Saturday, 2 August 2014

#RPGaDAY: Day 2 - First RPG you GMd

The first game I ever ran was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

I hear the system is good, but damn
the combination of an RPG core
book and Fantasy Flight board
game costs.
 Now, that's not the giant boxed set Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay released a couple of years ago by Fantasy Flight, nor yet the edition released by Black Library just a couple of years before that.

I'm not even talking about the re-release by Hogshead Games back in the late 90s. No, I'm talking old school 1st edition WFRP, which is apt, as this was also at school, with the same group I first played D&D with, including Kev and with the addition of Simon, the only member of that group I am still in even sporadic contact with, who would later run a wildly gonzo Star Wars game using the West End rule set, which I mention just to push my retro cred a little harder.
More on this one at a later date.

I'm not going to talk system or really setting here or anything, since WFRP is a big enough part of my gaming history that I want to keep something for later. Instead, I'm going to talk about the game that I ran, which was - in a word - Godawful*.
Hello, old school

Now, only part of the blame can really attach to me, and that's the part that comes from my reliance on published campaigns. The other part of the blame lies with the people who publish such terrible campaigns.

The notable campaigns from this part of my GMing life were one bit of the Doomstones campaign, in which the PCs survived despite being rank idiots because I could not find the section of text describing the all-but inescapable deathtrap which they almost wilfully set off, and Revenge of the Lichemaster, which contained long sections inviting you to admire the craftsmanship on their NPCs and which fell down in our case because the PCs flatly refused to be even a little bit heroic if there wasn't a cheque coming from somewhere.

In retrospect, I can't blame them. Mercenary sensibilities are, after all, much more in keeping with Warhammer's fantasy-noir ethos than self-sacrificing heroics; especially in 1st ed.

My first self-generated GMing was an extended and extending old World of Darkness (then known simply as World of Darkness) campaign which I co-ran with my then girlfriend, primarily as a means of enabling her to play outrageously twinky characters. Bringing that campaign to Uni with me was frankly a disservice to my new players, and I'm amazed as many of them as do still talk to me.

I have literally no idea what's going on with
this cover, and I never have had.
Which brings me at last to my first entirely independent GMing experience, which I believe was the one-shot game Kung-Fu Vampire Hunters, heavily influenced by the movie Mr Vampire and run under the Feng Shui rules system.

Feng Shui was a bizarre mishmash of a conceptual, drama-driven aesthetic and somewhat unwieldy rules for modelling it. Dramatic, even physically impossible, actions were rewarded on a detailed scale (taking an extra point of action to go ca-click before firing a shotgun got you a +1 bonus, while running along a line of automatic weapons fire to punch someone in the face was actually easier than just hitting them), and ultimately it was better to be specialised in something than any kind of generalist.

The plot was a pretty basic tale of rival undertakers, necromancy and hopping vampire horror, and I made at least one huge mistake in allowing one player - and this was a pattern which repeated until he left the group - to play a character wildly at odds with the rest of the party (in this case a Japanese anime sorceress in a Chinese wuxia setting). The player got upset that his thematically inappropriate schtick wasn't rewarded, and I should have shut that down at character creation; mea culpa.

This was, however, the first game I ran that I was genuinely proud of, not for the game itself, but for my first shot at a credit sequence.

The game credit sequence is something I picked up from an ST in London who ran an eclectic game that several friends raved about, but which turned out to be pretty much one huge railroad. Still, it introduced me to the idea of opening each game with a piece of theme music and getting the players to introduce their characters with a montage of shots to represent them. I later expanded this idea to include the 'this week on...' section, in which the players each describe an action, and if they can naturally fit that into the game, they get bonus XP. There will likely be more mention of credit sequences later in the month.

For Kung Fu Vampire Hunters I used the theme from Mortal Kombat (Utah Saints version). I was working from cassette (wikipedia link for my younger readers), which meant I was unable to accurately control the track starts, and I actually kicked off early, but some desperate winging it meant that I still managed to hit the right beats and end the credit sequence with the music.

I have, to this day, never failed to close a credit sequence on cue, and the pressure is now almost unbearable. To their credit, none of my players have ever sabotaged me for giggles.

Check back tomorrow for more #RPGaDAY, and don't forget to read some of the other posts coming out.


* Godawful is so one word, even my spell-checker agrees