Expect a lot of unsolicited nostalgia, and pointless reminiscing in the comings days.
You've been warned.
Time for some personal business:
This month is kind of nuts for me.
It contains my birthday, my ex-wife's birthday, our old wedding anniversary, my Dad's birthday, my Grandma's birthday (Mom's mom) (both Dad and Grandma are deceased), my friend Dave's birthday (though I haven't spoken to him much in the past month or so - reason unknown), and of course, the dreaded Valentines Day (curse you commercially fabricated day mandating the celebration of romance!).
I also wanted to remind everyone that this is Black History Month.
OK, back to the post...
It's insightful, it's ranty, and I apologize for nothing*.
I've come to the realization that my greatest asset, and biggest flaw, as a Gamemaster, is the level of buy-in required for my games.
It's not just that I have a bridge to sell you, it's that you have to believe guys like me own bridges, they sell them from time to time, and you have to really want to buy one for this to work.
Warner Brothers Cartoons - 1949
I think the main advantage some of my older groups had over my current ones was the acceptance of this buy-in.
My old New Jersey group was especially into being especially into whatever new game idea I came up with. I could experiment with different genres, different systems, different ideas, because they would take the concepts I suggested, hug them tightly to their bosom (figuratively speaking of course), and say, "Yes! We get to play children in a creepy orphanage in Dickensian England? It's like Oliver Twist re-interpreted by Charles Addams**? I am so there!"
That was the thing. They were always there for practically anything. Moreover, they got it. They always, intrinsically understood what I was going for. Always. If they only got it a little, they would rent movies, read books, watch TV shows, animated series, or Anime that was said to be similar, and then BAM!, they would get it. Not kind of, or sort of, or just a bit better than they got it before. No, they would now be completely in tune with my head space.
Damn I miss that. So, so, so much you can't imagine.
My games are not for the lazy. I'm not a lazy GM, and I require a proactive, fully awake player if we're both going to get the most out of the game. I put a lot into assembling, and prepping my campaigns, and if the players aren't going to put in the same level of effort, or at least invest the same level of emotion, it just isn't going to be all that magical.
I get that what I am asking isn't always easy. I'm asking a lot I know. When I put forth a premise for a game, it either just hits you, or you get grazed and intrigued, or it's a miss. If it's a miss, what can I do. It's a no go. Better to try something else than beat a dead Tauntaun. If I grazed you though, I'll help you get it, but you've got to try as well.
It seems to me that, all too often, whatever game I am running these days, my current players (not all, and not always) are playing the game that is in their heads. Sometimes I get lucky, and it's the same game I am running, or very close to it. Other times (pretty regularly in fact) it's their own game that features only their character, in a world about them.
This was not supposed to be a post comparing the people I've played with past, and present, BUT DAMN! If there is one thing that frustrates me more than any other aspect of my gaming these days it's this. Right along side this is having absolutely no clue how to fix it.
Here is where I sound like an old foggy.
I think part of the problem with my current campaign groups, and their ability (or inability) to buy-into the genre mind-set of some of the games I suggest, is that they are younger than the average member of my older groups. The current group is generally less experienced, had less exposure to some of the things I think are interesting, and have many other things to attract their fandom-fueled attention that weren't around when I was younger.
It's a different generation. We had no internet, no email, no near instantaneous streaming of movies, television shows, and animated programs. These young'uns have it too damn easy. Although they also have a crapload of awesome.
We had to work to get information. We are used to that. We are well versed in things we were interested in, because it took effort to learn about them. If we saw something, and didn't know what it was, or what it was about, and it seemed cool to us, we looked into it until we knew. We embraced new things, different things, and reveled in what was different about them.
With the ease of access to information we have today, I am amazed at how few people are familiar with...with...SO MANY SUBJECTS!
The members of my NJ group not only bought into my pitches, they brought in their own knowledge, know how, and fields of interest. You could count on one person to make historical references, and know about famous (and not so famous) events in world history that might relate to the scenario. Someone would figure out the science behind some of our Science Fiction scenarios. We had artists so inspired by the games they did artwork (most all of the artwork in my current games is done by me).
The other thing odd about my current mainstay players is that I get emails, Facebook messages, and texts from them all the time about what they're going to do in the next session. They always want to tell me what their PC will be up to, what they want their PC to accomplish, etc.
I never got that from my old groups. Instead, they showed up at the sessions eager to accomplish stuff. They told me what they were going to do when they were doing it.
What my new guys don't ask, or rarely so, is anything about the setting. It's about what they're going to do, not about the world their in. No discussions of genre, no references to writers, or artists who created excellent examples of the milieu, it's themes, or it's possible look.
Buy-in is the key to my best work. Buy-in will always remain the not-so-secret formula to what makes me a damn good GM. I realize that without buy-in, I am good, but not great. I think that's it. The missing X-Factor I've been chasing these last several years. Why my games are good, even really good, but not spectacular. Not the kind that got me my old reputation for being one of the best in the gaming circles I moved in.
Which games over the past 10 years have been that good? The Muppets ones. The Smurf one. Ghostbusters.
The ones with a big buy-in, and people willing to pay.
* Not so.
I apologize if what I am saying in this post makes any of my players feel like crap. That is not only not my intention, but it's BS. It just isn't a true reflection of how I feel about you guys. You're awesome. You have your own strengths, your own ways of making gaming fun. In some aspects, you are one of the best groups I've ever had.
Is the buy-in thing an issue? Yes. It is. No denying it. It prevents me from taking the 1-to-10 dial, and turning it up to 11. It's not your fault. Stylistically, there are very few gamers who game the way I wish to. It's definitely a me thing.
For some additional insight check this out: Best Buy...In
** Charles Addams, the cartoonist and humorist whose work inspired the Addams Family television series. Fascinating fellow. Look him up.