Thanks for the memories~

When I think about this hobby of ours and what it is that keeps me involved with it decade after decade, through feast and famine, I guess it comes down to three little things. I say little, but sometimes, the smallest things have the most significance.

I’m in my 40s now, and there are lots of things which clamor for my time. To take the hours every week that running and playing in games requires takes planning and intent. I have long since become the person I wanted to be when I first started gaming. I figured out how to move through life in my own way long ago, and learned to accept the consequences for doing so. I don’t game to fantasize about what I wish I could be, say, or do. I don’t game to escape the doldrums of everyday life, or to avoid the realities of the real. I game for three little reasons, and these reasons have made all the difference.

The most basic reason that I game is that stories spring to mind whether I bid them to or not. If I do not work with them in some way, they can drive me to distraction. My preferred method of working with them is to share them with others and watch them build and evolve into something greater than they were. Before discovering RPGs this was just the routine of playing make-believe with friends; cops and robbers, knights-errant, superheroes, or explorers to the stars… the stories and imaginings flowed like water. That sort of play was soon lost to other pursuits, but the stories – or at least the need to give shape to the stories – remained. Gaming gave me the perfect means to express those stories in ways that could go beyond what I write on a page, and that could take life not just the grounds of my imagination, but in the much more fertile soil of the group’s. This is the first small reason for which I still play, and likely the primary reason for why I started playing.

As I met more and more gamers, and tried more and more games, I began to appreciate the skill of it, and it is that appreciation which occupies much of my thoughts about games these days. How a tale could best be spun by different groups, how to inspire certain reactions, or present a particular character, or when to shut up and let the players run with the scene. Enjoyment of sharing methods for setting the right tone for a particular story in a chosen genre, and the timbre of a particular note in that story, or seeing the same old tropes harnessed in surprisingly new, or refreshingly clear ways keeps me motivated and constantly inspired to refine and improve as a player and GM. This is the second small reason for why I play these days, and the one that will likely keep me looking for new games, and new groups with whom to share them.

In the Palladium Fantasy game in which I am playing, the third of my small reasons was satisfied yesterday, and it is really that more than anything else which is prompting this post. During a busy day at work, while I was rushing home to let the dog out and hopefully grab a standing lunch, my phone signaled that I had received a new e-mail message. Seeing that it was the latest post in Crosstown Traffic, I devoured it greedily as my cab sat motionless behind a hundred others at a green light. My character, a plain-spoken warrior and proverbial stranger in a strange land has recently arrived in a new territory and has been finding his lack of social skills, and his unfamiliarity with local customs to be a real challenge. The post from the GM brought those challenges to a head in such a way that it made me burst out in laughter right there in the back of the cab. The combination of clever staging of the scene, the time we spent building the character and developing its personality, timely die rolls, and an opportunity to tag the scene with a memorable quote all coincided to produce an instant of magic which wiped away the months of PBeM posting it took to get us there. Best of all, it wasn’t high heroics, combat, victory, or violence which took place in that scene; it was merely a quiet meal in an inn. Because it was so deftly handled, and so perfectly suited to both scene and character, and because it made me laugh so hard, I will share that scene often in the future when sharing ‘war stories’ with fellow gamers, and that is the last of the little reasons why I game: memorable moments of shared vision.

True enjoyment and immersion in a rich story is a rare gift, but to have the ability to share that gift in real-time with friends, working together to weave wonder from nothing is rarer still.

Today seems like a very good day to thank all those with whom I have gamed, and those with whom I currently game. I look forward to many more stories, challenges, and memories to come~

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