What’s with all these games?

Fun and games
Polyhedral dice

Those readers just joining this blog may have noticed that more than half of my recent posts are dedicated to the various games I’m playing. In truth, they do occupy a fair amount of my free/social time. As my peers enter middle age, finding time to hang out aside from the usual work and family commitments is increasingly difficult.

A quick look back: In autumn of 1982, when I was a freshman in high school, I entered a hobby that would change my life. My interest in fantasy and science fiction had led me to Dungeons & Dragons and Star Frontiers. Through college, grad school, and married and professional life, various role-playing games (RPGs) have been my main medium for creativity and socializing.

Like many people of my generation, I also played video games in arcades, on consoles, and on computers, but they never appealed to me the way tabletop games have. I’ve only dabbled in board games, collectible card games, miniatures-driven wargames, and multiplayer online games.

I don’t expect the freeform storytelling, character-driven drama, or arcane rules sets of true RPGs to be for everyone, but many of my friends and I enjoy them. It’s a pity that role-playing hasn’t gotten the public acceptance that video games have, and face-to-face, pen-and-paper, or dice-and-pizza games peaked in popularity in the 1980s. As David I.S. noted, tabletop RPGs will likely persist as a niche form of entertainment, like heavy metal music, model rocketry, or cosplay.

In the present, I’m running games for three groups. On Sunday evenings, I meet with six people across the U.S. via Skype for a fantasy campaign using Pathfinder. Since I prefer homebrew scenarios over professionally published modules, the current adventuring party is exploring my “Vanished Lands” setting. Sure, that world is based heavily on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and others, but close to 400 Player Characters have helped shape its fictional history.

On Monday nights, I’ve been running alternating groups of about six players each in my “Vortexspace opera, using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures. I’ve enjoyed juggling numerous characters and storylines, but I’m at the limit of what I can prepare for and host regularly. I’m also in contact with other Game Masters, both locally and near Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Aside from the session updates, what else do you want to know about my games? My groups have tried several genres and rules sets over the years, and the interpersonal dynamics are at least as important as our choice of game or characters. If you’re in one of my games, what would you like to know about from “behind the curtain”? What don’t you understand, or what tragedies and triumphs have occurred in your own groups? Happy gaming!