Thursday, May 2, 2019

Getting The Band Back Together

"Gonna tell you a story
About a little town I know.

They had a real big problem
With some big mean local ghost.
Those spooks were making
The whole city lose control!

Well, the Mayor was frantic,
The town was panicked,
But they had no sense of fear!
Cause they knew they were missing,
Those boys with a mission,
So they called them up right chere.

They were boxing and trapping
And shooting through the joint;
Stepped right in and
Got down to the point!

Those Ghostbusters came in
Cleaning up the town!


Cleanin' Up The Town, The BusBoys.
Ghostbusters Soundtrack. 1984*

One of the wonderful things that happened this past April - arguably the most wonderful for me personally - was a reunion game session of the Ghostbusters 'The Home Office' campaign my friends and I had during our high school years featuring...the Original Cast! 

Let that sink it. I know! I keep pinching myself so I know it wasn't all a dream. 

After a 30 year hiatus, the players of our original Ghostbusters RPG campaign from The High School of Art & Design met to play one more session at the home of one of our group, my dear friend AJ. 

I had not seen some of these guys in three decades. Will, the oft mentioned Champions RPG Guru and greatest Gamemaster I have ever known, had left NY and moved to Las Vegas nearly 20-25 years ago. I had lost touch with AJ and Mike M., reconnecting with them only over the last couple of years on Facebook. David, Joe, and Eric I see maybe twice a year when David and his daughter visit from Boston. 

On this rare and momentous occasion, David timed his visit to coincide with Will's even rarer trip to New York City. 

Some months back, when all this was being planned, someone suggested we run a game to commemorate the event and a couple of suggestions came up, including Ghostbusters. I seconded Ghostbusters wholeheartedly and suggested Joe V. run it. Will said something along the lines of, "No offense to Joe, but I have no idea when the next time is that I will be in NY. If I'm going to NY for a once in a lifetime game, I would like Adam to run it." Joe seconded and that's how I got to GM a game of Ghostbusters thirty years in the making. 

I can't tell you what it meant to me. Wait. Silly me, sure I can! I'm a writer and I have a blog! 

Above and beyond the game, it was amazing seeing and talking to these guys again. They are, all of them, just such wonderful people. I got to see David's daughter who is delightful and meet Mike's wife who was so cool, interesting, and funny I can't believe we hadn't hung out before. We all got to meet AJ's family and that was pretty special. The past few years have been tough on my good buddy AJ and it was an ethereal experience to see him laugh and smile and share in the joy that practically glowed from the faces of everyone in the house.

Sorry. Something in my eye. I'm not showing Human emotion. Yo..You are. You're showing Human emotion. *Sniff*

Then there was the game itself...

I will do a separate recap of the session later in the month. What I want to talk about here is how it went and how it felt. It was like...the seas parted and I could see the promised land. It was like I felt The Force and shot Proton Torpedoes into a Thermal Exhaust Port just two meters wide without using my Targeting Computer and it...get this...I blew up the Death Star!

It was like coming home. 

The feeling I've been having over the past, geez, close to 10 years now; that I've lost my touch as a GM...Gone. I was in The Zone. I was as good as I'd ever been. Everything went so easily, quickly, and smoothly it's almost hard to believe this was gaming AND what I have been doing for the last decade or so is also gaming. 

It's like how a it's hard to believe a Great Dane is descended from Wolves but so is a Yorkie. Really?

Why did it work so well? What was different? In a word...the Players. You know what? It was that...but it was also much more than that. That is a simplification.

It was the relationship between the Players and the Gamemaster. It was a very different relationship than the one I have with the players in most of my other groups. 

In this group, all the participants were the same age. No one was a little younger or a little older. We are all the same age and with that comes more unified points of reference, a first hand knowledge of a pre-Internet, pre-Cell Phone era, and the same amount of time to mature, experience life, and get to know what we like and what we don't.

Along with this is the fact that our key developmental years in the hobby were also around the same time. In fact, they happened together. We all taught each other how to play. It doesn't matter than Will or I had already been GMing for years when Joe played his first game. What matters is that at the dawn of the major surge in the gaming hobby, this group spent a strong four years of that zeitgeist together, developing alongside each other right along with it. 

This does not by any means indicate we are a group of clones. We have distinctly different approaches to things, different things we embrace and avoid, and a wide variety of opinions on any number of topics. Yet, when I say 'Radio City Music Hall', I am completely, unequivocally convinced we all see the same building, with the same signage, same lights, located on the same busy New York City streets as all the rest of us do. 

In addition, there is a level of trust that is inherent in the group that far exceeds any other group I've played with in a long while. Part of that is our long standing friendship, yes of course. Part of it is everyone wanting the day to turn out well so everyone is extra careful not to be a jerk. On top of all that, we each know that the other has our back in game, out of game, always. No one at the table is there purely to have a good time. They are there to ensure that everyone ELSE has a good time. 

After I taught the group the rules, which took barely 5 minutes, guess how many times I was interrupted with a rule question during the 5 1/2 hour session.

None. Zero. Not once.

Guess how many times any of the players were caught unaware of what their fellow players PC had just done. 

None. Zero. Not once.

Guess how many times people complained about it being too tough, not tough enough, that they got hurt, or that their ability should be able to do X, Y, or Z.

None. Zero. Not once.

Seeing a pattern?

No one suggested the GM should do something to hinder the party or a fellow party member (seriously, I get this A LOT. It infuriates me). No one was disoriented or confused about their physical position in the fictional world (we didn't use minis, maps, or even little quick sketches). The only time something like that came up it made me even happier to be with these guys:

Joe V.: (Comes down to the basement of the building in the main elevator). So, am I behind the entity if I walk down the hall?

Me: No, the main elevator is in the front of the building, right? If you walk to your left down the hall and turn left again at the corner you will see the entity, as well as Dave. Will. and Eric's characters. They came down the stairs remember.

Joe V.: Got it. I see it now. They are in front of me and the entity in front of them. 

Me: Yes.

AJ: Hold on. We (his PC and Mike's) are coming down in the maintenance elevator. That means were on the other side of the building. The rear of the building. So when we get down there we go to the right, right again at the corner, and we would be behind the creature.

Me: (Smiling). Correct. Absolutely correct. 

Did I mention no map was drawn? No minis were used. No pictures of any kind were provided for the location. That's right, because there was NO NEED! This group possesses awareness BEYOND your mortal sense of space and time!

Oh and planning! PLANNING! Do you know how these guys plan; how much time they spend thinking about what they will do? Do they take 20 or 30 minutes of real time to look over their character sheets to find the right skill or try to figure out all the things that could possibly go wrong and perhaps cause their PC to take - heaven forbid - even a single hit point of damage? 

NO! No they do not! They say, "Hmm. OK, here's what I do...", then they DO IT! They describe their actions and roll dice if need be. The whole endeavor from my description of the situation to their description of their action and the rolls took a whole 30 seconds at most. People who think on their feet and take decisive action, ahhh. The good ol' days. 

As with my best NJ Group games, my old NY group games, and some of the better quality ones I've run in the past ten years, it seemed as if we got two or three sessions worth of action, role-playing, and comedy when compared to many of my normal sessions these days. 

Anyway, there is so much more I can say about these fellas, this very special one-shot, and what it might mean for my gaming approach going forward. I've been riding on a wave of creativity and confidence every since this game but alas, I've already had a few moments in games I've run since that make me feel it will be another 30 years before I get a session THAT GOOD again. 

Crossing my fingers but not the streams.

Barking Alien


  1. Next time you all play together, you'll all be ghosts.

  2. I can't even imagine what it would be like to sit down with my oldest gaming buddies that I haven't seen in decades. I mean that literally: my imagination just fails. Things ended for us on such bad terms, I can't believe any of them would ever want to game again...while we've made up over the years and could (probably, definitely) enjoy a conversation over a coffee or a cocktail, gaming? Of all of us, I am the only one who still games or pursues an interest in RPGs.

  3. While only a handful of us have kept at it the way we did way back when, none of us have lost the interest in it. It simply hasn't been something everyone has been able to do for various reasons (family, work, etc.).

    With the utility of internet options such as Discord, Skype, and the rest, some have been gaming online if not in person. This was a very special and [most likely] rare opportunity to have all these people in one place at one time for 5 1/2 hours.

  4. I'm one of those players (I think the one on the far right). It was a great time and I'm amazed it was only one year ago. We still talk about it like it was yesterday or one of our classic games back in the day. Excellent recap. I do have to say as one of his old players, when I play with Adam (or all those guys together) because we spent so much time together in our most formative years, there is a shorthand we have with each other that can't be imitated or reproduced. It's a trust of friends and of GM/Players that is there even if we are playing characters that are opposed to each other. Adam nails is when he says "we're there to make sure everybody else has a great time." And as usual mission accomplished. :)