#RPGaDay Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RPGaDAY/) and Twitter hashtag (#RPGaDay2018).
I swear, this year’s list of questions is conspiring to make me gush embarrassingly about things and people and rules. But hey, nobody comes to my blog for restraint. I considered picking one or more game writers for this – I’m inspired by so many fabulous game writers. But I’m trying to catch up on like six days this evening and I don’t have the time to hero-worship the way I want to. Besides, professional game designers have lots of fans, and have mostly reacted with kind bafflement when I’ve gone and made a fool of myself by fangirling them, so maybe it’s more powerful to talk about people who don’t have a platform like that already.
I could list every one of my gaming friends here – you truly do all inspire me, and we tell wonderful stories together. I am so grateful for you, but I’ve already talked about that elsewhere. And I know that if I started a list of how you make my life better through gaming, I’d either never stop or wake up in a cold sweat realising how many people I’d left out.
So instead, I’ll focus in on one group of people: my fellow Storytellers/STs in the live games I’ve run. I’d been playing live action theatre-style games for a few years, mostly Vampire: The Masquerade, Sabbat and Mage: The Ascension. It was fun, but I never thought I’d have the confidence to run a game myself. My partner and one of our friends started running a live action Vampire: The Requiem game called Shades of Norwich. I had a fantastic few years playing a very literally theatrical Nosferatu Circle of the Crone called Melora Rosenbach, and then a hacker politico Mekhet (pretending to the Ventrue) Invictus called Ajax. Another ST had joined a while into the game, changing from playing to running. That was a pretty badass group of STs. You had a historian with a delightfully snarky sense of humour, a confident game veteran who knew how to make mechanics for every occasion, and a brilliantly creative writer and artist who specialised in memorable NPCs you loved to hate.
They were a great ST team when I was a player, and taught me a lot about focusing in on character-driven stories that wove into larger plots without letting anyone hog the spotlight. I ran a one-off 80’s game in the same setting with them, but I was so scared of the idea of taking on that kind of responsibility that I left it at that. In fact, someone (another player) did say to me that they thought I wouldn’t make a very good ST, and I believed them for such a long time, my internal doubts externally validated by that one person. They almost certainly don’t remember they said that now – they might even strenuously deny that they’d ever say such a thing. I know they’ve grown beyond whatever motivated them to say it back then. I’ve talked about how the first game I came on for, the London weekender, was a big deal. One of the things I found, though, was that it helped me break through the barrier of fear. I didn’t have the time to get anxious about whether what I was writing for the game was good or not – the important thing was that it was done, and there would be NPC briefs and plots for people to run with at the game. That kind of carried me through my entire live game STing career: there isn’t time to be a perfectionist, because perfect doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t finished before the game. A whole imperfect NPC brief is so much better than a heavily edited half of one.
Our two fellow STs had to drop out of running the game for real-life reasons, leaving me and my partner as the lead STs. We co-opted two more of our players, who are some of the loveliest, warmest and most creative people I know. We worked together like a dream team. We saw out the rest of that chronicle. And then decided to run another one, because we are, apparently, gluttons for punishment. We advertised the new game as we announced the close of the old one (giving players time to finish off their arcs), and spent six months planning it, along with another player we brought over to the dark side after they showed some excellent initiative during the final bits of the old game. We had five people now: myself, my partner, and three other STs. Together we built Dark Metropolis, and even though two of our STs had to drop out not long into the new chronicle, their influence was felt throughout, with the NPCs they had played and written and the plots that carried on after they’d stopped having the time to dress up as vampires on the weekends! Myself, my partner and our newest ST then saw that game out too, and I feel we did a cracking job.
It was amazing, working with such talented, pro-active people who could communicate with sensitivity and create together. We all fell into certain roles within the team, but we also all negotiated the bits we liked best and the bits we didn’t. Some of the group (not me) were better at introducing new players to the game without scaring them off. I tended to just talk at people and not stop until they looked like they’d been hit over the head with a rulebook. I was definitely not the mechanics guy, and the idea of trying to stat balanced Chronicles of Darkness combats still brings me out in a cold sweat. The team was great about letting me nope out of a massive cross-player hunter plot that was doing my head in during our first chronicle. I’d make the dinner, while the rest of them made the hunters happen. At the same time, somewhere along the way I turned into a magical plot and NPC machine, and could usually be relied upon to come up with something interesting given a prompt and enough time. We all cared so much about telling individual stories, taking care not to let the player characters’ lives get put aside for the larger plots. After all, why bother to run a game for people if all you’re interested in doing is telling a big impersonal story?
I’m so proud of what we achieved across those chronicles, and as someone who is a bit of a controlling personality and not really a team player, they were some of the most positive collaborative experiences I’ve ever had. Special shout out as well to our players, without whose enthusiasm and creativity the games would have died. I love you all, and I’m immensely grateful for the stories we made together ❤