Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

No, Jeffro Did Not Have a Gaming Mentor

I started gaming way too young during the eighties. My friends and I loved role playing games, but were largely clueless except for one guy who could run a Third Edition Gamma World game by ignoring 90% of the rules. I’d heard of other game masters, but the task seemed like this impossible superhuman thing– and yes, the definitive you-must-play-this-or-nothing AD&D first edition hard-backs reinforced this view.

CAR WARS was as about as sophisticated of a game as I could handle. Even so, a gaming friend let me know one day that were doing movement wrong: we were supposed to move one inch per each one second turn for each 10 mph of speed, not the 1/4th inch I’d been doing since third grade. (We’d actually move at 40 mph so that we could go a full inch and make one maneuver per turn!) This floored me. At that moment, I began reading the Compendium rule-book cover to cover to see what else we missed. I developed many $10,000 cars (the equivalent of a D&D second level fighter, maybe) and ran ten or twelve games in my first campaign.

That was when I became a referee– which is maybe 20% of what it takes to be a dungeon master. It was also my first step towards being a game teacher/explainer/planner/coordinator… which is about 50% of what it takes to develop and/or maintain a game group. So yes, I basically taught myself, without a mentor. The realization that we were doing it completely wrong as well as my desire for a campaign when game masters were all-too-rare is what triggered it. It was a transition from a passive, lackadaisical kind of attitude to a very self-aware, intentional kind of state where I was going to get a game together come hell or high water.

I had a similar experience in college when I decided that I’d have a jazz group. Before, I’d taken lessons and stuff, but wasn’t seriously trying to play music or do anything with it. It bothers me when I see teenagers that seem light years away from having similar awakenings, but I was a late bloomer, too. I didn’t go far with the jazz thing, but I did get to play in a group and go to jam sessions. I even got to play with Wynton Marsalis one time. I don’t think I would have pulled all that off if I hadn’t first learned how to run a CAR WARS campaign.

Note: This is in response to a Grognardia post. That site does not accept WordPress profiles, so I’m commenting here instead of over there.

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One response to “No, Jeffro Did Not Have a Gaming Mentor

  1. RogerBW December 16, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Similar sort of thing here. Early 1980s, learned D&D/AD&D by playing, then changed schools and started a group of my own. That school was close to the famous Games Workshop in Dalling Road, so that was where I branched out from AD&D. Made lots and lots of mistakes. Still friends with some of the players so I must have done something right. :-)

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