Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Game Master

At the start of this year I undertook a new project: to game master a Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) table-top game. As I am now six months into the game I thought I'd take some time to reflect on this experience.

First off I should mention that I didn't discover "gaming" until college. During my freshman year and Eckerd College I met several of the Vampires on campus through one of my dorm-mates. Having lived in a fantasy world inside my own imagination since I was old enough to have semi-coherent thought it was no surprise that the gaming world caught my attention. My new friends quickly integrated me into the on-campus LARP games and I had a wonderful time. I LARPed for two years before I was offered the chance to play in a table-top game. Oddly enough my first game was on September 11th (fantasy is so much better than reality!) and the game itself was L5R. I don't even remember a lot of the early game sessions as I spent most of my time trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Eventually though, it became my favorite game, even over the LARP setting that I had so enjoyed. That campaign ran for two years and I even received a rare compliment when one of my fellow gamers told me how much he had enjoyed my character's story.

Needless to say I developed an attachment to the world of L5R and it has remained my favorite table-top environment even today (although I throughly enjoy both D&D and Aberrant). So when my friends began to delve into the world of L5R cards I found myself thinking about how much fun we used to have in our old campaign and I picked up the new players guide. This brings us to my decision to experiment with the role of GM for the first time.

Now, I've ran games before, but never a table-top game. Let me tell you, it has given me new respect for the comic book writers who can keep continuity straight! It's a huge challenge to keep track of all the various supporting characters (not to mention the fact that many of the supporting characters are people who your players came up with, so you have to learn those stories too). I find myself taking constant notes while running the game in order to keep up!GMing is also one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a creator (this may be due to the fact that I haven't been published before, but anyway). As much as the world is already created for you it's up to the GM to create the cast and set the mood for the game. I've drawn on a LOT of my experience with comic books to keep afloat. It's amazing to see how far a simple plot hook can go and it's a constant challenge to create on the spot as one of your players goes on a tangent that you never expected.

I've always believed that RPGs are a fantastic way of improving a writer's skills as you actually play the characters you create. Ever game session you get to know your own character better and better and have to opportunity to discover new things about your creation. I can truly say that the gaming world has helped me to become a better writer. I rarely have problems establishing my character's personalities now days and I haven't had a character that acted "out of character" in a story in a long time. GMing has only heightened this experience. I even manage to surprise myself sometimes because so much of your story has to be flexible in order to work with the players.

As I hit the 6 month mark with my game I realize that I look forward to each session with anticipation, not only because of the story I want to share with my players, but also out of the excitement of not always knowing what will happen next.


Anonymous Jim said...

Nice post and very good description of gaming to a lay person (myself). It makes me wish that the gaming stuff was around when I was younger, I'm sure I could have gotten into it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006  
Blogger Ragnell said...

Hey, cool. I'm not the only one to go to a Vampire LARP before I touched tabletop (My infamously corruptive sister again).

Friday, June 09, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

So do you still use 20 sided dice to play these kinds of games?

Friday, June 09, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Ragnell - yeah, it's kind of odd to meet people who did LARP first because most people start with D&D

Jeff - D&D is a D20 system while L5R and Aberrant are D10 systems.

Friday, June 09, 2006  
Anonymous Ravendweller said...

First off, being one of your players, I have to give you your props. I know you first selected a few of your close friends for the game because you were not sure of yourself DMing, didn't know all of the rules inside and out and the environment was a bit shaky. But so far you have woven a very interesting series of plots and I feel you have mixed in everyone's personal information and NPCs (Non-player characters for those of you outside of the gaming world). You are doing far better then I did with my first few attempts.

Secondly, that feeling of looking forward to each session never really goes away. So long as it is a game that you remain passionate about. If you start to loose your love of the story you’re telling, it will become noticeable in everything. But since you’re so into the story and energized to see it continue and blossom along with our characters, it pretty much causes us to look forward to each session as well.

Lastly, sorry for all the tangents. We only do that because we are enjoying ourselves =) And it’s your fault sometimes for bringing up purple elephants.


ps... For those of you, who would like to see a bit of L5R now that Gwen has spoken about it, go to and the illustrations section in the gallery to see my take on my character I play. Also some more of the NPCs and PCs (player characters for Jim (AKA Gwen's Dad)) will be up there within the next two months.

Friday, June 09, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

ravendweller (corky) - you're blowing my cover man!

Friday, June 09, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

Corky? Hee-hee!

Hey Cshiana, I like the picture of the Shugenja there. Is that a Phoenix or a Dragon? For some reason I'm never able to keep those two clans straight...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Phoenix - the Dragon colors are green and gold while the Phoenix have fire colors

Wednesday, June 14, 2006  

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