CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In The Beginning

Musings On the Realization I Was a GM

This week I got to thinking about where it all began; when I started gaming and when I first started GMing. The memories are a little hazy as I was pretty young when we started. Me and four friends from grade school got our hands on red box basic D&D starter set and we were instantly in love. The fun thing about the red box was that there was this cute little adventure that you could read through room by room, draw your own map, and fight the monsters, without needing a GM. Eventually though someone had to become the GM, and that was me.

Now I imagine I ran a bunch of basic D&D for my friends, especially one friend in particular; we spent pretty much every day at each other’s homes. I would run solo games for him. I remember making it all the way up through the box with the deity level games in them. Still, most of the D&D stuff for me as a GM was a bit hazy. Since I started playing at nine, there was a bunch of stuff that I didn’t understand. But it was fun, so we kept doing it.

My first real memory of running a game wasn’t for D&D. Me and the same friend – my best friend to this day – were obsessed with a comic series called Elfquest. One day at our local gaming store we found a copy of a RPG designed for that world. This was when we were eleven and by now I’d figured out most of the rules and concepts for gaming. But this was the first time I knew the stories I wanted to tell.

So with the Elfquest RPG I began to understand the concept of laying out a story: having a bad guy, writing a plot, making some supporting characters, and maybe throwing in a few twists. The thing is that at all of eleven that I was mostly ripping off every movie, comic, or book that I thought was fun. But you know what? When you’re young and you’re just getting into gaming you want to relive all the best times of your favorite heroes, and that’s ok.

Elfquest moved into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and that was a little more of the same, reliving the stories of characters I liked by adding our own characters to them. But then Palladium came out with Rifts. And for the first time since red box basic D&D I was playing a game where there was no preconceived ideas of a world in comics or film. This is when I finally began to really write my own stories, and as is the theme, all of these stories were played through by my best friend.

My freshmen year of high school was when I really got into fleshing out these adventures for my friend. Books of plot ideas, side quests, and NPCs would take up more space in my backpack than school work. I needed more time – and this is not a recommendation to anyone but it’s what I did – so I would cut class just to sit in the library at school and write the next installment of our ongoing adventure. This is when I finally decided I was a Game Master.

Now of course I would later play tons of other games: pretty much anything from World of Darkness, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, all the other Palladium games, TORG, Fading Suns, and then full circle back to D&D with 3.0. But it’s that moment when you realize that you are the Game Master that I want to stop at. This is a moment that many of us have already had, and some of you will have at some point.

I don’t think you really decide to become a GM. The role is something that just kind of happens. If you’re like me sometimes you end up there because no one else wanted to do it. It’s either that or you end up being the cleric all the time and I got tired of that. In some cases you do it because you were the first one to find gaming in your group of friends. But in the long run it’s you who has to balance the role of writer, arbiter, and player – even if in a different role – so that the games you run can be fun for everyone.

Sometimes I like to think back to why I started GMing because, as I look out into the community, a lot of GMs my age seem to have become a bit jaded. One of the reasons I write this blog, and discuss on as many platforms as I can, is to encourage new gamers to pick up the mantle of GM and run with it. On occasion it may seem thankless but there will always be moments when you say to yourself, “this is why I do it”.

So to the new gamers and would be Game Masters I say this: jump in head first. I did it without the real ability to comprehend all the rules because of my age – hell I didn’t understand half the big words – but I think that helped. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, I made hundreds if not thousands of them and even after gaming for over three decades, and I’ll make more. And don’t fear asking questions. Sure you’ll get a couple of trolls who won’t be helpful at all, but when I started I would have killed for a resource like the internet.

For those older gamers I say remember what it was like when you started. Remember that first time you knew you were a Game Master and try and keep that same joy into every game you run. And always help the new Game Masters. The questions may seem easy, or even stupid, but not everyone comprehends the same. Some folks learn better by being shown than by absorbing through reading. It’s up to you to make sure there’s still GMs out there for the next gaming generation.

I like to reminisce, but I like to hear other’s stories just as much. How did you become a GM? Do you remember what the first game you ran was like? Where did you even pick up gaming from in the first place? Tell your tales in the comments.

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  1. When I started college in 1980 (yeah, I'm that old), I started pledging a fraternity - and a good friend started pledging a rival frat. One morning, I met up with him in the school cafeteria - and he looked like death warmed over. I asked if "Hell-Week" had started for him, and as we started to eat, he tells me this story about being attacked by wolves and how a friend of his (that I knew) was ripped apart, and he was injured - but, in the end, they killed all the wolves. I just sat there - agog - because I _KNEW_ it was real. He finally snapped out of his reverie and told me that it was this "Dungeons and Dragons" game.

    I rolled up my first PC that night - with his fraternity. All I remember is that it was a Dwarf (which was both a race AND a class back in the day). Many characters followed in the next two weeks... and I started wondering what it would be like if _I_ tried to be a DM.

    Two weeks after my first session as a player, I started my career as a DM/GM... with a nameless village with a convenient dungeon a short walk away - with monsters in the dungeon ripped out of the E.R.Burroughs John Carter of Mars series.

    I remember very little of the sessions - though I know I truly sucked as a DM - but I remember the rush I got when players said that they enjoyed the evening. I was hooked.

  2. Your story is somewhat similar to mine Simon, except mine was the blue basic box and Chainmail book. I them added the players handbook, monster manual and DMG. I think I enjoyed creating something my friends liked. Three of them still play to this days and we discuss it on Facebook.

    I wasn't a great DM in the beginning. I stumbled, I got frustrated, but I yearned to make a fun and memorable campaign. I got the Greyhawk campaign and love running Keep on the Borderlands, Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE). I enjoyed the A series slavers series. And the I Series Egyptian campaigns.

    I then hated 2.0 version and fell in love with 3.0 and 3.5. Hence why I run Pathfinder. I did also run Marvel Heroes, Gammaworld, Shadowrun, Paranoia, and Traveller.

    But, my most fun as a GM has been the past 8 years. I think I have grown more, enjoyed more, lauded more, helped my pcs more, argued less and truly fell in love with the RPG community.

    It's a huge leap from 37 years ago, when I began gaming at 12.


    1. Thanks for sharing Ric. Hopefully new GMs see this and realize its ok to have a rocky start. Just keep at it and you;ll get better.