I said it at the beginning of 2008 that I was going to seriously get my head into blogging. I meant it and despite only posting half as many entries in 2008 as I did in 2007 I’ve learned far more than I ever have on the subject.
So with that in mind 2009 is lining up to be a far more productive year. My colleagues at work have finally caught on to what I do during my lunchtimes and whilst some have been really interested others have questioned the point. It’s not as if I’m going to end up with an audience the size of say Perez Hilton or Darren Rowse over at Problogger. That’s not why I do it though. I write because I enjoy writing. I’m completely inept when it comes to written English though despite it technically being my first language. I am gradually getting better though thanks to things like this.
During my years at school I was never encouraged to write. I was told to write but thats an entirely different thing. We had the usual book reviews and structured critiques of plays but we were never encouraged to write for the sake of writing. Actually that’s a complete lie as we had a supply teacher for 3 months that did exactly that but that’s a story for another post. Other than that one teacher the only time we were allowed to just write was when it was short story time and even then we had limitations put on us. No less than 500 words and no more than 800 words put a huge limitation on anyone that wanted to just keep going with a story in their head and no matter what your chosen subject was you had to have a twist. It could be the robber getting away like Robin Hood or the unlucky gambler finally hitting big but you had to have that in. You couldn’t have more than one twist though as that wasn’t allowed and if your story didn’t have any and actually worked without it you were forced to include one or pick another subject to write about.
As the years went on I stuck to my maths, tech drawing and computing and lost almost every skill I ever gained in the English classes. So much so in fact that I had to rely on a girl in class to help me through my final round of English modules before I left school. I did the video production, editing and graphics whilst she did everything else. As it was a group mark we all passed but only just. These days though I have stories running through my heads from all the roleplay campaigns I’ve played in the past as well as those I want to play in the future. I also have the need to write on topics that interest me other than storytelling. Again it’s not my forte but I enjoy it. My wife encourages me and has gave me a huge boost by telling me exactly why she enjoys reading my writing when I put my mind to it. She says it’s like having a conversation with me as I lay things out in exactly the same way as I would when going on at length about something I care about when I talk to her. If just on person other than myself thinks that about something I’ve written then I’ve won a watch.
I don’t write for anyone but myself but I will admit to being a stat junkie but that’s more down to my years of playing computer games and having to get a higher points total than your mate. My wife has a few blogs herself so there’s a constant battle with that side of things. She has more subscribers but I get far more daily viewers… usually.
The only other piece of advice is taken from Wil Wheaton. Don’t be afraid to suck. It’s going to happen and if it does and noone reads what I have to say than so be it. As I’ve said it doesn’t get written for anyone other than myself anyway so if I get it right and people do like it then it’s something to learn from and to try and replicate in future. For every post that I get a new reader from I’ll have ten that will only ever be read by close friends and family so it’s no use it effecting my writing.
That was a bit of an aimless ramble though so I’ll leave it at that and get stuck back into tidying and coming up with a new tructure for my blogs for 2009.
Do you know the last time I had to learn a completely new gaming system? I’m not talking about jumping between editions of games here but proper separate systems. The last time was fourteen years ago when I had to learn the WOD system after a ten hour shift and several cans of lager. Thankfully WOD is basically a very simple system but it would have been a totally different ball game if the system was any more complex.
As those that follow this blog may know I’m coming out of retirement as a gamesmaster very soon to run a Shadowrun game. Now those systems we play I know off by heart but I’ve only ever played SR once and it was as a player 18 years ago.
I’ve read through the rules several times now and its a fairly simple system but I cannot for the life of me retain any of it in my head. Have I reached my limit? Have I got to the same stage as Homer Simpson and for every new bit of information that goes in two bits fall out?
How do you go about learning a new system? Do you just go with a brute force attack and sit through your evening reading and rereading the rules and playing games regardless with the books in front of you or do you have a way of remembering the differences between systems and using those as hooks for learning the new rules?
At the moment I’m going with the brute force idea but it’s failing badly. I usually go through the character creation on my own to pick up the basics and repeatedly build the same generic character over and over again. Normally this will highlight those few areas I have trouble with or can’t quite get correct in my head but I’ve drawn up three characters so far and you’d think one was from WOD, one from D&D and the other from a completely homebrew game that is based on playing germs and living with the bleach under your kitchen sink.
I wonder if you can get any nanotech that make learning gaming rules easier?
So this months blog carnival is about transitions and transformation and within seconds of putting my thinking cap on I realised I’d already started writing a post that would fit in perfectly with this subject.
They say our tame GM eats dice for breakfast and that he built his home from worn out copies of the 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. But how did he get there?
I don’t really know how I got here but I seem to be the groups gamemaster for most of our campaigns. In recent years both Mark and Willie have taken their turn and ran great campaigns but most of the time it’s me that will be sitting with the rulebooks in front of me telling the story.
When i first started out playing we had a couple of players and our GM was a friend’s cousin who would run games for us when he was visiting from London. It meant we could only ever play short campaigns maybe twice a year but because of this we savoured every moment of it. That was until one day my childhood friend Joe was given a copy of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons rules. He sat up all night reading over them until he knew them off by heart and then we sat up all the next night so we could get used to the rules. As players we were used to using the Rolemaster rules even if we didn’t understand them that well at that point so something this basic was actually a huge leap forward for us. We actually understood how the game worked for a start.
For the first year my friend was the GM. It was a no brainer. The rulebooks were his so it was his game. After a while though he soon grew tired of being the one to make up the story and wanted to play a character again. We all still wanted to be a player rather than the GM so we drew straws and I lucked out and so it would be another year before I ran my first campaign. It was not long after this that we purchased our own copy of Rolemaster. I say purchased but I’m sure a few of the Companions were pilfered from the local second hand book store. One of the group insisted that if you bought a boxed set they never checked inside so they filled the main boxed set with as many Companions as they could. I could never prove it though. Anyway we soon got to the stage where we were just lining up encounters and throwing the dice rather than actually roleplaying and I go bored very quickly.
I was never one for writing stories in English class. In fact I’d usually struggle to write a 500 word short story while I was at school and my written English skills haven’t really increased over the years if I’m being perfectly honest. With this in mind you can understand that running my own games didn’t come naturally to me. I could devour a rulebook in an evening and be able to quote back to you complex combat ‘what if’s’ or spell descriptions of even the less well known spell lists but if you were to ask me to write down what I planned for a game session I’d struggle. I still do to an extent but over time I manage it. I’m perfectly happy with an idea in my head but when it comes time to formalise it for a campaign I have real trouble.
From all this came my GMing style. I improvise. I push and pull stories until they match in game and I steal ideas from everywhere. I’ll have scribbled down a bullet point list of whats going to happen or how things are laid out but that’s it. Everything else stays in my head until it’s needed. It’s better for everyone that way.
The change over from player to GM was a very smooth process for me. I’m not sure if it’s like that with everyone but once the initial worries were shoved out of the way I gradually grew to enjoy it far more than just being a player. When your part of a group of characters you can easily get stuck concentrating entirely on your character and forgetting about the players and characters around you. It’s only natural that you’ll spend more time on that one ‘person’ than on anything else and its like a child or a favourite pet. You nurture and grow them from being a few scribbles on a bit of paper to a well rounded character than is far more than just the sum of its stats and skills. As a GM however you get that exact same feeling when you look out at your party as each and every single one of them grows and your world carries on it’s day to day routine as well as growing in the same manner as the characters. That feeling of success you get after running a successful game that has everyone talking about it can never be beaten by that you might get from just taking part in it as a player.
That’s why I can never go back to being just a player. No matter how hard I find it to succesfully GM.