RPGaDay2017 #13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play
This is a very deep question. Change does not always come from good experiences, at least in my experience. It is hard for me to nail down a single game experience that changed me play, though. What is a game experience? A session? A campaign. a convention? Or simply a gaming conversation? All of the above? I struggled with this question for some time.
I have tried to use every game experience I have had to improve my game, so to speak. But some are more so than others. I can think of two experiences that changed my game in general. My first was watching John Tyler run Perils & Powers, Avalon Hill’s D&D knock off. While the game was overly complex, John had a way to make it seem simple and still tell a great story. He had amazing improvisational skills as well as performing skills (at least from the standpoint of a 16/17 year old inexperienced gamer). While I was never really drawn into the setting or my character because of my inexperience, he fascinated me as a GM, with the way he would spin a tale. He was the first person to ever inspire me to game master myself.
There was a definitely lull in my life where gaming was concerned during my early college years. I moved from up north to the Carolinas to go to college and did not know how to find other games (this being the late 80s where there was not internet). It took a little over a year to finally find a group via an on-campus club that was starting. My first real gaming experience with this new club was with a guy named Jerry Kaylor. A group of us got together after one meeting and decided to play this crazy game called Call of Cthulhu. I had heard of it but never played. That night changed me forever. Not only because of the way Jerry Kaylor ran the game – which was phenomenal – but also it opened my eyes to so much more. Lovecraftian horror, ancient aliens, and 1920s pulp horror all became new fascinations to me. I had never thought I would get into the horror genre in RPGs but this had me hooked.
Can you teach old dog new tricks when the dog is a RPG GM that has been running games for multiple decades? My final experience that I can think of was not all that positive but it made me realize a few things that I am still trying to change and evolve today. I ran with a core group of people for over 20 years. We ran mostly sci-fi games like Star Frontiers, Shatterzone, Star Wars and Babylon 5, the results of which can he found on this web site. However, the group came to a close when I realized I needed a break in 2010. Gaming had grown sour for me. It had become too difficult to come up with something session by session especially when my players either were not showing up or were not into the campaign as much. I hit rock bottom where my home campaign was concerned. I took a break, ran some one-shots with new people at the local game store, and gained new experiences at conventions. It made me realize that my game had become predictable and stale. My life had also changed in such a way that I could not keep up with these complex and epic campaigns I used to run. I had to learn how to get the same kind of satisfaction out of shorter campaigns and one-shots. We never got that group back together, primarily because two of the members passed away but I would never trade those experiences for anything. Both gaming with them and without them help me grow to be a better GM in general.