earlier I stated that they didn’t love the games because the stories were good but because it was new. Near the end of every system cycle, something I noticed was the players lack of interest in gaming. People would start showing up later, spend more time texting each other, or drawing something unrelated to the game. The problem is that the members of my group are, at heart, console gamers. They are used to purchasing a new game to play every few months. A new world to explore with new villains to kill. I learned this early on and used it to my advantage in helping keeping them interested.
It’s been almost two years since we started playing Pathfinder and I’m starting to lose people again. The group has dropped down to three people not including myself. I tried at every corner to get them to try new games such as Rogue Trader or Monster and Other Childish Things. I spent my money and my time looking for new ways to entertain them, yet each and every time I was met with resistance. At this point in my role-playing career, I am thinking about taking a break.
I’ll end this post for now as I’ve gotten off-topic with I originally wanted to talk about. After being bombarded with football in the background and loud wubwubwub music in the foreground, I doubt I’ll be able to recover what was lost in my thoughts.