You know...the old me never would've done what I did on Thursday. But the new me totally did, and it felt goooooooood.
Starting this blog, and talking about the gaming-related change of mind-set as I do, has really had a positive effect on me. My gamemastering style really is changing, and it's for the better. I feel...
...I feel like a new GM.
My wife and I were on vacation this past week, which is why I didn't update a whole lot. We had whole days to ourselves, and we wasted them with efficiency and gusto. On Thursday, for instance, we gamed pretty much all day long. My wife's idea the night before was this: we would each make a 5th-level Castles & Crusades character, then one of us would start running a game for the other. Then, at a lull, we'd switch. It was good stuff; I felt young again.
As unusual as that is for us, that's not really what I'm getting at.
She made an exiled Queen of the Horse Tribe (which she made up), while I got all multiclassed* with a Swashbuckler/Wizard (we used some third-party classes). She started the game in the Shaar (Forgotten Realms), and we got rolling. Her character was escorting mine away from an airship wreck and to the city of Shaarmid. Resting one night, we got jumped by a kobold hunting party. Sleep is a marvellous spell, and 16 kobolds are more trouble than you think.
With her part a a lull, it was my turn to take over.
I had nothing.
Nothing, nothing, nothing. All I knew was that we were on a trek through the FR equivalent of the savannah, and that this grassy plain was dotted with huge ravines and many ruins. I had no idea what to do.
I fumbled for a bit, looking for ideas. I rolled on charts. I looked through monster manuals. I rolled on more charts. I came up with a quick bit where some Wemics warned our PCs to vacate their current shelter ASAP, 'cause it was on their hunting grounds, but after that....?
I was dry. Nothing was coming to me. Tools were ineffective in my hands. Logic no were.
So I kicked logic to the curb, took off my shoes and dipped my toes in the rolling, roaring stream of consciousness. And this was the idea that I plucked out:
Ruined castle in a ravine, inhabited by fairies, and they are bastards.
Having just recently re-read Kenneth Hite's essay on fairies of myth vs. fairies of...uh...Barbie, it's not surprising that I came to this. But the important thing is this:
All those tools, techniques, tips, tricks, etc. were feeling like a crutch, so I just went with my gut.
Sulya of the Horse Tribe and Theodric The Quick promptly found the abandoned castle (rolled up out of Wilderlands Of High Fantasy d20's "random ruins" charts), blew their saving rolls, and ended up facing illusions they couldn't make go away. They were at the mercy of the cruel and mischievous fae -- chiefly, Lord Brittlebutt, who looked like a fat Shakespeare, who promised togive them magic items f they would only do stupid stuff to amuse him. Sulya said no; I had Theodric follow suit...and they got a facefull of Confusion cast on 'em.
5 rounds later, after attacking each other at odd intervals, Sulya had Theodric down to 1 hp, and Brittlebutt finally gave up.
Now...here's the thing.
There was no plot. No story. No theme, no expectations...nothing. Just the gusto of a random encounter, an incident in these characters' lives.
THE OLD ME WOULD NEVER HAVE ALLOWED HIMSELF TO DO THAT.
The Old Me would've been all about internal consistency and logic and a plot and a goal and -- well, about trying too hard.
So, instead, I stopped trying. I just Did, like Yoda says.
Result? A dire encounter, a mood-setting situation, a definite setback which required further effort on the PCS' part, and -- get this:
It resulted in a STORY.
Maybe it's more of a vignette, or an anecdote, but it happened to those PCs and those PCs continued to talk about it. In fact, on Friday, we had Leaky Pete over for more gaming, our PCs told his PC about it.
I didn't aim for a story, but I got one anyway. I got a neat memory, too.
And I had fun.
*Admit it, you read it like this: "MOOL-tee-classss."