Showing posts with label RPGaDay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RPGaDay. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

#RPGaDAY #2: First RPG Gamemastered -- Sieging the Keep of the Borderlands and Advanced Dungeons & Monty Haul vs. Actual Gamemastering

What was the first role playing game I Gamemastered for anyone? This may seem like a simple answer at first. After all, the first game you Gamemaster is the first one where you serve as the individual "running" the game right? I'm not sure that is true. Whether or not someone has actually "Gamemastered" a game depends upon what one means by Gamemastered.

  • Does it mean the person who hosted the game, refereed the rules, read box text, and took on the role of NPCs an monsters? 
  • Does it mean the person who facilitated an entertaining narrative experience that included the above listed hosting and refereeing?
  • Does it mean someone who has achieved what Gary Gygax called Gaming Mastery? 

If I use the first category of Gamemastery, then there are two games that vie for my first game. I co-Gamemastered Moldvay Basic with my friend Sean. I mentioned in the first post in this series that Sean and I had done a mash up of Broadsides and Boarding Parties and Moldvay Basic, but that's not the game we co-Gamemastered. The mash up of B&BP/D&D was a 2 player competitive game with campaign rules. The first game that we worked together to run for each other was the famous module Keep on the Borderlands. Neither one of us had read the module cover to cover before deciding to adventure in the Keep and its environs, so our first adventure is best named "The Great Siege of Castellan Keep and Sacking of the Caves of Chaos." Sean and I rolled up a number of characters, probably around 10 each. My characters had names that ranged from Darg to Jamis Kelton depending on how "balanced" the stats of the character were. The aforementioned Darg had an 18 Strength in Moldvay Basic no less, but had very little else to offer statistically and thus had a name worthy of his intellectual capacity. Sean and I took those rolled up characters and began the siege of the Keep. We weren't fools. We had our characters attack at night and had the Thieves climb the walls to eliminate the guards before they could raise the alarm, but if I am to be completely honest our efforts to have life at the Keep "dynamic" were minimal and the mayhem we caused from one building to the next were largely unnoticed by neighbors. Unbelievably so. After slaying all within our path in the Keep, and taking their sweet loots, we headed out into the wilderness and the caves.

I'm quite surprised it never occurred to us that the city might be there as a place of rest and basecamp, but it didn't occur to me until a month or so later.

Still using the first category of Gamemastery, but making it a case where I am the sole person running a game for others, my first foray as Dungeonmaster was running an all night session of AD&D for some friends at a sleepover. The module we played that night was...the Monster Manual. I'm sure there was some bizarre thread that I attempted to maintain to have the evening make any kind of sense. For example, I'm sure the adventure started in a Tavern. After that though, things get fuzzy. From what I remember, the players essentially got into a series of fights wherein monsters teleported in a random or the PCs instantly transported to the monster's location to engage in life and death struggle. The battles started small with a couple of kobolds or goblins - treasure was rolled from the tables in the back of the book - but by morning time the players were taking their high level warriors and wizards to the 1st level of Hell to combat Tiamat. They won. It seemed exciting at the time, but in memory seems both ridiculous and dull. I am actually embarrassed to share the story...except for the fact that the idea of a band of adventurers riding Apparatuses of Kwalish and toting Portable Fortresses of Dearn while wielding Holy Avengers, Staves of the Magi, and the Sword of Kas as they venture into the 1st layer of Hell to kill Tiamat still sounds a bit awesome to me in a perverse way.

It wasn't the kind of play that would have engendered long term stories and fostered friendship though. To get to that kind of Gamemastering, I have to shift over to the second category above. And when it comes to fulfilling the entertaining narrative experience definition of Gamemastering, then I'd have to say that DC Heroes was the first game I ever truly Gamemastered. By the time I ran that game, I had played in campaigns run by several excellent GMs. My friend Sean was the first of these as his running of Ravenloft stressed the importance of setting the stage, my friend Rob who ran excellent Villains and Vigilantes and Basic D&D adventures, Ron who's sense of adventure and pace were extraordinary, Matt for infusing character, Roger for downplaying the role of dice, and several Champions groups who "role" played more than roll played. With experience as a player, and with the knowledge of several systems, I ran a couple of DC Heroes campaigns. Prior to my current group, they were the best time I had ever had playing an rpg. My players immersed themselves in their characters. The rules were loose enough to allow almost anything to occur, and I think I was able to construct some entertaining banter between the players and the NPCs.

Of course in that description of my journey there was that bit about knowledge of several systems, and that is what Gygax talks about in his two books on Gaming Mastery. So maybe it takes a bit of Gaming Mastery...and a willingness to make a fool out of yourself while making funny voices...that really makes a good Gamemaster.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

#RPGaDAY #1: First RPG Played -- Dungeons & ... Boarding Parties?

I'm a couple of days behind schedule with my first #RPGaDAY post, but work and vacation took priority. It's my hope that I'll be able to do one of these a day for the next month and answer all of the questions posted by @autocratik. I don't often participate in list-memes, but this one has more of a blog carnival feel to it.

I've been playing role playing games for a long time and most of the friends I have today are connected one way or another with game play. Mirroring that sentiment, I was first introduced to gaming by one of my dearest lifelong friends Sean McPhail -- or rather he and I were introduced to gaming by one of his older brothers. I have discussed my first gaming session on this blog before when writing about "Pants Issues." In that post, I use the image of the Moldvay edited Basic Set to represent the version of Dungeons & Dragons that Sean and I "played" on that occasion.

Thinking back about that first gaming session though, I don't think that is correct. My parents did purchase me a copy of the Moldvay set for Christmas after I came home and conveyed how exciting my introduction to D&D had been, but I didn't own the boxed set at the time. My friend Sean owned some of the AD&D books and had rolled up 1st level characters named Gandalf and Aragorn. When the friend of one of Sean's brothers said he knew how to run a D&D game, Sean loaned me Gandalf and the adventure was on. BTW, the fate of Gandalf is discussed in the Pants Issues post.

The "game" that Sean and I experienced had very little relation - as far as I can remember - to Sean's description of the AD&D rules, but it was definitely some form of D&D. It was D&D that was highly adversarial in its player to DM relationship and it was so free form and abstract in its description of combat that I think I can claim that my first gaming experience wasn't Moldvay Basic. Though Moldvay Basic with its rich introduction is the reason I continued playing. It most certainly wasn't AD&D. There was no talk of segments, modifiers against armor type, or any of the particularities of that rules set. I think that Sean and I were introduced to White Box OD&D...though as the Pants Issues post makes clear I wouldn't say that I actually got much of a chance to play it. 

And if I didn't get much of a chance to play it, then what was my actual first RPG played?

That would be something that my friend Sean and I put together ourselves. We had been playing a bunch of Broadsides & Boarding Parties and we loved everything about the game...except the hand-to-hand combat and campaign rules.

So we decided to use the rules from Moldvay Basic as our combat system. Thus began a couple of weeks worth of piratical adventures with Fighter, Thief, and Wizard ship captains, and thus began the first of many house rule adaptations in my role playing game career.