Ah, summertime! The season where one can relax a bit, spend time with long-neglected friends, go to concerts, attend barbeques, and enjoy a momentary escape from the workaday chores of modern life—that is, unless you’re a handsome, gregarious, freelance designer and writer struggling to keep the bills paid and the wolves away from the door for another month. Then summer is pretty much like any other time of year, except more humid and mosquito-filled.
As many of you know, I came back into gaming after a prolonged absence, returning to the role-playing fold about the same time the OSR started gaining momentum in the back alleys of the internet. I was lucky enough to return with a minor splash, one that swiftly moved me from hobbyist to professional, and, before I knew it, I was working as a freelancer as a second job. While the upswing of that development is that people actually pay me to use my imagination and I get to share my creations with a wider audience than I ever imaged possible, the downside is that there’s no longer a dividing line between recreation and vocation for me when it comes to role-playing games. I know: cry me a river.
Still, it remains a fact that what I once did for fun and personal enjoyment is now labor and there are many times when I wish—if just for a little while—I could treat RPGs as a pleasant pastime. I’ve been running a lot of DCC RPG on the convention trail, which is just play-testing in the guise of fun, and even my semi-regular home Pathfinder campaign is more of an exercise to familiarize myself with the mechanics and design needs of the industry’s current 800 lbs. gorilla in hopes that it’ll pay off with more work down the line.
At the end of April, one of the players in the Pathfinder campaign informed us he received a summer scholarship to study out of state for the summer. The Pathfinder campaign I’m running is the Kingmaker adventure path, which if you know Paizo’s APs, is designed for four players. The campaign had also reached a pivotal point and I (and the rest of the group) thought it be best if we put the campaign on hiatus until the departing player returned, and then pick things up from there.
That left us with the summer to play something else. I originally proposed that we’d spend the summer months doing a playtest of my Shiverwhen game and anticipated giving it a thorough shakedown and chronicling it over on the Shiverwhen blog. We got as far as the players generating characters and me doing the initial prep work when cold reality hit: this was going to be more work than I felt like doing. The problem with running a game you’re currently developing means there’s always something that need attention, sometimes even built from scratch to fill gaps. It quickly dawned on me that the last thing I wanted to do was spend the summer with an even greater workload. I’ve already got a lot on my plate between crafting new DCC RPG material and sewing the final parts of Stonehell 2 together. I didn’t need more work masquerading as recreation.
I told my players of my revelation and my desire to scrap Shiverwhen before it began, but that meant we had to find a replacement game for the summer. I gave them four options of what we could do: 1) DCC RPG (a chance for me to playtest and develop material); 2) OD&D (beer & pretzels dungeon crawling that’d be easy for me to write and keep everyone entertained through the summer); 3) Pathfinder (a non-adventure path to keep us in fighting shape for fall and allow me to further try my hand at designing for the system); and 4) 2nd Edition AD&D set in the Forgotten Realms (just because it had absolutely nothing to do with my paying design work).
To my surprise and delight, option #4 carried the day.
So for the last three weeks, I’ve found myself back in Ed Greenwood’s world running a game using a system I’ve not really touched since 1990 or thereabouts. And I must say I’m having a wonderful time. Long time readers know that I remain a fan of the Realms, despite everything that’s been done to the poor place over the last (can you believe it?) twenty-five years. Returning there has been a joy, like falling back in with old flame or seeing someone from your youth and reminiscing about days gone by.
In the weeks ahead I’ll be posting more about the Realms campaign, sharing the work I’ve done with it, displaying maps, and boring you with the occasional actual play reports. For the first time in a long while, I’m having fun as a DM and designer again, and not viewing my time in front of the computer as work, but an engaging and entertaining process. This blog’s been too much of a marketing venue and it is past time to utilize it as a means to disseminate “fun stuff” and frolic in the shared happiness of these strange games we play.
More to come.