Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Gaming Disasters: Part V

Ron Edwards says on The Forge that “you remember [role playing games from your teenage years] fondly not because the game itself was good, but because it wasn’t.”  Ouch.  He’s right, though.  The things just flat out didn’t work, more often than not.

I remember this quirky guy we met that said he Dungeon Mastered.  We rolled up characters and he took us through a cave.  We examined everything and he wanted to know exactly how we went about with everything.  It took maybe half an hour just to cross an underground river.  Nothing ever really happened in the game and none of us ever saw him again.

Then there was the guy that gave me a copy of the 3rd edition Gamma World boxed set.  Man, I wanted to play that game.  On my birthday the following year I had set him up to Game Master.  He stood me up.  I’d probably never been so disappointed.  My pals rolled up characters and I tried to run things.  The “rank 1 wimps” fought a few mutant bunny rabbits and could hardly ever hit or do any damage.  Oh, the pain!

Then there was my friend that had cool games like FASA’s Doctor Who, GDW’s Twilight 2000, and Victory Games’ James Bond.  I borrowed the Doctor and even bought a few supplements but hadn’t watched the show much and couldn’t figure out how to run it.  Twilight, we rolled up characters one night and then couldn’t figure out what to do next.  We started playing Octopussy for James Bond one time, but I couldn’t get over the fact that the Faberge egg was just a blood spattered drawing on a crumpled piece of paper.  The props were really cool, but as a player I had no clue how to proceed with any sort of investigation.

I attempted to run the adventure that came with GURPS Humanx one evening.  It featured two bars/night club locations and I ended up arguing with the characters about what had happened where.  Evidently two night clubs was way too much setting for either me to communicate or for my players to comprehend.

Then there was the time that I thought that Dungeon Magazine’s short and simple adventures would be the key to making this stuff work.  I tried to run “Roarwater Caves” from issue number 15.  I was always the mapper in our group, so there was no one that cared to do that if I was Dungeon Mastering.  The players wandered aimlessly through a few rooms and then backtracked….  They were completely lost.  The bad guys of the adventure weren’t goblins or orcs, but… xvarts.  And, boy, did I get my fill of fart jokes that afternoon!

The only way I’ve ever gotten anywhere in a game was to ignore combat– in fact ignore all the rules– make stuff up, and start in the middle of the action.  Don’t require excessive map making or note taking: just present them with a situation and let the players go.  If they start barking up the wrong tree, then steadily introduce a crisis that they have to respond to.  If something’s not working, introduce totally new events until something takes.  Clichés are your best friend in all of these matters, because the players will immediately know what role they have to play.  But never ever name the bad guys something that rhymes with a bodily function!


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