A Year in Gaming, 2015

I got 93 games in for 2015. That is a mind-boggling amount, considering the previous year was 57. It is no coincidence that 50 of those games were online instead of around a physical game table. I am grateful that I got to meet and play with a LOT of new people online this year.

A special thanks goes out to Keith Jacobson. He ran a weekly Kapow! game that was open table. When I was looking for a way to get into online gaming, his game was available. I jumped in using the free rules, and found the group to be friendly to newcomers. I played eleven sessions of Kapow! with the group, and it was a really good experience. I think we need more people willing to run consistent open table games to help new online players find people to play with and get the hang of how gaming online works. Thank you, Keith!

The rock star of my online gaming this year was Blades in the Dark. I ran a ten session campaign with about one session a month for the Unrecommendables crew. I also ran six open table sessions to help fans of the game get some experience playing it online. I ran a few at my game table, played in one there, and played in one online. That’s a hefty chunk of my gaming for the year.

I played through many versions of the quickstart as it continued to evolve. My Unrecommendables froze the rules shift on one version, with some of my house rulings, so it would not change. Otherwise I tried to keep up for open table versions.

I could get enthusiastic about the game because it allowed me to sit down and run a game with little or no preparation, in a setting I found instinctive, with a great creative flow back and forth between those playing characters and the GM. I spilled a lot of online ink about the game, and was fortunate to contribute to it in significant ways. That’s pretty cool, so a special thanks to John Harper, the game’s designer!

This massive engagement over a long period of time was close on the heels of a much less positive experience playing the new version of Chill that I also backed on Kickstarter. I ran a playtest, but I apparently had the wrong mindset for running the game well. It was too tight for me in some places, and too loose in others, and my players were constantly frustrated by how the game was supposed to work and how that didn’t match what they wanted to do. We did three sessions and then parted ways with the system. I’m glad to have a copy of the game as a fond reminder of the legacy of a massive campaign in my younger years, but that system is not going to hit the table again in the foreseeable future.

I was excited to get into a campaign of Night’s Black Agents hunting Dracula! I struggled to figure out the highly stylized and disassociated mechanics, and also ran into trouble with my style not fitting in with the rest of the players, and with some scheduling confusion. After a few rough sessions, I tapped out after my character was brutally killed twice. Unfortunately, I’ve lost all interest in exploring the Gumshoe system further.

Axes and Anvils got some good play this year. After finishing up my playtesting blitz last December, I got to actually play in an arc run by a good friend. The game lay fallow most of the year, but I got another solid arc in at the end, reinforcing how fun this game is. It is welcome at my table anytime.

I got ten sessions of Edge City in. Some problems persist with the game. It is a deep setting with lots of history and context, so players new and old can find themselves hampered and struggling even if they like the background. I focused hard, narrowing the field of plot the players could interact with, and that helped significantly. However, I also relaxed to the point of danger on adventure reports and note taking, so continuity seriously suffers from bad note taking combined with wild improvisation.

Still, they got to do some cool stuff. This year they were pitted against the powers of Hell, as a Brass Embassy opened in Edgarton and they set about finding out how to close it down again. This has led them on a dangerous and wild quest to tear the connected dimensions apart. I had one new player come in, and she is a bit bewildered by a combination of a heavy and complex supers system and a deep world. It’s easy to think “This is way easier and lighter than it used to be,” but when you start thinking through all the NPCs they talked to in the session, and events they remembered, you see the history living in a couple of the veterans of the setting that is carried by the whole group.

The players also continued to enjoy Dweredell against all odds. They slew the dragon menacing the city, as well as rocking the factions that oppose them in the city back on their heels. From a dominant position, they don’t want to retire, they want to take advantage of their success. We got five sessions of that in, and I had planned to do ten, but… shiny objects. It’s hard to service the players’ desire to play in a setting when I’m short on inspiration and desire. I’ve been focused on much lighter rule sets this year, and older systems feel encumbering. Still, the group doesn’t want to move the characters to a new system. I am flattered at how much they like my Masks rules even if they are weighty and complex; they also allow making really awesome characters in specific ways.

I got into another game of Fictive Hack: World Between: Setine hoping to revive the enthusiasm at my table. I was failing to do so, then started a big dramatic thing shortly before the arc closed out, and now have some players interested in more. So, that one can be chalked up to poor rhythm, and a struggle to synch excitement with all the players at the table (including me.) Sometimes that happens.

I explored Into the Odd: Guns of Telluria almost by accident. I focused a few ambiguities into answers in the base setting of Into the Odd, and that morphed into something that I wanted to treat as a distinct setting from the original game. Development got more serious, and I’m looking at a seperate game book now. I got to try this open table online (where I had to develop skill with Roll d20 to make it work) and at two game days where I met new players from around Kansas City. Thanks to Chris McDowall for his openness in sharing the game for hacking.

I ran a few games of Lasers and Feelings this year. I participated in AntigenCon and also did some open table, as well as going to a game day with the game. I love John Harper’s light but flexible rule set that assumes familiarity with Star Trek and lets the game unfold from there. (Yes, the same guy as the designer for Blades in the Dark: he dominated the list of games I offered online this year! Good for him!)

I played a lot of games a little bit. I finished up the Killebrew Avengers campaign final session. I playtested The Devil John Moulton for two sessions. I sampled a game of Hollowpoint as a player with Joe England at the helm, and One Last Job as a GM. I got to play one session in Blackmash (a Lamentations of the Flame Princess based fantasy setting) with Bryan Mullans driving, which was great. I got to play in Rey’s game BREAK!! with him at the helm. It was a great preview, I look forward to seeing more of the game. I played a session of Labyrinth Lord with James Spahn at the helm. I tried out Heroquest Prime with Alex Hakobian with one mission in three sessions, seeing how a board game could be adapted for online RPG style play. I played in Ethyl’s Hell House game as part of the Contessa online convention. I ran a one-shot in Fictive Hack: Breathing World for Skritt, a goblin, as a gift to his player for his birthday. This is an embarrassment of riches; I am fortunate to have had the chance to branch out and try so many games.

I finally got to play with Jack Shear, which has been a goal since I developed the World Between for Fictive Hack. We played in Blades in the Dark, and also One Last Job. I hope we get to play more games online in 2016!

My super-player of the year is Bryan Mullins. He has been in much of my online gaming, proving to be a supportive player and friend. I have really enjoyed gaming with him and getting to know him better this year. His enthusiasm and reliability have made the online gaming effort much more rewarding. Bryan is the kind of player and GM that you hope to find online, so I count myself fortunate that we’re going to have more games in 2016.

I really appreciate my wife Kristy and her support as I dove into this world of online gaming. For Father’s Day I got a new web cam and headset with built in speakers. For Christmas I got speakers that make it easier to plug in my headset. She has made it easy for me to agree to run games and play in games online, which means she has wrangled my two kids when it was game time for Dad. She makes my online gaming possible.

Finally, I really appreciate all the players I have had this year. Whether we played together at the table in my basement, or at a table at a game day, or seated at computers for online sessions, you have given me games. Thank you for showing up to play, or to run games. I have gotten to play with some of you several times, others just once. I love connecting faces and voices to online presences, and meeting new people to play with.

Whatever else came and went in 2015, it was a banner year for gaming. I had months on end with a dozen game sessions each. Never in my life have I gotten to play this often (though I used to have monster-long sessions, so let’s not examine math too closely.) I am grateful for the relationships I’ve built and experience I’ve gained online this year.

Now, for 2016.

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