This Gaming Life: What I did on my holidays, by Baz King, aged 45 and 1/4

By on 2 September 2013
Baz King

You never quite know what you’re going to get with a summer. Well actually you do, usually it’s tipping down, cold and miserable which is ideal weather for all things gaming. This year the sun gods smiled on us and sent us outside blinking into the warm golden light. Traditionally, this sort of healthy, outdoorsy, daytime stuff is anathema to our more dusty, indoorsy, pizza sniffing, cardie wearing hobby of choice.

My summer campaign season threw up its own challenges this year, not least being out of work from the end of June. I knew I would be cash poor and time rich for a couple of months, so it might be a great time to catch up and crack on with all that juicy hobby goodness denied to me by the demands of my recent paymasters. Some chance. Turns out all my usual players had real life plans that rarely involved pretending to be elves and warlocks. Lightweights. With holidays and high days aplenty this year my regular weekly group quickly morphed into an irregular monthly couple of blokes.

I never quite knew who was going to be available until the last minute so that proved a challenge when prepping the week’s game. For a little while now I’ve been running the playtest version of D&D Next, hacking it into a Pathfinder Adventure Path that started life as a 4e game ages ago. The rules have been getting semi regular updates for 18 months or so, some major, some minor. Combined with spotty and unpredictable attendance, prep became more chore than pleasure. Next kind of runs out of content at level 8 too so I had to admit defeat with the game and the guys have been good enough to agree to some postponement while I make some behind the scenes changes.

This has allowed me to run a couple of new things by them though. With all my unexpected time off I’ve managed to read a stack of new games, and it’s been a good time to be a gamer with some excellent releases this year. I’ve snagged Warbirds, Owl Hoot Trail, Numenera, loads of DCC RPG adventures, nu Fate and my long awaited 13th Age book came through. I don’t think I was the only one watching for the post person either. My G+ feed has been brimming over with photos of new books and dice with cheery ‘it’s here!’ comments affixed.

Warbirds Owl Hoot Trail Numenera Dungeon Crawl Classics Fate Core 13th Age

All these games and more have been jostling for mental space and a coveted run out at Furnace in the autumn. I plumped for four slots of DCC RPG in the end. I’ve found it an astonishingly fun game, especially given the lovely adventure support. I’ve continued a regularly sporadic G+ Hangout game of it over the summer and that has been consistently high quality. However, I’ve got more content than I will ever be able to get through in our two hour online sessions, so I’m bringing some great scenarios and characters to a real table with people who exist below the shoulders this October.

I did imagine I would have a chance to really get stuck into my long term WW2 writing project. Time wasn’t an issue, but motivation was. I’ve flipped back and forth so many times on my basic mechanics that I’ve come full circle on most of it. I spent more time pressing backspace than return in recent weeks and then I read Owl Hoot Trail and it made me down tools completely. Great games can and should be inspirational, and OHT is certainly that. The bad news comes when you’re mid design and you realise there’s now another game out there that does almost exactly what you wanted to do yourself, but better, lovelier, and crucially, it’s released. Sigh. I may continue with my game one day, but I’m resigned to seeing it as more of a conversion than an original now.

Speaking of conversions, I did manage to type up my Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh Fate Accelerated Edition version. That was a great experience. I took every chance to be frugal with the writing. It would have been easy to churn out paragraph after paragraph of whys and wherefores, but actually, I think the best part of Fate conversion happens in the session, at the table. My intent was to get just enough notes down, and no more. Let the game breath, and be the game it wants to be.

My summer gaming high point came only last week with a demo run out of 13th Age. I offered my players a few choices as we would only have three of us for the session. They chose 13th Age and that meant I had one day to organise the whole thing. I’ve been working off the playtest document for (13) ages now, so the rules stuff was pretty ingrained. I even had my adventure ready, one I’d released back in January (not knowing it would be another 8 months before the game became publically available!) I decided against it, instead I wanted to try the improv heavy demo session from the Pelgrane site. I printed off the character sheets, skimmed the notes and then put it all to one side. For once, I was going to go minimalist on my prep. I wanted to see if I and the game could really deliver a cool session out of next to nothing. This would be way outside my comfort zone, and with players who tend towards the quiet casual type in our usual games.

It absolutely delivered. The pregens had all the crunch filled out, leaving only the story elements to be thought up around the table. We batted a few ideas about and I had to stop myself running roughshod over the player’s creativity. They took a pair of PCs each, and within an hour we had a party ready to go. Steve’s halfling rogue used to be a puppet. A puppet! While the kettle was boiling I grabbed an index card and jotted down a note or two based on the backgrounds, the icons and the unique things the guys came up with. Simple stuff, an orc bounty hunter squad chasing a known criminal and his associates into the Wild Wood where they were meeting an Elven ambassador. We used minis, but no map. The rules generated as many cool scenes as the players did, and I felt more than able to introduce plot twists mid combat. After an hours play we called it on a cliff-hanger and I’ve now got the happy problem of picking between the dozen plot threads that sprung out of the session. Sweet.

So, summers gone, days spent in the grass and sun. But I don’t mind, to pretend I do seems really dumb…. Sorry. Turned into the Boo Radleys for a minute there. Ahem. I now have a new job starting soon, and two regular games have survived the holiday season. With the night’s drawing in I’m looking to extend my improv experiences, and to continue my fantastic jaunts into perilous dungeons. There’s never enough time, and scheduling will always be a bear, but it’s always worth pushing, and it’s always worth playing. See you at Furnace.

About Baz King

Baz was introduced to RPGs in 1979, due to a misunderstanding on his part of what Wargaming actually meant. More than 30 years on, and he's coming round to the idea that he might well have been right first time after all. Baz has been GMing for almost all that time, and has never tired of telling people that they are facing 6 goblins, scattered around a 30' chamber. Not afraid to move with the times, he has been known to not use a screen on occasion. Baz looks forward to levelling up so he can get that next feat and spend it on the rest of his name. Until then, lets face it, it's great being king. Baz lives the high life in darkest Essex, surrounded by things he doesn't really need and couldn't really afford. Still, game on eh? He blogs at rpgtreehouse.wordpress.com.

One Comment

  1. catty_big

    10 September 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Have you managed to read Numenera yet Baz? I saw it mentioned recently on some forum or other, followed a link to the Numenera website and thought wow, this looks fantastic! I’m a sucker for artwork and cool settings, but obviously the actual game might be pants (unlikely in this case as it’s by Monte Cook).

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