Back In the Hobby for 12 Months: What Have I Learned?

On Saturday, May the 4th, 2019, I ran the “Mountaintop Rescue” adventure in the Star Wars: Force and Destiny Beginner Game for the folks of the Clubhouse Collective in Mooroobool. This, to me, marked my return to the RPG hobby after setting it aside to take care of my late wife Vickie as her health problems worsened.

The hobby has been a great help to both my confidence and my ability to socialise, both of which I’ve needed since Vickie’s death, but I’d like to look back at the twelve months between May the Fourths to work out just what I’ve come away from them with.

Pre-Generated Helps Your Creativity

Over the last year or so of getting back into the hobby, I’ve discovered that, as a game master, I’ve most enjoyed running the Star Wars: Force and Destiny Beginner Game and the “Hope’s Last Day” module in the back of ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game than I’ve had when trying to come up with session ideas for a campaign (a long-term, multi-session storyline with the same players).

I have more fun when I have some idea of what’s going to happen, or at least when the players are in a limited area populated with interesting things to do (and NPCs to be) and a fairly clear objective for the players (get to a Jedi temple and rescue a friend; find the keys to a shuttle and escape the Aliens); if creating that arena is largely already done for me, so much the better.

In comparison, the Saga of the Bin Chicken campaign that I attempted to run for the Clubhouse crew was a bit too big, too vague for me; trying to come up with ideas for sessions or a group of players whom I didn’t really have a feel for yet (and who, in all fairness, were largely new to the hobby and trying to work it out themselves as they went) was, for want of a better phrase, uncomfortable (in the “writer’s block” sense).

Of course, the pre-gen approach isn’t perfect. The “Final Sanction” module for Deathwatch was annoyingly vague in some paces and filled with combat after combat; it got to the point where I wasn’t interested in completing it.

If I were to run more Star Wars: Force and Destiny for my Clubhouse / Bin Chicken players – and I’d like to; the group are a fun bunch – I might try buying one of the Force and Destiny campaign books, like Chronicles of the Gatekeeper.

Maybe there’s a middle path, though.

I did like what I managed to build from some random rolls on the star system and job creation tables in the back of the ALIEN rulebook, probably because they’re geared to create outlines for communities rather than just places. Penthos already ahs some interesting conflicts built in from those random rolls and a little brainstorming; I wonder how I could flesh those out further, who the people driving them are, and what might be of interest to potential players.

I Like Character

This is true on both sides of the GM screen. I think one of my mistakes with The Saga of the Bin Chicken was giving my players a big, wondrous, but empty place for my players to explore – the City in ice – and then trying to fill it with a group of serious, earnest characters.

As a player, I’ve been enjoying getting to play my Glitter Boy, Joseph Rossi, in Ed from Minnesota’s Savage RIFTS campaign, mostly because the Overconfident Hindrance I chose for him means I can get him into all sorts of trouble. A lot of the time, his Glitter Boy’s Boom Gun gets him out of said trouble in terminal fashion, but I decided that actually started bothering the honourable Joseph so much that he upped his fisticuffs game – in typical overconfidence, Joseph isn’t liable to acknowledge the benefit of other ranged combat options.

Also, playing dwarven fighter Jona Helton in Bruce’s D&D game has been great, not just because I got to but a Scots accent out. The banter game Bruce’s crew is that their banter game is on point; they play a daft assortment of oddballs with their own distinct personalities (particularly Dudley’s Lady Selene). On top of that, we regularly hurtle off on entertaining tangents – including one that wound up with Jona treading the boards of an inn’s stage in an impromptu play!

It’s Always the People

While it’s tempting to get tied up in rules and products, when it comes down, it’s the people you play with that make the game – literally. Almost all of Bruce’s crew are veteran gamers who’ve been playing since at least the Eighties; they’re at home with playing their characters as oddballs.

I was also happy at how quickly my Skitter Shot crew embraced playing their skittermander characters as the quirky fuzzies they are; while circumstances beyond our control saw the end of that group, I’d still be happy to get them all back together and finish that module – and maybe see whether a campaign has legs!

The main lesson here, I think, is that I need to be careful whom I organise a campaign for, not just in terms of making sure I’m ready to run something ongoing; the

I am also enjoying the opportunity to make new friends through the hobby. I’ve run “Hope’s Last Day” for four groups now with one more this weekend; none of the players have been repeats yet (though one or two have expressed interest in playing through it again) and it’s been great getting to entertain Australians, Brits and Americans with this hobby.